Friday, November 24, 2006

The return of SMERSH

One of the most fascinating scenes in Ian Fleming's original Casino Royale comes when the executioner from SMERSH arrives at the juncture when French Communist trade union boss Le Chiffre is torturing James Bond. Le Chiffre is engaged in the sadistic act of repeatedly smashing Bond's testicles with a carpet cleaner as revenge for 007 thwarting him at cards, where he hoped to win enough money to cover his embezzlement of Soviet funds which he used to buy a string of brothels -- in part for his personal use. When the man from SMERSH makes his appearance and announces, in a hollow voice offstage as it were, Le Chiffre's death sentence, the Communist villain is paralyzed with fear. His mouth works soundlessly, beads of sweat break out on his face, his hands drop nervelessly to his side. A momentary impulse to plead for mercy crosses Le Chiffre's Communist mind, but it falls back in despair. SMERSH is pitiless and relentless. A muffled "phut" is heard and then Le Chiffre, his face decorated with a grotesque third eye, dies in disconnected stages before the terrified 007. No escape from SMERSH -- or something like it -- even in London. Ask Alexander Litvinenko.


London - Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died from ingesting a large dose of radioactive material known as Polonium 210, the British health authorities said Friday. Large quantities of alpha radiation had been traced in his urin, Roger Cox, director of the health watchdog HPA said in London. As a result, people who had been in contact with Litvinenko, and the places where he visited before the attack on him earlier this month, were being searched for radioactive substances. ...

Speaking at a Russia-EU meeting in Helsinki, Putin, rejecting any accusations of official involvement in Litvinenko's death, offered his condolences to his family. Questioning the genuineness of the Litvinenko statement, Putin said: 'Why was this note not published when he was still alive?' ...

HPA chief executive Pat Troop confirmed Friday that higher than normal levels of radiation were later established to have been present at the sushi bar. ... Cox described Polonium 210 as a 'pure alpha emitter' that cannot penetrate the human skin but would have had to be inhaled or ingested through a wound or by eating. ...

Film-maker Andrei Nekrasov, commenting on the dramatic change in Litvinenko's appearance since the attack, said: 'The figure who greeted me looked like a survivor from the Nazi concentration camps.' Litvinenko, looking emaciated, had lost all his hair since the alleged attack on November 1. ...

Litvineko died gamer than the fictional Le Chiffre. His last words were: "The bastards got me, they won't get us all".

They were all real. Rosa Klebb. "Red" Grant. Le Chiffre. Not literally but as archetypes of something we prefer to forget existed. Bolshevik priests. The angels of revolution. Men without pity and often -- except in Le Chiffre's case -- without fear. And in an age where Political Correctness has covered their tracks, our sole authentic glimpse of these monsters survives only in fiction. We are told that these monsters never existed; but the truth is that they never died. One wonders though, whether of all the characters in Fleming's books the most fictional figure of all was not James Bond himself. It's hard to imagine that he ever existed; that the West had men who -- in novels at least -- were willing to shoot it out with the Checkists. From the 9/11 hearings and subsequent revalations into the state of intelligence preceding Operation Iraqi Freedom, one wonders. One wonders.

Update

Here is a how Fleming imagined James Bond would look. Fleming imagined him as a resembling a crueler version of Hoagy Carmichael. Why I can't imagine, but that's the literary truth.

48 Comments:

Blogger NahnCee said...

If they existed then, when Fleming was writing about them, wasn't Putin their boss?

11/24/2006 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

24 09:51 AM
Assassination: So cool, it's the new black!


In a world in which the innocent are not safe while eating in Britain, or driving through the streets of Beirut, or running for office in Ukraine or working in skyscrapers in New York City, I turn to my social betters, the ones so quick to lament the blood on our hands from "assassination" and ask, "Okay, how do you want to fight this war?" Or perhaps, more specifically, "how do you want to win?" The bad guys are out to win, and will put out all the stops.

And if they say "international tribunal," they might as well come out and say, "we're okay with dying."

Because, you know, waterboarding is mean. Much meaner than poisoning someone or shooting up his car.

UPDATE: So not long after this initial post, I got quite the response from a reader in Europe:

"There is no such thing as the KGB, so such an organization could not "whack", or even "allegedly whack" anyone, whether in London or elsewhere."

