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Monday  May 10, 2004

Subject: Sasser/NetSky suspect released without bail.

---- Roland Dobbins

Actually sounds reasonable. He's hardly a flight risk. And Germans can be sentimental.

Keep On Truckin'

- Roland Dobbins


Subject: "Anything goes."

- Roland Dobbins

Alas. I'll have more on this later.


Subject: Airport Hotspots
 Would be interested in hearing your views on the security of Internet 
 access when using Airport (or other public) hotspots. Does on always 
 need a software firewall on the laptop used to make the access?
Jim Shoemaker

I asked Roland about this and got this reply:

Software firewalls are pretty much useless in all circumstances. One should ensure that one's laptop is locked down and patched up, irrespective of OS, but I wouldn't waste the money on the 'software firewall', sir.

I will add that XP SP2 Rc-1 has a built in firewall that is probably safer than most third party programs and comes free. The best way to use airport and other public hot spots is probably to use a Mac.

And see below


Iraq again, and again, and again

Subject: It must take a lot to get called arrogant by Bill Kristol

Even Trotsky can change his mind every now and then I guess.

In addition to setting a new date for elections, the administration would have to do a couple of other things. It would have to increase, substantially, the number of troops in Iraq in order to create a more secure environment for elections. Rep. John Murtha has been attacked by Republicans for insisting that we are unlikely to succeed in Iraq without a big increase in the number of troops. These attacks on Murtha are stupid, because he is absolutely right. The Pentagon continues to fiddle while Iraq burns. Everyone in Iraq with whom we talk bemoans the shortage of troops and equipment. It is now impossible to travel safely throughout most of Iraq. This is terrible news, and would be even if we weren't preparing for an election. But if elections are announced, the Pentagon could be forced to overcome its arrogant stubbornness and beef up the force.


I can't say a lot here, because I don't want to explode in public.

These are the people who insisted we could do it on the cheap; who, when some of us Old Conservatives pointed out that you can't build Iraq into a nation on the cheap, you can only conquer it and run it as an empire on the cheap, had the egregious Frum read us out of the party as unAmerican. Turned their backs on us, they did.

From the beginning I have pointed out that if we simply wanted to conquer Iraq, we could send in the troops, then strike a deal with the surrendered Iraqi Army. The Sunni would rule as they always have. They would be so busy keeping the Shia down that they couldn't make much mischief. Meanwhile, we keep a Heavy Division -- about 3 Legions -- over there in as much luxury as Iraq affords. Their job is to be the big hammer in case the Iraqi Army forgets it was defeated and surrendered and is now running the country for us.

This is the stuff of Empire, rule by clients, and it is well known to any historian. Among the neos Hanson and Kagan certainly ought to have known all this. God knows Kagan's father knows it.

But if we wanted to rebuild Iraq, dismantle the Ba'ath Party and the Iraqi Army, and try to reconstruct from scratch, nation building, build a democracy, it would take all the resources of the Republic. A big army and a big occupation force, and the occupation force can't really be the Army because Armies are good at breaking things and killing people, not at nation building. God knows I and many of us said all this. And their answer was to have the egregious Frum set upon us in National Review. Bill Buckley must be proud.

Now these neoJacobins are accusing the military of being arrogant!

And I better stop writing now.

Lest it be said I don't try to show things as they are:

A letter from a Sergeant in Iraq

Things are going alright here. same old same old. We've spent the last week guarding a major bridge over the Tigris that was being reconstructed. The days were often 12 to 14 hours just sitting at the site so I have not been in the mood to go wait in line to e-mail.

At the bridge we were once again surrounded by curious children, but these ones wanted to sell us things. Everything from "pepsi" (what they call all soft drinks), candy, beer (imported from Turkey or Japan), bootleg movies that were just released in the States (so far I've managed to see Kill Bill 2, the Punisher, the Alamo, Standing Tall and probably a few I can't remember.), porn DVDs, and puppies. The platoon now has three puppies for mascots (I'm sure the SPCA would be thrilled) They are all little mutts, but they are kind of amusing. Their names are Lucky (or rat dog as many of us call him), Bear (He looks like a cub), and Jack (because the kids who sold him to us probably "jacked" him from some one else's home and sold him to us.) I think each dog cost $2-US of course.

