May 30, 2003


The bloom is off the rose of the one-time anthrax target, it seems. Nearly every story she generated about Iraqi WMDs turns out to have been wrong. (Makes you wonder if she wasn't targeted with anthrax by someone trying to convince the U.S. they were facing an external bio threat, doesn't it?)

Also in Slate, it turns out there's lots of reason to doubt the Iraqi biotrailer story, after all. Oh, dear.

Posted by BruceR at 02:43 PM


Andrew Sullivan approvingly cites an Economist piece on the Congo from nearly a year ago, before Rwanda's pullout of its troops. The piece has got a bit of an anti-Rwanda slant, but it's not inaccurate. It's questionable judgment to laud it now, however, without an addendum or two... most of the current fighting is in the formerly Ugandan-controlled area to start with, and the circumstances have changed considerably on the ground in Congo since Rwanda left. For Sullivan to imply based solely on a year-old piece that this is just the Rwandan genocide with the Tutsis doing the killing now muddies far more than it clarifies at this point.

Posted by BruceR at 10:59 AM


Turns out the aircraft hero who subdued the stake-wielding Australian hijacker was a Canadian. Former PPCLI, in fact. And the only vizmin in the picture was the seriously injured flight attendant, Greg Khan.

Reached for comment, hero Derek Findlay was disappointed to hear this may not be enough to remove Canada from SDB's American enemies' list.

Posted by BruceR at 10:27 AM


The Baghdad bunker which the United States said it bombed on the opening night of the Iraq war in a bid to kill Saddam Hussein never existed, CBS Evening News reported Wednesday.

I'm shocked. Awed, even.

Posted by BruceR at 12:15 AM

May 29, 2003


The "Nude Gang attack" entry here is now officially the funniest news report ever written. Alpini?

(from T. Blair)

Posted by BruceR at 05:16 PM


An airline hijacker armed with wooden stakes failed in his plan the other day.

It's the best argument I've seen for stake control yet. Especially those urban assault stakes.

(QUESTION: The passengers restrained the man with "plastic ties?" Like flexcuffs? Where'd they get those from, the hijacker on his day off in Row 8?)

Posted by BruceR at 05:05 PM


Good summary on Spinsanity on the Lynch affair and a couple other Iraqi rumours. Nothing I really disagree with... it's got Glenn in a huff, though.

If I had a quibble, it would be with Spinsanity's statement that there were "a few contradictory reports" after the first couple of days about Lynch's injuries. As we showed here, People, Time, Newsweek, USA Today, and all the papers carrying the Associated Press stories on the subject would be among those "few." What would count as "more than a few," exactly? Papers on other planets?

PS: And excuse me, but if anything the early inaccurate reporting about Lynch was MORE potentially significant than anything in the BBC post-mortem, Glenn. It was a hot war, then... it's entirely possible that stories alleging the mistreatment or torture of Lynch, only a couple shades darker than those that were actually filed, could have led to all kinds of personal and national retaliatory consequences against the Iraqi people, or even Americans of Iraqi descent... the onus then on any responsible journalist at the time should have been to question everything, or potentially have a USS Maine-type incident on their consciences. All Kampfner ever risked doing by his negligence was providing fodder for bloggers.

Posted by BruceR at 01:15 PM


Actually, if you think about it, the closest historical comparator to what the French are proposing, a UN division to prop up the Kabila regime in the Congo, is actually the Crimean War of 1854, where the Western European powers stepped in militarily to prop up the "Sick Man of Europe," Ottoman Turkey. And we all know how well that turned out...

A letter in the Globe today has it backwards. "The U.S. made sure that promising and popular new leader, Patrice Lumumba, was imprisoned and murdered, and that its own puppet, Mobutu Sese Seko, was able, through military force, to succeed him."

Oh, you can blame the U.S. for all kinds of things, but not for Mobutu's rise. It was a lot more complex than that. The French and Belgian mining interests that really ran the country had their paid man, Moises Tshombe; the U.S. under JFK had their African proto-democrat, Cyril Adoula (sort of a Ngo Dinh Diem figure with little but American support to recommend him), and the people's favourite, Lumumba, danced with the Soviets throughout his brief career (largely because the mining interests HATED him). But it's fair to say he never really closed the deal either: he was really only elevated to Communist martyr status after his death. (Like Ho Chi Minh or Fidel Castro, there was apparently a point in the dynamic and charismatic Lumumba's early life where he could have gone either way, democrat or communist, but events conspired, as it did for the others, to push them over to the dark side. All his toying with Moscow accomplished however, as with those others, was to scare the crap out of the American state department and close off the doors of the West to him permanently.) The CIA had drawn up plans to kill Lumumba if necessary (I'm sure they had plans to kill just about any populist Third World leader if they had to), but they were never acted on... he was killed ultimately by European mercenaries, at the prompting of the mining interests and Tshombe. Not that Mobutu minded him going, mind you.

Mobutu was originally supported by no one. His big claim to a seat at the table was that he controlled the only marginally effective Congolese army units, as army chief of staff (he was a former sergeant-major, making him the leading military expert in Lumumba's independence movement... the Belgians had not allowed Congolese officers). He was also probably the smartest guy in the colony, which isn't saying much when you consider that up until independence in 1960, the Belgians had systematically denied the Congolese access to higher education. If you suddenly abandon a country where literally no one can read above an eighth-grade level or operate complex machinery, then you shouldn't be surprised if Lord of the Flies breaks out. At first Mobutu tried to work the situation Richelieu-style through his own front man, Kasavubu, but he would eventually tire of that and take a more direct role. After Lumumba was safely dead and the UN had crushed Tshombe and his European-sponsored mercenaries' attempts at secession for him, Mobutu then invited America and Europe's patsies, Adoula and Tshombe, back into a reconciliation triumvirate of sorts, thereby placating the west, and then hired back much of Tshombe's separatist merc army to fight what had become a full-fledged, Cuban-supported cannibal insurrection in the back country led by Laurent Kabila and Che Guevara. Mobutu then patiently and ruthlessly outmaneuvered Adoula and Tshombe, ditched Kasavubu, and ended up running the country for nearly 40 years (Tshombe was actually hunted down while in exile in Europe, a la Trotsky... the other two died naturally, first.)

You can blame the Americans for putting up with Mobutu after it was all over in the name of continued stability, sure. (They'd be blamed just as much, surely, if they'd moved to depose him.) But you can't blame them for his rise... they were played by this modern incarnation of Richard III just as much as he played everybody else. To call him a puppet is really to do the "Lion of Africa," one of the 20th century's truly evil men, an injustice.

Posted by BruceR at 09:55 AM

May 28, 2003


Computer games apparently improve your visual and spatial acuity. Who knew?

Posted by BruceR at 06:32 PM


Irrespective of Canada's inability at the moment to get engaged in the Congo, there are all kinds of good reasons not to do so. A significant UN operation there right now is potentially more dangerous to the viability of that institution than the Iraq war was.

To recap: previous dictator Laurent Kabila never got a firm hold of the country after he seized it in 1997 from his lifelong rival Mobutu in a civil war. In particular, he did nothing to keep Hutu rebels who had fled from justice for their genocidal acts in Rwanda setting up guerrilla camps on what was supposedly Congolese territory from which they launched new anti-Tutsi strikes. Rwanda and its ally Uganda, Kabila's old allies against Mobutu, responded to his treachery in 1999 by invading and imposing their own authority on the border areas. After his assassination in 2001, Kabila's son Joseph, then 31, ironically himself half-Tutsi, took over the Congo cartel, and has had no better luck. Urgent infusions of military support from other African dictators, particularly Zimbabwe and Angola, have been the only thing keeping Kabila Inc. in power and the west and south of the country in some kind of stability.

So, anyway, the UN has been trying to implement the 1999 Lusaka Accord, which put a ceasefire to the "hot part" of this Rwanda-Congo war. That calls for all the other countries, both pro and anti-Kabila Inc., to get out. Rwanda's troops, which had if nothing else, been keeping a lid on the problems in the border areas closest to its country, finally pulled out last year without anything to replace them, and the resulting power vacuum has led to complete "Heart of Darkness" anarchy in that part of the country. Which is where we are today. The crisis remains more a humanitarian than a genocidal one at the moment, as the entire eastern half of the country can't be reached by foreign aid agencies, although some of the atrocities in the really deep parts of the jungle have been extreme.

The problem with the Lusaka Accord was that it was signed with the promise of a UN peacekeeping force of 20,000, as large as any in its history, to replace the Rwandans in the east. That never showed up. The Americans post-Somalia and post-Rwanda didn't want to touch this one, and without them deploying and supporting such a force would be impossible. The Rwandans said for two years that if they pulled out before the UN showed up, there'd be chaos, and what do you know, they were right (international pressure finally forced them to, anyway).

The people directly responsible for all this are the same Hutu leaders, and their successors, who organized the genocide in Rwanda. Practically coddled by humanitarian agencies after they fled across the border to escape justice for genocide, they were able with that assistance to set up a Kurtz-style jungle quasistate in east Congo. From there, they've continued to kill Tutsis whereever they find them. (It's as if in 1945, all the pro-Nazi Germans had fled across the German border, and continued to terrorize a German state now largely populated by the remaining Jews.) The Rwandans first tried putting Kabila Sr. in power, who sold them out to the Hutus... then they just occupied the quasi-state themselves.

Still, there are the innocents to worry about. The west wants aid to start flowing again, and for that someone has to step in now that the Rwandans have gone. The trouble is that a peacekeeping force in the Congo now isn't a normal UN peacekeeping force, in the sense that it's stepping in with the consent of all parties to sort out a civil war, or interpose itself between two warring countries... it's stepping in to replace Mugabe's and the others' troops propping up the decadent Kabila Inc. dictatorship. It's certainly not like any traditional peacekeeping situation... it's not like Somalia, where the UN stepped in in the absence of any government... Kabila is the universally recognized ruler. It's not like Rwanda, where they were trying to interpose on the agreement of both sides in a civil war, either. No, if the UN goes, it's going to keep the Hutus down, and Kabila in power. How is that consistent, in any way, with the founding principles of this organization? If providing mercenaries to a third-world dictator is all the non-U.S. western militaries are good for, then they're worse than useless.

Never mind that you'll never get the 20,000 troops needed, leaving any force that goes there undermanned in extreme danger. (Two UN observers were hacked to death last week.) Never mind that this was tried once before and failed, in 1960, with the UN leaving in embarassment three years later, and scaling back its interventionist ambitions for the next 30 years. But the whole thing is JUST WRONG. It's the antithesis of everything the UN once claimed to stand for.

Okay, that wasn't too constructive. What can be done? Well, the last time the UN realized it was being used to prop up a dictatorship in the Congo, and pulled out, Mobutu had them replaced with mercenaries, paid for out of Congo's lucrative mineral wealth (Mike Hoare and the other "Wild Geese" among them). Kabila the Younger could pay for a lot of good troops with the proceeds of his thievery (it's fair to say that's how he got Mugabe to send his troops in the first place.) He could do that again: we're back to Mobutu of course, but it's fair to say there isn't a single person in the world who wouldn't see that as an improvement by this point. In the 19th century, of course, we'd have just let the border shift to reflect the facts on the ground, with Congo shrinking and Rwanda and Uganda growing as a result. Or the UN could forego its commitment to a mission, and invite a couple willing African countries (ie, Angola and Zimbabwe) to put together the force to take over the disputed region as their own protectorate, like Denmark's over Greenland, using its own threat of force only to discourage Rwanda from intervening again... it'd be amoral, of course, as Hutu incursions into Rwanda from within the protectorate would almost certainly increase, and Mugabe would just get richer, but it'd likely work. Or you could just let the French do it, if they really feel like another colonial entanglement. But if you actually send in the UN, well, Harold Stassen has obviously left the building. The losses will be heavy... the stay, indefinite... and the morality, unfathomable.

(The ironic thing in Congo's history is that the sides haven't changed in nearly 40 years. Back then it was a much younger Laurent Kabila and Che Guevara and a bunch of Conradesque psychotic cannibals vs. Mobutu and the mining interests and the mercs (after the UN wised up and left). The Kabila family may have finally become what they once hated and switched sides, so now we're looking for a new bunch of white guys to come in and prop them up. This game's not worth the candle at all.)

NB: The current stories are focussed on Bunia, which was in Rwanda's sometimes ally Uganda's area of occupation since the ceasefire, until they and the Rwandans pulled out recently. You'll hear a lot about the ensuing Hema-Lendu violence... just so it's clear, "Lendu" are Congolese Hutus, and "Hema" are Congolese Tutsi, or at least that's the way they see themselves (ethnographically it's a lot more complex than that). Just substitute the words in stories like this, and the Rwandan genocide connections become a little more clear. It should also be noted that Uganda and Rwanda have had a falling-out recently, which some have linked to the lucrative tantalum (or coltan) mining industry in eastern Congo. (Metallic tantalum is key to many modern electronic components... so in a way, these deaths are in part due to Western consumer demands for small cellphones and computers, which couldn't exist a few years ago without capacitors made from tantalum... the industry's slowly moving now to ceramic capacitors instead, largely due to supply problems with the metal.)

Posted by BruceR at 05:33 PM


Den Beste is close to the truth here. Only one thing he doesn't quite grasp: Canada doesn't have "election cycles" any more. Our next prime minister will be Paul Martin, who will take over next spring and rule autocratically for the next eight years or so. He will follow more or less the same foreign and defence policy as his predecessor. (Because he's not senile yet, he'll actually get a little more done in terms of legislation, but that's just stasis at a a higher rate of rotation.)

On the upside, our economy will likely continue to do quite well, comparatively, and the lack of any foreign policy commitments we can't walk away from means our health and welfare systems will continue to be more than competitive with American systems that have to take that "hyperpower surtax" into account. That means our labour will always be competitive with the States', and our natural resource sectors are still in good shape. Occasionally, shortsighted US legislators will continue to try to screw with trade tariffs to give their own industries the advantage back by screwing American consumers at the cash register, but they were doing that long before Sept. 11, and will likely always do so: it's the same with every other country in the world, no matter what their politics. We will also remain almost certainly immune from terrorist attack, because we don't offend anybody. My kids will grow up to inherit the same country I've got now... de facto isolationist even if theoretically multilateral, prosperous, quiet, and unassuming. And the Liberals will still be in power then, too.

When you think about, we've reached a Fukayama-like "end of Canadian history," in a way. Oh, well... I've got a patio now I can lay around all summer on, so it's cool.

Posted by BruceR at 03:57 PM


A reasonably sound piece from the Cooper/Bercuson team on military procurement. If you're ever interested in finding out more, the best source for information on current Canadian military equipment online is probably this one.