Semantics. The Russian secret police and spy network can change the letterhead, but they’re the same bunch of cold-hearted SOBs. If it bothers you so much, print out the posting, cross out KGB and write “FSB” above it.

"Indeed, the British police are not even certain the man was deliberately poisoned and have downgraded the investigation to "suspicious death", which suggests they're moving away from that theory. He ate sushi just before he fell ill..."

11/24/2006 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Document was fake but accurate.
Dan Rather

The Sushi was Radioactive but Wholesome.
Soulman Putin
W would know.

11/24/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Casino Royale was written in 1953, Mr Putin was born in 1952. So it is doubtful that Mr Putin was the model for Mr Fleming.

He does fit the profile, though.
Reality mirrors the fiction.

11/24/2006 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Pierce Brosnan Offended By Way New James Bond Holds Gun

Brosnan said the Bond girl bedded by Craig may have appeared attracted to him, but he could tell she was faking it.
"Pierce felt the performance was amateur and that in general the film lacked a certain je ne sais quoi."
Former Bond actor Roger Moore reportedly agreed with Brosnan's assessment and added that, while he was glad to see someone other than Timothy Dalton in the role, no actor has brought the pithy elegance befitting 007 since 1979's Moonraker

11/24/2006 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Casino Royale was written in 1953...

You know, that makes sense since I recently read something (WSJ?) analyzing how the real James Bond had been lost as time and movies passed. The article discussed, for example, Bond eating an avocado and how extraordinary that would have seemed to a reader used to the restrictions still in place from WW2 ... which would have been the case for 1953, but probably not 1963 which is where I tend to mentally place Bond (and SMERSH) when I visualize them.

In that case, in 1953, SMERSH *would* have still be pounding on people's testicles since I doubt they had cute little radioactive pellets to poison people with at that point. THOSE would have come later ... when Mr. Putin was in charge.

11/24/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Killer Swears Girl Was In Two Pieces When He Left Her
"It was there when I dumped her in the lumberyard. And I would never decapitate someone so crudely and keep their head as a trophy. What am I, some kind of sicko?" Officers said "

Haynesworth, who waived his right to remain silent, has been extremely cooperative in explaining at length and in great detail exactly how he would have done it.

11/24/2006 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Vesper Lynd, Bond's romantic interest in Casino Royale had been suborned into working for the Soviets. They had taken her first love, a Polish RAF fighter pilot, and clapped him in the deepest dungeon. They let him write a letter at the end of each month to Vesper Lynd and assured her he would continue to do so, for so long as she worked for them. It was she who betrayed Bond to Chiffre.

James Bond famously reads Lynd's suicide note, the testimony of a confused woman caught between two men that she loved, and flings it away. His last, pitiless words in the book are: "the bitch is dead". And he was weeping.

The most terrible thing about Communism -- if I can speak of it openly -- and about radical Islamism too is that it invites us into a very dark place where it can alone be defeated and forces us to choose between our souls and our lives. If James Bond ever lived he was a son of a bitch, not that I can blame him.

11/24/2006 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Northrop Grumman engineer could get death for selling classified tech
---
How could this be, when Bergler et al run free?
Must be his house here on Maui which was supposedly shaped like the B-2, or something.
Grandstanding is not PC, you know, unless it's Bubba.

11/24/2006 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Architectural Blunder
The Gowadias live in a custom home they built on a gated estate in Ulumalu, an isolated area in Ha'iku on Maui's north coast. The roof line of the spacious home resembles the shape of the B-2 stealth bombers Gowadia helped design.

11/24/2006 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

Nasty stuff, that Polonium 210. Tragic situation, but fascinating for we nuclear engineers.

Recalling the body impact of the ingestion of a prolific alpha emitter... (thank you, Health Physics Prof, whatever your name was...)

My God - that poor man. This was an incredibly cruel act, and d@mn sure was NOT an accident.

11/24/2006 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Putin said it was not a violent Death, Triton, Shape up man!
---
At the B-2 link:

According to this article in the Register, Chinese PC maker Lenovo is asking North Carolina to subsidize Chinese education in local schools and create joint programs with Chinese schools in return to maintaining its 1800 workforce in China!!
A quote from the article :

Elsewhere, the document notes that other states have presented "reasonably attractive incentives for the company to relocate."

A funny comment from the same article

Wouldn't it be something for Lenovo - or North Carolina rather - to fund enough Chinese language classes for North Carolina to become the call center outsourcing capital for China tech support?