The kids are ok in small amounts, but these kids would not leave us alone. These people are no where near as afraid of us as they should be. We've hit two IEDs in the past three days, but have only received one minor injury. One of my troops got a cut across his forehead that required quite a few stitches and scared the hell out of the female interpreter that was in his vehicle. As he ducked back into the vehicle covered in blood he continued to flirt with the interpreter who he had been working on all day. The girl felt that that behavior was a little inconsistent with what had just occurred, but the rest of us just laughed. I guess it takes a certain mindset to play this game.

Anyway, things don't appear to be calming down. We have finally moved into our two-man rooms and are setting up a schedule that looks like we'll have at least one day a week off.

I received a lot of packages in the last few days- a second package from ***, one from Uncle ****, three from ****, and one from *******. I will try to let everyone know individually how much I appreciate their thoughts, prayers, and packages, but please also let them know for me.

Everything that has been sent has been very helpful, if not to me then to someone else in my platoon. I have enough baby wipes and paint brushes to open up an art school for toddlers! Thank you all very much!!!

Well, that's all that is really going on around here.

In case you missed the information from earlier reports, the sand in Iraq is like talcum, and it gets in everywhere, so the baby wipes help with personal hygiene, while the brushes help clean their weapons!


Make haste to reassure us...


And from Greg Cochran:

I don't think that Bush has been noble at all. If I decide to build a dam to control flooding and further irrigation, that's good intent. But If I then don't bother to do the standard preparations, if I don't bother to check for old mines and faults, if I don't bother to grout the ones I'm told about, If I don't bother to use standard-grand concrete, if I don't bother to do a serious engineering analysis, if I don't bother to check to see if it will hold up to a hundred-year flood or earthquake - that's negligence. If I have plenty of people working for me who are experts in all those things, and I ignore what they have to say, that's negligence.

Saying you mean well is cheap. If you don't do the spadework, if you don't bother to exercise current best practice in determining the practicality and feasilbility of of your project, you are morally responsible for every bit of resulting trouble.

There is overwhelming evidence that Bush and his team never practiced anything approaching due diligence concerning Iraq . Neither did Congress. As far as I can tell, _I_ put more effort into understanding the situation and the likely course of events than Bush and his entire Cabinet. I would guess that sensible Americans put more effort - and more serious effort - into buying a new car.

Gregory Cochran

I wish I could argue. But some of us did try to do due diligence. Buckley and National Review at the behest of the neo-Jacobins answered by having the egregious Frum attack us, even to the point of being flippant with Stephen Tonsor.

The chickens are home to roost now.

And yes, I have often been among the first to denounce those who in the midst of a foreseeable disaster could only whimper "But we meant well."

It would be a noble thing to build a democratic society in Iraq.  It is a very improbable thing, and it would take all the spare resources of the Republic over a decade. We would then have to tighten belts, endure rationing, mobilize, in order to meet whatever challenge would then confront us once we had committed all our present strength to reforming Iraq.

It could be done. But I doubt the President would go that far. And short of that, I don't see how it can be done.

And it's too damned late to rule with a client army now.

Subject: WSJ Article-

Hi, Jerry. You'll be interested in the front page article for Tuesday's Wall Street Journal. It refers to Thomas Barnett proposing an "Attack" army coupled with a "garrison" force, which sounds suspiciously like something that you've advocated.....

--------- Ken Mitchell

Do you suppose someone was listening? But they never do.

There are now a number of talkative idiots saying that Bush has made a mess of Iraq - Volokh, Andrew Sullivan, David Brooks, George Will, etc I wonder if that's really true - it assumes that it could have gone some other way and I doubt that . There are certainly some mistakes that we can't help making. We had to use the Army we had, not some imaginary Army full of people who dream in Arabic and know Iraq like the back of their hand.

