Saturday, September 17, 2005

Precision Bombing and Imprecise Casualties

During the 1991 Gulf War the US military made much of the precision of their armaments, specifically bombs, against Hussein's forces and strategic targets. Careful post-war analysis showed firstly that guided bombs accounted for only 10% of the munitions expended and furthermore that guided weapons, though vastly improved over conventional "dumb" munitions still missed their targets around 50% of the time.

With the advent of the GPS guided JDAM system, bombs could finally be steered to within a meter or two of their intended targets. A JDAM is simply a conventional "dumb" bomb fitted with a relatively cheap GPS transponder that controls the bomb's fin steering to actively "fly" the bomb to an exact map coordinate rather than just being dropped in the target's vicinity.

This innovation is a boon to military commanders and to taxpayers alike. It considerably reduces the waste of conventional munitions and significantly reduces the need for sophisticated and very expensive missiles.

According to the military and their political friends a more accurate bomb is a "friendlier" bomb. Instead of missing it's target most of the time, a JDAM bomb will HIT it's target most of the time. Result? The bad guys get killed and "collateral' damage is minimized. Civilian casualties therefore are kept to a minimum, and war can be conducted on a more "humane" level. The notion of "precision bombing" therefore makes war more acceptable, especially to those who don't have to experience it first-hand.

But consider the "precision" bombing of Bagdhad. Specific locations were targeted and destroyed. Militarily the strikes were "perfect" and "minimized" the impact on civilians.

The trouble is, no matter how precise the targeting a bomb is inherently an indiscrimate weapon. Bomb casings are just containers for the explosive material, they are part of the destructive effect of the bomb. They are specifically engineered to fragment into pieces that will be accelerated to velocities around 4 times greater than regular rifle bullets. And unlike rifle bullets the bomb fragments are dispersed in a complete 360-degree radius.

The accuracy of a GP-guided JDAM is useful militarily, basically guaranteeing a direct strike on the desired target, just as a laser guides a sniper's bullet. But to ensure the destruction of the target a lot of explosives are used.
The smallest bomb in any military inventory these days weighs 250lb. Essentially half that weight is the bomb casing, half the explosive. 100 lbs of HE can throw a 6-ton vehicle 20 feet into the air, make a crater 6 feet deep and 25 feet wide and blast bomb case fragments for a mile ( not to mention the fragmentation of the target). So clearly , no matter how precise the targeting, the destuctive effect of such a bomb extends far beyond it's intended purpose.

In an urban target area despite the accuracy of GPS, civilians will be maimed and killed simply becuase civiilians will live and work within a mile of the target. And the 250lb bomb is the smallest one currently used. Indeed 500 lb bombs are more common amongst rich nations such as the US.

Of course "precision" bombing is preferable to the random effects of 'carpet bombing' but when it is a city being bombed rather than an army far removed from population centers the effect is the same. And in pretending that "precision"' bombing in an urban area is somehow effective and somehow "saves lives" is utter rubbish. A bomb is a bomb, it is indiscreet and it has no "life-saving" qualities whatsoever. For all the subtleties of directing a bomb to its intended target, the damage is never limited to that target. A bomb reaches out to everyone, in all directions and indiscriminately. Carefully designed and precisely guided, a bomb's impact is ALWAYS random, violent and uncontrolled.

If We Don’t Bomb Europe, Who Will?

According to Tony Blankely (erstwhile press-secretary to Newt Gingrich, former Reagan speechwriter/ political analyst, weekly political columnist/editorial page editor of the Washington Times and the large smug noisy object on ‘The McLaughlin Report’) the threats just keep on coming--not from China, Cuba, North Korea or Iran but from Europe.

In his latest book, The West's Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations? (published by Regnery) “Bombs Away” Blankley posits that Europe is being overrun by Islamic extremists bent on using it as a base from which to attack the United States.

Blankely makes part of his case with claims as bloated as his own physique and ego. From his self-serving promotional post on the Huffington Post he writes:

“Indeed, Muslim parts of Paris, Rotterdam, and other European cities are already labeled "no-go zones" for ethnic Europeans, including armed policemen.”

The fact that armed German, French, Spanish and British police have arrested dozens of suspects in urban Muslim areas since 9-11, 3-11 and 7-7 rather undercuts this claim, as does the fact that NO European police force or politician has declared any part of any European city a “no-go” area for either authorities or “ethnic Europeans”

Tony goes on to say: “If the current leaders of Europe do not respond to the Islamist threat boldly and effectively, the common European people might decide to defend their culture as vigilantes. In that case, Europe will again become a bloody urban battleground.”

