Monthly Archives: March 2003

A Presser That Will Never Be


Watching the media circus on the tube today, specifically the Donald Rumsfeld and Ari Fleisher shows.  The ink-stained wretches of the domestic press pool have outdone themselves in asking less than brilliant questions.  Some of the gems of journalistic wisdom included “Why hasn’t the war ended sooner?” and “Did you underestimate the importance of the Fedayeen Saddam?”  I was half expecting a journalist to ask “Do you wet the bed?” of Ari Fleischer or “Is that really your hair?” of Donald Rumsfeld.

Journalists in the past 30 years have undergone a dumbing-down that is remarkable.  I’ve done reporting and its not a tough job.  Five W’s  Who, What, When, Where, Why and just to fill it out, How.  Ask those questions, write a lead that answers those questions, then expand on it.  A classic pyramid.  Do some research and check some facts.  Get two or more experts to back up the basic idea, or refute it and you’ve got a 2000 word op-ed or think piece.

In a press conference, with all the other meat puppets trying to ask questions, journalists have a brain fade and park their common sense at the door.  Ask Donald Rumsfeld if he underestimated the importance of the Fedayeen Saddam and he’s not going to answer “You know, I think you’re right.  We might of.  Dammit Tommy, why didn’t you think of that?”  Ask Ari Fleischer why the war isn’t already over, he’s not going to say it’s because of this, that, or the other.  The reason Rumsfeld or Fleischer aren’t going to give out the answer is simple:  The question is moronic.

So, as a demented public service, we’re going to give out what Rumsfeld and Fleisher would answer, if they were not so utterly appalled by the astounding vapidity of the questions:

Journo #1  “Did you underestimate the strategic importance of the Fedayeen Saddam?”

Rumsfeld:  No we didn’t.  We knew they had these loonies around.  We didn’t know that they were so disturbed as to shoot at us from behind a group of women and children.  We just figured they were run of the mill assholes with shitty attitudes and pickup trucks who would run off at the first sign of real guns.  Turns out they’re real head cases.  Could we predict that?  Hell no.  Nobody could.  But we’re shooting every one we can find, because that’s what you do with rabid animals.  If they want to do a suicide mission in a school bus full of dynamite, we’ll see to it they see Allah right smartly.

Journo #2  “Why hasn’t the war ended sooner?”

Fleischer:  Because Saddam Hussein isn’t dead yet.  We’ve got feet on the street trying to kill the little shit, but he keeps moving around a lot.  Consequently we have to bomb a lot of Iraq and shoot at all the nimrods that protect him.  If the Iraqi people, or his bodyguards would just strip Saddam naked, beat the shit out of him, and toss him out of a truck near one of our tanks, we’ll take it from there.  Until that point, we have to do it the hard way.  As to why, well, you best go to Baghdad and ask Saddam.  He can give up any time he likes.

Journo #3  “Is the President expressing an opinion regarding the Syrian situation that is a foreign policy initiative change vis-a-vis the Palestinian situation and the role of the Kurdish Homeland?”

Fleischer:  I have no idea what kind of question that was and I suspect you don’t either, except to use policy-wank jargon and string together as long a sentence as you can touching on things you either know nothing about, or was written for you by somebody else.  Our foreign policy has not changed regarding Syria, Kurdish Homelands, Turkey, Montana, Palestine or Israel.  If you are looking for minutiae that can be construed as some millimetric change in foreign policy, go stare at the waistband of your underwear for four hours.  Then try to write a simple declarative sentence that contains a question.  Asshole.

Journo #4  “Are we taking more casualties than were expected?”

Rumsfeld:  Trying to predict how many of our guys and gals are going to get killed in a war, is like trying to predict how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  Or, on a pinhead like you.  As soon as the gunfire starts, all bets are off and all estimates become educated guesses.  We don’t want to send even one of our people home with so much as a hangnail or sunburn.  But the enemy has other ideas.  We train our people about as well as can be done, but when you play with guns and bombs, eventually someone is going to get killed.  We hate it and we try not to get our people killed.

Journo #5  “Will the missile attack on the Kuwaiti shopping mall change the focus of the war?”

Rumsfeld:  Yes, emphatically.  We were just goofing around up ’till then.  Now it’s serious when they try to blow up a Wal-Mart.  I’ve asked Colin to ready the nukes. 