Posted by BruceR at 12:34 PM

May 27, 2003


The Instaman cites Rich Lowry approvingly on the Iraqi National Museum story. Yes, I agree, it's very nice that the museum will someday open with most of its treasures still around. But the piece, which quotes two antiquities dealers without any refutation saying that (surprise!) more artifacts should be in private dealers' hands and out of museums is yet another one of Lowry's usual disasters of slant. What, he couldn't find a single museum curator before deadline? Did he try phoning, I don't know, a museum, perhaps? Maybe they hang out there.

Anyone who's actually done museum-based research knows that those chests of "coins, coins, and more coins" are sometimes essential to numismatists. In the case of my own research, there was a literally tangible value to the Royal Ontario Museum's "arms and armour" collection that no database could ever approach. Sometimes you need to see the actual THING... lots of the actual things, actually, to compare and contrast and evaluate. It's the traditional museum divide between the "front of the house," where the crowds are entertained, and the back-of-the-warehouse where the actual scholarly work is done. To say that once all the uninteresting item are catalogued (what does that mean, anyway? photographed? itemized? scanned for DNA?) they can then be sold is to, in essence, turn museums into art galleries for real, and cripple the practice of modern archaeology and archeologically-based history. Of course, Lowry's two quoted sources will make more money selling stuff, so that would be okay, I guess.

In any case, the Koranic library and the Baghdad University library were also neglected after the occupation and were burned to the ground, an Alexandrian blow to Islamic history scholars. The good fortune of the National Museum doesn't change that. Several priceless collections WERE destroyed, but Lowry would rather engage in misdirection it seems, than honestly appraise the actual loss to culture from the early days of Iraq's occupation.

Posted by BruceR at 02:10 PM


A must-read in the Standard on Tommy Franks' war. The obvious quote (at least for this site):

After Private Jessica Lynch was snatched from an Iraqi hospital, Franks was wary of publicizing the rescue excessively. He reminded aides of the warning by Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry against spiking the football in the end zone after a touchdown. You don't want to look surprised at having scored.

Posted by BruceR at 12:58 PM


Peter Langille feels Canada should send two battalions of infantry as Congo peacekeepers.

Canada could and should be doing more. Despite cutbacks, Canada retains a regular force of 19,500 soldiers in three brigade groups, augmented by 15,500 reserves, which provides a total force of 35,000 troops. The key question for the PMO is whether Canada's land force is really overstretched. Our total deployment abroad is 1,500 troops; assuming the need to train replacements and rotate personnel after six months abroad, as well as the need to provide rest and recuperation for those returning, it appears that 4,500 soldiers are already committed.

Yet, even with the pending deployment to Afghanistan later in the summer of another 1,600 soldiers, the army retains substantive capacity. Why can't two battalions of mechanized (wheeled) infantry (approximately 1,200 troops) be sent to the Congo?

This is unlettered analysis, to put it kindly. The numbers are wholly specious. First off, the reserves he mentions are a nullity, which the government does not currently have the power to force to leave their jobs for training, let alone operations in Africa. (Legislation to force employers to let reservists keep their jobs if called up even in a Sept. 11 style domestic emergency has been in limbo for a year and a half, and is going to die on the House of Commons order sheet again this summer. It would have no effect on foreign deployments.)

That leaves the regular force. There are exactly 9 battalions of regular infantry left to Canada. None are manned or equipped over 80 per cent: that means that every time that a battalion is deployed overseas, all the other combat units still need to be cannibalized to send it, but let's pretend that there are still 9 discrete deployable units. Everything else in the army is more or less dedicated to keeping one of those 9 battalions working... they are the only chess pieces on the board, and it would require drastic overhauls to add even one to their number (more on that later.) There is, as Langille states, currently one in Bosnia, and two more getting ready to go. Two more are getting ready to leave for Afghanistan. That's 5 out of 9.

Langille wants to send two more to Congo. That would leave two battalions left to get ready for the next rotation. Assuming that the rotations are more or less synchronous with the Bosnia and Afghan ones, that means we'd need four battalions to keep all the commitments going past next March, but we would only have those two. That means you've got to start closing foreign operations down. You have to assume Congo's not going to clean up its act overnight, and replacements are going to be needed there, so you'd have to at a minimum close down the Bosnia mission by March, and probably ditch Afghanistan, too, if you still wanted to keep those 2 in the Congo, that is. In the end, you're falling back inevitably on the "three battalions overseas at a time" maximum that our 9-battalion force structure forces on us...(3 overseas, 3 just coming back, and 3 getting ready). So Congo is certainly not a sustainable deployment with more than one battalion, in addition to our current commitment of two elsewhere.

Even then, three overseas at a time essentially uses up every last deployable asset the army has, leaving nothing at all for any unforeseen emergency, foreign or domestic (flood, earthquake, terrorist, what have you) for the next year. It also means professional soldiers spend 6 out of every 18 months with their families for the period of max deployment, which inevitably leads to high attrition. Congo's important, but is it important to the exclusion of all else? One rather doubts you could make that argument.

Um, okay, Bruce, so what's the answer? Well, there isn't one, really. Canada's economy is booming, and federal programs protect the livelihoods of people in the traditional high-recruitment areas (Newfoundland, etc.) The pay's okay now, but no one NEEDS to join the army anymore. Hence expansion in the current circumstances simply isn't going to happen. The reserves are no help: a mass callup of those reservists who could leave their lives behind, as was done in 1950 when brigades were needed in Germany and Korea simultaneously, might generate one additional battalion to add to the orbat, but would gut the reserves for decades, ending their fairly modest but steady contribution that helps pad out the regular forces now. And, because of the abroad/getting ready/just got back split, one more battalion by itself is useless... we'd really need three and the whole reserve couldn't generate that today if it had to. (The upcoming Land Force Reserve Restructure would begin to address that for future years, but there's not currently money in the federal budget to get that process rolling.)

So how would Canada expand the regular force if it needed to? Well, we'd essentially be talking a national mobilization scheme at this point to get the additional numbers in... incentivizing the process by tying Canadian federal college loans to voluntary national service, or something drastic like that. (An ammunition jackpot for pacifist groups that no major political party could support.) That might get you enough to go up to a sustainable 12 battalions, giving you a little more flexibility for this sort of thing. It would be a drastic revision of Canadians' relation with their military that it's fair to say wouldn't even be contemplated unless there was a clear and present threat to the Canadian way of life... Congo doesn't cut it.

No, the only answer, if we wanted to kick into the Congo, would be to announce that we were closing down Bosnia. Not that that would be a bad thing... we've been there under the NATO mandate going on seven years now, and there was the UN mandate before that. I would not argue that Africa would not be a better use of our national resources. But it would come with a political price... it's fair to say that every NATO country wants to get out of Bosnia at the moment, and the country isn't exactly a going concern yet and certainly would NOT benefit from everyone taking off. But if Langille wanted to make that argument, I could see the merits. To argue that there are somehow military resources lying around unused, however, is divorced from reality.

UPDATE: The Star has the same view. Particularly annoying are the words, "drawing on the Reserves if necessary." Never mind that the reservist volunteers are already providing about a quarter of the Bosnia mission's combat troops, and a significant portion of the Golan and Afghan ones, as well. Presumably the Star expects the remainder of Canada's reservists to now voluntarily quit their other job(s) and obligations to fill in for a Congo deployment, then, without job protection of any kind. That's nice. The day I see the Star using that same space to encourage regular Canadians to choose the military life is the day I'll know they're serious: until then, this is all the usual hot air.

Posted by BruceR at 11:32 AM


Andrea Harris doesn't like this article on Col. Tim "Nails" Collins. Tough. It rings true from this cheap seat, every last bit of it.

PS: This is the Collins speech to his troops the White House allegedly had framed. This was a man soldiers will follow, no question... anyone who crossed a guy like this, like his American accusers in this case, I think they'd suspect automatically.

It's notable that, despite all the allegations that Collins had no problem, for instance, with firing a bullet in the ground to get a non-cooperative Iraqi's attention, no Iraqis have actually DIED on Collins' watch, as far as anyone knows; indeed the Ulster approach of forceful but not excessive use of force the British have been using in the south seems to have been pretty successful in getting rapid civilian compliance. There are already a lot of dead Iraqis from incidents involving American soldiers, however. It's a lesson that Sam Steele and his early Mountie comrades knew in their bones... it's the soldiers who don't feel they have other options who end up shooting into riots... the guys who successfully keep the peace are those who can successfully achieve their aims in other, sometimes subtler, sometimes franker ways.

(It's actually remarkable how much the rival British and American ways of dealing with Iraqis are coming to resemble the rival ways the Mounties and the U.S. Cavalry had of dealing with native Americans and white settlers in the 1870-1910 period, come to think of it... any Canadian hearing stories like this surely can't help but think back to Chilkoot Pass, Fort Whoop-up, and Sitting Bull, and the impact they had on our own national myths. Seems to me a few Iraqis might be valuing "peace, order and good government" over "life, liberty, etc." about now, too.)

Posted by BruceR at 01:48 AM


Colby commented the other day about how a stupid mistake in a lead ended any interest he had in..., well whatever the columnist in question was prattling about this time. Same thing just happened to me... I see what he means. The funny thing is that it happened with perhaps the closest thing Colby has to a counterpart as the conservative gadfly in the local Toronto media, veteran right-wing journalist Judi McLeod:

In eras past, pirates plumbed the seven seas, stealing and plundering. The Bluebeards of the 21st century, now in control of our water, are the pirates of the present day...

Okay, Judi, take notes, cause I'm only going to do this one once. BLACKbeard (aka Edward Teach) was the psychopathic pirate, hunted down and killed after a famous Royal Navy manhunt (the "Sink the Bismarck" of its day) that ended in Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina in 1718. BLUEbeard is the villain from an odd 17th-century Charles Perrault fairy tale, involving a serial wife killer. In the early 20th century it was repurposed as an epithet for men who serially romanced women and ruined them in other ways; the name has never had anything to do with piracy. (Yellowbeard, on the other hand...)

Now, unless Judi seriously suspects Maurice Strong has a couple armoires full of dead environmentalist girlfriends on his Costa Rican estate somewhere (okay, I admit it, the thought's crossed my mind, too...) then her lead, which heads an apparent story on how much of the world's water resources are being tied up in lawsuits by environmental groups, is nonsensical. (It goes without saying the metaphor doesn't make much more sense if she had meant Blackbeard for that matter... if the infamous Teach had contented himself with sweeping the Caribbean of its shipping for his six month reign of terror simply by firing frivolous LAWSUITS at ship captains, it probably would have been unnecessary for Lieutenant Maynard and his men to hunt him down and put five bullets into him.)

Posted by BruceR at 01:12 AM


Trying out Opera 7.11 tonight... nice browser for the most part, still big problems with password boxes and other form inputs (Blogger, among other sites). Not sure why that is... you'd think by v.7, they'd have noticed... The freeware version still loses you part of the screen for the in-frame ad, too. On the upside, they seem to have figured out the display problems that made sites with lots of ads imbedded in the page look like ass... in v6,, for instance, was completely unreadable, but that appears to have been cleaned up now.

It also still has what was always the award-winner for "most useless browser feature ever," that being the ability to spoof web traffic logs as to which browser you're using (you can choose to identify yourself as one of the last three versions of NS/Mozilla, or IE 6, instead). Given that the reason Opera's never taken off outside the EU has been largely due to its low market penetration, I never saw the value of giving website managers like myself a misleading idea of how much of our consumer market was actually Opera (it's certainly over 5% of users in countries like Germany now, but given that this particular setting is almost always misconfigured in my experience, I suspect it could be as much as twice the recorded figures for North American users, as well), encouraging us to design websites accordingly, etc. etc. At the very least, I thought they should have set the default choice to "tell people I'm using Opera," but what would I know? Some people like to be #3, I guess...

Posted by BruceR at 12:39 AM

May 26, 2003


Good profile in the Post today on Iraq's new head man.

Posted by BruceR at 01:52 PM


Spain may have just lost more peacekeepers in one accident than Canada's lost in 50 years. It's a horrible tragedy, made even more so by Spain's apparent reliance on ex-Soviet civilian chartered air for its Afghan troop deployments. If it had been a Spanish plane, it would have been exhaustively investigated, and evaluated, but there would have been some possibility of final closure... now, no matter the outcome, the Spanish are forever going to wonder if their troops coming home from Afghanistan died because their government, very much like Canada's, has cut funding corners by eliminating its armed forces' capability for self-deployment and recovery. For a country like Canada, sending over 1,000 troops of its own to the same place in a couple months, likely on the same kind of aircraft, this will be cautionary.

Posted by BruceR at 12:18 PM


People aren't honestly "shocked, shocked" about the NYT using stringers to help the credited reporters are they? Good God, I'd have thought it's a known fact that nearly every Times story out of Canada since they closed their office here involves some unnamed local "researcher," with a misleading byline and the "Canadian correspondent" du jour, who rarely crosses the border. I've been approached myself to be a member of the local colonial help. It's never been a scandal when it involves the foreign desks... why is it so different when it's Appalachia?

Posted by BruceR at 12:08 PM

May 24, 2003


The WashPost's Richard Cohen draws many of the same conclusions drawn here earlier about the whole Lynch affair.

NB: And yes, Bill, Cohen's column from yesterday, finally giving his own paper its due criticism, is wholly different from that wishywashy earlier piece by the WashPost ombudsperson saying only that the facts could still be in doubt, and the Post was still standing by both stories in the meantime. The ombudsperson piece certainly doesn't "detail the mistakes," as you say: exactly the opposite, in fact.

Bill also evidently wasn't aware of a non-advertised feature of the WashPost website, that most if not all of its newspieces are kept, unindexed, on the main free access website for months after they've become available on the for-pay archives. If you know the headline, you can almost always Google and go right to the original. With the curious exception (apparently unique for pieces filed from that week) of this one.

As to the rest, the best interpretation is that Bill's just being argumentative now. It's real simple... I said in essence, "interviewing the Iraqi doctors on May 5 was a necessary and important corrective (what I mean when I say "scoop") to the most recent stories about Lynch that we had heard (ie, out of her hospital in Germany)." First Bill established that the first interview with the Iraqi doctors was actually by the Post on April 14... fine, sure, same source (and hence the same scoop), just on a different day. The point still stands. Bill also cited a bunch of similar stories that came before the stories out of Germany, on April 4, as evidence that the rest of the journalistic establishment had already corrected its early mistakes. Since the mistakes in question hadn't actually been made at that point (the "small calibre gunshot wound" stuff out of the German hospital first showed up in Newsday April 6) those citations were irrelevant. They certainly didn't in any way change that in the couple days before the April 14 Post story first ran, every paper and newsweekly in the country had just run what we now can be nearly certain was inaccurate information about Lynch's injuries. Some outlets, like FoxNews, then still took weeks to get around to providing the new information... many others (Newsweek, Time, etc.) haven't yet. Many bloggers, like biased-bbc, still believe the discredited version, saying it's the Iraqi doctors who must be lying. A necessary and important corrective, as I said. (And PS: I never once said "over a month." Sloppy, sloppy...)