Ah yes, the “common European people” from that tiny old country of Europe with all it’s quaint little states and funny dialects and weird food and inability to protect itself without the good old US of A. Tony’s fat-fingered grasp of civilizations clearly extends far beyond his spell-checker. But I digress….

What really matters and what Tony Blankely as a public service insists we understand is this:

“What's more, an Islamified Europe would be as great a threat to the United States today as a Nazified Europe would have been to the United States in the 1940s. Even before Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt understood that a Nazi-dominated Europe would be more than a fearsome military and industrial threat; it would be a civilizational [sic] threat. Now we face another civilizational threat in insurgent Islam.”

The big issue isn’t that Tony Blankely insists on torturing the English language, history, facts, basic sentence construction and logic. The big issue is that Muslims threaten Europe, and thus will Europe threaten the US. Logically therefore the US must bomb Europe before the whole situation spirals out of control. After all it's a lot easier to bomb the shit out of an imaginary problem than to deal with a real one.
Clearly someone has to bomb Europe and wouldn't it be a whole lot better for the US to do it? After all we've got the bombs, we've got the will, we've got the policy and it's what we, the US, are best at.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Threat Level: BROWN

This is a long one… When I started it was just two short paragraphs, but I couldn’t help myself…Iraq, Katrina, Fashion Week and the UN, it’s hard work tying these things together.


One of the less injurious but still insulting actions of the Bush Administration post 9-11 was the introduction of the Color Coded Threat Level Indicator, courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security.

Originally dead-set against creating the DHS, the White House caved to public pressure and embraced the theory of an integrated national public security and safety department.
In practice however the DHS was used to increase public insecurity through widely publicized random alerts that coincided with the release of bad domestic news, the unwanted RNC re-election extravaganza in Manhattan and voting in the crucial state of Ohio.

The various national safety and security services were supposed to be transformed into a single cohesive department with common standards, equipment, protocols, communications and planning as the 9-11 commission had recommended. But instead, after four years the only cohesive thread that bound the participants together was their subordination to the strictly political needs of the White House.

Once again it took mass destruction, death and displacement for the White House to respond to the demands of the public for answers and accountability.
And once again Bush bowed to the damnation and the facts. This time around he actually used the words "I accept responsibility", probably for the first time in his life.

But don’t get too moist over this apparent "group therapy breakthrough"; Bush doesn’t deserve any hugs or a report card suddenly festooned with glitter and gold stick-on stars.
Bush is not Helen Keller—he’s finally learned the words but he still doesn’t know what they mean. he just bought himself some more time to avoid some serious discipline and more ‘hard work"

Even now Bush and his cohorts oppose a publicly demanded independent investigation into the "Katrina Affair" just as they opposed the investigation into 9-11. If Bush and his supporters were so sure of their actions and where the blame really lay, why wouldn’t they want the "truth" as they have explained it to be told?
If the Republicans had done such a stellar job and the Democratic Mayor and the Democratic Governor of Louisiana been so incompetent, wouldn’t such an investigation serve the GOP politically? Wouldn’t such an investigation serve Democrat and Republican voters alike who pay the politicians their wages and who have a right to know about such matters?

Tom Ridge, a party loyalist but utterly "beige" Pennsylvanian politician was the very first chief of the DHS. Increasingly confused by the DHS’s supposed purpose and its actual operation Ridge used the meager $170,000 per annum paycheck as an excuse to resign before anything really bad happened to either him or the US.
Ridge was replaced by Michael Chertoff, a lawyer ( not an accountant as I posted earlier) who it turns out knew "the price of everything and the value of nothing".

Second in the DHS hierarchy came the head of FEMA, Joe Allbaugh who as a media hack for the Bush election campaign had seen up-close the shambles of the Democratic election efforts and thus was intimate with at least one kind of disaster.
But if Ridge couldn’t stomach a piddling $170,000 per annum as the head of the overarching DHS (ignoring the pension, health benefits etc accrued as an elected representative) what was Joe Allbaugh’s income as head of the subsidiary FEMA, a sub-department of DHS that still carried huge responsibilities? Like Ridge, Allbaugh defined his job satisfaction and his personal worth not in his abilities, the task before him or his pay scale, but simply in the title that had been handed to him. And like Ridge he passed the baton before anything bad could happen, to Mike Brown.

Mike Brown, in case you haven’t been paying attention, was never an exceptional law professor at a half-arsed law school, but a mere half-arsed student.
He was an intern in an emergency-response department of an Oklahoma city (in the tiny UK it would qualify as town, not a "city"), not an assistant director, and ….well, everything on his resume was a pack of lies---except for his position at the International Arabian Horse Society from which he resigned just before he was going to be fired for fiscal impropriety. His final departure from FEMA was not a result of his contributing to multiple deaths as a result of his criminal "professional" incompetence, but rather for his political incompetence.

