May 31, 2002



Yeah, as if. A couple facts the story doesn't mention:

1) Compared to nearly every other government portfolio, defence spending has increased the least of all during the Chretien years.

2) Faced with the Sept. 11 disaster, the Canadian government responded quickly by increasing the defence budget from $11 billion to... $11.3 billion. That's the "big increase" the PM is so proud of.

Posted by BruceR at 12:17 PM



The Sun's columnist emeritus becomes the first Canadian public figure to take a stand against expelling the military from downtown Toronto. Only took a week.

Posted by BruceR at 11:40 AM

May 30, 2002

FLOWERS-IN-GUNBARRELS WATCH Canada's unilateral conventional


Canada's unilateral conventional disarmament takes another big step forward this coming Tuesday, the rumour mill has it. Flush from the 29-4 Toronto City Council vote to expropriate Fort York for homeless housing (see previous entries), a group called Build Not Bomb, or something like that anyway, is demanding the federal government surrender the other 50 per cent of its downtown Toronto property, Moss Park Armoury. Unlike the previous group, which put their appeal solely in terms of the supposedly dire needs of Toronto's indigent, this group is much more radically pacifist, saying that training for war and killing besmirches Canada's reputation, and that its soldiers really need to be re-educated in the teachings of Gandhi, King, etc., be forced to do socially constructive things like building low-cost housing, etc., etc., until they agree that war really doesn't solve anything. The group has promised a demonstration every Tuesday night until the armed forces are kicked out of Canada's largest city, starting next week. Given the armed forces' general preference to surrender facilities rather than risk unpopularity (Ipperwash, anyone?) one suspects they might even succeed. I guess I'm glad I have other employers besides National Defence, now...

In other news, Canada's new defence minister, John McCallum, may be on hand to celebrate the first ever Canadian Forces Day, a new unofficial holiday proclaimed by the Canadian government last April, in Toronto this Sunday. He and Toronto's mayor will be reviewing troops from... wait for it... the facilities the anti-military activists and the City Council are moving to close down. Where? At City Hall, of course.

Posted by BruceR at 10:39 PM

May 29, 2002



Add to the growing file on "Evidence the United States has completely lost any post-WTC focus it might have had", this little item:

Time comix reviewer praises Ted Rall's new book for telling the truth about how the "U.S.A.F. bombed anything and everything" in Afghanistan.

Posted by BruceR at 01:44 PM



Part Two of the Washpost's Ambush at Takur Gar series was also well-done.

Posted by BruceR at 01:35 PM

May 28, 2002

UNBELIEVABLE Even after the attacks


Even after the attacks had begun, the [FBI Supervisory Special Agent] in question was still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the World Trade Center attacks as a mere coincidence with... prior suspicions about Moussaoui.
--From FBI agent Coleen Rowley's fingerpointing memo, reprinted at The SSA in question was promoted after Sept. 11, Rowley adds.

Posted by BruceR at 12:46 PM

May 27, 2002



Well done journalism, here.

Posted by BruceR at 12:42 PM



In a surprise announcement, the Prime Minister sacked minister of national defence Art Eggleton yesterday, because he gave a $36,000 contract for a flaky report on PTSD to his flaky blonde girlfriend. The PM had a choice between breaking his nine-year record for not losing a minister, or defending the handing out of government money without tender to a woman the defence minister cheated on his wife with.

Translation, for the Americans out there: Art Eggleton was a "feel your pain" politician in the classic Clintonian mold. He has been replaced by John McCallum, a well-known economic historian, banker, and liberal intellectual: I remember reading his work on agriculture in early Canada when I was an undergrad and being very impressed, believe it or not. He knows less about defence than Eggleton did, however. The U.S. equivalent would be Robert Reich, or 40 years ago, a J.K. Galbraith. Improvement? Can't possibly make things worse.

Posted by BruceR at 09:31 AM

May 26, 2002



The FBI "persuades" the ISP that hosts to take down its widely seen copy of the Danny Pearl video:

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Carroll called Wired News to say the bureau was merely giving advice to websites hosting the Pearl video -- and was not threatening prosecution. She said: "Apparently the conversation with [FBI agent] Jay Kanetkar has been similar to other conversations with other website hosts, appealing to have various of those photos removed. Apparently there is another website here in the U.S. which Jay did not name, both of which were more than happy to voluntarily remove the photos without question."

There is no conceivable legal reason behind the FBI's "appeal," of course. But as we saw so many times before when I covered the computer game industry, the brittle link in free speech protections on the Internet is the weak-kneed ISP... in this case, Pro Hosters of Virginia pulled the plug at the FBI's urging. Something to keep in mind, all you bloggers moving off of Blogspot... I've been an internet journalist for years, and I've yet to write the story, "ISP stands up to bullying, defends customer's first amendment rights." I actually doubt I ever will.

NB: It was Dow Jones, the owners of Opinion Journal and former employers of Pearl, that pushed the FBI to take action.

Posted by BruceR at 04:23 PM

May 24, 2002



The uniformed leaders of the U.S. military believe they have persuaded the Pentagon's civilian leadership to put off an invasion of Iraq until next year at the earliest and perhaps not to do it at all, according to senior Pentagon officials.
--Washington Post

Update: But contrast that to Fred Barnes, also today in the Standard:

After their success in Afghanistan, U.S. military leaders think that victory over Iraqi forces can be achieved quickly.

Posted by BruceR at 10:16 AM



I want to read part 2! I want to read part 2!

Posted by BruceR at 10:15 AM



"If it is true, the individual who released it should be shot... or put in jail."

--Chandra Levy investigator Terrance Gainer on media leaks, in the Washington Post, today. (Ellipsis added gratuitously.)

Posted by BruceR at 10:14 AM

May 23, 2002



The National Post, on the Afghan withdrawal. Feh. We have a new national disgrace each week it seems.

And btw, Glenn, I'm not angry. Just tired. Tired of defence taking more of the brunt of government cutbacks than any other federal department. Tired of the fundamental disconnect between our national aspirations to change the world and our willingness to create the tools to do so. And utterly tired of a mainstream media that just can't be bothered to get it.

Case in point, the Toronto Star. In its editorial, it writes:

Canadians spend some $12 billion a year on the military... with 60,000 personnel we should be able to keep infantry in the field, indefinitely

Crap. Do the math. One third of that 60,000 is regular army... 20,000. Of that, one quarter is in workup, one quarter is overseas, one quarter is just recovering from being overseas, and the rest are training the next generation of soldiers... 5,000. Of that one half are logistics troops... 2,500. Of that, one half are other combat arms (artillery, etc.): 1,200. About 1,200 infantry, 2 understrength battalions, available at a time. For the last six months, we've had over 1,500 infantry overseas. That's the math... that's the problem. There is no fat left on this bone.

The Star also calls an end to planning for "tank wars," (Canada lost its ability to conduct offensive ops against an MBT-equipped enemy over a decade ago); more reliance on "reserves" for peacekeeping, even though the Star also favours closing down their Toronto training facilities to help the homeless; and a division between the sustainable "battle group" of rapidly deployable assets (nothing Canada has at the moment is rapidly deployable, so that'd have to be built from scratch) for Afghanistan-type missions, and the "lightly armed" soldiers for NATO and UN duty.

Has the Star even looked at who's in Afghanistan? It's infantry, foot sloggers, armed with man-portable weapons. How do you get lighter than that? A constabulary, perhaps? Maybe... as Lew Mackenzie pointed out this week, the Toronto police force has more men with guns now than the Canadian infantry corps.

Posted by BruceR at 10:17 AM

May 22, 2002



Right on.

Posted by BruceR at 01:32 PM



From Pejman.

Posted by BruceR at 12:47 AM



It finally is sinking into John Derbyshire's thick head that the impending U.S. war on Iraq was pretty much a fiction all along.