I compare this to someone who has had a bad sexual experience with a porcupine and is now trying to decide just where he went wrong. Should he have used Brylcreem on the quills? Should he have sent flowers? Did he ' come on too strong'?

Gregory Cochran

I should never read your letters while drinking coffee. Alas, you are correct, of course. We had to use the Army we had. And armies are great at  breaking things and killing people.

Subject: Wash Post Investigative Reporting

dyn/articles/A13065-2004May9.html >

Since 9/11, the Washington Post has been noticeably forbearing, avoiding this kind of investigative reporting even though it was known for it in the past. I guess the gloves are coming off. -

- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)

Indeed. But they have done much of their homework.

And Roland sent this. It's very serious:

This excerpt: A senior general at the Pentagon said he believes the United States is
already on the road to defeat. "It is doubtful we can go on much  longer like this," he said. "The American people may not stand for it  -- and they should not." Is typical.

But it's typical not only of the article but of assassination journalism. Anonymous "sources" saying just what you want them to say. And so forth. It may all be true. And we may be being had.

On the other hand we have: "Iraq might have been worth doing at some price," Vickers said. "But it isn't worth doing at any price. And the price has gone very high."

And that I can agree with. But you will note that the source is named here. Whereas we have:

A Special Forces officer aimed higher, saying that "Rumsfeld needs to go, as does Wolfowitz."

Asked about such antagonism, Wolfowitz said, "I wish they'd have the -- whatever it takes -- to come tell me to my face."

He said that by contrast, he had been "struck at how many fairly senior officers have come to me" to tell him that he and Rumsfeld have made the right decisions concerning the Army.

But you note that neither quote comes from anyone we can identify.







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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

We have the following from a mid-rank career serving officer on active duty. First he quotes my comments on the Weekly Standard essay given above. Then:

The Pottery Barn Theory

Be careful where you place the blame for the need to reconstruct Iraq came from. It was not necessarily the NeoCons. It came from the Powells who brought in the Pottery Barn doctrine "You break it, you buy it."

Had the NeoCons really had a free hand in all this you might have had your retribution based operations. Instead Powell had the first administrator fired and brought in Bremer.

Never forget the fact the Islam Fascists want to destroy us. They proved they could attack us once and I don't buy that 9/11 was a one shot deal. Follow the lead in the press on the Chemical Weapons that were going to be used in Jordan. The Washington Times story indicates the CW came from Syria, but was not manufactured there and they are looking into if it came from Iraq.

There is going to be an all out war between civilization and these terrorists, the only question is where. I think the better place is in Iraq and not Manhattan. Perhaps the real answer is we are not harsh enough to really fight this war. It is obvious that few understand how much of a danger the Islam Fascists are to us. It is apparent that the administration is stuck in an over constrained problem. Due to a lack of understanding of the gravity of the threat no one is willing to pony up the money and make the sacrifices necessary to execute the comprehensive reconstruction effort you have outlined. On the other hand the same people who would object to making a serious sacrifice don't want to sully their hands with anything that would smack of Imperialistic client states.

To which I can only say, it wasn't Powell and State who read me out of the Conservative movement for daring to say that either we had to go imperial or we had to commit a lot more resources to this effort than we seemed willing to do. It was Weekly Standard who was telling us we could do it all on the cheap.

And of course we could, if all we were doing was a punitive expedition, the equivalent of bombarding a port and burning public buildings (as the British did in the War of 1812, and the Confederates did in the Maine raid during the War Between the States).

But that was precisely what we were not going to do. We went into Iraq for different reasons depending on who was advocating it, but almost no one said this would be a simple regime change operation leaving Iraq to the tender mercies of the Turks, Iranians, Kurds, Warlords, and civil war. You may recall that before we went in, I asked, "What constitutes victory? How do we get out? What are the objectives?"