11/24/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"The Document was fake but accurate.
Dan Rather

The Sushi was Radioactive but Wholesome.
Soulman Putin...."

LMAO! LMAO!!

11/24/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Lord Acton said...

This morning as I was driving I caught Howard Zinn, perhaps only second to Mr. Chomsky in the esteem of the intellectual left, holding forth on Democracy Now about the Uses of History in War and the War on Terror.
(The full transcript is at www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/24/1442258)

The chorus to his hymn, which he repeats at the beginning of several paragraph is "And if people knew their history, they would know..." x,y, and z act of evil perpetuated by our forefathers and countrymen. Now very near the end he says:

"So, war -- well, Einstein said this after World War I. He said, “War cannot be humanized. It can only be abolished.” War has to be abolished, you know. And it’s -- I know it’s a long shot. I understand that, but you have to -- when something’s a long shot, but it has to be done, you have to start doing it. Just as the ending of slavery in this country in the 1830s was a really long shot, but people stuck at it, and it took 30 years, but slavery was done away with."

I laughed so hard I sprayed coffee all over my windshield. Um, professor, um....how was it exactly that slavery was done away with??

11/24/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Dusko Popov was shadowed by Ian Fleming when Popov travelled to NY via Estoril with the $58,000 the MI6 gave to him to set up a spy network in NY. This is where the Casino Royale story got its start.

See PP 28 in WWII History Magazine - January , 2007 edition.

11/24/2006 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Looks like Doug might be the unwitting front man for a little dezinformatsiya. A lie told quickly becomes the truth after nine are told later.

11/24/2006 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

Hiya Doug!

Happy Thanksgiving, Brother -

Putin sounds a bit like The Bent One with that comment, eh? Nobody said it was a violent death... unless you could observe what was happening on the molecular level...

Hordes of ravenous alpha particles spewing forth from the Polonium source, snatching pairs of electrons from the nearest available targets... a most violent interaction...

After three weeks, I wonder if he had any functioning bone marrow left.

11/24/2006 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

I still think the man's death was a simple accident.

He probably just got hungry one night and ate a BOMARC missile.

11/24/2006 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Maybe the fish grazed out here where the French tested their Nukes.

11/24/2006 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wretchard wrote:

The most terrible thing about Communism -- if I can speak of it openly -- and about radical Islamism too is that it invites us into a very dark place where it can alone be defeated and forces us to choose between our souls and our lives.

Yet there are those here and in the Elephant Bar who scorn those who want America to choose life without losing the soul. They have contempt for those who wish to repudiate targetting civilians and torturing prisoners even if it means more time or treasure must be expended going the long way around.

11/24/2006 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: SMERSH

Thanks for reminding us of the identities of the original Casino Royale antagonists, Wretchard. It's telling that the producers of the remake removed all trace of real-world bad guys. Instead of real FSB/KGB/SMERSH bads, we got some indistinct African militants and a French accountant. But the compromised Brit remains a compromised Brit.

It's Hollywood fantasy, but as we've come to expect, the fantasy enters the stage only when necessary to mask real-world antagonists.

I know, I know, "It's just Hollywood." Dr. No wasn't a documentary on Soviet weapons research. :-) I just don't like the psychology at work, which seems fundamentally sympathetic to the bads who poison the West.

We were talking about the failures of the "entertainment elite" on another thread. The Casino Royale character substitution is another such failure. Now, as for the "political elite" who are yet silent on Litvinenko's murder...

11/24/2006 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

" even if it means more time or treasure must be expended going the long way around. "
---
What if the long way around cost more lives in the long run?
And if it means losing the war, what then?

11/24/2006 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"costs"

11/24/2006 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

The other reality as it happened in that time and those places is the Russian spies and assassins got used to the good life in England and the United States and started fabricating reports to send back home that would allow them to remain living here with us.

Which makes me think they weren't as committed to Communism as a concept as we are to freedom as a belief.

11/24/2006 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

P.S. If it's alright for Vladimir, why can't George slip some nuclear tablets to, oh, say, the President of Iran?

And if *he* is too untouchable, I'll settle for the President of France.

11/24/2006 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nahncee wrote:

The other reality as it happened in that time and those places is the Russian spies and assassins got used to the good life in England and the United States and started fabricating reports to send back home that would allow them to remain living here with us.