In other news, my prediction that the Ramallah prisoners under Anglo-American guard in Jericho would be released bloodlessly is coming true. I wish I could pick ponies this accurately... the Palestinian perfidy bookies aren't taking my money anymore...

In other little-green-news, an interesting point came up in discussion at that, still one of my favourite websites. It's this: some months ago popular gadfly Bill O'Reilly went kinda batshit on University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian for his support of Palestinian terrorism, ultimately costing the man his job. No tears lost here. But interestingly enough, Al-Arian's views are nothing compared to those of Marist College (N.Y.) professor Naseer Alomari, a Jordanian who believes the Jews were behind Sept. 11, suicide bombing was justified, etc. etc. He's rapidly becoming the second reason anyone had reason to know of the existence of Marist. What was the first, you ask? Why, noted alumnus Bill O'Reilly! The uncharitable explanation would be that O'Reilly's devotion to justice wanes a little when it might mean bringing his own college degree into disrepute... You just can't buy that kind of devotion to your alma mater these days...

Posted by BruceR at 12:21 AM

May 21, 2002



Well, it's official. Faced with a choice between a major retreat from our other foreign commitment (NATO and Bosnia) and continuing to support the U.S. in Afghanistan, Afghanistan lost out: our battlegroup will be rotating out along with the 101st Airborne brigade it was a part of. There will be no replacements. See ya, Yanks; hope that whole war on terrorism thing works out for you guys. Let us know how it turns out, k?

Posted by BruceR at 04:38 PM



How would you feel if your city council and the largest newspaper in your city used a front page article in that paper calling for the eviction of you and all your officemates from your workspace, because the city needed to expropriate the building as a homeless shelter?

Well, if you can imagine that, you know how Toronto's army reserve units feel today, with this article in the Toronto Star. Using a video showing the current overcrowded states of the city's permanent homeless shelters, the writer and homeless advocates make the case for turning over Fort York Armoury (one of two downtown Toronto armouries) to be used as a 200-bed new shelter.

Now, urban vagrancy is certainly a problem, but is it the army's problem? The units at that armoury (The Queen's York Rangers, Royal Regiment of Canada, Toronto Scottish Regiment, and 709 Communications Regiment) collectively employ hundreds of people part- and full-time. No mention is made in the article about where those soldiers would move their offices, their weapons arsenals, their vehicles, their training... only that the commitment must be 12 months (read permanent... a year's eviction is not going to be reversed), and that shared use of the space is unacceptable... for the homeless.

Now I don't know how many dozens of soldiers working out of Fort York wear NATO or UN service ribbons, or how many score worked alongside myself during the big ice storm that cut off power to Eastern Ontario and Quebec in the middle of winter a few years back. I do know that homeless advocates (including the Toronto Star) are doing their best to put the army in a lose-lose situation... bear the massive costs of relocating their operation to new space out of the downtown, at a time when frankly, they have better things to do with the money; or appear uncooperative, an enemy of Toronto's homeless that can be conveniently blamed by the city from now on for their own lack of resources dedicated to the issue.

(The army is not unsympathetic. It has previously devoted reservists' space and resources to provide emergency accommodations during cold snaps, to prevent actual deaths on the streets in winter, or to provide a warm place to stay when snow shuts down transit and car travel, stranding people downtown. I've done a couple nights of that kind of service myself. But this request is coming in May, when the number of people desperate for temporary shelter is at its lowest... the homeless this is designed to serve are the permanently unintegratable... most of which in any sane society would be institutionalized for their own safety, not left to wander sick and delusional until the TB claims them. Once they get a bed inside any building, they're not leaving except to another one.)

The armoury floor was never ideal for this sort of thing you know... like any drill square, it's big, wide, cold and drafty. I can actually think of another big wide open indoor space I've worked in that would be perfect for this, less cold and drafty for sure, and would probably require relocating fewer employees overall... any chance the Toronto Star would give up its newsroom for a good cause? No? Then how do they have the gall to demand it of the soldiers?

And in other news today, the federal government is planning to shut down both of Canada's naval shipyards.

Posted by BruceR at 07:22 AM

May 20, 2002



From, today:

Ottawa — Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan should know Tuesday whether they will be replaced by another unit or possibly have their six-month mission extended.

A brigade from the 82nd Airborne out of Fort Bragg is replacing the brigade of 101st Airborne soldiers that is currently holding down the Kandahar area in July. The question was, since that brigade had included a battalion of Canadian troops, whether that battalion too would have a replacement. The Canadians have three options:

1) Send a second, unspecified infantry battalion for a second six-month tour, troops they clearly don't have available;

2) Extend the stay of the PPCLI battalion in Kandahar to nine months from the original six, and push off in the middle of the 82nd's tour;

3) Pull our troops out in July when the 101st goes.

I still have no feel for what the final decision is going to be on this. I hate to run from a fight, though.

In other news, the other nation with a large contingent actually committed to fighting alongside the Americans in Afghanistan just sacked their commanding officer. (Or did they?)

Posted by BruceR at 08:15 PM



From Instapundit, today:

The last time someone made war largely against American civilians, the response was near-extermination.

I have no idea what the man's referring to here. One of the Indian Wars? The Barbary Pirates? Sherman's March through Georgia? Enlighten us, Glenn...

Posted by BruceR at 07:41 PM



I've been meaning to say this for a while, but Jonah Goldberg reminded me again:

By the way, why does she [Cynthia McKinney] say that only the people in New York were "needlessly murdered." Why does she omit the people in Washington who were also murdered? Is it because the Pentagon had it coming in some way?

I'm sorry, but if you cannot see the moral distinction between attacking the head office of a nation's armed forces and attacking an entirely civilian target, you're being overly simplistic. By any reasonable moral standard, if the Pentagon attack had occurred in isolation, the terrorists would have been acting in an entirely consistent manner with freedom fighters the west has not totally condemned, and rightfully so -- albeit for a cause in this case no Westerner should endorse. One obvious example, if not the only one, would be the Israeli Irgun group's bombing of the British military headquarters in the King David Hotel. (Although to be fair, they did phone to warn of their intent beforehand...) T.E. Lawrence and the French resistance also come to mind...

I would even go so far as to say if the Palestinian leadership had ever been capable (which they never have been) of attacking solely military targets in Israel and the Territories, they might still have my sympathy too.

Posted by BruceR at 01:30 PM



Mr. Ahani does not deny that he was trained to kill in Iran. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service asserted that he was part of a government-sponsored hit squad that targets dissidents worldwide. He was taught to leap from moving cars and shoot at the heart and head before jumping back into the car. If that failed, he could also fire a Katyusha rocket. -- The Globe and Mail, today, on an Iranian assassin Canada's court system has failed to kick out for 9 years of trying.

This is a Katyusha rocket. Call me crazy, but I suspect as the weapon of a stealthy undercover assassin it falls short in several respects. I think even Canada would notice if the guy was driving around the country hunting down Iranian dissidents with one of these.

Posted by BruceR at 01:06 PM



Against my better judgment, I watched the X-Files finale last night, after a two year hiatus from the show. (I was sucked in by the early promise of a courtroom drama.) I have to say, I was reasonably pleased by the outcome. The makers summarized the last 9 years of the alien plot as succinctly as could be expected, finally told us The Truth Mulder was searching for (That the world will end on Dec. 22, 2012 when the aliens invade... guess I won't need that pension after all...), made it clear who Scully's baby's father was (Mulder), and ended up with them in bed together. Of course it leads to all kinds of questions, and potential continuity problems, I'm sure... but given the tangled mess going into the show, Chris Carter and Co. got out of it with as much dignity as I think could be expected.

In other mass cultural phenomenon news, here's some Star Wars links I've just loved reading over the last weekend. There's nothing I enjoy the company of more than rabid fandom:

Bob Brown's Star Wars discussions (from which the Light Sabres piece below was drawn; also check out the analysis of Midi-chlorians).