For this I was denounced as a traitor. "We turn our backs on you," said Frum in National Review. And I have seen no apology from Buckley or any of them.

Powell expressed the sentiments of most of the nation who don't want an Empire: "You break it, you own it."  What are the alternatives to that?

1. Don't go in. Saddam is contained. Leave it that way and look for better ways to fight them over there rather than Manhattan. Spend the money to expand the Fleet, shore up our defenses, guard our borders, and make ourselves independent of Middle East Oil. That takes gold, and some blood; but mostly gold, and is cheaper than war.

2. A punitive expedition short of regime change: the equivalent of the First Gulf War. The outcome of that is predictable: humiliate Saddam so he becomes even more brutal in order to cling to power, and endure the moral opprobrium such as was heaped on Bush the Elder when he encouraged uprisings which we did not support.

The consequences of this alternative in the First Gulf War included among other things an ecological disaster in the wetlands/marshlands of the lower Tigris/Euphrates basin unparalleled in human history, leading to the mass unemployment of many of the people of that lower delta region, migrations, displacements, disruptions of millennia old cultural patterns. Dr. Jennifer Pournelle has a lot of data on that; the result is horrible, and we may or may not be able to restore those wetlands and restabilize what was, after all, the Garden of Eden.

This alternative was unlikely this time precisely because of the political retribution taken against Bush I, and almost no one, neither Powell nor the neo-Jacobins calling themselves neo-Cons advocated it.

3. A punitive expedition involving regime change, but otherwise leaving Iraq in chaos. Let them fight it out: they will be too busy fighting each other to have much energy left over for attacking the United States. This was my preferred alternative if we went in at all. I preferred spending the hundreds of billions beefing up the Fleet, guarding the borders, building nuclear power plants, building a Space Navy, and converting the US to an energy economy not dependent on Middle East Oil. That was best accomplished under Alternative 1, but achievable under this alternative.

My "monuments" system conceived in haste and rage after 911 is a variation on this.

4. Occupation of Iraq in classical imperial fashion: keep the Sunni in power, keep them armed, and make sure their leaders understand that the Legions are there, ready to replace their top leaders with others of our choosing. This was achievable, and preferable to what we did. It has the disadvantage of converting the United States nakedly to empire rather than republic, but competent rather than incompetent empire.

History shows many advantages to empire, but long term problems; but you have decided that governments derive just powers from some principle other than consent of the governed. You are accepting the Leo Strauss notion that political philosophers ought to rule, and know how, and the justification of government is that it is done well, not by consent of the governed. This is  government by an aristocracy of merit, the Platonic Republic, and was rejected by the Framers.

The view that the Enlightened should rule the Benighted (it is never put in those terms by those who favor it) is always with us; when Adams and Madison, New England and Virginia, could agree that a new order now begins, with government by consent of the governed, it really was a new order. Occupation of Iraq in imperial fashion would end that as our theory of government, with long term consequences.

5. Occupation of Iraq to rebuild it as a Middle East Republic. This is the President's hope, and his dream of his place in history. It is possible, but it is not possible with conventional armed forces. Armies break things and kill people, and if they can't do that, they will lose. But that does not build nations. Nation building would require recruiting an entirely new occupation army. The real army would stand by to defeat serious organized attempts to overthrow the nation builders. The nation builders would operate from entirely different principles, more like police and constabulary than armed forces.

This is never easy: ask the LAPD Metro Squad, or the MPD in the District (note that the Congress gave up governing the District and has its own police force entirely independent of the MPD). It would require that we keep a real Army and Navy, and build a parallel Constabulary of 200,000 or so. It would require heavy commitment to training people in the languages of the Middle East. It would require career paths in "nation building." It would require a Colonial Service. We can look to British history, and American history in the Philippines for some guidance, and the old China Navy, and such. The bottom line is that it takes a commitment beyond anything any political leader has asked for, and national sacrifices beyond anything the nation has been told will be needed.