Bill focusses on my choice of the word "definitive," almost as if it's talismanic. The question is not whether these major news organizations, like Newsweek and People, will someday set their records straight... the story of Private Lynch will be with us for some time yet, and some day a follow-up story will no doubt include the later information. The narrow question, again, was whether the journalists who travelled to the Nasariyah Hospital managed to develop our understanding, or just told us what we already knew or should reasonably have known. I'm not saying that every paper is required to print a correction every time new contrary facts come to light... otherwise a paper would be nothing but corrections. (Giving Richman's honest story the same prominence as Schmidt's sensationalist story would have been nice, though.) What I'm saying is in the ABSENCE of a definitive telling of the true facts of a story, this extra little puzzle piece, perspective, what have you, that we got from the Iraqi doctors was by definition still valuable. I know Bill agrees with this, so I really have no idea why he continues to assert the contrary position, other than his own sheer contrariness, I guess.

Bill also says I should give FoxNews' Hunt more credit until the facts are in. I find it interesting that faced with one of only two logically exclusive possibilities (A -- that an unnamed soldier had lied to Hunt; B -- that Hunt had lied on-air about what he'd heard), Bill automatically assumed the retired colonel on the tube was the truth-teller. Maybe it's all those years in army PR, but I'll always go with option B, and, when it comes to the media, presume the serving soldiers innocent. Every time.

Posted by BruceR at 12:05 PM

May 23, 2003


Please do pick up a copy of my feature-length interview with gamer-economist Edward Castronova, in Computer Games magazine this month. He's a very interesting guy, and is changing the way a lot of people are thinking about for-pay virtual spaces.

Posted by BruceR at 04:28 PM


Bill Herbert:

"The Media Research Center piece [transcribing a FoxNews broadcast with their military analyst David Hunt] quotes Hunt only as saying that "there were 25 to 30 guys, armed, both fedayeen and army, Iraqi military outside and inside the hospital." He does not specifically allege, as Bruce suggests, that there was fighting inside the hospital (CENTCOM had stated on April 2 that there was no gunfire inside the hospital), unless you consider flex-cuffing the hospital staff a fight."

Hunt's actual quote in question:

Our guys wound up killing about ten fedayeen outside the hospital and a few inside, armed Iraqis.

That's about as specific an allegation as you can make, I'd say.

Herbert again says that, because there were a number of stories in the first 48 hours that said Lynch had not been shot (in addition with dozens more that said she was), that therefore there was nothing new to report on Lynch's injuries by the time interviewers could get to the Nasariyah hospital. Of course, the first stories of the frenzy are always chaotic, but I still think it's fair to say that the conventional wisdom in Americans' minds after the first couple days was that Lynch had been shot, either in captivity or while struggling valiantly, and that that was not definitively retracted until much later. People magazine was saying definitively she had, long afterwards, for instance: here's their April 21 report on the subject (not online):

Her doctors now say they are certain some of her injuries--which went untreated for her nine days in captivity, leading to infection--were caused by gunshots. "The injuries are open fractures, which is to say the bone come through the skin," says Landstuhl spokesman Capt. Norris Jones, who adds that an absence of bullets or metal shards initially led doctors to assume there were no gunshot wounds.

I'm certain Bill looks forward, as I do, to Capt. Jones being charged for breaking the law on disclosure of soldiers' injuries.

At the same time (April 14 issue) Time magazine was saying this:

According to the Washington Post, Lynch, an Army supply clerk with only minimal combat training, shot several advancing Iraqi soldiers, emptying her weapon of ammunition and possibly incurring a series of gunshot wounds.

Newsweek's story the same day, in an issue which had Lynch on the cover, had this to say:

Later that day, though, surgeons discovered that she had been shot?and, according to a family spokesman in West Virginia, Dan Little, her wounds were ?consistent with low-velocity small arms.?

Meanwhile, over at USA Today:

Gunshots may have caused open fractures on her upper right arm and lower left leg, according to the hospital. (Apr. 12 issue)

In fact, all the Associated Press stories filed from Landstuhl, Germany from April 8 until April 13, when Lynch was shipped back home, contained some version of that same sentence:

"Gunshots may have caused open fractures on her upper right arm and lower left leg, according to the hospital."

Those AP stories about Lynch's return were pretty widely picked up. So it's fair to say that, as of April 13, the day before the first report from the Nasariyah hospital, pretty much every daily paper and newsweekly in the United States would have had that as its last word, attributed to a military medical source.

UPDATE: Herbert responds, saying my position is varying. My position on the actual rescue incident hasn't changed all week... it's still what I wrote here. The very narrow tangent we're on now started, if you read back, with this comment by, cited approvingly on Instapundit: "I remember this [her being shot] being reported by virtually every news source when she was initially found. I also remember all these same news sources correcting themselves when it turned out that she was not thus injured. Is this evidence of a grand conspiracy?"

I think I've established that up to the point stories started coming out of the Nasariyah hospital, the conventional wisdom, based on stories out of Landstuhl, Germany, was that there were gunshot wounds among Lynch's injuries. (I think if People, Time, Newsweek, USA Today and all the dailies are reporting that at the time, that's gotta count as CW.) The only thing that's changed is that I thought the first of those stories came May 5, when actually, as Bill pointed out, it came April 14. Bill has also cited a number of the confusing early accounts from before Lynch was shipped to Landstuhl, or just after she arrived, on April 4. Those don't count... they themselves were all effectively "corrected" by the newer, it turns out now incorrect information coming out of the German hospital after her arrival there. It's THAT information that I'm saying had not been refuted until the Iraqi doctors started talking. Hence the light that the Iraqi doctors could shed was still a valuable corrective on our picture, which at the time was still getting poisoned by blowhards like FoxNews' David "I talked to a guy who was number one guy in the door" Hunt.

Herbert talks about Jayson Blair. Well, fine... why hasn't FoxNews censured Hunt for telling complete lies on-air about the raid, or even corrected him? He's presumably a paid employee, judging from his daily appearances during the war... he had a public podium thanks to Fox, and he relayed what now are clear are utter lies about this incident. How about the Post's Susan Schmidt, already tarnished as a journalist in the Clinton days, and whose one story the whole war on Jessica's last stand is now revealed to be total nonsense? Is yanking the story off the web and hiding it the only response we can expect from the Post? As Needlenose pointed out, Schmidt's story was page 1... the interview with the doctors was page 17. As I pointed out, I could only find two other papers (including Lynch's hometown daily) that even ran the second one at all.

Herbert and I seem to agree that the print accounts out of Iraq that the controversial BBC report was based on are getting us closer to the truth. I have had harsh words for the BBC's John Kampfner on his truth-stretching... the difference is, I'm spreading it around and giving everyone who made up stuff and used this poor girl's story to their advantage a full measure of scorn... I just wonder whether Herbert and Instapundit and the rest can feel totally comfortable only dinging one side in this. Is it okay to be sensationalist, so long as you're not sensationalist and anti-American both?

Posted by BruceR at 10:17 AM


What's interesting about this is that -- contrary to the revisionists' spin -- this makes clear that a lot of the Lynch stories didn't originate with the Pentagon to begin with.
--lnstapundit, today

The original Washington Post story, dated April 3 (now pulled from their website):

WASHINGTON - Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday.

Lynch, 19, a supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die in fighting 11 days ago, one official said. The ambush took place after a 507th convoy took a wrong turn in the southern city of Nasiriyah.

"She was fighting to the death," the official said. "She did not want to be taken alive."

Lynch was stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in on her position, the official said, noting that initial intelligence reports indicated that she had been stabbed to death.

So apparently, pretty much ALL the Lynch myth originated "with the Pentagon to begin with," Glenn. Not the "official Pentagon," perhaps, but certainly in the same building.

Of course we also have Donald Rumsfeld's comments from his briefing the morning after on the subject:

"We are certainly grateful for the brilliant and courageous rescue of Sergeant, correction PFC Jessica Lynch who was being held by Iraqi forces in, in what they called a 'hospital.'"

NB: CBC Newsworld will be running the Kampfner documentary at 10 p.m. this Sunday if anyone around here wants to see it. Also, here's Needlenose's take, complete with lessons for aspiring journalists.

Posted by BruceR at 10:03 AM

May 22, 2003


Pam Nicolais, who has served a spokesman for the Lynch family, said that the Iraqi accounts corroborate what the family has been hearing from Lynch herself.

"That goes along with what Jessi told us," she said.

--Huntingdon Herald-Dispatch, May 5

UPDATE: Here, by the way, is the London Times story of April 16, by Richard Lloyd Parry, which confirms many of the details of the initial story by the Washington Post foreign service (see previous posts), and the subsequent Star-Telegraph story that got everyone's attention. An excerpt:

On April 1 the local Baathists fled al-Nasiriyah for Baghdad and arrived at the hospital looking for their prize captive. Dr Harith moved her to another part of the hospital, and other doctors told the soldiers that he was away... ?They said that they thought Jessica had died, and they didn?t know where she was,? he said. In their haste and confusion the soldiers left...

Dr. Harith, one will recall, is the person everyone's accused of lying about the Americans firing blanks. Apparently he also prevented Lynch from being taken on a perilous road trip with the other maintenance company captives, too.

Posted by BruceR at 06:41 PM


From Publisher's Weekly, via Road to Surfdom:

[Harper Collins] paid approximately $300,000 for Rescue in Nasiriya: The Untold Story of American P.O.W. Jessica Lynch's Harrowing Ordeal and the Iraqi Who Risked Everything to Save Her . The Iraqi, a lawyer named Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief, provided U.S. Marines with information on where Lynch was detained that led to the rescue. But now new reports are questioning the danger Lynch was actually in and, consequently, the drama of the mission that saved her...

...Reached in an interview Friday, [publicist] Hirshey had a different take, saying that the book is "not about Jessica Lynch" but rather "the extraordinary story of what life was like for an upper middle class Iraqi under Hussein." He admitted that "We may have been premature in slapping the title on it."

It stands to reason that if Lynch was no longer under military guard, and the hospital was already trying to find a way to get her back to the Americans, that Mr. al-Rehaief's contribution was not as crucial as originally stated. A story of an upper middle class Iraqi... oh yeah, that'll sell. Still, we may have avoided another embarrassing Cassie Bernall publishing episode, at least.

Posted by BruceR at 06:30 PM


The National Review explains why Hitler couldn't have risen to power if the Weimar republic hadn't first imposed gun registration.

In other news, Iraqis have been banned from owning assault rifles or carrying concealed weapons, and have to register the rest.

Posted by BruceR at 06:10 PM


Again, I ask, how do you defend the intelligent Lynch revisionism and military PR analysing out there without being lumped in with this nutball?

Only this week we've learned from the BBC News that the entire "Saving Private Lynch in Iraq" episode was staged by the US military. On advice from PR spinmeisters, the Pentagon ignored efforts by Iraqi doctors to return Private Lynch in an Iraqi ambulance. Instead, according to the BBC, the Pentagon fired on the ambulance so they could then stage a rescue and stage a firefight at the hospital and remove Private Lynch.

--Cynthia McKinney (from Damian)

Posted by BruceR at 04:58 PM


Bill Herbert takes me to task again, and uncovers one story I wasn't aware of:

[Flit's] own comments seem as if he's defending the revisionist version of the Lynch rescue because two Toronto Star reporters "broke" that story -- which, actually, isn't true either.

Of course it isn't. Inigo Gilmore writes for the Daily Telegraph.

This story I hadn't read, until now:

The Washington Post ran a story with the same allegation -- that there was really no resistance to the SOF team that rescued Lynch -- by Keith B. Richburg on April 15.

Here's Richburg's story (dated the 14th, actually).

Here's the lead:

NASIRIYAH, Iraq, April 14 -- Accounts of the U.S. military's dramatic rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch from Saddam Hospital here two weeks ago read like the stuff of a Hollywood script. For Iraqi doctors working in the hospital that night, it was exactly that -- Hollywood dazzle, with little need for real action.

"They made a big show," said Haitham Gizzy, a physician at the public hospital here who treated Lynch for her injuries. "It was just a drama," he said. "A big, dramatic show."

Note this is a separate witness from those quoted in the other pieces. It continues:

Initial accounts reported how [Lynch] was shot and stabbed and continued battling Iraqi fighters until she ran out of ammunition. But the doctors here who treated her said she suffered fractures to her arms and lower limbs and a "small skull wound," sustained when her vehicle overturned.

Lynch's U.S. doctors have said she suffered fractures in her upper right arm, upper left leg, lower left leg and right ankle and foot. Her father, Greg Lynch Sr., told reporters she had no penetration wounds.

"It was a road traffic accident," Gizzy said. "There was not a drop of blood. . . There were no bullets or shrapnel or anything like that." At the hospital, he said, "She was given special care, more than the Iraqi patients."

Herbert proves conclusively that Potter-Gilmore didn't have as much of a scoop as I first thought. That's fine. I'm happy for the Post. But there's no doubt reading this story would make things MORE awkward for many of those attacking the Star/Telegraph team's Lynch revisionist story, not less.

For this story strikes me as good journalism. But is its lead really THAT different from the other, later print story people are condemning? ("Hollywood dazzle, with little need for real action?" How?) So is Richburg part of the anti-American "pile of odour" that Laughing Wolf saw, or not? The "deliberate smear campaign?" And if the Post had settled the truth for all time why, for instance, DIDN'T Fox News, for instance, get around to debunking its "Lynch-shot" stories until May 8? (I'd thought they were just three days behind, but it turns out it was nearly a month.) said he remembered ALL the major news sources running stories saying she was, in fact, not shot, stories that ran before May 5. So far, we've found one that did, then: still a ways to go on that one, to say the least.

Col. David Hunt (retd.) was on Fox News saying he knew for a fact the stuff about no fighting in the hospital was crap. So, was he wrong, then? Biased-BBC says it can only be "anti-American hysteria" to believe an Iraqi "doctor" (their scare quotes) on the subject of Lynch's medical care without confirmation from some, presumably American source. So... the Post is full of hysterics, then? (How about two "doctors"? How about five?)

There are lots of others... I'm only citing those Instapundit has linked to, approvingly, on the subject.