Star Wars Technical Commentaries (be sure to check out the pages on the Ewok Holocaust);

David Brin on Star Wars. (Best. Critique. Ever!)

Posted by BruceR at 12:19 PM

May 17, 2002



"It is an obscene comparison ... but you know there was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tyres around people's necks if they dissented," said Mr Rather. "And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism put around your neck."

The sentiment itself is just run-of-the-mill deranged. It's the way Rather says it ("in some ways," "a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism") that takes it from garden variety insane babbling, to the level of classic Kenneth. DailyPundit

Posted by BruceR at 01:17 PM



Jon Last made a case for the Star Wars Empire yesterday, in which he defends the destruction of Alderaan in the first Star Wars movie:

If anything, since Leia is a high- ranking member of the rebellion and the princess of Alderaan, it would be reasonable to suspect that Alderaan is a front for Rebel activity or at least home to many more spies and insurgents like Leia.

Whatever the case, the important thing to recognize is that the Empire is not committing random acts of terror. It is engaged in a fight for the survival of its regime against a violent group of rebels who are committed to its destruction.

I can't believe that Last or the Weekly Standard considers that a valid justification for genocide, regardless of what proportion of the population of Alderaan was opposed to the Empire. There is no difference, morally, between the movie destruction of Alderaan and, say, Oradour sur Glane. By that point (the beginning of Episode IV) Darth and friends were, by any reasonable standard, truly evil.

The conundrum one hopes the next movie raises provocatively is when, exactly, do they cross over into evil? Is it when they start to resist separatism within the Old Republic? Dictators (Napoleon, Hitler, Palpatine) arise out of that kind of political chaos... but Palpatine is clearly dedicated to the overthrow of the current political order for his own personal benefit from the very first. Vader's conversion has yet to be outlined. But are the soldiers of the Empire who fight for him and Palpatine evil? Not necessarily any more than Wehrmacht soldiers were: yet that doesn't mean it was wrong for the Rebels to oppose them, surely. It's not contradictory to have a non-evil person ending up serving an evil cause. Shakespeare still catches the conundrum around the roots of evil best: was Caesar evil? Brutus? Antony? Or all and none together? Their Republic fell into Empire, too. Who among them should be blamed?

I think Last as an American patriot and a conservative, is justifiably offended that in the Star Wars universe, once again evil is seen as arising from the right of the political spectrum. Is it evil to oppose the UN, he asks? To ask for effective government? To have the right to separate and go your own way when that government fails you? It kind of goes against the American founding myths if that's true... one wonders at Last's response to the question, "if it hadn't been for the slavery, would the South have had the right to go?" Coming from a country settled by separatist Loyalists, and dogged by its own separatist threats through the decades, my answer might be somewhat different from his, though.

Or does Last contradict the myths even more when he speaks up for benevolent dictators? When he says "a dictatorship you can do business with," like Pinochet's, is worth preserving? Then, one asks, why wasn't King George III? You could do business with him, surely. And if Britain wasn't to be resisted in 1776, then, well, what right does America have to exist at all? Adams and Jefferson had far less to complain about with regard to their circumstances than Leia and Skywalker do...

("The most compelling evidence that the empire isn't evil" Last has is that Darth Vader wants to avoid killing his own son. Yeah, evil people never feel parental obligations, didn't you know that?)

But most disturbing of all is the thread running through Last's piece that political instability in and of itself is evil: "Their [the Rebels'] victory over the Empire doesn't liberate the galaxy- -it turns the galaxy into Somalia writ large: dominated by local warlords who are answerable to no one." (Note he uses Somalia as his example... not post-Taliban Afghanistan, of which much the same could be said.) Better to have the emperor rule "by fear," he posits.

This is, I have stated before, the biggest problem with western foreign policy post-Cold War... the obsession with regional and global stability, a world "you can do business with", over and above whatever desires the populations might have to be democratic, or free, or immune from Last's chosen weapon, fear. It keeps the U.S. from doing something about Saudi Arabia... it has so far kept it from doing anything about Iraq... it hinders any moral policy with regard to Taiwan... the list goes on.

"I'll take the Empire," Last writes. The problem is, that's exactly what America keeps doing... and American ideals, and the world, suffer as a result.

UPDATE: Favourable comment from A Long View.

Posted by BruceR at 12:06 PM

SEEMS FAIR The United States


The United States and Europe have been calling [on Arafat] for reforms. The United States has called on the Palestinians to adopt a constitutional democracy and counter corruption. Israel has demanded reforms as a condition for resuming peace talks. --Globe and Mail, today

In other news, Ariel Sharon called on the Palestinians today to replace themselves with another people, as a condition of resuming negotiations. "Manitobans would do nicely," he suggested, helpfully.

Posted by BruceR at 09:41 AM

May 16, 2002



A must read.

Posted by BruceR at 09:57 AM

May 15, 2002



(See previous entry) It's actually kind of interesting to see how far our favourite writer had to stretch the truth of this DEA memo to "prove" Israeli culpability in Sept. 11.

Example 1: paragraphs 53-57 describe how the INS interviewed 3 Israeli computer programmers that flew into Dallas. One had a printout with the word "DEA" on it in his luggage. There was NO other connection between them and the rest of this story. Raimondo, however, describes them as "on their way to join their fellow 'art students'... something tells me these are no ordinary art students." Given that the only thing connecting them to the art ring was they were Israelis visiting the U.S at the same time, I suppose he's technically correct.

Example 2: One group of art sellers was apprehended (paras 76-82) when one girl knocked on an unmarked DEA office door in a Tampa bank building. To Raimondo, that's "a group [sic] of these "students" were apprehended trying to enter a locked, unmarked office." (The leader of the group had been depositing a lot of cheques recently... can't for the life of me think why a con man would have money like that, can you?)

Example 3: A wife of a DEA agent (para 135-7), had "virtually no dialog" with an individual selling art on her street and "immediately closed the door" on him. Raimondo: "One of the "students" tried to gain entry into [the agent's] home – no doubt, I am told, in order to plant a bugging device."

Example 4: One art seller was noticed while trying to enter a back door to a Richmond, Va DEA office (paras 131-32). Raimondo calls this a "break-in."

Example 5: Four sellers were picked up in Midwest City, OK, and held on visa violations (paras 175-77). Raimondo: they were "spies... nabbed... in the vicinity of Tinker AFB."

Example 6: Two Israeli tourists were picked up taking photos of a runway on a Wisconsin Air National Guard base (paras 178-82). One reacted angrily when asked if he'd ever been involved in the art ring. They asked to phone the Israeli embassy. Raimondo: "no doubt to receive further orders."

Example 7: The clincher for Raimondo, proving the art students' involvement in Sept. 11. Quoting another crackpot, he writes:

"An address for the Sept. 11 hijacking leader, Mohammad Atta, is 3389 Sheridan St. in Hollywood, Fla., only a few blocks and a few hundred feet from the address of some of the Israelis, at 4220 Sheridan."

Actually, that's not quite accurate. 3389 Sheridan Street is the address of a Mailbox Rentals store which was a mail drop for 4 of the other hijackers (Atta was not one of them). One (not some) of the Israeli art sellers apparently had an apartment on the same street around the same time. And according to Mapquest, the two addresses are about a kilometre apart, not a "few hundred feet."

There's Justin's smoking gun. That's the whole evidence trail, laid out before you, that has him crowing of proof positive that Israel was behind Sept. 11. The man's articulate: I can't believe the guy doesn't see how weak a collective body of evidence it is. But once you're on your "antiwar" horse, I'm sure it's devilishly hard to get off... maybe the only thing left to do is play the busted flush for all its worth. Either that or he's an anti-Semitic idiot. Your call.