6. A New Crusade: export Western Civilization to the Middle East. Destroy the home of Wahabbi power; end the threat of militant Islam, and complete the work begun by Isabella the Great with the Reconquista; carry on the work of Lepanto and the Siege of Vienna and the reconquest of Hungary and the Balkans; perhaps resume the Mass interrupted in the Hagia Sophia in 1453.

There is glory in this, but the West no longer has the energy. It will not happen.

* * *

All other alternatives are variations of the above. The UN will always supply alternatives, because it is an entirely corrupt organization: look to the Oil for Food program, or to Bosnia and Kosovo as they are actually run, for further evidence. Turning a country over to the UN is to endorse the principle of government by the Enlightened for the benefit of the Benighted. It's imperialism without the benefits of empire.


You are concerned that the Muslim world is in ferment and will explode in jihad. I am too. But is the remedy for that the establishment of another Latin Kingdom, this time of Baghdad and Damascus, and run by politically correct imperials  rather than the old Christian Norman barons (or perhaps Norman Christian barons; they were after all Frenchified Vikings whose natural instincts were tempered by the Church and their superstitious beliefs in the power of the clergy and relics and the rest)? Perhaps so; but that needs discussion.

Indeed what is needed here is a rational discussion of what we can do to protect Western Civilization. That has not happened, and does not seem likely: neither Kerry nor Bush nor their advisors have any intention of such a debate, nor does the proper body for that, the Senate of the United States. There will be no reasoning why, or none I see coming.

And for all that we are there, and our troops have a job to do, and thank God they are willing to do it. God bless you and all of your comrades in arms. You have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution with your life, and you have heard and believed the Fourth Verse of the Star Spangled Banner.

And thus be it ever.


Subj: Iraq - why be surprised that it's screwed up?

Why is everyone so surprised that things are screwed up?

American wars are *always* screwed up, even beyond the "no battle plan survives contact with the enemy" aphorism.

Americans don't win wars by devising intricate clockwork war plans based on infallible prescience, and then watching them unfold flawlessly in execution. Never have. Never will.

Americans win wars by jumping in (or being thrown in, or dragged in) and *figuring*out* how to win.

Sometimes we even have to figure out *what*winning*means*, as when we backed off from insisting that Japan abolish the Emperor as a condition for ending WW2, or when Truman backed off (with a little encouragement from the Chinese) from defining victory in Korea as the conquest/liberation of North Korea.

Every American foreign war also spawns its own little flurry of civil wars, within the military bureaucracy, between the military bureaucracy and the diplomatic, between the President and the Congress, between the bureaucracies and the President, etc. etc. ad nauseam. Oh, yes - don't forget the Press: they're in there too, on all sides and on a few extra sides of their own. Why should this one be any different?

Not too long ago, I read (listened to the audio-book, actually) Shelby Foote's _The Beleaguered City_, about Grant's Civil War campaign against Vicksburg. Foote picks up the story at the point where Grant sends Sherman to kidnap the army that Grant's nominal subordinate McClernand has just raised, to torpedo McClernand's schemes to supplant Grant through political maneuvering. The story unfolds through seven successive (but sometimes overlapping in time) unsuccessful attempts by Grant to approach and invest Vicksburg while concurrently fending off McClernand's machinations and evading the deleterious effects of Grant's own tendencies towards intemperance.

That's the way American generals win: try plan A - NFG; try plan B - NFG either; try plan C - etc. etc. If we win in Fallujah, or in Iraq as a whole, we're going to win it that way, not by the intervention of some oracular Strategist who Knows Exactly What To Do.

So when I hear that the new-trained Iraqi units (or some of them) have disintegrated, my reaction is not, "Horrors! THE PLAN HAS FAILED!!! The sky is falling! Run away! Run awaaaaaaay!" It's "Ah, ok, the way we created those units didn't work. What's next?" Or more likely, "Ah, ok, the success rate for creating effective Iraqi units by that method is kinda low. What can we learn from this experience about how to create effective Iraqi units with a better success rate in the future?"

