THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 

Search thepoisongarden.co.uk:

This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 2nd October 2011

“When the President does it that means it is not illegal”. As anyone with any interest in the USA’s late 20th century history will know, these are the words of former president Richard Nixon when being interviewed by David Frost on May 20th 1977.

By one of those strange coincidences, the BBC broadcast a programme about the recording of the interviews and showed the film ‘Frost/Nixon’ on the day that President Obama seemed to be taking that same line over the killing of two American citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan in a drone attack in Yemen.

The central point seems to be whether or not the USA is at war with Al Qaeda. If it is, then killing enemy combatants is perfectly OK regardless of their nationality. If it isn’t, then this is summary execution without trial of people who should have enjoyed the protection of the American constitution. And, so far, it seems that President Obama is the one who decides which of those two situations is true.

I’m not blogging about this because I’m interested in the moral dilemmas involved in dealing with bad people without making yourself bad, though that is something that has interested me since the 1970s and the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. My concern is the way that rumour is morphing into fact as a way of justifying these killings.

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant

On 25th August, I blogged about a book promotion in the New York Times masquerading as a news story about another terrorist threat from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The claim was that AQAP were attempting to obtain enough castor beans to make enough ricin to build ‘dirty’ bombs that would spread ricin across a wide area causing large scale deaths.

Now, to be fair to the New York Times, though I’m not sure why since, as I said, it didn’t have the decency to point out that the reporters named for the story were the authors of a book being published the same week, its report was full of caveats. Quotes like, ‘Al Qaeda is trying to produce the lethal poison ricin’, ‘making efforts to acquire large quantities of castor beans’, ‘there is no indication that a ricin attack is imminent’ and ‘[AQAP] is still struggling with how to deploy ricin’ (emphasis added) show that the NYT was not saying that such a plot existed and was a real threat.

In that previous blog I pointed out that, in the re-reporting by other papers, especially those in the UK, the caveats tended to be reduced or completely removed so that it appeared that AQAP were ready to launch ‘ricin bomb’ attacks and that such attacks would be successful. I pointed out how ridiculous such claims were given the true nature of the poison ricin, obtained from Ricinus communis, the castor oil plant.

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant

I’ve returned to it, today, because some of those voicing their support for the killings are stating as fact that ricin attacks have been averted as a result. Fox News, for example, reports ‘The terror leader specifically sought to use poisons including cyanide and ricin’ citing a ‘senior U.S. official’ as its source. According to Reuters ‘The U.S. government also learned that Awlaki sought to use poisons including cyanide and ricin to attack Westerners’ also citing a ‘senior U.S. official’ but who knows if this is the same person as relied on by Fox.

And, of course, added to these mainstream reports are the numerous comments from people who are so far away from reality they'd be too unbelievable to be included in a 'Doctor Who' plot. I've even read one claim that 'the entire east coast' of the USA was about to be obliterated by a ricin bomb.

The thing is we’ve been here before. In 2003, police raiding a property in East London discovered a substance thought to be ricin. It turned out not to be ricin and all but one of the men involved in the alleged plot were either found not guilty or released, after a long period of detention. But, by the time Chinese Whispers had enhanced the story, whether intentionally or just because that is what Chinese Whispers do, Colin Powell told the UN that this 'ricin plot' had been linked to Iraq and was further evidence that action had to be taken against Saddam Hussain. And still, years after and in spite of the excellent book ‘Ricin!: The Inside Story of the Terror Plot That Never Was’ by Laurence Archer and Fiona Bawdon, you will find references to the ‘2003 ricin plot’ whenever the subject is raised.

I don’t know if these killings were legal or justified and whether the world is a safer place as a result but I am sure that, for years to come, we’ll read that Anwar al-Awlaki was killed because he was about to launch ricin bomb attacks in the USA. And I find that just a little bit depressing.

 

Full Entries

2016

Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016

2015

Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013
 

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog



IMPORTANT NOTE

The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.