PS: Okay, let's peek through into Justin's Bizarro world for a sec and assume for argument's sake that the 24 year-old Israeli "art student," Hanane Sarfati (also referred to in the memo as Hanan Serfaty), whose apartment was a kilometre down the street from where the 4 hijackers were picking up their mail, was actually a spy, keeping tabs on Atta and co (or as Raimondo suggests, giving the hijackers their orders). So why was he:
a. Driving around his team of 6-8 art students, all in their early 20s, in a red van in Tampa, conveniently for investigators with all his bank deposit records on him?
b. Having one of his team go knock on the door of a Tampa DEA office?
c. Having other members of the team selling art all day in office building lobbies in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale?
d. Being so conspicuous that his team is repeatedly picked up by the authorities and questioned?

Atta was controlled/being surveilled by this crew? Come on...

Posted by BruceR at 10:31 PM



The Israeli conspiracy theorists continue to look for evidence that Israeli intelligence is somehow connected with Sept. 11. The U.S. has long been concerned about transfer of U.S. weapons technology to third-parties by the Israeli arms industry, particularly to China. They also got a rude awakening when one of their own spies, Jonathan Pollard, turned his coat and gave secrets to the Israelis in the mid-1980s. Rumours of Israeli spying have hovered around the edges of American consciousness more and more in the last five years... in early 1997, Bill Clinton told Monica Lewinsky he believed a "foreign embassy" was bugging his phones, widely seen as an accusation directed at Israel. Carl Cameron of Fox News has singlehandedly created a cottage industry around collecting Israeli spying claims, none of which have stood up to much scrutiny.

Akin to those is the recent "Israeli art student" story. What the Washington Post describes as a "disgruntled" DEA employee leaked a 60-page memo he wrote compiling contacts between federal agents and self-proclaimed art students going door to door, both at their homes and offices, over the last couple years: apparently he believed it worthy of further investigation, but his superiors were not convinced. That memo is now available online, here, so everyone can draw their own conclusions. It's a fairly detailed summary of raw field reports, which added up seem really impressive, but likely aren't. There certainly does seem to be some kind of Israel-based fraud ring selling cheap paintings in the United States, using illegal immigrant labour... the suggestion however that these kids driving around in vans full of knock-offs are serious spies, or even targeting agents, have to be taken with a grain of salt. A revealing paragraph is this one:

94. [Student Nimrod] SIMKIN explained that they are part of a group of Israeli students who are working to earn money so that they may continue their education in Israel. All of the students travel to the United States on tourist visas and pay for their own airfare and living expenses. They remain in the U.S. for a period of four months then return to Israel. SIMKIN did not know how many students participate in this program but stated that in addition to himself and the three females currently with him there are three other students residing in Ft. Lauderdale. These students learn of this opportunity in Israel and they are put in touch with a several outlets where they purchase paintings out of pocket. The students then sell the paintings and they retain any profit for themselves.

Here's another one, in which a real Israeli intelligence officer tries to tip off American authorities while passing through:

125. On December 12, 2000, Shay ASHKENAZI, male, Israeli, DOB: 11-12-74, Israeli Passport number 6847902, arrived at the SEA TAC International Airport via Northwest Airlines flight 33 from Tel Aviv, Israel. He was referred for secondary inspection by the I&NS Inspectors. As reported by I&NS Intelligence officer Omar N. Nuri, ASHKENAZI stated he was a former Israeli intelligence officer, and was now traveling to "enjoy life". He claimed to have been in the U.S. in April 2000, when he was involved in a car accident in South Carolina. The purpose of this trip was to finalize the case with his attorney and to receive medical treatment. ASHKEHAZI volunteered information that a fraud scheme involving Israeli nationals was taking place in the U.S. He stated that young male and female Israelis are being recruited in Israel to enter the U.S. with B-1/B-2 tourist visas and be employed as door-to-door salesmen of paintings that are shipped to the U.S. from Israel. He claimed that one of the individuals involved in this is "Mikaeel" (sic) and is present in Texas operating this business.

Here's another:

127. On March 1, 2001, one male and one female purporting to be Israeli art students visited the home of a Special Agent from the Kansas City District Office. This Special Agent was TDY in Pittsburgh when this incident occurred. The two subjects made contact with the Special Agent's wife. The students were described as clean cut, 22 - 23 years of age, with a slight Middle Eastern appearance. They were carrying a large black portfolio and showed the Specia Agent's wife a painting of a church. The Special Agent's wife told the students she was not interested and the students departed. No vehicle was observed. When the Special Agent returned on March 5, 2001, he canvassed his neighborhood and found that the students had contacted some of his neighbors. One neighbor told the agent that the students claimed they were from the University of Jerusalem. None of the Special Agents neighbors are in the law enforcement field.

Come on. Does this sound like a spy ring to you? Or is it just likely that, given a year of selling door-to-door in major U.S. cities, possibly hundreds of Israeli student sellers might have just happened to have hit a lot of law-enforcement related addresses? And given the utter lack of any evidence of followup contacts, or attempts by the students to pursue any, what is it exactly people suspect they're doing? Seeing if your average DEA agent could afford nice drapes? Occam's Razor, people...

PS: The memo identifies the "spies'" ringleader as Michael Calmanovic of Irving, Texas. Phone no from Infobel: 972-252-4504... I suppose you could always phone him and ask him how he's planning to subvert the Drug Enforcement Agency, if you wanted. (Never let it be said I don't try to make journalists' lives easier.) But if it's true he's a nogoodnik and this was all it took to identify Israel's top spy in the United States, that would make this the worst. Spy Ring. Ever...

Update: Justin Raimondo says this memo is damning evidence that of course the Israelis knew about Sept. 11 in advance!

With the publication of "the ‘Israeli Art Student’ Papers," however, we are faced with only two possible explanations:
The Israelis knew, but didn’t tell us, and [Carl] Cameron’s surmise is confirmed, or:
The Israelis knew and did tell us, but the incompetence of the US government got in the way of effective preventive action.

Posted by BruceR at 03:49 PM

SO WHO WAS "Z"? Students


Students of Israeli journalism have their own little mystery, similar to the "Who Was Deep Throat?" mystery in the United States.

In 1982, at the height of the Lebanon war, well known Israeli writer Amos Oz published an interview in the journal Davar with "Z" (in some translations, "C"), which stunned Israel. Z is described as 50 years old then, "well known for his (military) actions... associated with famous operations" blond, stocky, affluent (with servants and plantations), with a scar on his neck; a heavy smoker. The interview caused a sensation: many at the time thought "Z" was Defence Minister Ariel Sharon.

Among Z's more famous quotes:

Even today I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel, to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them... Even if it means blowing up one or two synagogues here and there, I don't care. And I don't mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal.

Recently, that quote in particular has repeatedly cropped up as a Sharon attribution. This is despite the fact that Oz, despite being a vocal opponent of Sharon and his policies as prime minister, has said Z was not Sharon, that he's never interviewed Sharon, and that Z himself died 11 years ago.

Which leads to the inevitable followup question: so who WAS this Z? One leading suspect is Mordechai "Motta" Gur, who commanded the brigade that took Jerusalem in 1967. However, Gur died of cancer in 1995, not in the early 90s as Oz suggested. Oz, who like Bob Woodward, has never revealed the name of his source, has never confirmed or denied any suggestion other than to say it was not Ariel Sharon.

Posted by BruceR at 11:58 AM

May 13, 2002



Eric Margolis believes Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's unsubstantiated claims that the CIA has been trying to kill him. As with so many of Margolis' stories, his latest column yammers on about how he "knew (insert name here) back in Peshawar/Swiss boy's school/from a dingy Tibetan bar" and uncritically accepts everything his old friend says:

I've known Hekmatyar since the mid-1980s, when we spent time together in Peshawar. Tall, heavy lidded, and extremely pale, the turbaned Pashtun leader looked like a saint from a Goya painting. Engineer Hekmatyar was the only mujahedin leader who did not come from a traditional tribal background: he was a raw and hated upstart who called for the end of tribalism and for the creation of an Islamic democracy.