Anywhoo, this all might seem like bloated corpses floating under the remains of the bridges and levees at this point, but the important thing now is not to point fingers but to look to the future.

And what does the future hold?

Well rest-assured an accountant, Michael Chertoff is still working hard to figure out how best to amortize recent losses whilst maximizing recent gains in the GOP-US portfolio.

Iraq is more than ever the hot terrorist market, but it has inspired other "young guns" throughout the world.
"Look out for more explosive challenges to the status quo coming not from the establishment Whitehall and Washington’s K street, but from the radical international communities in other cities worldwide that have grown up in the shadows but refuse to be encompassed by them" said Trixie Von Shoehorn, (political fashion editor for the 5th Estate).

And speaking of the international community, what of John Bolton, US "Ambassador" to the UN?
Appointed (despite serious objection) by presidential fiat during a congressional recess, the man voted mostly likely to resemble an irascible walrus with a perverse desire to mate with a Trident III missile, Bolton has taken the lead in destroying a 30-year extant nuclear weapon non-proliferation treaty. He has halted efforts to secure "loose-nukes" floating amongst the tenuous states of the C.I.S. He has declared that the UN needs to lose enough pounds sufficient to declare it "unrecoverable" unless it can suckle the homogenized, pasteurized, vitamin-injected USDA –approved milk provided by the fulsome breasts of mother United States.

Bush is actually working hard to dodge the fictitious "bullet" he and his shills have claimed were the post-Katrina newspaper "headlines" (the phrase appeared once as a headline, in a Greneda newspaper!). But despite his remarkable declaration of responsibility, I’m afraid there are bigger issues at stake for which he still continues to deny responsibility, even for the sake of domestic political expediency.
It took the deaths of nearly 3,000 people (more than a quarter of who weren’t actually Americans) before Bush and the GOP woke up to the terrorist threat, despite warnings from officials and massive intercepted intelligence chatter and the very obvious August 6th PDB.
It took months of public outcry before a bipartisan independent investigation examined the factors surrounding 9-11 and even then the investigation was obstructed and 28 pages of the report specifically regarding Saudi connections were redacted.
It took the deaths of hundreds and possibly thousands of New Orleans citizens and a public outcry before George W. Bush recognized some federal responsibility for the mismanagement of the Katrina hurricane aftermath, yet as with 9-11 he and his administration has refused an independent investigation.

So what kind and scale of disaster will be required before John Bolton is called to account and by proxy George W. Bush. Will it take just another toll of thousands more dead by unnecessary starvation and disease that occurs predominantly in Africa year after year, or will it take something more spectacular, like the explosion of a "dirty bomb" in a rich nation’s city before once again a Bush appointee’s real qualifications are exposed, before Bush once again "accepts responsibility" without accepting the consequences of his enshrined stupidity, his callous ignorance, and his blind arrogance?

As I write, Bolton is trying to destroy not just the ideals of the UN, but its apparatus. Bush’s backers are actually promoting the use of nuclear weapons to combat terrorism, promoting the use of WMD’s to counter the threat of WMD’s.
The similarities between this notion and the Cold War notion of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) are clear. Yet what Bush’s masters refuse to acknowledge is that their pre-emptive policy promotes MAD, with the subtle, yet not so subtle distinction that their version of MAD requires the push of only one button on one side of the world, not two. Should the US choose to "go nuclear" the US and the world will actually "lose".
As in all conflicts whether armed or ideological, the winners will be those who survive the aftermath the best.

Bolton only has 18 months "legally" left to serve, but as we have all seen even 6 months can change not only the present but future decades and ultimately centuries. It took Bush and his buddies 15 months from the time they officially got into power to launch an illegal war. Like Iraq, Iran has long been on the Neo-Con radar. Bolton has 14 months left to serve, the war drums against Iran are already beating a familiar tune.
Not everyone in Bush’s camp is looking for a new Armegeddon, but many in Bush’s voting base are, and they don’t have to camp out in front of Bush’s ranch to get their views noticed--they have a direct line.
Bush doesn’t have the wit to understand their ultimate agenda, all he cares about is his cushy job and the benefits that will result when his term ends. He thinks he’s protected, as he always has been but he doesn’t foresee any reckoning for himself. Despite his public homilies, he thinks HE is the highest power on Earth and is thus above real reproach and beyond guilt. After all, if HE weren’t the "bestest", why the hell would he be President of God’s own country and the most powerful nation on the planet?