Never underestimate the counterrevolutionary power of Pussy Galore.

11/24/2006 06:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tex wrote:

We were talking about the failures of the "entertainment elite" on another thread. The Casino Royale character substitution is another such failure.

To the producers, this alteration was perfectly balanced by substituting the French-sounding game "baccarat" for good old red state Texas hold 'em.

11/24/2006 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Revanchist Russia is another reason we cannot continue to be tied down in a 3rd world craphole while the rest of our enemies and rivals do as they wish until we get unstuck from the Iraqi tarbaby.

This Sunday, the Bush war will have exceeded WWII in duration. And for all WC's advocacy of enemy rights - none of our wars have been won by showing the near-groveling worship of the sanctity at all costs of enemy civilian life or enemy civil liberties.

Team Bush bungled Iraq so badly that our preferring our own men be rendered into IED hamburger rather than put the fear of Allah into the foe hasn't been a factor in us losing the struggle. Just a few additional deaths and maimings on the way to a full scale civil war we lacked the proper tactics and troop strength to stop after the summer of 2003.

Hard for the public to directly blame lovers of enemy "good treatment" on. But we would have been likely to have failed in Iraq even with adequate forces and good tactics if we were still bound by "Boy Scout Rules".

And if we have another large mass death event in the USA - all thse Boy Scout Rules may be reevaluated and the ACLU & PC types that stuck us with them may find some unwelcome fingers pointing at them for being complicit in enabling the enemy.

BTW - The Manhattan Project lasted 4 years from 1942-1946 and estimates on total expenditures range from $1.8 to$2.2 billion. Today, this would be equivalent to over $20 billion.

Iraq and it's "noble purple fingered freedom lovers" has cost us the eqivalent of 32 Manhattan projects so far. How many times have we said we need a Manhattan Project for energy independence, better public health system in case a pandemic hits, an all-out effort to educate Americans in critical language skills we lack, how we must try a Manhattan project in strategic communications to argue against radical Islam's idead globally.

If we only had the money...

11/24/2006 06:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This Sunday, the Bush war will have exceeded WWII in duration. And for all WC's advocacy of enemy rights - none of our wars have been won by showing the near-groveling worship of the sanctity at all costs of enemy civilian life or enemy civil liberties.

We've won all our wars in the way that wars are won, by bringing overwhelming violence to the enemy until he died, ran away, or cried Uncle, but we've lost or fought to a draw all our police actions (Korea 1953, Vietnam 1973, Lebanon 1983, Somalia 1993, Iraq 2003) and the American people are starting to get the impression that we just can't do a lick of good driving around in circles like Michael Dukakis in a tank.

11/24/2006 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Iraq ain't bungled. It just hasn't gone the way the Dems, MSM or other ATMophiles would like. Programming Note: Those of you who have been paying attention, please refer to my post regarding when an op order becomes obsolete.

11/24/2006 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

> We've won all our wars in the way that wars are won, by bringing overwhelming violence to the enemy until he died, ran away, or cried Uncle, but we've lost or fought to a draw all our police actions

That's because they are two different kind of wars and we mistakenly try to fight them both the same way, like world war II.
The rest of the world has been beating guerilla fighters with counter insurgency tactics for hundreds of years, but the USA won't allow its military to fight that way.

It's amazing that we call ourselves the most powerful military on earth, yet we can't do something as basic as fight a guerilla war.

11/24/2006 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

Heh, I assumed from the beginning that you meant the original 'Smersh,' i.e. the Soviet wartime organization. No wonder I couldn't follow the article.

Never got into Bond.

11/25/2006 12:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: marking time?

rat: This Sunday, the Bush war will have exceeded WWII in duration.

That milestone is certainly more meaningful than the common and abritrary "x number of years" news-time marker. It reminds us of how much victory can be accomplished, or ought to be accomplished, in multiple years of war.

Is the US any better prepared for the necessary next phase of the war now, than it was when Iraq fell 3 years ago? I see interim improvements in:

1. homeland emergency services
2. military specialist training
3. counterinsurgency ops
4. unmanned weapons
5. maybe intel

That's something, but not what I'd expect from 3 years of wartime attention to the next phase. Am I missing big improvements in capability? Or have our armed forces (outside Iraq) been marking time?