Journo #6  “Does the President consider the relations with the coalition partners to be critical to the mission now facing the US”

Fleischer:  Yes he does.  If he didn’t, he would be an idiot, like you.  He’s the President and you’re some jackoff reporter with epoxied hair, faggy makeup and a cheap suit.  He keeps the coalition up to date on all the stuff we’re doing, maybe not the minute by minute shit, as we can all watch CNN, too, but the big strokes.  That’s the way they like it and the President likes it.

Rumsfeld:  That’s enough exposure to stupidity for one day…

Fleischer:  Fuck you, very much.  

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Hearts And Minds


Can you win over a populace with water and lentils?  If the populace has no food or water, then you can at least win them over for the afternoon, as was amply demonstrated by some news footage of non-combatants.  The civilians were rushing across the bridge in a town in Iraq to get at the food and water that the Brits has brought up from Kuwait. 

One telling snippet was a military-age male civilian saying “US and Brits go away” as he stood in line for water and food.  At more or less the same time the crowd rushed the aid trucks and a supposed Iraqi militia opened fire over their heads, scattering everyone. 

I’m confused by this, as one would expect at least a modicum of thanks for the humanitarian aid, rather than some, as the Aussies call it, “stick’ about being in their country.  Sort of a passive-aggressive, “Thank you, now Fuck Off” Iraqi equivalent.  The gunfire from the Iraqi militia sent the punctuation to that message, of:  “We said, Fuck Off…Now!”

The Brits did the right thing, escorting the aid convoy away from the civilians.  If you told me that the civilians were told by the Iraqi militia to grab up as much stuff as you could and run it back here for the militia to use, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.  If that strikes you as truly dishonest (Feed me, water me, let me kill you later tonight while real civilians starve to death) then you haven’t got the full grasp of the situation.

There will be much gnashing of teeth and waving of righteous indignation fists from everyone from tree huggers and stream tasters to various peace groups and political agenda pushers.  These groups will read from the texts and you can essentially predict the lines.

Unfortunately, many of these groups choose to ignore, or overlook, or just can’t see the other side of the equation.  It is not the US and UK forces that are starving their citizens.  It is the Iraqi government, Saddam Hussein, who has systematically taken as much of the Oil for Food as he can get his mitts on to feed his guards and troops, while selling the rest on a self-perpetuating black market to raise money to build more palaces, bunkers and statues.  Note that very few of the senior Iraqi military people look like they have missed a meal in the last year or two.

The truly innocent civilians have been systematically starved by their own government in the past 20 years which explains their desperation for food and water.  The US and UK are trying to fix that, as best they can and there will be bumps in the road.  Soldiers throughout history have always shared their bread and water with the civilians, but never at the level that would satisfy those who observe from a comfy sofa after a full meal. 

Simply put, folks with nothing, will always help another with nothing, up to a point.  That point is when starvation sets in, the thirst becomes unbearable, or the children start to die.  Then humans give their loyalty to anyone who can end the pain in the next few minutes or hours.  You can counter this at the point of a gun, for a while, but not as long as you might think.

It is a heart-wrenching tragedy that civilians are being starved because of the war.  Just remember that for every bit of humanitarian aid we toss over the fence, most of it is going to the Iraqi people who do not need it, the military groups, while the really needy have to fight for the scraps.

Diplomats And Prisoners


The Iraqi Ambassador to the UN is calling the US and Britain a bunch of war criminals.  This is not the usual parliamentary language that one expects from such an august body as the United Nations.  The US Ambassador, John Negroponte, got up and walked out, which is UN-speak for ‘eat shit and die’.

Listening to the diplomats and the mouthpieces for both sides is like filling your head with white glue and foam packing beads.  Nobody has the stones to stand up and invite their opposite number to “come by the Rose Garden at the White House and keep drippin’ that bullshit for spring planting.”  The French, Russian and Germans are demanding that the US not be involved in setting up the new government in Iraq. 

I suspect the US doesn’t want to be involved in it either.  The US would just as soon finish up things and go home, as long as the essential problem, an insane dictator with nerve gas and maybe even nukes, isn’t driving the bus.  It’s costing the US and UK a ton of cash, every hour, to keep this tent up and they could really use the money at home. 

Unfortunately, the French, Russians and Germans are not the best choice to decide on what kind of new government should be set up.  The French have long Arabic roots as a colonial imperialist power.  Germany just wants to sell their industrial infrastructure.  Russia wants the oil and arms sales along with the French who want some of the rearming sales too.  The US and the UK are doing the noble thing, while the major whiners are just pissy that they got pulled off the money tit.