Brown is the color of shit.

Despite being shit at every job he supposedly had, Mike Brown was hired to take care of serious shit.
Bush also was supposed to take car of serious shit. When the shit hit the fan on September 11, he didn’t do shit until September 14. Only then did Bush appear to have his shit together.
After that all kinds of shit happened. Shit went down in Afghanistan. But then there was the shit with Iraq. So Bush sent the shit to Iraq and those Iraqis caught some serious shit. But then shit started to happen and the Iraqis gave our troops some shit, so we matched their shit and raised them some extra shit.
Somehow the shit got out, and Bush caught some shit for the shit that was going down in Abu Ghraib. But Rove figured out a plan to make all of the shit look like shit and after a while the public didn’t give a shit.
But then more shit happened and people started saying shit about how the veterans weren’t getting the shit they deserved, and then the shit started hitting the fan. But Bush didn’t give a shit, he just kept on doing his own shit. And after a while it all became the same old shit.
And then, I shit you not, Katrina came along and the same old shit didn’t float like it used to, or rather it did ‘cos the shit kept floating so everyone could see, and no-one really wanted to see that shit but there it was. And then Mike Brown caught a lot of shit, but he tried to pass it off but Nagin and Blanco weren’t about to put up with that shit and all the regular people who’ve been putting up with shit for years had enough of all this shit and demanded that Bush and his buddies DO something about this shit. But they didn’t do shit.

Now, it may look like the shit is going or even gone, but that shit is still there. There’s a huge pile of shit in the corner that hardly anyone can see on account of all the shit that’s happened so far, but it’s there alright and it won’t go away unless someone says hey! What about this pile of shit?
Forget Threat Level Orange or Red or Purple… the only color anyone should really be concerned about is brown---it is the color of shit, and we are almost up to our necks in it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Unbearable Lightness of Blogging

Seven years of professional IT experience and I've finally created by own personal Web prescence, this blog. Wow, that didn't take long!
And now, having bored friends and colleagues with my exceptional insights on every subject under the sun, especially those in which I am most ignorant, I can now bore complete strangers too.
As with the Titanic, the Maginot Line, the Leisure Suit, the AMC Gremlin and invading Iraq, creating this blog seemed like a good idea at the time.
But now the cows have come home to roost, and viewed through a glass darkly , the sands of time will bear witness to the tiger I appear to have caught by it's tail.

And yet I feel honored to have finally become a part of the blogging community, and I am proud to have created for myself what amounts to a job with no pay and no H.R department to go whining to.

But I shall stay the course, or quit. If it weren't for the Backspace and Delete keys, I'd be more worried. So I shall blog until I can blog no more, and then who knows? I hear FEMA needs a new Director , and it has an actual website. Crap floats, and I hope to do the same in the blogging pool.

Please don't comment on this entry, I'm just filling some cyberspace. But stay tuned, I might make some actual sense any day now.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

It's Official! The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum

According to the AP today:

Pentagon Plan Envisions Using Nukes on Terrorists: U.S. Forces Must Pose a Credible Deterrent to Potential Adversaries'

It begins:
"A Pentagon planning document being updated to reflect the doctrine of pre-emption declared by President Bush in 2002 envisions the use of nuclear weapons to deter terrorists from using weapons of mass destruction against the United States or its allies."

The article is available here;

It is chilling in mundane language and spectular in it's stupidity.

The only preemption this administration has conducted has been against Iraq.
Results? The US completely missed Hussein for a start. Now Iraq has terrorists it never had before and the State Department stopped publishing their annual Global Terrorism report after they realised international terrorism had increased by 300% since the invasion!

Now, what happened to the WMD that weren’t under Bush’s desk but were, according to Rumsfeld "in Tikrit, and north, west, east and south" ? They weren’t there! So why should we, or even the Pentagon have any confidence in their WMD-detecting capabilities?

So far Osama Bin Laden is alive and well and Al Queda-inspired operatives have bombed Turkey, Bali, Madrid and London. Exactly how would the threat of nuclear weapons dissuade them? How the hell would the DOD target them? A 250 lb bomb has an impact radius of a hundred feet, the smallest nuclear bomb has an impact radius of miles, and today’s smallest nuclear warheads have ten times the destructive power and radiation of "Fat Boy" and "Little Boy"—the bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Quite apart from being a completely insane, impractical and inhumane doctrine, this latest brainwave from the dangerous dimwits in the DoD is also a clear admission of the total failure of their deranged policies thus far. Incapable of facing the truth, incapable of evolving, their "solution" is to increase the threat, encourage greater violence and bomb the crap out of everyone who "looks at them funny".

