Friday, November 24, 2006


"You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value. You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women." --from Alexander Litvinenko's final-statement of Nov. 21

LONDON--Astonishing all of us who know-better, London's Medical Examiner stated that the death (by a deadly-isotope called polonium-210) of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko by ingestion of the substance on November 1st was 'not an act of violence.' What could me more of a violation of a human-being than this? Well sure, this happens all the time in London sushi restaurants, and now traces of polonium-210 have been found at the establishment and the victim's residency. Details are sketchy right-now, which one would expect in a criminal investigation. There is an off-chance his killers did a black-bag job and put the contaminant in his home. Still want kids in a world like this? But, fortunately, London Police are investigating the situation as a 'suspicious poisoning'. Kremlin reactions are varied from 'it was accidental' [?!], to allegations of Putin's involvement being 'sheer nonsense.' But who was Litvinenko? MSNBC is reporting that:

In a 2003 book, “The FSB Blows Up Russia,” he accused his country’s secret service agency of staging apartment-house bombings in 1999 that killed more than 300 people in Russia and sparked the second war in Chechnya. Litvinenko joined the KGB in 1988 and rose to the rank of colonel in its successor, the Federal Security Service, known as the FSB. He began specializing in terrorism and organized crime in 1991, and was transferred to the FSB’s most secretive department on criminal organizations in 1997.

Litvinenko has been writing and speaking against the regime of Vladimir Putin since his defection--the resurrection of a Cold War term--in 2000. He knew too-much, it seems, and was meeting with an Italian Professor (Mario Scaramella) who studied KGB activities within Italy during the Cold War. Scaramella was a 'contact' as part of Litvinenko's investigation into the assassination of his compatriot, journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Politkovskaya was also a well-known critic of Putin's regime and the war in Chechnya. It seems almost certain that the Kremlin ordered this action, as it likely did in the attempted-murder through poisoning by dioxin of Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yuschenko in 2004. At any rate, poison is a preferred method by intelligence operatives because it is discreet. But what is the element Polonium? It's a naturally-occurring element used in atomic-weapons:

In the summer of 1942, the Corps of Engineers organized the Manhattan Engineer District. The purpose of the District's Manhattan Project was to build an atomic bomb. Polonium-210 was vital to this program, because it was to be used in a neutron source that would ensure initiation of a chain reaction. An initiator is a device that produces a timed burst of neutrons to initiate a fission chain reaction in a nuclear weapon. Initiators made of polonium-210 and beryllium were located at the center of the fissile cores of early atomic weapons. (

But beyond this, polonium-210 is sometimes used to convert nuclear power into electricity at a reactor site. All access to polonium-210 requires security-clearances. Admittedly, as broken-up as Russia is now, organized crime could obtain it through corruption in key-positions related to the military, intelligence, or even nuclear plants. But there's a hitch: polonium-210 has a half-life of 138 days. This would make a surreptitious-use by organized crime unlikely, though not impossible. But, it would be quite a feat.

Yet strangely, the Italian Professor thinks it might be the Russian Mafia, which seems unlikely unless they were used as contract-killers. This is coming from Litvinenko's 'contact', so he is certainly under-suspicion here, the comment is peculiar. While surveillance of organized crime was part of Col. Litvinenko's work with FSB, we simply don't know all of the details of what he did under the super-secret agency. But with crimes like this, one has to ask: who gains the most from the action? The motive for Russian organized crime simply isn't as significant as it is for Putin who has a legacy and a power-structure of his own to protect. Compared to the state, any mafia group is small-change, even in the face of a weakened and partially-decentralized Kremlin.

An October 12th article in the Economist states that Russia is potentially heading towards the 'F-word'...fascism. Considering many of Putin's speeches and public-statements on his aims, he sounds much like an incubating Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, or even a Joseph Stalin. Relations with the West can be expected to cool as long as his associates hold-power in Russia. Maybe a Marshall Plan for Russia after the end of the Cold War wasn't such a bad-idea, but someone named Bush was in-office at that historical-moment. It was an opportunity that he squandered. This is a time of martyrs, and the world is aflame. This is our fault, and the species is sinking-fast. Yes, it's Miller time, only I drink real beer, not piss.

The 'F-word' (Not FUCK, nope.):