And if we lose, we're almost certainly going to lose by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, as we did in Vietnam, not because the war is in any sense fundamentally unwinnable.


Your comment is reasonable and for the most part accurate; but this is not that kind of war.

We won the war in Viet Nam although few realize that: the Russians frittered away their energy and treasure in a place far away from any rational objective, and at great expense sent the output of their truck factories not to develop the USSR infrastructure but to be targets for USAF and Spectre. It was a campaign of attrition for no vital objective.

But it is usually thought we lost, and if so we lost on the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, not in the streets of Saigon or Hue.

The Iraqi War has cost us fewer casualties than 911; about the harvest of a holiday weekend on the highways. Young men in Iraq are in more danger than in Oceanside, but not by an order of magnitude. The atrocities against our troops, and those our troops have inflicted on the enemy, rival a few weekends in some of the less savory suburbs in our cities.

And yet in the Pentagon some of the chicken hawks are talking about "those eight bastards who lost us the war."

Well, a day. And see below

Subject: Strategy & Tactics

Dear Jerry:

We should not be surprised that Army generals are speaking off-the-record. They remember, all too well, the humiliations suffered by Thomas White when he was Secretary of the Army and Eric Shinseki, when he was Army Chief of Staff. Their anger was encapsulated by that one "young general" "I think they've broken the Army, and I don't think they care." Since I consider the Army my family, I share their anger.

Ho Chi Mihn said something which has always stayed with me since we lost Vietnam: "If the strategy is correct and the tactics wrong, the war will be won. If the strategy is wrong and the tactics correct, the war will be lost." Well, here we are again.

I'll send you something on MG Taguba's testimony tomorrow.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

If one believes very strongly in something, one falls on one's sword. See THIS KIND OF WAR for details: the Army was transformed because the generals didn't speak up for the record. Fehrenbach gives the details and he is right.

And see above. Not all thoughtful serving officers agree.

This from The Economist: 

Iraq's armed forces

DeBaathify, then reBaathify?

Is Saddam Hussein's old army coming back into the fold? EP A

IN Economist, 6 May, 2004

THE good news for the United States is that Fallujah, the city at the heart of Iraq's insurgency has, for the time being, fallen strikingly quiet. American forces have lifted their three-week siege and withdrawn beyond the town's perimeter. Many of the 100,000 residents who had fled have come home. Americans and Iraqis who were fighting each other have agreed to create a "Fallujah brigade". Insurgents who hours earlier were shooting at Americans happily accepted American offers of cash, radios and uniforms.

Well, well, well. You mean that Ba'athists being secularists and atheists find material goods attractive? REALLY? Astonishing.


Another letter from a serving officer:

Subject: Terrorists can't help themselves

Dr. Pournelle, 

No matter how badly we abuse prisoners, this kind of thing (beheading an American on TV) makes it really tough for people to sympathize with the terrorists. American political concerns will still keep a lot of people firmly against anything a Republican President does no matter what, but the rest of us really wish these terrorists would be exterminated like any other vermin.

There are still going to be a lot of people who loudly complain about how some military members serving as prison guards humiliated and frightened a bunch of prisoners, but these same people won't say a thing about what ought to be done about the terrorist gangs roving around using anything as an excuse to kidnap and murder Americans in the name of whatever it is they think excuses such subhuman behavior.

I figure that once we find out where al-sadr or any other terrorist leader is, we ought to move in with some loudspeakers and give everyone within a mile 30 minutes to clear out. After that, a GPS guided MOAB gets delivered and a sign should be erected on the spot saying "This site dedicated to those who worked to destroy Iraq's future."