Speaking of the money tit, I have noticed that France, Germany and Russia have not been terribly vocal about humanitarian aid, or for that matter, forthcoming with planeloads or shiploads of humanitarian aid.  Could it be that humanitarian aid actually costs money while sucking on the money tit, only makes money? 

If they were so concerned about all the shocking things going on, then one would rationally expect those who are so concerned would do everything to help the innocent civilians with food and water.  Except that innocent civilians are dirt poor and can’t sign off on multi-billion dollar government contracts to rebuild the country, re-arm the military and buy huge infrastructure projects.

As for prisoners, I’m not impressed with either side.  The US has been holding a few hundred of truly vicious lunatics in Guantanamo Bay under very strict disciplinary rules that border on cruel.  But, by way of explanation, the GitMo Bay guys are hard-core Al-Qaeda crazies from Afghanistan who are, essentially, rabid and are trying to kill their captors with anything they can get their hands on, including pencils, toast or raisins.  The GitMo prisoners are being held very tightly because they have not demonstrated the common sense to give up.  Even a tomato seed has the sense to not try to grow on gravel. 

Conversely, the Iraqis are not setting their US prisoners up in the Baghdad Hilton either.  We don’t have any information on how battlefield prisoners in Iraq are being held by the US, but I suspect the Iraqi POW’s, are at the hands of the Evil US who insists that their prisoners eat good food, see doctors and get treated reasonably well.  Yes, the prisoners are behind barbed wire and have to wear flexi cuffs.  What the hell did you expect, we’d just toss them the the keys to a new Ford Focus and invite them to the Kuwait City Wal-Mart for a shopping spree and a makeover?

It’s a War, not a Kiwanis Club luncheon.

The Trap


We had an interesting discussion over dinner.  Is Baghdad one big trap for the US troops? 

Yes it is.  Saddam will let the US get to somewhere around 50 miles away from Baghdad, where the US supply lines are stretched out a bit thin. At the same time, Saddam, rather than defending a long line, is defending a short line, as encirclement makes the line of conflict smaller, putting more Iraqi troops in a smaller area.  At a certain point, Iraqi soldiers will be quite close to each other, physically. 

Based on the current disposition of troops, the Iraqi army can still fight like furies and potentially escape out the back of Baghdad, running away East towards Iran and the hills. 

Historically, this is like the Falaise Gap in WWII.  Patton and Montgomery had the German 5th Army caught in a bubble.  The Allies slaughtered thousands of German soldiers trying to escape through a five-mile gap in defenses south of the town of Falaise, held by the Canadian First Army.  It took two days, but we closed the Falaise Gap, catching more than 10,000 German prisoners in the pocket and killing an estimated 20,000 more.

So, how to pin down the Iraqi Army?  The 4th Mechanized has to come ashore in Turkey, unload their tanks, gas’em up and get rolling into the north of Iraq as fast as possible.  In the meantime, the airspace north and east of Baghdad should be full of aircraft.  Until you get feet on the sand, keep the escape route full of all kinds of exploding  iron. 

The doctrine for this is the Viet Nam era, Linebacker and Linebacker II campaigns, where the B-52’s ran around the the clock from as far away as Japan and Guam, pounding Ha Noi with good, dumb, cheap, effective, iron bombs.  If anything in Ha Noi moved during Linebacker, the US dropped lots of bombs on it, day or night for two weeks.

Do the same thing north and east of Baghdad until you can get troops in there to physically close the line.  It might take a week to twelve days for US troops to get there, but the idea is to have the Iraqi Army caught against the US troops on three sides. 

Their only escape route should be full of angry, well-armed pilots, aviators and helicopter gunfighters who can call up all kinds of bad for tanks, trucks, missiles and foot soldiers, like the Highway of Death in the first Gulf War.  This effectively closes the only escape for the Iraqi Army.  In that little pause that you give them, you can also fill in some gaps in your supply lines.

A sensible leader would then surrender.  An insane leader will invite a house to house fight.  Back our guys about three kilometers from the front lines and start bombing anything left standing in the city.  You can’t win a house to house fight, so make all the houses go away.  Stop every three days and ask ‘Enough?’.