This is no joke, these death-cult lunatics are serious and they have the power to act on their delusions.

If we don’t do something soon we can all kiss our crispy assess goodbye.

9-11: Happy Neo-Con Christmas!

The sky is bright and blue and cloudless, the air is still. It’s perfect flying weather, a beautiful day.

On any day In Manhattan you can always spot the tourists---they’re the ones with heads tilted back, trying to fathom the heights of the myriad skyscrapers that the locals no longer see.
But on this day even the locals are tempted to look up, just once, and gaze for a moment at what can’t be seen, and for a few seconds they hear what can’t be heard. And they remember.

It’s a beautiful day in Washington too, but some there do not shiver with dread remembrance, for today is the holiest day of the Neo-Conservative faith.

Since 1997 the Neo-Cons have been publishing position papers and essays on the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) website. Reading through the turgid prose, asinine “analyses” and laughable “logic” the Neo-Cons’ objectives are made tediously and terrifyingly clear:

The US should rule the world for its own benefit, it should increase “defense” spending to guarantee its dominance, and it should attack Iraq ASAP in order to control the oil supply on which the US depends. This is all laid out in “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century” published in 1998 and available at

The above mentioned goals are then repeated pretty much ad-nauseum in every other paper or article they have published right through to today.

In the above mentioned publication there is one particularly fascinating tidbit:

“ A transformation strategy that solely pursued capabilities for projecting force from the United States, for example, and sacrificed forward basing and presence, would be at odds with larger American policy goals and would trouble American
Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is
likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a
new Pearl Harbor.”

Ignore the appalling sentence construction and look at the first paragraph:

What it actually says is that the US needs “forward bases” to satisfy “larger American policy goals” (and hilariously the author implies that US allies would be perfectly okay with more US military bases dotted around the world).

Now look at the second paragraph.
It says that what would really kick-start the whole process of transforming the military and projecting US power into the rest of the world would be some kind of spectacular sneak attack against the US. That, according to the Neo-Cons, would be really handy.

But wait, there’s more!

Under the section titled “The Price of American Preeminence “ we find these two gems:

"We believe it is necessary to increase slightly the personnel strength of U.S. forces – many of the missions associated with patrolling the expanding American security perimeter are manpower-intensive, and planning for major theater wars must include the ability for politically decisive campaigns including extended post-combat stability operations."

"At the same time, we have argued that established constabulary missions can be made less burdensome on soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and less burdensome on overall U.S. force structure by a more sensible forward-basing posture; long-term security commitments should not be supported by the debilitating, short-term rotation of units except as a last resort.
In Europe, the Persian Gulf and East Asia, enduring U.S. security interests argue forcefully for an enduring American military presence.
Pentagon policy-makers must adjust their plans to accommodate these realities and to reduce the wear and tear on service personnel.
We have also argued that the services can begin now to create new, more flexible units and military organizations that may, over time, prove to be smaller than current organizations, even for peacekeeping and constabulary operations."

So the plan here is to establish enduring military bases in regions of strategic interest, minimize troop rotations whilst also reducing “wear and tear on service personnel”, and plan for post-combat stability operations whilst using smaller peace-keeping and constabulary forces than conventional wisdom suggests, or for those of you who learned “new math”, 3 - 1 = 5!

Remember, all this was written in 1998, and guess who came up with this brilliant treatise?
Amongst others; Stephen Cambone, National Defense University; David Epstein, Office of Secretary of Defense; Robert Kagan, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; William Kristol, The Weekly Standard; I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Dechert Price & Rhoads; Paul Wolfowitz, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

If you go to the PNAC “Statement Of Principles” page you will also find these very recognizable names:
William J. Bennett, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Norman Podhoretz, Donald Rumsfeld.

So there you have it. The Neo-Cons couldn't argue their case with logic and reason, they needed a giant fucking disaster to get their own giant fucking disaster off the ground before they, having not bothered to learn how to land, crashed it the city of their choice .

For millions of Americans and other nationalities as well, 9-11 is remembered as a tragedy.
For the Neo-Cons it is remembered as Christmas, a time to play with shiny new toys as sugarplums danced in their heads.
But with the passage of time it appears that Santa might be a fiction, and the toys are losing their luster. The G.I. Joes are missing limbs and accessories, the wheels are falling off the tanks and trucks. They don’t seem to be as much fun to play with as they were 3 years ago.
Still, when bright memory turns to melancholy, the best thing to do is stuff yourself with cake, knock down a bottle of scotch and dream of the next September Christmas.