Here's the other side of Margolis' friend he doesn't bother to share with his readers:

*Hekmatyar is generally the person people are talking about when they go on about pre-Taliban Afghan brutality. After being dissatisfied with only becoming prime minister when the Soviets left, it was Hekmatyar who levelled Kabul with rockets, killing 20,000. Without any evident twinges of conscience, Margolis writes, "In the early 1990s, Gulbadin [note the familiar use of first names -BR] served as prime minister of Afghanistan until it dissolved into civil war," without mentioning that it was Hekmatyar who started the war.

*Hekmatyar is, like Osama Bin Laden, a Wahabi Sunni Muslim. Like the Taliban's leaders he believes women should be banned from work and education. But to Margolis, that makes him an "advocate for Islamic democracy."

*Hekmatyar supporters are suspected in the occasional (and generally fruitless) attempts to attack the Americans and Canadians based in Kandahar; the Karzai government arrested 300 Hekmatyar supporters in April which it said were involved in planning assassinations against Karzai and the returning king.

*There is no doubt: Hekmatyar was the major leader of Afghanistan's extremist Muslims in the 1980s, and a major fighter against the Soviets. But his pathological desire to be sole ruler of Afghanistan at any cost, combined with his own subordinates' reputation for venality and cruelty, led not only to the creation of the more puritanical Taliban movement among his own people, but Pakistan's later switching of support away from the increasingly psychotic Hekmatyar to the Talibs as the lesser of two evils. But to Margolis, this makes him simply "an enemy of the Taliban."

Hekmatyar fled to Iran, hunted by... well, everybody in Afghanistan, really. The fact he is back in Afghanistan now and feeling safe enough to give interviews to Western journalists, and calling for the end of the Karzai government and the death of Americans, is perhaps the most worrisome development in that country since Bin Laden escaped Tora Bora.

Does that mean the CIA is in fact trying to assassinate him, as he claims? Unlikely... there's no evidence other than his say-so at this point. Margolis believed him, of course... he's always got time for the stories of his old frontier post drinking buddies, especially if they've called for the destruction of the U.S. recently. But his wilful hiding of Hekmatyar's true record from his readers is a crime of journalism.

POSTSCRIPT: I always find it amusing that Margolis, whose friends Hekmatyar and Bin Laden (if not Margolis himself) would clearly rejoice if Canadians fell in battle in Afghanistan tomorrow, is published by the strongly pro-military Sun tabloid chain. This isn't a minor Ted Rall type figure: the man is a major columnist in Canada, travelling in the highest social and political circles here. If they had existed back then, one wonders how would the Suns' many military readers have responded if the papers' major foreign affairs columnist in 1940 had filled pages glossing over Hitler as a "saint from a Goya painting."

Posted by BruceR at 11:02 AM



The preliminary armed forces report says the Canadians accidentally bombed by an F-16 did nothing wrong, but avoids drawing conclusions about what went wrong in the air. (Also: Good piece in the National Post explains the tangled loyalties behind the Baril inquiry.)

Posted by BruceR at 09:51 AM

May 11, 2002



Here's the other way to look at the recent army reforms (see below):

*2 of 3 regular armoured regiments reduced to half strength, for a 33% reduction in effective strength;
*elimination of 9 combat-capable infantry companies (the combat support companies)
*no measurable increase to compensate in the artillery or engineer arms, which you'd think you'd get cause they're now responsible for all the mortars and pioneer equipment the combat support companies are giving up. So you're still minus 9 companies (the equivalent of 2 battalions) somewhere in the system (to be fair, given the undermanning state, this isn't eliminating sub-units so much as consolidating undermanned ones, though).

If you want to be an optimist, it's a sensible way of managing today's and the future's reduced resources. If you want to be a pessimist, it's braking a bike going downhill.

UPDATE: My esteemed former colleague Patrick writes in the forum to remind me that the armour/recce reduction is in fact 11% (9 squadrons of armor and recce down to 8), not 33 as I state above. He also has a more optimistic interpretation of the army commander's intent for the infantry than I do. You can read it all (and my response) at Flitters.

Posted by BruceR at 01:11 PM



*Adults "who will pay to see Spider-Man and stay to the end" are "hopelessly stupid;"

*Pim Fortuyn was a "fascist;"

*Only one in ten humans are "Smart, kind, literate and sustainable, can be trusted with heavy equipment, and can grasp a concept and carry it through to its conclusion;"

*Parents with small children are "too busy... to have a deeply felt interior life and a political stance;"

*All the men of Marseilles are homosexuals; Alsatians are all "dolts" and peasants;

*Anyone who votes for a conservative while sober is "an old fascist, a young racist or a pig-ignorant peasant."

Wow. If you ever wanted to see what the liberal elitist hatred of the masses really looks like in print, you needn't go any farther than today's Globe and Mail.

Posted by BruceR at 12:57 PM

May 10, 2002



So far, the reviews are positive, on the plans for the future of the Canadian army, released today. Highlights:

Basically the combat support companies in the infantry battalions will be gone. Each of the infantry companies is meant to be self-sufficient, presumably with its own integral anti-armour, sniper and recce assets (which used to be grouped at the battalion level). Two other types of battalion troops will be handed to other arms: the assault pioneers will be taken over by the engineer corps, and the mortarmen by the artillery. This also means on deployment the army will be able to pull together battle groups from multiple at-home units, rather than focussing them on a specific battalion like the PPCLI in Afghanistan.

Second, all the heavy stuff (tanks, field guns) is going out to 1 Brigade out west (where there's still room to fire them). The eastern units will be reroling regular (and possibly reserve) mech units to light infantry and recce. The light infantry in particular is going to get more back into the special ops game. One of my favourite bases, Wainwright, in Alberta, is going to get a big upgrade as Canada's mechanized warfare center. They're finally talking about putting weapons on the helicopters, too.

The obvious problem: The Strathconas are going to get the tanks... however, there aren't enough recce vehicles (ie Coyotes) to flesh out the other two armoured units (RCD and 12 RBC) as full regiments, so they'll be half-strength for the foreseeable future. There's some talk about giving these guys a UAV squadron each to compensate, which is a little weird, but there it is.

It would have been nice if the CF had bit the bullet and contracted for a 105mm variant of the LAV, or some other similar Direct Fire Support Vehicle for its "Interim Concept" (as Shinseki did controversially in the US with the Stryker LAV), and given a squadron each of them to the recce units, instead. DFSVs (essentially, wheeled, lightly armoured tanks, or heavily armed armored cars, depending on how you look at it) are coming on strength with the US, and were used very effectively by the French in Desert Storm and Chad, and also by the South Africans: a Hercules-portable 105 platform would have given the Canadians a much more convincing fast-deployment capability to low- to medium-intensity battlefields, which would only enhance our effectiveness either as a UN peacekeeper or a US/NATO ally over the basically pure boot infantry forces we're forced to send into theatres now.

Posted by BruceR at 03:45 PM



I could never figure out the repeated references to Norwegian soldiers in the Kandahar force... until today. The Norwegians, you see, have an effective mine flail in their army inventory. The Americans, Canadians, et al. do not. The Marine commander in Kandahar specifically singled out the Norwegians for praise at a recent dinner I read about. Now you know, Bjorn.

Posted by BruceR at 02:04 PM

May 09, 2002



Creation of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: 1100. Jerusalem's fall: 1187. Total time: 87 years.

Annexation of Algeria to France: 1879. Evacuation of Algeria: 1962. Total time: 83 years.

Creation of the state of Israel: 1948. Destruction of Jewish Israel, if history was that predictive: between 2031 and 2035 AD.

It's notable that the last two times the West tried to carve a piece out of the Arab world for themselves, it lasted almost exactly 3.5 generations each time before the descendants gave up and left, or died. So far Israel's made it just past the 2-generation mark. If you were a member of Hamas, wouldn't you take comfort in this?