11/25/2006 05:24:00 AM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

> counterinsurgency ops

I think Afghanistan may be the most successful counterinsurgency operation in US history. Perhaps because of the different composition of US forces, Iraq seems to be being fought more as a conventional war instead of counterinsurgency.

11/25/2006 05:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

correction, that was c4's quote.

Also, re: cost

c4: writes: Team Bush bungled Iraq so badly that our preferring our own men be rendered into IED hamburger rather than put the fear of Allah into the foe hasn't been a factor in us losing the struggle. Just a few additional deaths and maimings on the way to a full scale civil war we lacked the proper tactics and troop strength to stop after the summer of 2003.

I remember a Mars lander failure, which investigation determined to be the result of a too-low mission budget. The stone-faced NASA administrator quipped, roughly, "We have now determined empirically that the minimum cost of a successful Mars lander mission is $300 million."

I hope - pray - that the current Administration has now determined the minimum cost in blood and brutality for conquest of a Muslim state, and has allocated sufficient budget for the next.

11/25/2006 05:39:00 AM  
Blogger Fausta said...

One wonders though, whether of all the characters in Fleming's books the most fictional figure of all was not James Bond himself. It's hard to imagine that he ever existed
From what I've read, Sidney Rilley came pretty close.

11/25/2006 05:56:00 AM  
Blogger Starling David Hunter said...

Two posts related to the assassination of Litvenenko over at The Business of America is Business:
Like Nobody's Businessman about the Russian "businessman" who was one of the last to see Litvinenko before his poisoning.

and
"Like Nobody's Businessman II: A Dish Served Cold", a follow up.

One of them has a "see also" link to Fausta's post on the topic.

11/25/2006 06:45:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

Interesting comments on this story at the dailymail.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=418521&in_page_id=1770

"I wondered to myself at that time, whether it meant that freedom were at last being allowed in, or perhaps that the world had merely become safe enough for some unspeakable, insidious evil to come out."

11/25/2006 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

Tex said

"I remember a Mars lander failure, which investigation determined to be the result of a too-low mission budget."

As I recall the software architect did not specify and enforce the same units across all modules. The PM, the architects, the programmers, and the testers failed. It was not a failure of money, it was a failure by many people across years.

11/25/2006 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Ahh, yes, we are back to the WRITING part of this Philosophy slash Writing Blog, courtesy Prof. W.:

James Bond famously reads Lynd's suicide note, the testimony of a confused woman caught between two men that she loved, and flings it away. His last, pitiless words in the book are: "the bitch is dead." And he was weeping.

11/25/2006 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

The World famously reads America's suicide note, the testimony of a confused superpower caught between two ideals, Peace and Courage, and flings it away. The last, pitiless words in the book are: "the bitch is dead." And they are weeping.

11/25/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

red river: It was not a failure of money, it was a failure by many people across years.

Sure, technically it was a software foul-up that no one noticed. Now, the reason no one noticed was that there was no budget for the normal level of management oversight. This was one of the "faster, better, cheaper" missions -- emphasis on "cheaper". I recall it cost (vaguely) about $130 million total, whereas Spirit and Odyssey landers ran I think $350 million each, and the Viking landers $1 billion, in today's dollars. Most of the higher costs of those missions were management-related: hiring a large team to double-check, cross-check, independently check... every last thing.

But of course warfare isn't a Mars mission (except in the coincidental naming of the god invoked). I have no further analogies to make here.

11/25/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tony: The last, pitiless words in the book are: "the bitch is dead."

Ow. Pointed twist, Tony.

And yes, wretchard writes up a sheet-lightning desert storm.

11/25/2006 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

So did Ian Fleming.

11/25/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger azazelo said...

Hiya Doug!

Happy Thanksgiving,

"The Document was fake but accurate.
Dan Rather..."

Azazelo Blog

11/26/2006 03:39:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Tex remarked Ow. Pointed twist....

Yeah Tex, I think I traveled a little too much in the late 70's, and saw the results of the kinds of decisions the American just made. In Jo-burg, some truck drivers down from Rhodesia wanted to kick my butt (or shoot me, I suppose) when we sissied out of South Africa and their war. Some old guy in Rangoon on Christmas Eve got misty wishing for the old days when the Brits were there. Afghanistan was a lawless hellhole then, it irks me when people imagine is should be Shangrila now. Etc.

11/27/2006 03:37:00 PM  
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