UPDATE: Interesting Google factoid: here are some of the major news sites that cited the Post's big story, picked up by the Associated Press, on Lynch's heroics, the same story they Post recently and uncharacteristically pulled from its website (some of these links are dead now, too):
ABC News
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Philadelphia Daily News
Minnesota Star-Tribune
Sydney Morning Herald
The Daily Telegraph
The Age
The Globe and Mail
The New York Daily News
The Honolulu Advertiser, etc. etc.

Here are all the papers I could find that ran the WashPost's later, April 14 story that first interviewed the Iraqis and was the first to cast doubt on the earlier heroic version:
The Sydney Morning Herald
The Huntington (W.Va.) Herald-Dispatch..., that's it, actually.

Posted by BruceR at 02:50 PM

May 21, 2003


Picture yourself in South Park. (From the Weevil).

Posted by BruceR at 05:39 PM


A brilliant obit today by Patrick Carr for country music icon June Carter Cash. I'm not a big fan of country music, for the most part, but I defy anyone to listen to June's two brilliant growling-spitfire duets with Johnny on the Folsom Prison and San Quentin albums ("Jackson" and "Darlin' Companion") and NOT want to sleep with their singer. As a boy, Johnny reportedly swore he would marry her at first sight... he had to wait for a few marriages to fail, of course, but he lucked out in the end. I've always envied what they so obviously had together: it was always one of my own models for the perfect marriage.

Posted by BruceR at 01:23 PM


God, I wish John Kampfner was a better journalist. He had some dynamite stuff, and tarnished it with his unnecessary Lynch addons and innuendo. Reading his solo piece in the Guardian, it's clear that everything that's been said about him personally is more or less on target. And yet he still had some great quotes to work with:

[Tony Blair's PR advisor] Wren yesterday described the Lynch incident as "hugely overblown" and symptomatic of a bigger problem. "The Americans never got out there and explained what was going on in the war," he said. "All they needed to be was open and honest. They were too vague, too scared of engaging with the media." He said US journalists "did not put them under pressure".

Wren, who had been seconded to the Ministry of Defence, said he tried on several occasions to persuade [American PR heads] Wilkinson and Brooks to change tack. In London, [government PR head Alistair] Campbell did the same with the White House, to no avail. "The American media didn't put them under pressure so they were allowed to get away with it," Wren said. "They didn't feel they needed to change."

In another context, that would have been absolute gold. When the PR history of this war is written, Kampfner will certainly make the bibliography, regardless, now. But at the same time, you get crap like this:

Releasing its five-minute film to the networks, the Pentagon claimed that Lynch had stab and bullet wounds, and that she had been slapped about on her hospital bed and interrogated.

There were, obviously, no such official claims. Bill Herbert's right to be angry at that stuff.

So basically, you now have three versions of the Lynch revisionist story: the original Potter-Gilmore print story (still standing, pretty much); the Gilmore-Kampfner BBC documentary and its internet summary on the BBC site (shaky on the Lynch stuff, but otherwise still valuable); and Kampfner solo, apparently unchecked by editors or good news judgment, writing in the Guardian (crap, for the most part). The trick, as with all bad journalists, is that it's impossible to defend the good parts of this without making it sound like I also support the garbage.

UPDATE: In Kampfner's defence, here's a fairly complete version of the Post story that started it all. (The original on the Post site has, uncharacteristically for that paper, been pulled completely from public view.) You can decide for yourself how much Kampfner distorts the truth on the "Pentagon claims."

Posted by BruceR at 12:14 PM

May 20, 2003


Instaman keeps gnawing at the Lynch story... he's starting to overstate just a little, he's so jazzed.

A 'thorough investigation" that involved unnamed sources making charges that were not checked out, and people saying that the U.S. forces fired blanks, credulous repetition of unconfirmed facts by parties with an interest in lying, and obvious ignorance of matters military, as well as misrepresentation of the coverage at the time, and that has been contradicted by other reports from the scene.

"Unnamed sources": Glenn should read the original story, in the Toronto Star and British Telegraph, that his link links to. There are no unnamed sources: that's a blogger allegation not supported by facts.

"Firing blanks": Only one source says anything about blanks, in the BBC scalp of the Star/Telegraph story, Dr. Anmar Uday to be precise. The original story said nothing about blanks... Uday only elaborates on his story in the BBC retelling. This was obviously a misunderstanding of some kind, and the BBC was rightly called out by Glenn and others originally for airing it without comment.

"Ignorance": Glenn cites Laughing Wolf, who actually believes the original story was more likely a result of Mitch Potter's anti-Americanism than any ignorance on his part. To be clear, we're talking at least three reporters by this point (the Toronto Star's Mitch Potter, the Telegraph's Inigo Gilmore, who is co-writing with him, and the BBC's John Kampfner.) The Potter-Gilmore team, it should be remembered, was also the pair that found those documents linking Al Qaeda to the Hussein regime, which may give some hint as to their bias and experience.

"Misrepresentation": Glenn cites, which claims, without evidence, that all the erroneous stories about Lynch having been shot had already been properly retracted by mainstream media, so the BBC didn't have anything new to say. Funny, I must have missed those retractions... and they must not have made it to the websites, either. For instance, on the Fox news site, the first story that explicitly states that Lynch was not shot is dated May 8... three days after the Potter/Gilmore story appeared. Other sites are similar. So Potter and Gilmore did have a scoop of sorts, it seems.

"Other reports": Glenn cites Salam Pax, whom I'm glad to see he believes in, again... I don't see anything in Salam's cryptic last sentence that can be taken as a flat contradiction of the Potter-Gilmore story... in fact it corroborates it by saying the Iraqi commander had already left the hospital when the Americans came, just as Potter-Gilmore reported.

Bottom line: the BBC rehash was sloppy. But the Potter-Gilmore original is still standing up, despite some pretty fervent efforts at the moment to knock it down. All its major new facts, about Lynch getting good care in her last couple days of captivity, having not been shot, about a previous attempt to hand her over, about the hospital being taken without resistance, have all been grudgingly conceded or corroborated. There's more to come on this story, to be sure, but it's hardly a smear job to produce the first Iraqi eyewitness accounts of an already famous incident.

Glenn also takes the BBC to task for backtracking, claiming that the BBC first claimed the entire rescue was faked, and now that it's just claiming (as I and Glenn both believe) that the Americans maximized their PR return on investment. I just don't see where in the original BBC story that fakery is claimed at all, only "news management"... other than by implication, again, in that one deluded Iraqi doctor's quote. With that exception, Kampfner's story and his "retraction" seem perfectly consistent to me, in fact. Can someone explain to me the retraction Kampfner has supposedly made, again?

UPDATE: Wilbur's blog rises to my challenge, pointing out in an email that the actual transcript of the BBC show was more careless about its choice of words than the BBC internet summary of it that Glenn linked to (NB: in fact, a different witness has the "blanks" quote attributed to him in the longer version). Kampfner's actual lead-in is "This was a script made for Hollywood. Made by the Pentagon." That is, obviously, simply an indefensible statement. I was basing my previous comments above on the summary, which is somewhat more soberly drawn, and doesn't contain those words. So I have to agree now there's been some backpedalling here, in that Kampfner is not standing by that one statement any longer. I still think it's possible to refute the BBC media critic's reporting on Lynch, though and still respect the print work it's based on.

Kampfner's problem is he's using the Lynch story as his centerpiece for a much longer discourse on the new army public affairs. The Lynch reporting is sloppy, and overstated, but I'd say his central thesis still stands up... American military PR is doing things that have never been done before by militaries. It's adding new distortion to some parts of the picture, and clarifying the picture in other ways. As an ersatz military PR pro myself, it's something I've thought long and hard about, and I won't go so far as to wholly condemn Kampfner's rather populist summary. I just wish he'd taken the same care on the Lynch stuff that he did on his main thesis. (NB: Inigo Gilmore, the Telegraph writer, is listed in the credits as being on "camera.")

Once you get past the Lynch stuff, the actual body of the BBC piece is rather valuable, though, particularly British PR chief's Group Capt. Lockwood's unforgettable statement, one that I'm thinking of getting framed for the office: "You've got an upstart woman there who wants to make a bloody name for herself within the television community by grilling an easy victim, which is a military officer. I refuse to be an easy victim." Been there, thought that. And Kampfner makes a good point when he documents how Umm Qasr was reported to have finally fallen on five consecutive days, and Basra on 17. (I was saying the same thing at the time, as a matter of fact.)

This has to be a scoop of some kind:

Kampfner: Simon Wren, Number Ten [Tony Blair]'s man in Doha, has written a confidential note to [British government PR head] Alistair Campbell complaining that the American briefers weren't up to the job. He described the Jessica Lynch presentation as embarrassing.

And this...

Group Capt. Lockwood: The [British] media advisor here was an expert in his field. His counterpart on the US side [Jim Wilkinson] was evasive, was not around as much as he should have been when it came to talking to the media, and in reality what happened was you had two different styles of news media management...

This is good PR-postmortem stuff. A couple careless throwaway lines at the beginning don't change that.

Posted by BruceR at 08:59 PM


The Television Bureau of Canada (TVB) has denied the HomeFront Society of Calgary approval to run the two public service announcements because they were deemed too graphic under Telecaster guidelines...

In the ad titled Boardroom, a female worker corrects a figure given by a male co-worker during a boardroom meeting. The man responds by yelling at the woman, calling her a "stupid bitch" and an "ignorant cow" before grabbing her by the hair and repeatedly slamming her head on a tabletop.

A second ad, called Restaurant, shows a family of four dining at a restaurant. A female waitress accidentally spills coffee while filing up the father?s cup. The father grabs the waitress by the throat, slams her to the table and pours the rest of the coffee in the pot on the screaming waitress while cursing at her.

From the Globe and Mail. You can see the ads yourself here. NOTE: They are realistic and graphic.

McNichol said he hopes posting the commercials on-line will help remove the stigma of talking openly about domestic violence.

So, in other words, the group is trying to mobilize people to work against women getting brutalized by engaging our vicarious thrill at watching a woman getting brutalized. Now, I'm no shrink, but it seems to me you either fall into one of two groups in life. Either you oppose scalding women and making them scream in agony, in which case you can only be angry at this commercial appeal that just forced you to watch the equivalent of an Iraqi torture video in your own living room... or you are in favour of women-beatings, in which case you think the ads in question are just dandy, thanks very much for the violence-porn, keep up the good work.

I can say they didn't change my feelings on domestic violence. I would however, like to beat up a couple ad executives now, if the opportunity presents itself.

UPDATE: No, wait, I'm not finished yet. What's truly offensive here isn't the images themselves, but the appalling subtexts. The woman-brutalizers are both obviously affluent white males, notably. The language of the message is directed straight and exclusively to them, "you don't do this at work, so why do it at home?" In other words, wife-beating is so incredibly common that we felt a need to reach out to the abusers and convince them that in a different setting they would see their actions as obviously socially embarrassing. (Not wrong, just inappropriate, really.) It's not directed at those people who might intervene when they witness or suspect abuse (everyone else in the commercials just stands around gawping) or even at the victim (who just takes it). There's no call to change one's ways to anyone but the abuser, the assumption therefore obviously being that such abusers are so common we can benefit as a society from this kind of direct appeal to them alone to be nicer. (Nor are there any implications that the brutalization is criminal, or would have consequences for them... they just go back to what they were doing before while the women whimper.)

The scenarios also completely downplay the complexity of relationships. No, this is not an apologia for abuse, but living together is just more complex than that. Yes, the ostensible reason for the fight when it gets on a police blotter could be spilling the coffee, but we all know there was a lot of history leading up to that. No one, kids or no kids, stays with someone whose only memorable characteristic is they go batshit for no reason and inflict severe burns on strangers. So the entire picture of the abuser is unrealistic, absent all the other co-indicators of violence: alcohol, poverty, infidelity, family history. (Only maleness remains.) Unlike drunk driving ads, many of which successfully convey the message, "this could be you," NO sane person could possibly identify with the men in these ads, or see their own potential for committing the same kinds of actions in their own, possibly borderline abuses of their spouses, if they don't straighten up first. No one, tonight when the temperature rises in some living room in Calgary, is ever going to stop and hesitate, thinking, "wait a minute; I'm acting just like that white guy in the family restaurant on the internet."

FURTHER UPDATE: Colby chimes in. He actually thought they were funny. I didn't, but I could see how they'd be smile-inducing (if I'd seen them before I heard about them, I might even have giggled, myself). That's a symptom of the same unrealism and lack of identification with the character I'm talking about, actually... they're so far out and absurd the only proper response could be to laugh. I'd say that's exactly the wrong response you want to associate with this societal problem, though.

Posted by BruceR at 06:56 PM


Charles Johnson is getting close to the point of needing a major vacation. The recent spate of Middle Eastern bombings has had the effect of slowly turning the Little Green Footballs site into exactly what its critics always said it was.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I just can't do the "oh, maybe there's hope for them after all!" thing any more.

Like the Greek myth of Cassandra, those who try to tell the truth about the danger [of American Muslim organizations] are accused of lying and bigotry. (Actually, Cassandra was accused of being insane -B.).

And where is this creature getting the funds to pursue the [Florida drivers license] suit? (Creature? -B.)

Another mass murdering Palestinian Arab animal struck today, at a shopping mall in Afula.

THIS MUST STOP... It's time to deal with it on their [the Palestinians'] level and give them the war they want.

Posted by BruceR at 05:22 PM



The Instaman's being a little hard on the BBC, don't you think? In taking on the story on saving Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital, the focus has been on an allegation the Americans were firing blanks. This is, of course, crap, for all kinds of reasons, but it's important to remember that the BBC is just repeating the allegation of an Iraqi doctor in the hospital at the time. I don't know squat about surgery, and this doctor obviously knows squat about firearms. So that would make us even.

What goes unrefuted (detailed in the more sober stories on this topic by the Star/Telegraph team that the BBC was scalping), and seems ever more clear with time, is that Lynch was in fact no longer in imminent danger, and the "rescue" was overdramatized somewhat in the official accounts, for obvious reasons. As Special Ops outings go, it was basically an unnecessarily robust walk in the park. What's still not known is how accurate the Americans' recce picture of the situation at the hospital was. It's fair to say, though, that they took no chances, and were probably prudent to do so. And then the army public affairs officer attached to the whole tableau did the best he could with what he was given. As I likely would have, too, in their place. It'll make a very interesting army PR operational case study some day.

Current army manager of the PR file Bryan Whitman (he's got a fun job) sums it up best:

"If we had good knowledge we could drive in and take her out, we certainly would have done that rather than a joint operation. We don't look to do them in a more difficult, complex way," he said... "It's not up to me to second guess, but I can't imagine we would have done anything differently."