This is going to get me in trouble, but stop screwing around with the humanitarian aid.  The logistical aim should only be keeping the front line supplied with gas, groceries and guns.  If we’ve got some slack time, we’ll do some humanitarian shipping, but frankly Scarlett, too damn bad until they surrender.

The Rules Of War


There are actual Rules of War.  Over hundreds of years, humans in conflict have come to a small set of commonly used rules.

Only people in uniform are fair game.  Civilians are just trying to get the hell out of the way.  Soldiers have informed acceptance of the risks and signify this by wearing uniforms and working in organized military units.

A white flag is a universal sign of either discussion or surrender on the battlefield.  If the folks waving the white flag are wearing helmets, webbing and carrying guns it means ‘Truce for a bit. We need to talk”  Folks waving a white flag without helmets, guns or armour are surrendering.  In the slang, you don’t surrender under steel.  Hats off, guns down and hands up means ‘I give up’.

Surrendering, properly, means you will probably get moved about by boot, fist and rifle butt for a bit.  This is normal, as the prisoner was trying to kill you up until a moment ago.  A bit of rough justice is to be expected.  This doesn’t mean your captors can hook a truck battery up to your nipples, or slice off your ear.  Torture is frowned upon, but expect a black eye and a boot in the ass.  As a prisoner of war, you get food, water, shelter and medical attention.  Don’t expect a suite at the Baghdad Hilton.

Red Cross and Red Crescent marks means “No guns or military stuff.  Just doctors, nurses and medics.  Don’t shoot.”

Unfortunately, in Korea and Viet Nam, the opposition tossed those rules into the toilet.  However, the US still plays by the Rules, as they are essentially nice people who respect fair play and expect fair play.  They go out of their way to respect the rules, even when their enemy doesn’t, which is noble and good and a great way to lose a war.

Now that the Iraqi Army is getting out of uniform and shooting from amongst civilians, using Red Cross and Red Crescent vehicles to move troops around and putting their artillery on top of schools and apartment buildings, the Rules are at risk.

I suspect that as the US troops get closer to Baghdad, Saddam will go for the endgame in about three days.  He’ll use chemical weapons, maybe nerve or mustard gas.  A few hundred US troops will die in a hideous, unimaginable way.

That point will also galvanize world opinion.  The US should fly one more leaflet run, advising all civilians to get away from anything military.  Give them 24 hours.

The next phase is unpleasant.  If it has a gun in Iraq, kill it.  If there is an artillery piece on top of an apartment, drop big bombs on it.  Lots of innocents will die, but the essential rule as a civilian, is to stay as far away from guns and army people, as possible. 

If the person is carrying a gun, even if they’re dressed like a June bride, shoot them. 

If there are machine guns in amongst a civilian group, start shooting.  Try not to hit the innocent, but if the soldiers are in civilian clothes and shooting at you, you are perfectly entitled to shoot back, even if they are driving around in a church school bus. 

Honourable soldiers do not mix with civilians and an honourable military allows their civilians to run to safety, away from battle.  Gunshots coming from a Red Cross truck?  Advise the Red Cross to get back behind the line, cover their ears and get their head down – shit is on the way.

Don’t accept the surrender of someone waving a white flag, unless they have dropped weapons, helmets off, body armour off, walking backwards, hands on the head.  Walk them backwards out of sight and don’t be standing up to ‘accept’ their surrender.  Odds are one of their buddies are using them as an aiming point and will just as happily kill you.  If they have to march backwards for two kilometers, that is not your problem.

The Iraqi Army is forcing the civilians to stay in an area with guns?  Too bad about that.  Perhaps the Iraqi people will see what we’re talking about and rise up.  We can’t help them if their army is going to offer them up as an involuntary human shield. 

The Iraqi Army is not playing by the rules of war.  Therefore, we can’t trust anyone in civilian clothes with a gun. 

Bombing schools, apartment buildings, power plants and bridges is now fair game, as the Iraqi Army has put guns on those things, trying to hide where they figure the US wouldn’t bomb them.  Oh, how wrong.

If it has a weapon, kill it.  If it hasn’t surrendered, kill it.  If it’s still driving around, or still working, destroy it.  If you don’t do that, the enemy will kill you with it.  A very black and white situation and very bad place to be, but the Rules of War are now over.  Ending the war quickly, with the least loss of life is the objective.