We're obviously not doing a good job learning how to operate in a properly Islamic fashion, so maybe we ought to set up school and teach lessons on American military capabilities instead. Consider it an exercise in social shock and awe, with a message - Oppose our efforts to leave Iraq with an Iraqi government in-place, and we'll vaporize you and anyone who supports you. The whole concept that we want to get the hell out of there doesn't seem to be getting to the Iraqi people, so a few object lessons are needed. They understand power and resolve, have never seen Barney or the teletubbies, so the lessons we teach need to be in terms they understand. Negotiating for weeks with the leader of a militia only a few thousand strong teaches the entire world that we are weak and the opposition militia is strong. We seemed to think this way in Waco TX, so maybe the BATF could deal with the Iraqis...

The terrorists are very good at getting their point across while we diddle around negotiating with gang leaders. Decisive action in a few areas will clear up a lot of confusion. There should be no place in Iraq where we cannot go. We ought to QUICKLY deal with the prisoner abuse issue and not drag it through comittee forever. And we need to remember that we cannot lose the image of unyielding strength and power or we invite opposition in everything we try to accomplish.

That's more rambling than I intended...

God help the Iraqis if their "leaders" continue on this path. The Marines withheld their might from Fallujah. I thought that mistaken at the time, but perhaps not; if we decide on Empire, Fallujah will be a valuable source of recruits.

Bring the BATF to Iraq and let them search for forbidden firearms.


I have just read with some horror the atrocity done to an American civilian in Iraq. Anger rages, the blood boils, and all is seen through the red fog of hate. Not a pretty picture.

The American soldiers who humiliated and abused Iraqi prisoners were wrong to do so. Absolutely, unequivocally wrong in their actions. No plea of "I was only following orders" will mitigate their crime. However, the prisoners are still alive.

What was done by a few in retribution for this act goes far beyond. While before this I was a moderate on Iraq, now I am a full fledged hawk. Warnings should be given to the citizens of Iraq that the perpetrators should be turned into US custody within 24 hours. If they are not, then the true force and full might of the US Armed forces would be unleashed, with no one spared. Let Najaf be a shining example! No two stones piled on top of one another, and the ground sown with salt.

Now, certainly this won't happen. Nor, do I advocate just such an action. But how many of our young men and women serving in Iraq are thinking just such thoughts tonight? This may indeed be the match that lit the fuse that turned Iraq into a true powder keg. What has smoldered just under the surface may flash over into a country destroying conflagration.

Chris Grantham

God help the Iraqis if the troops are really aroused. The similarity to "The Last Samurai" comes to mind.



Subject: Airport Hotspots

"The best way to use airport and other public hot spots is probably to use a Mac."

I've used only linux on my notebook for about 5 years and I've been using hotspots for about 2 years. I run with only sshd enabled (ie port 22 opened) and always very safe.


-- John Harlow, President BravePoint

I should have said "the simplest way"; thank you.


Franz Kafka was a prophet:

Subject: Mistaken criminal record numbers

Typing errors in entering criminal record numbers and wrongful convictions

Jerry, This story in the Register is worthy of your attention. In short, a Californian did 43 days in jail because he was awarded the record of a serious criminal. The authorities could have been more helpful in correcting their error.

 Regards John Edwards

Why should they be helpful? Anarcho-tyranny doesn't require that. And the machines can't lie. How to have your life ruined by a traffic stop.


Subject: Speech may be free, but listening will cost you

SOMEbody clearly was not paying attention to Justice Scalia's little speech. (Hint: they're wearing a uniform...)


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two media companies and two of their reporters accused the U.S. Marshals Service in a lawsuit Monday of violating their constitutional rights by confiscating recording devices during a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and erasing his remarks.

Antoinette Konz, who works with the Gannett newspaper the Hattiesburg American, and Denise Grones, who works with the Associated Press, were covering Scalia's appearance at a high school in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on April 7 for a talk on the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. Deputy Marshal Melanie Rube demanded they turn over their tape recorder and digital recorder, Gannett said in a statement. The reporters received their equipment back after Scalia's comments were erased.