It's not exactly overstated, but if you read carefully Whitman also sets the record straight that Lynch wasn't, in fact, shot, and did not, in fact, expend all her ammunition fighting the Iraqis being captured. So why aren't Sullivan, Instapundit, Blair, and the rest, taking the journalists who told those mistruths to task just as aggressively? You know why as well as I do. It's more fun to pick on the Beeb.

Posted by BruceR at 10:32 AM


The Toronto Star had an editorial cartoon over the weekend, saying Toronto city councillor and now failed mayoral hopeful "Lying Tom" Jakobek had just got a new job as a writer for the New York Times. Not exactly original or funny, but I've held no brief for the contemptible Jakobek, who I always secretly suspected was Art Garfunkel's evil twin (or, on other days, vice versa). But the Star, with conspiro-loons Antonia Zerbisias and Michele Landsberg on its slate of columnists, leading another dozen or so lesser known lights, probably shouldn't talk about the Times so jocularly.

For once again, this weekend, we have Landsberg criticizing NORAD response to Sept. 11. We've been here before. She concedes that Al Qaeda destroyed the WTC and airliners... her accusation now, when you cut through the crap, is apparently that the American high command knew of the plot, and did nothing to stop it, for some unknown reason.

She cites as her authoritative source Paul Thompson's timeline at, which, for all its flaws, at least makes some pretensions towards relevant citations, and completeness. I have a certain patience for anyone, like Thompson, who at least claims to be trying to lay out the facts for others to draw conclusions. (And I do feel that the Americans never got around to the proper headrolling that such a massive intelligence and airport security failure deserved. Not one resignation. Not one.)

Of course, Thompson's timeline has its problems... it fixates for instance, in its 8:46 a.m entry on the fact that F-16s (probably Air National Guard) stationed at Andrews AFB were doing air-to-ground training in North Carolina that morning, and didn't make it back in time, either. Given that they were configured air-to-ground, it seems unlikely they would have had any live ordnance loaded that could have contributed to the air defence situation, so the point's moot. (And as we've said before, the Andrews F-16s are manned by part-time pilots and have never been part of the Washington defence picture.) In another, it obsesses about F-15 top speeds... it's an unlettered analysis, and we've discussed that before in another context, too.

But what I find really confusing is that Landsberg then proceeds to ignore Thompson's timeline, almost completely. Indeed, she more or less discredits it by citing it saying things it doesn't even say:

On that fateful morning, the first pictures of the burning tower were broadcast at 8:48 a.m. By then, according to a carefully documented timeline... the Federal Aviation Administration, NORAD (joint U.S.-Canada air defence), the Pentagon, the White House and the Secret Service all knew that three commercial passenger jets had been hijacked.

There is no reference in the timeline that matches this statement that I can see. In fact, the timeline correctly cites 8:50 a.m. as the first indication that a third plane is non-responsive and possibly hijacked.

Just two days after the catastrophe, on Sept. 13, Gen. Myers was confirmed as the new chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On that day, he told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that no Air Force jets got into the air until after the attack on the Pentagon [9:38 a.m.].

Myers' quote, again is actually accurately given in the timeline: "After the second tower was hit, [9:03 a.m.] I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General Eberhart. And at that point, I think the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft."

Landsberg also cites the Boston Globe's Sept. 15 story on the NORAD response, which quotes a NORAD spokesperson saying that no fighters had been scrambled until 9:40 a.m. Given that Myers had testified as to the time above, and given the utter lack of corroborating evidence (the two F-15 pilots from Otis AFB who went wheels up at 8:52 a.m. have been extensively quoted by now, for instance), this was certainly a misstatement or a misquote, and was not mentioned in the Globe's first major investigative piece on the disaster, heavily relied on in the timelines, dated eight days later. Apparently the Globe didn't think it was an accurate statement, by that point: it only lives on now in the conspiracy corner of the internet. Even Thompson's timeline doesn't cite it.

Quibbling over Thompson's timeline would be a profitable expenditure of time. But when Landsberg cites it as her main source for her newly ratcheted-down doubts about Sept. 11, and then doesn't even read it or quote it correctly, what are we supposed to conclude? Again, I ask, where is this woman's editor when she needs them?

PS: Landsberg, for the full-disclosure record, is the mother of TV talksthingy Avi Lewis, wife of former NDP leader Stephen Lewis, and hence mother-in-law of my former colleague Naomi Klein (and, just coincidentally I'm sure, sister-in-law of WTC replacement architect Daniel Libeskind). No, I've never met her.

Posted by BruceR at 09:57 AM

May 15, 2003


Well, now it turns out that in addition to holding their budget speech in private at an auto plant instead of in front of the people, the Ontario government has now granted itself the next six months' operating funds in secret, without debate or approval.

With the Legislature building in Toronto now effectively the Museum of Ontario Democracy, one is reminded, as we were in the Devine years in Saskatchewan, that when Tory politicians go bad, they go very very bad indeed. Ontario citizens are now essentially in the same consensual relationship to taxation and the spending of the proceeds thereof that American colonists were in 1774, or indeed Ontario voters in 1837.

The simple fact is that, while these Tories may claim that they will only use their new powers for good (lowering taxes on the elderly being their big and deeply cynical election promise) the removal of any restrictions on government power they have launched can inevitably be used the next time they, or anyone else in their place, wants to raise taxes, too. Never mind any requirement for public oversight over expenditure, either. The Ontario government has, effectively, declared themselves an unelected tyranny. It's fair to say now that any self-proclaimed "conservative" who still works for or supports their extension at this point, is, as Orwell would have said, objectively pro-dictatorship.

Posted by BruceR at 11:29 AM


Cecil T. in Flitters comes back on the defence policy proposals below (parts 1 -- 2 -- 3 -- 4). It's a thoughtful post: here's my response.

Most of your approach appears to be looking for an analogous situation among other nations and modeling a force similar to their template, designed to a bearable cost. However, each of these nations has a distinct strategic environment and tailored response (e.g., Australia, an island nation with many relatively weak and restive neighbors, focuses on an amphibious brigade). If form follows function, an analysis of Canada's national defense strategy seems to be the first step.

I don't think I went looking for analogies, so much as used them when I found them, actually. I agree Australia has a sound response to its current situation, but I'm not sure it's as different functionally from Canada as Cecil makes out. They have structured a force to intervene regionally before regional problems come to them. There are few better modern or historical analogues to the North American situation, where millions in two countries have been for two centuries essentially free of the threat of conventional war. Like Australia (or Britain, in the 19th century) our "defence", if we are to have one, must then be a "forward defence," involving power projection. As I observed, the primary limiting factor on Canadian operations over the last 15 years has not been money, or national will, but a legacy Cold War structure that made more sense when it was centred on fighting from fixed bases in Germany, but now leaves us without many options in the post-Cold War. All that stuff below was just meant as a rational road map out of that gridlock.

But I think it's fair to say that the defence policy options, given the geographical realities for Canada, Australia, or the U.S., boil down to two. We can go to the problems, or we can stay home and save the cash for other things besides defence.

Some obvious threats are 1) an invasion from the US, 2) nuclear missiles (whether targeting the US or Canada), 3) naval incursions in Canada's territorial waters or EEZ, or (less probably) 4) some sort of amphibious assault or 5) airborne attack. (A Canadian can probably come up with a better list.) Responses might be: 1) impossible, so diplomatic approach is required; 2) work with US on NMD program; 3) coastal defense force; 4) ditto plus modest land force; 5) interceptor force/alliance/NMD (or ignore it as low probability threat).

One could add, of course, that those are more or less the only threats that the American military faces, too, if it chose to stay home. It doesn't, and the world is glad, more or less, for it. But none of the threats above, I would argue, are credible or likely in the near or even long-term -- not even naval incursions (why? to get the cod?). Besides geographical limitations, there are simply no adversaries... nor any foreseeable ones, were Canada to embark on an isolationist course. Earthquakes in B.C. are a far greater threat than all of them combined. It is essentially a neutralist, isolationist position to pretend those are the threats. No, North America has no need to plan, for the most part, for its own "defence," in the literal sense, Canada even less than America. So... what?

It appears to me that most of the requirements (that can be met) can be met with relatively modest forces. And that the main consideration is a close alliance with the US. If the primary goal is national defense, interoperable forces with strong military ties would seem to be in order. And that there is considerable leeway in structuring those forces. But a unilaterally deployable brigade-level force is of questionable value, as is any plausible naval expeditionary force.

The simple fact is that, given Canada's vast expanse and sparse population, a military force that could actually intervene anywhere domestically would also greatly benefit from all the capabilities I've been talking about, too. We have minimal ability to intervene rapidly now along the Northern B.C. shore or the Labrador coastline, or in Northern Ontario. Even in situations like the Winnipeg flood or Quebec ice storm, it took inordinate time for the forces to gather. The Americans are, in truth, better able to more quickly send forces to all those places than we are at the moment. That's what people really mean when we talk about turning over defence to the Americans... if a deadly earthquake hits Prince Rupert tomorrow, it will be the Americans, if anyone, who are able to help the civilian authorities save lives, for instance. The improved ability to exert national sovereignty over such an insanely large nation, if we needed to, actually flows from international deployability, too.

But I think my synopsis of the Alliance platform also indicated why territorial defence cannot be the primary priority. Canadians are not stupid. They can see there is no real territorial defence threat to their lives. So they will spend their money on something else, instead (in the case of earthquakes, an enhanced emergency measures organization, perhaps). Instead of "modest" forces, you would have none to speak of. Canadians would go on, get rich, scold the Americans occasionally, and live immeasurably happier lives than the vast majority of the world's population. Oh, we'd feel guilty about it. But that's the alternative to internationalism... one Quebec political leaders have been touting to the country for over a century now, it should be added.

Because there is no real conventional defence threat to Canadian soil, there is no need for a close U.S. military alliance, either. It's nice to have, of course, if you can get it for a fair price... again, as I said in reference to the Alliance platform, it is not a vision that will inspire any spending or interest... especially in a time when the Americans seem so disinterested in having permanent alliances, or particularly grateful to the allies they have. Not that I blame them... I'm just saying.

And we HAVE focussed on interoperable forces... to the point at which our navy and air force essentially can't operate outside an American force structure, and the army can't even leave Canada without them. The leaders of the three services are closer to their American counterparts than to each other, in fact... Canada has no real ability any more for joint-service operations. As we've seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, even in a situation where we felt key Canadian interests were at stake, at best we could only get involved when the Americans get some planes and ships free that they could use to bring us over. In a real crisis, the Americans have got better things to do with their troop lift. And in a case like Rwanda, where the Americans are hell-bent on staying out, we have no foreign policy options at all. The Americans couldn't even ask us, as they did the British in Sierra Leone or Australia in East Timor, to conduct a proxy operation for them. It's hard to see, other than economic savings to Canadians, any benefit of this current approach to either the Americans or us. So the key is not, in any case, "unilaterally deployable," so much as "independently deployable," a capability that would be a boon regardless of our orientation to the Americans.

If cooperation with the US is politically undesirable, it would appear that additional forces would be required (though the response to threat #1 would be to assume it wouldn't happen--probably a safe bet). Also, a coastal maritime focus would be prudent. Excess capacity would still be available for peacekeeping or other UN-related functions, but it's hard to see how that would enhance Canadian security.

I don't know how valid any of this is, but it seems to me the difference in approaches I've seen largely stem from differing grand strategy visions--and it also seems to me the effort would be profitably spent in debating those considerations.

As I said above, a focus on territorial defence will result in no excess capacity at all. The armed forces will just inevitably and progressively disband. To say that international operations don't enhance Canadian security is, in the American context, the equivalent of Buchanan saying America shouldn't have fought Germany. Yes, isolationism and a foreign policy of just cheering/booing the Americans from the sidelines could well be to Canadians' financial benefit. But one could also argue it's an abdication of a rich nation's responsibility in the larger world. If Canada had a battalion right now it could deploy independently of assistance and fold into a British or American division keeping the peace in Iraq right now, would anyone really object? If we could have honoured the American requests to stay on in Afghanistan last year, would we still not have stayed on, because that wouldn't have contributed to "Canadian security?" Only in the narrowest sense of what our security really is... an isolationist position that I personally don't think in today's world is either morally or practically defensible. 24 dead Canadians on Sept. 11, 2 dead Canadians in Bali, and the injured Canadians in Riyadh this week tell me that's so. But many disagree, and I still consider that an honest disagreement. But I think it's fair to say if we want to have some way to effect those circumstances that are killing those Canadians, then some kind of rearmament, one that enhances our independence of operations, will be necessary.

Posted by BruceR at 10:43 AM

May 14, 2003


Okay, if you talk amongst people who more or less share the assumptions about Canada's military below, you find they basically at this point split into two camps. One argues that we should beef up our maritime deployment and littoral combat capability in a unified force framework... their model of course being the US Marine Corps. The other camp argues that we should be looking at the air-deployable brigade experiments that the US Army under Shinseki has been working on... particularly because all the LAV variants that arm the "Interim Brigade Combat Team" are more or less coming off an assembly line in London, Ont.

Both sides have been better argued in scholarly papers elsewhere. So just to be different, I'm going to propose a variation that I haven't seen written up before, yet. Why not do BOTH?

Think about it. Canada has two coasts, more or less, and its army has for years been structured into three regionally based brigades: 1 Brigade in the west, 2 in Ontario, and 5 in Quebec (there are also some brigade-less assets in the Maritimes, more or less centred on the major training centre at Gagetown, New Brunswick). Each brigade can, if it uses reservists extensively, keep the equivalent of a reinforced infantry battalion overseas, more or less indefinitely if it has to. The trick is to find a way to get them overseas that doesn't involve the heavy use of American or civilian-leased transport aircraft, and civilian cargo vessels for the vehicles, as it does now.

So imagine a best-case model, where the navy had enough assets that it could, when needed, move one brigade's ready battalion and its equipment, from a base, on each coast. 1 Brigade gets the Pacific, 5 Brigade gets the Atlantic. 2 Brigade, meanwhile, being in the middle, invests heavily in the air-portable model, being able to land with its kit out of C-130s anywhere in the world. No matter where in the world the problem was, in other words, a Canadian battalion could be headed there.