Gut Check


Its time for a gut check.  A gut check doesn’t mean peering up your orifice to see if you have intestines; it is more metaphysical in meaning as I use it here.  We’re seeing people killed from the US and Britain in number now.  We’re also seeing prisoners being taken on both sides and visuals of dead people and downed helicopters.

This is the reality of war and why warriors never want to go to war.  Human beings will be killed, maimed and captured.  Usually the injuries are of such a frightful nature that the most hideous car crash you have ever seen will, by comparison, look like a scraped knee.  That is the way that injuries occur in wars.

The gut check comes in for all of us.  We are going to see the cost of war, like the waging of war, up close in our living rooms.  It is an appalling, but necessary, price to realize our goal.  So, confirm your resolve, recognize the price and step up. 

If you can’t stomach it, you are not alone.  Except we are here now and we have to deal with it.  Troops on the ground deal with it every second of every day, while we can reach for the remote and turn it off.  They can’t.  Which is why they need our support.

Making Holes


Now that its underway, a quick look at the holes.

The visuals are amazing.  Any of the networks with ’embedded’ crews are returning live, unfiltered reality into people’s living rooms.  So far, we haven’t seen a reporter doing a stand-up in real danger.  The prediction from the cynical side, is that before this is all done, the image of a reporter doing a stand-up, then having their head explode in a bloody cloud, just as the camera goes to snow, will be burned into our collective retinas.  That is the danger and the thrill of live television in a war zone.

Watching the tactics early this morning (0200) of a squad clearing an area near the port of Oum Quasa (?) is a lesson in how military doctrine works.  It seems time consuming and very, very slow, but it is how you do it safely when there are people shooting at you.  Walking across open fields in urban areas is a simple statement:  “I Am An Idiot. Please Kill Me Now.” 

Keep in mind, for those without the knowledge, that a simple rife can fire a chunk of lead about a kilometer.  Or, from one end of a city block to another, with accuracy and lethal effects.  Staying more than a city block or two away from people with guns puts you in a ‘safe’ position.  Tanks, mortars and artillery can throw very large pieces of metal, further. 

For those who watched the three tanks clear the buildings near Oum Quasa and saw little jets of dust pop up as you heard a gun sound from the tanks, here is the explanation:  Each of those little puffs was probably a .50 calibre machine gun round.  .50 cal means the bullet is a half-inch across and a bit longer than your driving finger.  .|..    Those bullets go through things like concrete block walls, cars, and sandbags like red chillies through your insides.  Of course, those tanks were firing a few hundred of those things every minute.  There is a high likelihood of at least one of those pieces of lead hitting the Bad Guys, causing big, bloody holes to appear in their bodies. 

For the big bangs, you saw or heard, odds are it was an 80 or 120 mm mortar.  80 or 120 millimeters being the diameter of the shell, perhaps not quite as long as your arm from elbow to fingertip.  Inside the head of the shell is more explosive, about the size of your clenched fist, designed to blow a hole the size of a big garden shed in whatever it hits.

Lob one of those things into a high-rise and you essentially turn a one-bedroom apartment into a big smoking hole.  If you were a neighbour of that one-bedroom apartment, you would most probably be severely injured, or at least, have to do some underwear laundry with a hellish ringing in your ears. 

If you watched the first ‘Shock and Awe” show live, many of those things you saw blowing up were 2,000 pound bombs and Cruise Missiles.  In perspective, the Oklahoma City bomb that took out the Murragh Federal Building was estimated at 5,000 pounds of not-so-great explosive.  Divide by two and that gives you the approximate force of laser-guided bombs or cruise missile explosives that are of much higher quality in a smaller weight and pack a very intense wallop.  That bang is contained in something more or less three times the size of the propane tank on a backyard gas barbecue. 

This is the kind of bang that can take four or five regular suburban houses in a block and turn all of it, land, furniture, trees, windows, pets, people and dishes, into a deep, smoking hole that leaves no trace there was ever anything there.  It all just disappears.  Park one or two in a 10-storey office building and expect the building to fall over.

Bigger than that, we’re getting into exotic weapons.  The ones I’ve described are run-of-the-mill ordinance that flings about regularly, giving the enemy a Bad Day.  The rule of thumb is to not make bigger holes than you need to make.  This will, hopefully, convince those who are shooting at you, to give up, or stop shooting at you and run away as quickly as possible in a pink Toyota pickup truck.

Make well-organized holes in enough things and all the Bad Guys give up.  Then you can go home.