Posted by BruceR at 07:08 PM



The Bush folks should not have needed the annoying Sharon to remind them that the facile absolutist rhetoric of the weeks after Sept. 11 was unwise.

Killer column from the master. Is there anyone left who can say the words "Bush doctrine" without giggling anymore?

Posted by BruceR at 03:13 PM

May 08, 2002



Received in an email today:

"You have just received the Amish Virus.
Since we do not have electricity nor computers, you are on the honor system.
Please delete all of your files.
Thank thee."

Posted by BruceR at 11:05 AM



Can't tell the players without a program, right? Okay, here it is. On the one side you have retired general Lew Mackenzie, and his hawkish claque of Canadian ex-generals, military contractors, etc. (and a ton of support from the average soldier). On the question about whether Canada should extend its support of the war on terrorism, they've been joined evidently, by some subtle U.S. pressure: as the New York Times revealed earlier this week, American defense officials are concerned their force in Afghanistan not look too uniformly American.

On the other side, you have the Prime Minister, who wants the freedom to use the military for national aggrandizement from time to time, his Cabinet, who are all fighting to keep the military budget flatlined so their own can keep growing, and most of the armed forces leadership, who are used to bizarre requests coming from Parliament Hill for military support of something or other, and want a ready reserve so they can be prepared.

As this site has been predicting for, well, months, the question of whether the Prime Minister's promise of a six-month Canadian war in Afghanistan hinged on who won out in the ensuing bunfight. Mackenzie sent the first hunk of banana loaf sailing over the government's head earlier this week in the National Post, urging them to call the newly appointed commander of Canada's war effort, Michel Gauthier, and ask whether his troops were coming home or not. After Gauthier said the obvious (he didn't know) the Post had its story, fleshed out with Mackenzie waxing poetic about the humiliation to Canada if the troops came home.

The open question I couldn't see the answer to was whether the accidental troop deaths in Afghanistan had weakened the Mackenzie side's case or not. I still can't. However it is certain that "helping the Americans out" no longer has the slightest weight in Ottawa, or among much of the Canadian public, thanks to one F-16 pilot's error. Not to mention that for Mackenzie to win would make the PM a liar twice... first on the six-month war and second on the availability of Canadian troops for West Bank peacekeeping duty. And Jean Chretien is not going to be seen to be changing Canadian foreign policy on the behest of the Americans if he can help it. The only chance, really, the Mackenzie lobby has now then is to somehow get Canadian public opinion on the side of sticking it out. The government, conversely, needs to know if that's a serious concern.

That's why you see a piece like today's front-pager in the Toronto Star (long the main source for major government trial balloons and inside scoops). It's the equivalent of the PM sticking a finger in the air to gauge the wind. If there's an outcry in the next couple days, the government may have to modify its anti-extension position (how, exactly, it's hard to say... you can't make soldiers magically appear). If not, then the troops come home, and America and Britain fight on in Kandahar alone.

The other piece in this is the preliminary report of the board of inquiry into the Afghan deaths, due this Friday. By putting those deaths in the public eye again, it would appear to be a strong argument on the government side. That should lead into an announcement next week that the troops are... pulling out? staying in? Still too early to say with certainty.

PS: Why does Mackenzie, the closest thing to a Macarthur figure this country has had in recent history, care so much? Well, first off, he's an aspiring Opposition politician, who hasn't ruled out another electoral run for a right-of-centre party. The possibility for embarrassing the current government, however this turns out, is significant. Second, I believe he passionately wants this government to take defence spending seriously, and mitigate the chronic underfunding of the Chretien years. Pointing out the self-evident shortfalls between the Prime Minister's diplomatic ambitions and the reality of what he's paying for is the strategy he's hit on for doing that.

Posted by BruceR at 09:53 AM



There are two ways a foreigner can get to study for a few years in Italy, it seems. You can work like a lunatic, become one of the elite scholars of your institution, and be sent over to a centre like the one the University of Toronto has at Siena. Or you can shoot your way into an international landmark and hold a bunch of unarmed priests hostage, your pick:

In a novel example, exiled Palestinians would travel to Italy on study visas, and then be kept for three to five years under supervision and academic instruction, a negotiator said. Such an arrangement would allow Mr. Arafat to make a public case that the men had not been exiled, but, as he said in a meeting on Monday, were on scholarship.

--New York Times, today

Posted by BruceR at 09:27 AM



Prediction: at some point during the King of Jordan's visit today, President Bush will criticize something the Israelis are doing as "not helpful." This follows yesterday's characterization while the prime minister of Israel was visiting of their adversary Yasser Arafat as "not helpful." Tomorrow, when the girl scouts drop by the White House with cookies, Hostess Twinkies will be described as "not helpful." Face it, Yanks, you're flailing here. This is quite possibly the most incoherent foreign policy the world has ever seen...

Posted by BruceR at 09:20 AM

May 07, 2002

GRASPING AT STRAWS? "We're looking


"We're looking to determine whether we should do a rotation and what the size of the rotation should be," Mr. Eggleton told reporters, adding that he hoped to decide within 10 days.

"We're also consulting with the Americans on it to determine what they're going to do...because they might not continue with their mission Kandahar."

The Globe and Mail, today. Contrast the defence minister's statements with the quotes from yesterday, on decision times and American intentions, and draw your own conclusions.

Posted by BruceR at 10:56 AM



Lt.-Col. Pat Stogran, commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan believes that the stories of massive cave complexes in Afghanistan are a myth.

"We've been chasing around a lot of country looking for these cave complexes. There must be something lost in the translation. Maybe the indigenous word for bunker or trench is translates to cave. There certainly are a lot of hiding places. We've got enough spelunkers (cavers) amongst us to find a cave if there is one."

--Toronto Star, today

Posted by BruceR at 10:50 AM

May 06, 2002



(See previous article.) So let's assume the F-16 pilot was not a complete idiot, and honestly thought those were enemy troops below him on the Kandahar anti-tank range. What could they have been doing that led to that belief, if it wasn't the firing of weapons itself? Suspicion has to fall at this point on the use of parachute flares.

Paraflares are illumination devices, used for lighting up a battlefield, or a night live-fire at an anti-tank range. Launched from a hand-held tube, they are sent up to altitude with a small rocket, like a firework, sending off an nice display of sparks on the way up (fired horizontally, it's even more impressive... the movie Platoon, among others, used paraflares or something very much like them to simulate overhead RPG fire). At altitude, the magnesium head ignites, the parachute deploys, and it floats down. Firing ranges at North American bases characteristically have paraflare chutes dangling from dozens of nearby trees.

It is conceivable, I suppose, if you were flying low enough, in the dark, that you could mistake the little flare rockets as they rose for some kind of SAM. In the day it'd be impossible. If you'd flown over a flare-illuminated range at night much before, it would also be impossible. But we don't know that... it's also likely that pilots in the Afghan theatre have been warned of the possibility of Talibs sneaking Stingers close to airfields such as Kandahar's, so the pilot may have been primed to interpret a flare as a missile in that area if he hadn't seen many of them before.

Some amount of panic or recklessness on the pilot's part is still required, of course... combined with far lower level flying than would seem to be necessary for the theatre, and an obvious measure of inexperience. But given the information available at this time, it seems the most likely scenario.

UPDATE FOR GLENN REYNOLDS FANS: You can read my earlier, now apparently erroneous surmises on this subject here and here. You can also read my random surmises from the military funeral in Toronto, which I attended, here.

Posted by BruceR at 11:44 AM



N.Y. Times, today:

"If you look out ahead six months or so, I think gradually you're going to see the number of U.S. forces come down and the number of coalition forces go up," a senior Defense Department official said this weekend.

Canada's National Post, today:

But the government is not expected to make a decision [on extending the Canadian presence in Afghanistan past this summer] for several weeks, Randy Mylyk, director of communications for Art Eggleton, the Minister of National Defence, said yesterday.