The comparator in this case on the naval side is Australia. Using 2 8,500-ton ex-US LSTs and a 5,800 ton roll-on roll-off ship, the Australians can currently land 900 troops (a battalion-plus) and a squadron of Leopard tanks anywhere, even on a hostile shore. We don't even need to be that good... we could assume, as there almost always is, that there is a friendly port within driving distance, and focus instead on the ro-ro capabilities, and optimize for landing roughly the same size force in a neutral or friendly port (obviously some secondary shore landing capability would be helpful, but we don't necessarily need all our ships to be "beachable"... in Iraq the ability to launch helicopter operations seemed far more important). You could probably do it with 2-3 Aussie-type ships per coast, plus a fleet replenishment ship, with the follow-on kit transported in civilian vessels. Such a force could be integrated in British, Australian or US Marine littoral operations, or provide troops for the land operations of those or any other armies. (The British RN currently uses three much larger ships to transport its commando brigade, capable of collectively carrying around 1600 men and a dozen heavy tanks).

While 2 brigades started working with the navy, the central Canada brigade would be working with the Air Force (the primary logistical "airhead" for CF operations abroad is actually Trenton, Ont.). Using enhanced transport assets (the Americans are chucking a lot of their C-130s for firesale prices at the moment) and an equipment restriction that it either has to fit in a Herc or it goes to one of the other two brigades, this brigade would focus on getting its ready battalion into a plane, off the tarmac, and landing down anywhere else in the world with a clear runway, and then sustaining them there.

(This obviously doesn't mean that Western troops would all be called Marines and Ontario troops "airborne". The units within the brigades could switch around, and some deployments (those with lots of leadtime) could head out in the usual, more leisurely ways, leaving the "ready battalion" still, well, ready. But the brigade staffs would be trained in their area's particular specialty, with direct liaison with their naval or air counterparts, procurement decisions would be guided by the inherent limitations, and the mission of the army as a whole would refocus on the difficult task of providing two battalions for sea deployment and one for air deployment within hours of the Government needing them).

Okay, so what's got to get lost or be added, in each service?

The army, if it were ever fully manned, would be more or less ready to go already. The new LAV APCs are C-130 portable, and even have some limited amphibious capability. The assets that could only go by sea, the Leopard 1s and 155 mm howitzers, are already all with 1 Brigade out west... some could be moved to Quebec, or it could just be assumed they'd entrain from there to the east if heavy assets were deemed necessary and plugged into the 5 Brigade orbat after they came east. There is a residual paratroop and airmobile capability... more opportunities for training (which would come when we had our own boat) would bring us up to speed on the Marine stuff pretty quickly... and again, in the Brits, U.S., and Australians, we have good models. The rest of their kit is, pound for pound, as good as those other nations'.

The navy would naturally see a change of role, but not a huge one. The difference between escorting and protecting a big landing ship loaded with helicopters and an aircraft carrier is only one of degree. The 12 Canadian frigates are purpose-built for this task, are highly rated worldwide, and have a lot of life in them. There would still no doubt be roles in American task forces, too, but that wouldn't be the naval arm's entire reason for being anymore... occasionally they'd need to support Canadian troops. The purchases of new transport ships would force some tough choices, though... most obviously the 4 soon-to-be-retired destroyers could not, at the same time, be replaced by new ships of the same class, as the navy hopes they will. Going from 16 surface combatants down to 12 (the same as Australia) would be a blow. The other problem would be the fact that Canadian ships aren't really configured at the moment to provide fire support... they were never designed with that in mind. The frigates can provide air, surface, and subsurface cover, but they can't provide naval gunfire in any real sense.

The options would seem to be, when the current frigates start need replacing them, replacing them with something like a coastal operations frigate, like the German MEKO 200 class, rather than more fleet frigates; or, possibly, tearing the destroyers down to the hull and rebuilding them as naval gunfire support vessels, perhaps with a couple 5-inch guns, one in place of the helicopter hangar possibly, and a vertical launch system with Harpoon missiles. They might even be able to continue to serve in their current role as squadron flagships. Even if the redesign was made-in-Canada, which it would pretty much have to be, it still might be cheaper than purchasing new vessels and might bridge the gap until the frigate force can be reconfigured.

One thing it would be a shame to lose, regardless, would be the remaining limited submarine capability. Canada has had a submarine arm since 1914. Like carrier operations, it's a skill set that once lost, is almost impossible to regain. Currently, however, the 4 ex-British conventional subs coming on line are by necessity confined to one base on the Atlantic, and only capable of basically coastal operations... if they were to be kept, in line with our idea of maximum deployability, some kind of submarine tender capability might be helpful. They're not needed for coastal defence... they're needed abroad.

The air force would be the service that really suffers in this model, simply because something would have to give, somewhere. What is desperately needed for any forward movement in the CF right now is a renewed commitment to transport aircraft and helicopters, both for combat and for transport. The naval transport ships would need to be flush with helicopters... other helicopters would be needed to provide fire support for the airmobile brigade, which would also need a significant increase in our heavy airlift and air-to-air refueling capability. Even if the lion's share of the new money went to the air force to support these new role (which it would have to) there would never be additional funds to refurbish or rearm the CF-18s, or as so many in the air force now hope, replace them in a few years with the new F-35s.

Getting out of fixed-wing air operations is the tradeoff, but it's hard to see how it isn't necessary. Buying the F-35, in most estimates, would be the ONLY major CF procurement program for a decade if it went through, under the current budget. Everything else would have to wait. The question Canadians have to ask is which gives them more influence in the circles they want to be in... a couple squadrons of attack jets, or a couple battalions of peacekeepers. Because the choice is really coming down to an either/or at this point... modern aircraft just cost too much. I think it's clear I think the latter gives our political leaders more flexibility for changing circumstances than the former. But not everyone agrees, obviously.

The comparator in this case to my mind is New Zealand, who realized a few years ago that, situated as we are, far from the action, replacing their fleet of obsolescent Skyhawks, and the distortion that purchase would make to the rest of their defence budget, was simply not cost-effective. The RNZAF now has no combat aircraft at all. They realized, as even defenders of the CF-18 must concede, that they can never comprise much more than a few extra airframes and trained pilots for some other, larger air effort by a superpower, relying on others for basing, weapons loadouts, fighter and early warning cover, reconnaissance, etc. etc., and even collectively capable of little more damage by themselves than a single B-1 bomber. In any conceivable circumstance, Canada's fighters can only be something of a flag-waving exercise. In 5-10 years, our CF-18s will be as obsolete as those Skyhawks were, so maybe it's time to close this chapter of our history.

(History's always tough to leave behind, of course, but the Kiwis managed to do it. Their Collin Gray scored 28 kills in combat in World War 2, only three less than Canada's "Screwball" Beurling, but they've moved on. Anyway, while one loves the Canadian Spitfire pilot stories, there were a lot of Canadians flying Typhoons and other aircraft in the ground-attack role, too... I wonder if that legacy isn't better translated into what the Apaches and Cobras do on the battlefield today. If there had been attack helicopters back then, they'd be part of our legend, too, to be sure.)

It's all back-of-the-envelope stuff, but I really think you could get there from here for $15 billion a year. It's hard to imagine, with the possible exception of the Kosovo air campaign, where the military described above couldn't have been of more and more visible use to our allies than the current one was, and done more good on the ground. And that should surely be the implicit promise if the military hopes to draw any more support than it gets out of the Canadian taxpayer.

PS: The F-35, it should be added, is supposed to have short takeoff and vertical landing capability... that's why the Marines and Brits are planning to replace their Harriers with it. (In the USAF it will replace the F-16 and A-10). A couple might even be able to operate off something like the Australians' LSTs, or their Canadian equivalents in this scenario. Yet no one really knows how many an export version of the F-35B to Canada will end up costing, but no one thinks the sticker price to Canadians is going to be less than $4 billion for the 50-60 planes needed.

PPS: I think the wildest ideas of mine above are actually the reusing the destroyers as ad hoc coastal frigates, because the fleet frigates don't have a big gun. Naval gunfire just doesn't have the importance to high-intensity battle it once did, however... actual shells from the ships in the Persian Gulf in this last war were few and far between (and, it should be added, despite zero naval resistance, complete air superiority, and no ground defenses to speak of, there was no real interest in amphibious landings other than by special ops either, which is why actual beachable Landing Ships per se may not be necessary if what you used instead has got a good helideck). A vessel capable of providing naval gunfire support could, however, be of more use if the Canadians were operating in a low-intensity operation free of the Americans. So that's a capability we do not at present possess, but I'm arguing may ideally be worth bringing back.

Posted by BruceR at 02:48 PM


One way to envision military change is not to talk in terms of what to cut or what to add, but to talk about an ideal vision. The Alliance vision makes no tough choices at all, is focussed on a mission Canadians frankly aren't interested in, and costs more than is ever conceivably going to be available. So let's propose an alternate one. I'm not saying it's the only possibility, or even MY only possibility. But it's one alternative.

I'm assuming throughout a $15 billion (in 2003 Cdn dollars) absolute ceiling on military expenditures, or 1.5% of GDP (equivalent to Germany or Belgium in per capita terms). About $3 billion more to play with than now. I'm also assuming a continuing Canadian ambivalence (call it triangulation if you want) between supporting U.S. efforts and seeking other multilateral solutions for the world's problems as well. An ideal armed force would have to support a wide range of different policy stances, to avoid limiting the government's options... collaborating with the U.S. on a local issue, working as part of a western coalition, NATO or non, or working even as a UN partner, depending on the situation.

I'm also assuming that the theatre of operations for Canada will, as it has been for the last 50 years, almost exclusively be Southern Europe, Africa, or Southern Asia, and in a more or less unipolar world framework in which we can basically assume the tolerance, if not the support of America, for our aims, if only because our aims will in large part be seen as contributing to a the kind of political stability that favours other Western interests just as much as our own (we won't ever go abroad for plunder or conquest, for instance). This means that, for instance, the most advanced military capabilities (like satellite imagery, or stealth aircraft, or carrier battle groups, or strategic bombers), if not actually available to us, will not be available to our opponents, either.

I'm also assuming that any proven domestic needs, will, as they always have been through Canadian military history, be served just as ably by trained soldiers whose primary focus of training and procurement is actually overseas service. Canada is a huge country, and any capability we have to move our troops to trouble spots abroad positively improves our ability to move troops within the country as well. Likewise with anti-terrorism, or intelligence... the capabilities that make your special forces or NBC units useful in foreign settings can only improve your domestic response ability as well. It is backwards, therefore, to fully man the "homeland defence" apparatus, and use the leftovers for foreign commitments... our defence in North America is always going to be a forward, interventionist defence, that hopefully puts the majority of the battles in someone else's country.

Oh, one more thing... I'm going to assume that in future, both coasts of Canada assume equal importance. We've always been a bit player, navally, in the Pacific... the only reason for this was the larger demands put on us by the NATO alliance. There is an opportunity, or perhaps even a requirement, now to move closer to parity in this regard.

If one looks back on the primary limiting factor in the last 15 years on Canadian military operations (and hence on foreign policy planners as well), it has been rapid, independent, sustainable deployability. It prevented us from even considering many missions where we could have done some good (Congo, Rwanda, reinforcing our own troops in Yugoslavia when it was still a UN mandate, the most recent Gulf War, etc., etc.) It has also prevented us from doing as much as we could or wanted to in the missions we did accept (Afghanistan, Gulf War 1, Kosovo, East Timor, etc., etc.) In all cases there was a will, but no way: it stands to reason that if the military of the future is to be any better than it is today, if that $3 billion in spending is going to make a difference, then it has to be with this as its focus.

Of course, the troops that are most often needed were to be ground troops. Not because you need "boots on the ground," necessarily, but because ground deployment is basically the only kind that is useful regardless of the level of allied support, and across the spectrum of operational intensity. High, middle or low, with allies or without, soldiers are still useful... combat air power and naval assets less so. A destroyer can't peacekeep. A CF-18 can't defend a no-fire zone. An infantry company can. Yes, other assets can be useful too, but they inevitably must be one piece in larger allied operations. Canada could someday have the best attack helicopters in the world (for instance); it arguably has the best armoured recce unit or the best disaster assistance teams in the world now, but those are capabilities that, if Canada doesn't also provide the foot soldiers, someone else has to for us. It's good to have a few nichey, specialized tasks your country is very very good at... but for flexibility's sake you always want to have that one capability that always comes in handy, for us or any other army, in any circumstance. And that's trained and well-equipped combat soldiers.

So if we want to make things better, we need to be able to project ground power overseas. How?

Posted by BruceR at 01:41 PM


Okay, so the Alliance paper was silly. What do you suggest, Bruce? Well, I have no monopoly on vision, for sure. Every lettered soldier I've ever talked to has their own idea of what a sound Canadian military should look like. Every one of those visions has a soundness and realism that the Alliance plan lacks. But I think it's fair to say that any plan that has any resonating appeal contains a few similar assumptions.

Assumption number one is always that Canada has never really retooled since the Cold War ended, and that's a big part of the problem. This, I'm afraid, is a big part of the current stasis. In the 1990s, the size of the military shrank dramatically, its foreign bases were withdrawn, but there was never really any attempt to kit out for new challenges.

The navy, which had focussed almost exclusively for 40 years on the question of how best to protect Atlantic shipping headed for a war with the Soviets, managed to find itself a new role for the same light escort ships... carrier escorts for the Americans. This they, by all accounts, do quite well. It makes them our most noticed service abroad, in constant demand (you can never have too many carrier escorts), and also almost completely incapable of operating outside of the carrier battle group framework. Lacking any modern logistical ships, without the maritime helicopters essential to independent surface operations, and without much surface-to-shore weaponry, they are, for instance, completely useless in any conceivable peacekeeping support role. They, along with the excellent Naval Reserve (a world-leading example of how to matching mission to capability using part-time soldiers) can do shore patrols, of course, but while this is an essential role, it doesn't require ultra-modern kit, as there hasn't been a serious naval sovereignty challenge to speak of on this continent since 1945.

The combat wing of the air force has, too, entered into a period of existing for the purpose of existing to placate the Americans, more for budget-cutting reasons than anything else in its case. Coming at the end of the Cold War, the CF-18 was an excellent purchase in its day, and has led Canadian participation in the First Gulf and Kosovo Wars. They obviously have no peacekeeping utility to speak of. And while our contribution of a couple squadrons to continental defence more than anything else has secured our place in NORAD for 50 years, it's also fair to say there hasn't been a single challenge in those 50 years that actually required Canadian airspace to be defended. Nor, with the long range bomber now a tool exclusively in the hands of Americans for the foreseeable future, will there ever be. As was shown on Sept. 11, the kinds of asymmetrical warfare challenges faced by the airspace are not fightable with Sidewinder missiles.

