November 07, 2003


Perhaps most importantly from a humanitarian point of view, Iraq's once thriving marshes, which Saddam had drained as a way of punishing the Marsh Arabs for revolting against him in 1991, are now being revitalized, and the Marsh Arabs, against whom Saddam had tried to commit genocide, are returning to their former way of life.

--Oxblog, in a widely praised speech on Iraq

Restoring an area that is said to have been the biblical Garden of Eden, marshlands that Saddam Hussein turned into an arid salt bed in his purge of Shiite Muslims, was one of President Bush's priorities when he asked Congress for $20.3 billion to help rebuild Iraq.

It also was among the few items House Republicans decided to cut, at least for now, if the United States had to pay for it. They chopped $100 million from Bush's bill for resurrecting the Mesopotamian marshlands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

--Guardian, Oct. 15

(Noted at Juan Cole.)

More here.

Posted by BruceR at 05:57 PM


Little noticed in the kerfuffle about the U.S. defence department bringing its draft boards out of 30 years of dormancy (presumably just in case) is this little caveat:

"Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service."

The U.S. conscription law is quite clear... only men are eligible. It's an interesting convergence this week... you have a 30 year-old machine of the state exempting women in large part from military service being refuelled if not restarted, at the same time the ordeal of Jessica Lynch has rekindled the debate over military service by women, at least to some ways of thinking. Meanwhile you have a movie (Matrix Revolutions) which prompts Roger Ebert to comment that the role of women in action movies, doing military things, has never been greater.

One thing seems for certain. With over 212,000 active duty servicewomen in the American forces now (out of a total of 1.4 million), it would be extremely difficult to replace them without resorting to selective service. The Rubicon, it seems, has been crossed on this issue. The question now is what else needs to be rethought if we're to keep up.

UPDATE: They yanked the press release. Must be one of those new-model memory holes. The relevant text is quoted in Flitters.

Posted by BruceR at 03:12 PM


Turns out the Chinook that crashed in Iraq had flare dispensers and used them, without effect, when it was targeted.

Little known fact about flares is that they're generally only useful to distract heatseekers if combined with altitude, quantity (lots of them) and/or violent maneuvering by the target plane... none of which the Chinook, flying low and slow with little warning, could have benefitted from. (The ideal state for flares, in fact, is to have them in the air BEFORE the missile acquires and launches, so that the operator presses the trigger on a false positive... that's why, if you've ever seen an A-10 practicing a gun air-to-ground engagement, it's dropping flares all over the damn place, using its automatic dispensers, before it's even in close range of its quarry.)

The same goes double for passenger jets at the point of most danger from a terrorist SAM attack, shortly after takeoff. The automated IR jamming technologies now being worked on would offer more hope for commercial jets, but any move to widely deploy the currently available flare systems on commercial air traffic outside of the highest-risk airports is almost certain to be a waste of money.

Posted by BruceR at 10:34 AM