He said from ''Day One'' there was always the possibility of the ''spectre of another rotation'' but that the government had always been looking for ''more of a short-term commitment knowing that there were other commitments that the military would be asked to make.''

A senior Liberal aide said yesterday the decision is dependent on a number of factors, including the role played by the military at next month's G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Alta.

The Prime Minister, it should be noted, repeatedly swore up and down that Canada would be out of Afghanistan by the fall. No one in the armed forces believed him then, and they sure don't now. He is now about to be overruled by the Americans, it seems: as Lew Mackenzie and Michel Gauthier point out in the National Post, withdrawal this summer ceased to be an option for logistical reasons a long time ago. Prediction: Canadian soldiers will watch the next SuperBowl in Kandahar, too.

Assuming Bosnia is kept up, as well... that's it... we may be officially tapped out. Cupboard's looking bare. So much for the PM's penchant for West Bank peacekeeping... never going to happen, either, because we have no troops to send. You know, it must be frustrating to be ignored so often, being the leader of the country and all. I wonder how he puts up with it sometimes...

Posted by BruceR at 10:54 AM

May 05, 2002



The estimable Matthew Fisher (one of the most reliable dedicated war correspondents in the world, IMHO) added a few more details to the story behind the death of 4 Canadians near Kandahar from a F-16 bomb. Reading between the lines, it adds greatly to the American pilot's culpability on this one.

First off, it's clear "near Kandahar" is not an exaggeration:

The firing range where the Canadians died was only two kilometres from the front gate of the airfield where 900 Canadian and several thousand American troops have been based since the beginning of February.

Any pilot dropping ordnance 2,000 m from the edge a well-lit major base without confirming what's down there first would be a menace to any army. Period. I was wondering how American medical assistance arrived so quickly... But that's not the real shocker.

Alpha Company had been firing its Carl Gustavs, a short-range anti-armour gun, for about four hours when the accident happened.

It was a Carl Gustav live fire, then. Target practice, really, on the antitank range. Incredible.

For those who don't see it automatically... the "Carl G" is a Swedish-made shoulder-fired 84mm recoilless rifle. Every Canadian infantry platoon carries one. I've fired it. I have in fact, been called the worst Carl G shot in NATO, which isn't far from the truth. I've also been around the launch pad when shoulder-mounted SAMs were fired, during my air defence artillery days, so I know a little about what I'm talking about here. (The American Rangers and Seals use the Carl... their Army also uses the AT-4, which is a very similar weapon but with a disposable launcher).

Based on early reports, you'll remember I had assumed the Canadians had been firing .50 calibre machine guns, which could conceivably put out enough tracer to be mistaken for ground fire (smaller machine guns couldn't). But if this report is true, there was no tracer. The Carl is a recoilless rifle... there is no missile smoke trail, or impelling motor after the gun is fired... just a big flash on launch, and a somewhat smaller one 300m down range when the shaped-charge round hits. (NB: The Carl G does have a tracer, but it's barely visible from the ground, and is certainly not mistakable for automatic weapon fire even then.) The signature, night or day, is completely different from any shoulder-mounted SAM I have seen.

Now, I obviously don't know what things look like from an F-16 cockpit in the dark. But there is no way, night or day, from several kilometres off on the ground, that anyone could mistake a Carl G firing range for an air defence emplacement. The earlier question I had asked... what altitude was the pilot flying at... is moot if all they were firing was Carl Gs that night. It means the pilot dropped a bomb, with the lights of the American-Canadian base in visual range, with good visibility, not on anything that could be reasonably mistaken as an attack on his plane, but simply weapon flashes he saw on the ground... and then justified it as self-defence.

Look, I KNOW friendly fire accidents happen in war. Canadians have killed each other many times in wartime by mistake. But if Fisher's report mirrors the truth, then this is way beyond a USS Liberty style accidental attack. I can understand, if regret, mistakes I could see myself making. This is Richard Ashby fly-under-the-skilift irresponsible. And we all know what happened to him.

Posted by BruceR at 12:11 PM

MOVING DAY Sorry about the


Sorry about the lack of posts. Got a new house.

Posted by BruceR at 11:40 AM

May 03, 2002


Steven Den Beste emailed me the other day to ask his opinion of a correspondent's letter. The letter was in reference to Den Beste's post, here, on revolutions in naval architecture. The open question was whether the USS Monitor was the starting point of the 19th century naval architecture revolution culminating in dreadnoughts. James Rummel wondered if HMS Warrior, which Napoleon III called "the black snake amongst the rabbits" did not have prior title. Boy, did he ask the wrong person... so now, once again, you all get to be bored by a whole lot of information I collected once in my travels that, until this question comes up in discussion, has no practical use whatever.

First off, there were at least three armoured steam frigates in the world before the Monitor's famous day on Hampton Roads: the British Warrior (launched 1860), HMS Black Prince (1861), and the French Gloire, which predated them both, having first sailed in 1860. Several other French and British ironclads were on the stays. As well, discussions of ironclads almost always ignore the Union riverine ironclad squadron which had played such an important role in the Fort Henry and Donelson fights, only a month before the Monitor's big day.

The British and French ships were, unlike the first American attempts, completely deep-seaworthy. (The Monitor would founder in ocean seas off Hatteras later in the war.) All bore the marks of early experimentation... observers said the Gloire's gunports were too low, and that the Warrior, one of the longest ships yet built, was too long and narrow). They were also hybrids, using sail for long journeys and coal-fired engines for battle.

How would the Warrior have done in a fight against the Monitor or CSS Virginia (aka Merrimac)? Better than Den Beste gives it credit for, I would argue. In speed and acceleration, the British ship had huge advantages: it was one of the fastest steamships afloat. Its speed in full reverse (about 6 knots) was as fast as either of the American ships could do going forward. It was not very maneuverable, although possibly more maneuverable than the Virginia(which for all its hype, turned out to be a bit of an engineering nightmare). While its 4.5 inches of steel armor was less than the Monitor's 8 inches (or the Virginia's 4 inches of well-sloped plate), it was still sufficient cladding to stop all but close range naval fire (plunging shot was not a factor in these early ironclad vs. ironclad contests). On the downside, it was a big ship, making for a much larger target. But that of course, meant the Warrior had a much larger broadside, as well.

It all comes down to the guns, and it is here, of course, that the Monitor (the first successful turret ship, no argument there) sees its advantages coming into play. The broadsides of the ships, discounting all the guns incapable of penetrating heavy Monitor-style armour, can be described as follows:

Monitor: 2 11-in smoothbore muzzleloading Dahlgrens (turret mounted)
Virginia: 1 6.4-in rifled muzzleloading Brooke (plus 2 7-in Brookes as front and rear chasers); 3 smaller guns
Warrior: 5 110-pdr rifles*; 2 70-pdr rifle breechloading Armstrongs; 13 smaller guns
Gloire: 16 smaller guns

(*there is some question whether these would still have been the original Armstrong breechloaders, or similar-sized Blakely muzzleloaders, in 1862). Both the British rifles and the even bigger Dahlgrens on the Monitor could fire a heavy enough solid shell to crumple even the Monitor's own armour at close ranges; the Confederate's Brookes and the Warrior's smaller Armstrongs would have been somewhat less effective.

Let's restate the whole equation then, in simpler terms:

Monitor: Slow, Heavy armour, 2 heavy guns
Virginia: Slow, Heavy armour, 1 medium gun
Warrior: Fast, Medium armour, 7 medium/heavy guns
Gloire: Fast, Medium armour, lighter guns only

I won't bore you with the ballistic calculations, but it works out rather like this. The Monitor's guns could start doing damage on the Warrior at around 1,200 m, if they were firing solid shot at full charge. The Warrior would have to close to 500m for its 110-pdrs to start seriously damaging the thicker Monitor armour; but once it did get in that range, it would have the effective firepower of 7 Virginias, likely making the Monitor's turret uninhabitable in fairly short order. Alternatively, the British ship could easily stay outside of the Monitor's range if it chose, with its superior speed... but then it couldn't do the American any damage at all. More than likely, then, the Warrior would use its speed to run down the Monitor... the close-in fight that followed would be punishing, but would likely go the Royal Navy's way, and escape for the Monitor once it did would be all but impossible. Advantage: Moderate British.