That leaves the combat wing of the air force purely as our major potential contribution to any high-intensity conflict. It's our trading card, for something like a Gulf War 2 (the Navy, as we saw, is now so tightly a part of the American naval force mix it's likely going to be integrated into any American operations anyway... as Chretien found the trick with them is not getting them into the force mix, but keeping them OUT.) But the value of that card has starkly diminished in the last 15 years. These planes need the latest communications systems, and stockpiles of guided weapons, things Canada struggles to afford... they also need bases close to the action, which we don't have, which inevitably means becoming the second, lodger squadron at an existing U.S. or NATO base. With our air-to-air refueling assets still being slowly rebuilt, they're not even capable of rapid deployment without American assistance. Plus the value of the jet fighter seems to be diminishing... attempts to bring American-backed forces into air-to-air combat are widely recognized to be futile, and once air dominance is assured, the B-1s and B-52s are far more effective, per dollar, per sortie and per life, in bringing ordnance down on target in the era of GPS.

Keeping the air force in the game has had its rewards, to be sure. But at what cost? The rotary-wing arm has languished... Canada has never had anything like an attack helicopter. The transport wing does manful service, but its Hercs are getting old. We have perhaps the world's largest group of highly trained airspace controllers, without any early warning or battlespace control assets of our own. And we have no UAVs. As far as the army is concerned, the air force has had no tactical utility to them whatsoever: there's no interoperability to speak of, and they frankly work in almost entirely separate worlds. Keeping the CF-18s flying, keeping that option open to send a few to help NATO if we had to, has cost us a lot in other places.

That leaves the army, the most neglected of the services in many ways, but also the one with the most potential. If Canada takes any kind of U.S.-independent, or even independently sustainable course in the world, be it UN peacekeeping or what have you, other than the air force's transports and scout helicopters, the rest of the services essentially have nothing to contribute. The army has to, by necessity, continue to train for the possibility of warfare at all intensities... while its kit is not world-leading, it's not too bad for the tasks given. Assuming there had been a national will, it wasn't actually kit deficiencies that kept the army out of the Iraq war... an integrable battalion, at least as good as some of the British battalions sent, could have been there. No, the real problem there would have been the complete lack of any ability to project Canadian force in any timely or self-sustainable fashion. The Canadian troops going to Afghanistan in the next few months will do so on leased civilian air transport, with their gear sent by civilian ship. Any Canadian army commitment assumes by necessity the existence of a secure communications zone beforehand, and American airlift to boot... as Chretien found out in contemplating a UN-Canadian Congo mission, that basically means the U.S. has a veto power over any low-intensity operations, and is too busy fighting its own war to drag us along in high-intensity ones. If we did have the sustainment apparatus, the most we'll ever have in my lifetime is the equivalent of at one brigade, in total, to contribute to someone else's foreign operations. Fortunately, one brigade of well-trained troops, as the Americans just showed, can go a long way these days.

That more or less sums up the Canadian strategic situation, I'd say. The question then becomes, given your own chosen foreign policy objectives, and an absolute cap of around $3 billion Cdn. more a year, and the simple fact that all equipment gets old sooner or later and the stuff we have now needs to start getting replaced now, what capabilities do you discard, which do you keep, and which do you add? Forget the old canards, always signs of the unsound plans out there, of roles for reservists, special forces, or anything that refers to "the Revolution in Military Affairs".* That's all icing. The central question is, given your beliefs about the future of world conflicts, what is our overriding national goal at this point and for the next generation, and how do all three services need to be reconfigured to collectively support it?

*I believe in the RMA. I just don't think it's relevant to this debate, at least until some overriding questions about roles and strategic priorities are settled first.

Posted by BruceR at 11:14 AM

May 13, 2003


Joe K. of Winds of Change writes to ask a summary of my thoughts on Cdn. defence policy. That could take all year, so instead for now I'll just focus on one new contribution to the debate Joe's site links to: the Alliance Party defence platform.

Okay, well, any white paper that unironically calls itself "The New North: Strong and Free" is in a hole from the start. But it doesn't get a whole lot better. The bottom line is, of course, the funding model. The Alliance doesn't exactly spell it out, but do the math and you realize they are calling for an ultimate increase in the annual budget from the current $12 billion a year to $22 billion. This is, it has to be recognized, about as serious a proposition in Canadian politics as Dr. Evil demanding "one hundred BILLION dollars" from Tim Robbins' presidential character in Austin Powers 2. As Robbins replied, "that's like saying I want a gazillion bagillion dollars." So this is a fundamentally unserious paper from the start.

(The Alliance justifies this by noting, correctly, that Canada's economy is half the size of Britain's and just over half the size of France's, so we should spend half as much as they do. Of course, these are countries with nuclear deterrents, UN veto powers, and extensive ex-colonialist obligations, too... differences lost on the Alliance it seems. Better comparators for the "right" level of Canadian defence spending would be countries like Germany or Belgium, at 1.5% of GDP... equivalent to $15 billion in Canadian terms, or $3 billion more a year than we spend today. The Canadian public may well -- it's never really been tried -- be susceptible to an argument that being more pathetic militarily than Belgium is a bad place for us to be... but trying to bring us to a Big Five level of responsibility is a Quixotic windmill tilt, at best.)

So, what do we do with the gazillion bagillion dollars? Well, everything, it seems. The Alliance correctly ticks off everything that Canada would have to buy to be considered a serious "all-singing, all-dancing" contributor to the preservation of Western supremacy. Star Wars? Check. (Recommendation #1) A new airborne regiment and attack helicopters? Check. (#10). A mechanized brigade? Check. (#11). UAVs? Check. (#13). F-35 Joint Strike Fighters? Check. (#14) Stockpiles of precision weapons? Check. (#15). New transport aircraft? Check. (#16). New submarines (not those new ones, even newer ones.) Check. (#19 and 20). New logistics ships? Check. (#21). New destroyers? Check. (#22). New maritime helicopters? Check. (#23). Tripling the size of the army reserve? (HA! Check.) (#26). An aircraft carrier... (#24).

Okay, they lost me at the carrier, I have to confess. It's not that all these ideas aren't militarily sound (although the fact that new tanks didn't get in, while the entire air force and naval wishlists did, shows the relative lack of power of the army advocates in Ottawa at the moment). It's just that there's no sense of prioritization, or any recognition of what tasks and roles are more important. Of course, when you start with the assumption you're playing with a gazillion bagillion dollars, why even try to make the tough choices?

The main function of this new military is largely, the paper concedes, to impress the Americans. "There is now no more important Canadian policy interest for Canada than maintaining the ability to exercise effective influence in Washington so as to advance unique Canadian policy objectives. A sound and credible national defence is essential to being able to advance those interests effectively." The paper basically assumes the UN is a dead institution and NATO is moribund, and that all will exist in diplomatic terms in the foreseeable future is whatever ad hoc alliances the Americans choose to make for themselves.

Again, not unsound. But hardly a public rallying cry, either. Is making Washington like us a little more really worth another $10 billion a year to the electorate? When there's no visible downside to our not being friends with them? When the whole thrust of American foreign policy at the moment is to free itself of any entanglements with alliances? Certainly not... an equally logical response to the conditions the Alliance paper outlines would be to let defence die out as an interest pretty much altogether and put the money into healthcare. After all, it's not like the Americans need any help at the moment. Nor do they seem willing to make any firm commitments in return... we have all seen the short shrift given U.S. allies from Britain to Pakistan when it comes to something like reducing a punishing trade tariff. Since anteing up seems to have no effect on Washington's regard for them... there are no plans for any replacement body which Canada might want to seek a seat on, a United Democratic Nations, or what have you... there is, as far as one can see, no payoff for the investment. (A state visit? A trip to the ranch?) The Alliance is certainly hard-pressed to find one way that their supplicant policy would improve Canadian lives, and the voters will inevitably see through that.

The Alliance paper's inevitable response when it comes across this difficult question is, "There were Canadians at Vimy! There were Canadians at D-Day!" etc. Which is all well and good, but those wars weren't launched on to improve the standing of Canadians in the Pentagon or Whitehall. Canadians saw evils in the world that they wanted to fight, and launched armies to fight them. Without something in the wider world we feel a need to change, the natural historical tendency of Canadians, otherwise isolated from the rest of the world and its troubles, is to voluntarily disarm and just go on with our lives... from 1815 to 1855, for instance, there were no indigenous Canadian military forces whatever, not a soldier to be counted, and no one seemed to mind then, either. This paper, in its obsession over GDPs and relative submarine numbers, just doesn't see this. In its obsession on an appropriate level of spending, it's failed to define any overriding national cause worth spending it on.

The cause doesn't even have to be a great evil that must be fought, either... Canadians, accustomed to a certain residual frontierism, are natural adventurers, and with a natural urge to help their neighbours and share their vast wealth (true of both recent immigrants and earlier ones), have needed only the thinnest of pretexts to head off and muckle in somewhere. In the 19th century, French Canadians rallied around the Papal Armies in the Garibaldi Wars. In the 20th, we poured overseas to fight in the Spanish Civil War, and Vietnam (Events all un-noted in the Alliance paper.) Part of Pearson's genius in the 1950s was to harness this apparently intrinsic Canadian high-spiritedness to a useful foreign policy objective (avoiding the potential NATO schism over Suez through the UNEF mission).

The Alliance paper assumes that world Pearson knew is dead, perhaps rightly. But they're never going to replace that in taxpayers' or even soldiers' minds, with a dream of being liked by the Americans as our new major objective in life. We've got better things to do with our lives and our money. Their foreign policy vision needs to drive the defence one. Having none to speak of, their defence plan was essentially a dead letter when it was written.

Posted by BruceR at 11:46 AM

May 12, 2003


This never occurred to me before. Thirty-five years have elapsed, and in every day of every week of every one of those years, the presence of a bear in the jungle has not troubled me. If Walt Disney said there were panthers and pythons in the wheat fields of the Dakotas, I would have bought it. Think of it: he had the trust of an entire generation, and his worst abuse was the fanciful interpolation of ursine archetypes into rain-forest settings.

Lileks, today. Okay, first off, it's unfair to blame Disney for a perceived failing of Kipling, since Baloo did play just as large a role in The Jungle Book (1893). You know, back when it was still a book.

But of course, it's not a mistake... Kipling seeming to have had a middling knowledge of the whole India thing, where The Jungle Book is set, after all... There are bears in India... sloth bears (Melursus ursinus), to be exact. The Hindi/Urdu word for sloth bear is, of course, bhalu.

Posted by BruceR at 05:53 PM


Michele Landsberg shows once again why you can't even trust her to tell the time, with a truly silly column on Barrie Zwicker, and the "myth of Sept. 11". I'll just take on the military side of this one... the rest is just as laughable, I'm sure.

Why did the United States Air Force fail to scramble interceptor jets — in defiance of all long-standing rules and well-established practice — for almost two hours after it was known that an unprecedented four planes had been hijacked?

From official NORAD records:

American Airlines Flight 11 – Boston enroute to Los Angeles
FAA Notification to NEADS -- 0840
Fighter Scramble Order (Otis Air National Guard Base, Falmouth, Mass. Two F-15s): 0846
Fighters Airborne -- 0852
Airline Impact Time (World Trade Center 1) 0846 (estimated)
Fighter Time/Distance from Airline Impact Location Aircraft not airborne/153 miles

United Airlines Flight 175 – Boston enroute to Los Angeles
FAA Notification to NEADS -- 0843
Fighter Scramble Order (Otis ANGB, Falmouth, Mass., Same 2 F-15s as Flight 11): 0846
Fighters Airborne: 0852
Airline Impact Time (World Trade Center 2) -- 0902 (estimated)
Fighter Time/Distance from Airline Impact Location -- approx 8 min/71 miles

American Flight 77 –Dulles enroute to Los Angeles
FAA Notification to NEADS -- 0924
Fighter Scramble Order (Langley AFB, Hampton, Va., 2 F-16s) -- 0924
Fighters Airborne -- 0930
Airline Impact Time (Pentagon) -- 0937(estimated)
Fighter Time/Distance from Airline Impact Location -- approx 12 min/105 miles

United Flight 93 – Newark to San Francisco
FAA Notification to NEADS -- N/A
Fighter Scramble Order (Langley F-16s already airborne for AA Flt 77)
Fighters Airborne (Langley F-16 CAP remains in place to protect DC)
Airline Impact Time (Pennsylvania) -- 1003 (estimated)
Fighter Time/Distance from Airline Impact Location -- approx 11 min/100 miles (from DC F-16 CAP)

Two hours, six minutes... same difference to Michele, it seems. It should be noted that a Canadian was in operational command of NORAD that day, so Landsberg is actually slandering a Canadian Forces member here.


Why did the two squadrons of fighter jets at Andrews Air Force base, 19 kilometres from Washington, not zoom into action to defend the White House, one of their primary tasks?

The units at Andrews are actually the F-16s of 113 Wing, D.C. Air National Guard, a formation of part-time pilots obviously not at a high level of operational readiness. The interceptor units protecting Washington are at Langley AFB, which as noted above, fully participated in the D.C. defense on Sept. 11.

Simple web searching, that's all it is folks. The big problem with the Star, as with so many major papers, is the ludicrous freedom of any professional sense of responsibility their editorial staff allows their named "columnists."

UPDATE: For the record, the fellow in effective command in NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain HQ was Canadian Brig. Gen. Jim Hunter, the organization's deputy commander.

UPDATE: I wrote even more on this later on.

Posted by BruceR at 02:24 PM



One last suggestion that came up in the presidential-uniform argument: "Old Rough and Ready" Zachary Taylor's official office portrait has him in a U.S. army uniform. So there? Not quite. Taylor was only president for 15 months before his untimely death... he had himself been elected to the presidency literally weeks after returning from field command in the Mexican War, and evidently did not have time or inclination to have a new court portrait done after his hasty retirement from the military. Other than Washington's, his is the only presidential portrait with military trappings.

As to what Taylor actually looked like in person, the Encyclopedia Americana writes:

"Stocky, sturdy, of medium height, with furrowed face and graying hair, he habitually wore civilian garb during the Mexican War--preferring a wide-brimmed straw hat and unmatched trousers and coat... Afoot he was often taken for a farmer. In Washington, dressed more formally but with his top hat perched on the back of his head, the President frequently went about unrecognized."

While I do have a soft spot for Taylor, who along with Scott and possibly Jackson is an extremely important figure in the evolution of American military leadership culture between the Revolution and the Civil War, it's important to recognize that his refusal to wear uniforms, in the military or outside of it, was certainly just as much of an affectation for him as the carrier landing stunt was for Bush. The objective may have been different, but the means was the same... it benefited presidents (and senior generals) at the time to look non-military while in office, so he and others did so. (Ulysses Grant, an admirer and subordinate of Taylor, stole his own casualness of dress from the older man.)