What about the Virginia? Well, you have to understand the Virginia was not optimized for fighting other ironclads... slow, almost unsteerable, and with only one armour-piercing gun on each broadside, plus the chasers, guaranteeing it could never bring even two of its heavy guns to bear on a target at the same time (the rest of its guns were only good against wooden ships, which the Virginia proved capable of demolishing quite easily, of course.) So effectively even the Monitor outgunned it two-to-one from the get-go. The Confederates would have done better against the moderately armoured Warrior, against which its smaller guns could have had at least a marginal anti-armour capability. But again, the Warrior could have run the Virginia down in fairly short order, and taken the punishment from a range where its 110-pdrs could give back in more than equal measure. Given the massive speed advantage, the Warrior would have the advantage here, as well, though. Advantage: Moderate British.

The Gloire? Similar to the American wooden ships chewed up by the Virginia, the French ship simply had no guns capable of damaging the American ships' heavier armour. While it still could have done some damage to the lighter-armoured Warrior, the Gloire would have been chewed up by either American ironclad, assuming, like those American wooden ships off Hampton Roads, it didn't have the ability to just simply get away. It would have lasted longer than the Union steamships, but the result, either sinking or flight, would be predetermined. Advantage: Major American.

Given that both the Monitor and the Virginia had guns large enough to seriously damage their actual historical opponent, why didn't they? Well, the Virginia's complete ungainliness had a lot to do with it... it also, however, had much to do with the fact that the Virginia had only sailed with shell, not solid shot for its guns (not having expected the first ever Union ironclad to show up out of nowhere), which basically meant only its 7" front and stern guns had even a chance of seriously hurting the Monitor... with only shell, even the broadside 6.4's were useless against armour. So long as the nimbler Monitor kept to its flank, the Union ship was completely invulnerable.

As for the Monitor, it was so new its guns weren't even proofed, meaning they were only being fired at half-charge. Even at point blank range they could not possibly have done more than ding the Virginia as a result. The history books don't tell you this, and it's doubtful the participants on either side knew it, but from a strictly engineering perspective the best the Monitor could have hoped for at Hampton Roads was a draw: victory with its weakened guns was not possible (and defeat not very likely). But in a hypothetical battle with the Monitor firing its guns at full strength, I'd have to give the Union the odds, two guns to 1.

For counterpoint, this author here takes an even more favourable view of the Warrior's chances against the Monitor. I believe he overstates the case both for the Warrior's armour and the power of its guns (From what I have read, I don't believe the Warrior's light guns, Napoleonic-era 68 pdr smoothbore muzzleloaders, would have any effect on iron plate at all, at any range), and his conclusion, that the British captain would waste his ammunition plinking futilely at long range while the American chugged slowly towards him seems rather unlikely to me. Given the range superiority of the Union guns, I suspect it more likely the British ship would want to get close and stay close. (It would be the Monitor that would want to keep its distance... because of the position of its pilot house, it could not even fire its guns directly forward, making steaming towards the enemy a rather futile proposition.) Of course, this would make damage to the British ship as it ran in extremely likely, although I still believe the more powerful 7-gun-to-a-side battery would win out once both ships were within armor-damaging ranges.

Interesting side note: the USS New Ironsides, which was commissioned in August of 1862, was a Warrior-type Union ironclad frigate that definitely could have given "the black snake" a run for its money. There's some interesting pictures of it here, showing how steam frigates of the Civil War era (both wooden and iron) looked when going into battle. It's a far cry from Nelsonian images of billowing sails, isn't it?

Posted by BruceR at 03:12 AM

May 01, 2002



(See earlier entry, below). Of course, the American Red Cross proposal of recognizing Israel's chosen symbol as a third international medical symbol (Cross, Crescent and Shield of David) still makes a heck of a lot more sense than the ICRC's original competing proposal (backed by Sommaruga), which suggested making all the national symbols a variation on a common international symbol of a Red Diamond (Western countries would have a cross in the equilateral diamond shape, Israel would have a Star of David within the diamond, etc.). I don't particularly want a comparable assortment of medical symbols to what one might find in a Frosted Lucky Charms box, either, but ambulances disguised as playing cards is an even less popular proposition.

(PS: In case you're wondering, having been laughed out of the room on their first try, the ICRC is now proposing that all nationalities put their national symbols within a pair of Red Chevrons instead.)

(PPS: By the way, if you want to read Sommaruga's objection to the Israeli/ARC petition in his own words, you can find it here.)

Posted by BruceR at 03:07 PM



I hate to admit it, but the first thing that went through my head when I saw the new Hubble images was, "Good. Now Den Beste will have some new cover art."

Posted by BruceR at 02:48 PM



Israel says 52 Palestinians, including seven civilians, died in Jenin. The Palestinians say it was 56. I for one can live with that level of uncertainty. Go home, Kofi.

Posted by BruceR at 02:22 PM



To be fair, the recent blogger/new media pile-on on former ICRC president Cornelio Sommaruga is rather unfair.

The man stands pilloried for saying that if the IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) allowed the Israeli Red Shield of David organization to be included as a national society with its chosen symbol, it would open the gates for other nationalities to use their national symbols instead of the standard ones. There is already of course, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. (There have been other variations in the past, such as the Nazi Cross-Swastika combo, the Soviet cross-crescent combo, and pre-revolutionary Iran's Sun-Lion combo). And, by asking what rule would then allow them to exclude the Red Swastika organization, he raised an honest question, albeit in a less than tactful manner... if one does allow national self-determination in the question of internationally-accepted symbols for medical care, etc., how DOES one then draw the line to prevent objectionable ones? What would the rule be? Obviously most people want no more red swastika-crosses, but do want the Israeli organization in (including, I believe, Sommaruga). Sommaruga is guilty of an insensitive rhetorical overstatement, but he raised a good point. He was certainly not saying the Israeli national symbol and the Nazi national symbol are equally objectionable, but that's how it's been interpreted around here.

Yes, there are flaws with the UN proposal to investigate Jenin. Yes, the Red Shield of David organization should be given full rights in international bodies. And yes, Sommaruga's question to the head of the pro-Israeli American Red Cross could have been phrased more sensitively. But it was a fair question in a serious closed-door debate of an international body that, I believe for the most part, is just trying to do the right thing, here.

As a sidenote, Kazakhstan also stands excluded from the IFRC, because, largely due to its population mix of Christians and Muslims, it retains the Soviet Cross-Crescent combo, instead of picking one of the approved variants. Overall, the Red Cross is being more obtuse about this whole issue, than anti-Semitic: I believe many of the people taking the opposite side in this debate honestly believe that widespread dilution of the "Red Cross/Crescent" brand could someday lead to future honest confusion about which are vehicles in a warzone are ambulances and which are not, say. They could well be right. Or that the hypothetical adoption some day by a country like Finland or Sri Lanka (both of which would have a cultural identification with the swastika that predates Naziism) of a "Red Swastika" for similar reasons to Israel would seriously diminish the credibility of the organization, and could ultimately lead to its total collapse. Those, like the American Red Cross, who favour including the Israelis, need to come up with a rationally based rule of thumb that will let the right symbols in and keep the wrong symbols out. For Sommaruga and others to demand that they offer such a guideline prior to Israel's being seated at the table is not, in and of itself, evidence of anti-Semitism.

UPDATE: Eritrea is another country with a non-standard symbol that is not being admitted at this time either (it also still uses the Soviet cross-crescent).

Posted by BruceR at 12:14 PM