I've tried to avoid making any value judgments about Bush being the first president (at least technically) in uniform since Washington, which I think is largely undisputed, because I think other than perhaps for its iffy precedental value, the act itself is values free... it's what you want to read into it. Either it's a sign of a new American toughness, or it's a visual shorthand for the first American pre-emptive war outside its own hemisphere (now THAT'S a precedent worth noting). But it should suffice for defenders of the president to state the facts, as many eloquent Flitters posters and emailers have done... that for various reasons, it suited this man and this occasion. In another time, under different circumstances presidents, as noted above, went out of their way to look unmilitary, and it was no more or less phony when they did that, either.

What I always hate, though, and I hate it just as much when Ted Rall or Robert Fisk does it, is the distorting of real history or proven fact purely to suit political ends. The other defenses of Bush, like saying Clinton ever made anything like the same kind of political statement, is just disingenuous and, frankly, demeaning to Bush and other real soldiers in real uniforms more than anything else... I've given basically the same attire to business executives our army was trying to impress with a tour: it didn't make them soldiers. Or jet pilots, for that matter.

But the attempts to draw false historical parallels with past presidents are even more annoying, and smack even more of desperation. Washington, of course, was sui generis in any case, as the first to try to define what a President should be, but expanding his brief accompaniment of militia on the march to the 1794 "Rebellion" who didn't see any actual fighting is a real stretch (especially when the whole army was hurriedly summoned militia, and wearing at best unconventional uniforms themselves). Even worse are comparisons to Madison, whose behaviour along with Monroe's at Bladensburg in 1814 more than anything else served to confirm the opinion, at least among American soldiers, that the President and Cabinet should be kept off the battlefield at all costs.

The civilian-dressed Madison (he did, sensibly, carry a pair of pistols) and his entourage came to rubberneck, but were startled by how close they'd come to the British lines, and preceded to flee the battlefield while in full sight of the troops, before a shot had been fired. Secretary of State Monroe, meanwhile, (a Revolutionary War hero himself, it should be noted) showed up in his old uniform and may even have tried to take command from Winder, moving several American units to new positions as the British approached (if Winder had been a halfway-competent general, Monroe might be blamed today instead of him as the man whose errors led to the burning of the White House, rather than becoming Madison's successor as President. But Winder would almost certainly have lost regardless**).

Bush's behaviour, of course, was nothing like what happened at Bladensburg. So why bring it up, and remind people exactly why the idea of presidents "embedded" in the military was considered a bad idea in the first place? If there are reasons to start messing with precedents, surely it's at the minimum a bad idea to remind people of the perfectly good reasons they once existed.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, I meant no disrespect towards Madison, above, who I actually have something of a fondness for, too. All the contemporary accounts seem to indicate that, apparently not having been fully briefed on the tactical situation, the President was reportedly seen riding alone toward the British lines when it no doubt suddenly occurred to his aides to perform a proto-Secret Service function -- and no doubt also realizing they were suddenly one lucky bullet away from the frail and soon-to-die-himself Elbridge Gerry (creator of the original "Gerry-mander") becoming the fifth president -- and hustle old James off the field immediately before he got hurt. Still, it can't have been edifying for the untrained militia watching the whole scene unfold, with Wellington's veterans already closing fast on their position.

**One last thing re Monroe. William Winder, the brigadier in charge at Bladensburg, was a known incompetent of zero military skill, whereas Monroe was a former colonel who knew the smell of gunpowder well, having led troops at Monmouth and Trenton. The conventional historian's wisdom about Monroe is that his intervention at Bladensburg only made things worse. A good revisionist history thesis, if time permitted me, would be the supposition that Monroe's moves were militarily sound corrections of Winder's flawed plan, but historians, guided by the otherwise sound principle that Secretaries of State shouldn't be messing with battlefield deployments regardless, have frowned on him after the fact.

Posted by BruceR at 01:45 PM



The real problem with the Citizen letter Colby Cosh unconscionably delayed his journalistic duties for isn't that it contemplates irradiating American cities over Canadian tundra (although I suppose that's a corollary)... it's that the simple and unargued fact is that, the technology being up to it, the Americans are always going to choose to intercept an incoming missile before it gets to the U.S., whether we like it or not... the debate in this case, as the Globe and Mail said today, is whether we would prefer a sort of rarefied moral purity, or would we prefer a voice at the table in determining the rules of engagement that might lead to a missile being intercepted over the tundra if possible, or over Winnipeg instead? The missile debris will "fall on our heads" regardless... the only question is whether we let Canadian companies bid for some of the work in the anti-missile systems, and possibly donate some resources to early warning apparatus, in return for some say in whether it would in the final tragic event kill Manitobans or caribou. The problem here isn't anti-American cruelty, it's sloppiness of thinking.

PS: Speaking of sloppiness of thinking... what, exactly, is "nuclear rubble?"

Posted by BruceR at 12:42 PM



I should mention in advance that I'm an inveterate party crasher. I've never RSVP'd for anything in my life, and I doubt I ever will. I'll still pick up my share of the cheque, but I just would miss the freedom to pull the pin right at the restaurant door, if I had to.

That said, David Janes was an excellent host and certainly didn't seem to mind my sudden appearance at his Toronto blogbash. I'll look forward to a repeat some day.

Posted by BruceR at 11:01 AM

May 08, 2003



The owner of the Diary of a Slow-Motion Aneurysm (hereafter known as "Slow-Motion Aneurysm Man" or "SMAM", but who still occasionally goes by the name Bill Quick) has re-banned a couple of my IPs again and deleted Flit from his blogroll. He apparently thinks I can't see him now; yawn. Keep trying, Bill... I'm sure you'll catch me eventually, and then that'll show me. By the way, the unit of measure you're looking for in your 8:22 a.m. post is generally spelt "tons," or if metric, "tonnes." "Tones" is right out...

Posted by BruceR at 12:56 PM



Okay, the three suggestions offered thus far in Flitters for other presidents who have appeared in uniform before the present instance (see two posts down):

*Washington during the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion. Certainly probable, although Washington wasn't actually the field commander (that was Harry Lee); he just accompanied the army as titular commander-in-chief, itself an early example of the civilianization of the presidency, as a matter of fact. It's important to note, also, that in the 1794 uprising, there was technically no U.S. Army involvement to speak of (Washington's "Watermelon Army" was all militia volunteers) so everyone else with him would have been a citizen-soldier, too.

*Madison at Bladensburg, 1814. Madison was famous for wearing nothing but black, all the time, kinda like Johnny Cash. It's extremely unlikely he changed that habit, even in the defense of Washington (again, a defense he did not himself command, leaving that to the famous military incompetents Armstrong and Winder.) Contemporary sources reported he wore civilian clothes throughout the fall of Washington. It is known that Secretary of State James Monroe, however, did show up in his old army uniform, causing some confusion in the chain of command.

*Grant in the White House. Apparently at least one early photo exists of President Grant in uniform. Given that Grant rarely wore a proper uniform even when he was a general, I'm almost surprised by this. Certainly it's fair to say that Grant could have worn his uniform a lot more often than he did while President without anyone minding. But it's fair to say he and Washington might both have had occasional lapses of procedure while in office. I think it's also fair to say, though, on the basis of the evidence in thus far, that Bush is the first president to bend the rules in over a century, the first non-former senior military commander to do it, and the first to do so for political effect. (Again, if you consider a flight suit a uniform, which brings us back to the first post.)

UPDATE: You can see that Grant picture here (it's not a photo, it turns out). It's hard to see this as conclusive that Grant broke with this particular tradition... it's only "presumably" in the White House to start with, and there's no evidence Grant or his family actually posed for this image. It could well have been an artist's rendering of what he thought the president would look like. That puts Bush back to "first since Washington" status.

Yes, yes, I know, obviously if you're flying a plane, you need a flight suit. But Republican supporters and bloggers are being rather disingenuous when they say that there's no precedent being set here. OF COURSE there's one being set... that's the whole point, surely. He's the first president who can fly a jet plane, and he did so to his advantage. Still, the supposed Clinton parallels keep coming, but boy... what a stretch that is.

In Canada, the military Code of Service Discipline applies, among other cases, to any personnel in uniform, regardless of location or paid status. All I know is that if I saw a soldier commit a crime garbed as Bush was, it would be a clear cut case of military law applying. But if I saw one commit a crime dressed as Clinton used to (customized bomber jacket over civilian attire, for instance), civil criminal law would certainly be the applicable statute unless other circumstances pertained. That's as good a definition of a "uniform" as I can think of; it's not even a close call. But I confess I'm not up on the American UCMJ provisions on this matter. So hang in there, Glenn... you're hardly in the wrong.

UPDATE #2: Now this is a uniform, too, apparently, or so Sullivan says. Someone's protesting too much.

Posted by BruceR at 12:23 PM




Posted by BruceR at 11:54 AM

May 06, 2003



The question seems to depend on whether one considers a flight suit a uniform... most pilots I know would. But regardless it's certainly far more of a uniform than a green nylon bomber jacket and a carrier hat, which is the worst transgression found so far from the Clinton years. I mean, seriously, what did you expect the guy to wear on a naval vessel? A three piece suit and a bowler? Civilians I've taken on tours of military installations are regularly given baseball caps and the like. But that's certainly no uniform I could ever wear and have recognized as such. Try again, Mr. "Poor and Stupid."

Posted by BruceR at 10:14 AM

May 05, 2003



The post-war retractions have started to come out. Of course, there's that great big elephant-on-the-dining-room-table of no WMDs, but since I've said since the start there likely wouldn't be any, there's not much more I really feel the need to say on that one.

Then came the Star's story on Jessica Lynch, which, if nothing else makes it clear that a massive U.S. Special Ops operation, meeting no resistance of any kind, managed to successfully escort a medical patient from a civilian hospital, in a peaceful area, where she'd been left when the Iraqi troops using the hospital had fled two days earlier. (The hospital staff had then apparently tried to turn her over to the Marines themselves, but had been fired on by American troops.) Presumably, they could have as easily sent a taxi...

(NB: What's left unsaid in the Potter story, of course, is exactly what happened to Lynch after her capture and BEFORE the Iraqis abandoned her on the run. Not that any of Potter's sources would possess that information, of course. The story adds no real information on how brutal Lynch's actual experience of captivity may have been. I'm not saying she had an easy go in any sense, only that some aspects of the presentation of her "rescue" at the time seem now rather disingenuous.)

Now today, we find out that the Baghdad statue flag did not, in fact, come from the Pentagon on Sept. 11, but from the U.S. Senate gift shop. Oh, well, another entry for, I guess.

PS: And it was bought by Chuck Schumer's aide, no less! SMAM's most hated Senator... oh, the irony...

Posted by BruceR at 07:41 PM

ROCK ON A perfect example


A perfect example of why British Airways is the airline that actually does PR, and the rest of them are just flailing marketing grads. Asked to comment on a story that Liz Hurley was thwarted in an attempt to have sex in first class, the anonymous spokesperson responds:

"We're delighted to see that British Airways' spacious flat beds in first class are being put to good use. It is a welcome example of how our unique flat beds offer not only great comfort, but room enough for two."

For the PR connoisseur, a perfect example of "key message" theory.

UPDATE: Here's another example of interesting PR:

A casino source, hearing of [Bill] Bennett’s claim to breaking even on slots over 10 years, just laughed.

Posted by BruceR at 10:19 AM



The Toronto Star's Mitch Potter is on a roll. He was the Canadian reporter who found those documents conclusively proving there were 1998 contacts between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime. Now in the last three days, he's found eyewitnesses to the last days in captivity of Jessica Lynch, and the last hours in power of Comical Ali. The man's on fire. Almost makes the Star worth buying again (kidding, Patrick, kidding... through it all, I've never cancelled the subscription).

NB: Note one of several interesting factoids in the Lynch piece: the Nasariyah hospitals report 400 killed in that city, mostly civilian, with the responsibility, in fairness, about equally divided between both sides. Given that the height of the fighting in Nasariyah was still at a point where the Iraqi defences were buckling, but still holding, the civilian hospitals wouldn't have been seeing a lot of straight-up military casualties, who likely would have been evac'd back to army hospitals (right to the end, the road from Nasariyah back to the Iraqi regular army HQ at Amarah stayed open, if interdicted). So this number is a lot more believable than the 150 civilian/military in all of Baghdad noted earlier.

Posted by BruceR at 09:59 AM

May 02, 2003



"Everybody has a level at which they stray beyond their competence. Mine, for instance, is pretty much outside a two-foot radius around this chair..."
--Colby Cosh, giving himself room to move.

Posted by BruceR at 10:03 AM



The trouble with Bill Quick, you see, other than his occasional Wookieish rages, is his frequent seizing upon the one point of view that most suits his own preconceptions, a single tenuous data point in some cases, and his defence of that as the final truth in contentious debates, against all logic. For instance, his firm argument today that no more than 100 or so people must have been killed in Baghdad during the whole Second Gulf War, based on a single quote from a British newspaper.

Den Beste has already taken him to task. (I personally think SDB's estimates are a bit high, but at least they're not ungrounded in common sense.) Quick's rejoinder (found in his own comments) is more or less that he'll keep believing his chosen source, dammit. I'll simply add this. There is general agreement that a 17-hour rescue mission in Mogadishu in 1993, involving only several hundred Americans with light weapons, managed to kill an absolute minimum of 350 Mogadishu inhabitants, armed and unarmed (other estimates are higher... this is the Somali one.) Quick's thesis, is that a fight in the heart of Baghdad that lasted several days, against far more heavily armed and numerous Americans, not to mention all the aerial bombardment of the preceding two weeks, still killed less than half that many.

That's simply not sustainable. Therefore, whether through some error in translation or some other mistake, Quick's source cannot be reliable on its face... no matter how much Quick might feel otherwise.

NB: Note also how Quick in his comments refers to an estimate of 9,000 dead Iraqi soldiers in Gulf War One. Unfortunately, as even the source he links to clearly states, that's actually an estimate of Iraqi dead up to the point the ground campaign BEGAN... rather a different thing. It's not even in fine print... Quick once again sees only what he wants to see.

Posted by BruceR at 12:29 AM

May 01, 2003



Ken Layne on Dawson's demise.

Posted by BruceR at 04:28 PM


A rare picture of myself and a few of the platoon staff I've been with since January (rare because we didn't know it was being taken). Front row from left, yours truly, MCpl Phillips, and MCpl Williams. Sgt Michelle Lye is just visible below Phillips.

Posted by BruceR at 01:36 PM



Still, I think using "Shuttle disaster survivors found" as the headline is somewhat overwrought.

Posted by BruceR at 12:49 PM