Gannett said the federal suit seeks nominal damages and an injunction prohibiting the Marshals Service from seizing and erasing reporters' recordings. The suit names Rube, other marshals and the service as a whole and was filed in U.S. District Court for the southern district of Mississippi. A Marshals Service spokesman said the service could not comment on any pending litigation. "It is ironic this seizure took place while Justice Scalia was making a speech about preserving the Constitution," said Gary Watson, president of Gannett's newspaper division. "We're taking this unusual action because the justice system must step in and bring these illegal actions to an immediate halt."

Kenneth Deines



Regarding the comment you made about Office license terms (can use one license on desktop and notebook) in your Byte column this week, this is true for retail versions but not OEM versions that come pre-installed.


David Bruner 

Fascinating. I can only go by what I have, and of course I build nearly all my own machines and install software on them.


Our crackerjack education establishment!

Subject: Well Duh . . .

I bet someone got money for this study too . . .


Study: Students suffer in unruly classes

By BEN FELLER The Associated Press 5/11/2004, 12:10 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The way teachers see it, today's classroom environment often deserves a D — as in disrespectful, distracting and disheartening enough to drive many of them away.

Most teachers in middle and high schools say misbehavior by a handful of children is such a disruptive, pervasive force that a majority of students suffer for it, a study released Tuesday said.

Although schools have become better at responding to serious offenses, such as guns and drugs on campus, the cumulative problem of routine unruly behavior is undermining academic achievement, says the report by Public Agenda, a nonpartisan research group. Most teachers say they contend with students who disrespect them, cheat, show up late and harass others.

"If you start totaling up the hours that teachers could be teaching and students could be learning, it's just staggering," said Public Agenda president Ruth Wooden. "We've got lots of programs on things like accountability and testing and parent involvement, but we haven't been nearly as successful at this daily distraction that takes teachers off-task."

More than three in four teachers said they could do their job more effectively if not for discipline problems; more than eight in 10 said most students suffer because of a few troublemakers. Nevertheless, the time spent on crowd control is not the kind of problem that generates public attention or outrage among policy-makers, the study said.


Public Agenda:

No comment needed....











This week:


read book now


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I'll start by saying that I truly love your fiction. When I am looking for something to read and can't find anything else, I have been known to drive my wife nuts trying to figure out where I stashed your books at, especially the Falkenberg books. I served in the US Army for 11 years as an armor crewman, including 7 months in Saudi Arabia/Iraq/Kuwait in the 24th Infantry Division.

Anyhow, a few comments about 9/11, Iraq, our current President and DoD, etc.

I remember very clearly the rage I felt on 9/11, and still feel today. I told my wife that day that the retribution we would wreak on the IslamoFascists would make what Rome did to Carthage look like a children's quarrel. I couldn't personally join in the war for the reason I'm no longer in the service, bad knees. But I could sit on the sidelines and cheer.

I forgot that our Republic is now in the grips of bread and circuses and the lowest common denominator. Sadly we don't have, and have no chance of electing, a real leader. Now I have to wonder why we haven't learned from the history of Iraq. Great Britain, who was really good at divide and conquer, colonialism, empire, etc. could not manage to set things up the way they wanted in Iraq, by what stretch of arrogance do we, with no good track record in Empire Building and colonialism, think we can? As usual, the politicians have screwed things up and the military won't even be allowed to set things right. Soldiers who dare to tell the truth will be sacrificed.

Barry McCaffrey, my division commander in 91, was probably the best warrior of the day. He got up in front of Congress and told the truth about the former Yugoslavia. He's a war hero so they can't get rid of him, instead they shuffle him off to SouthCom and the "drug war". Shinseki tells us the emperor has no clothes so they emasculate him by announcing his successor 12 months early. Taguba tells the truth about Abu Graib and suddenly he is reassigned as Deputy Assistant Secretary for something or other, instead of Deputy Commanding General, 3rd Army. And the list goes on. I feel like I'm living in the CoDominium.

The invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Hussein was well executed. 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID executed with violence in Baghdad and proved the naysayers wrong. Ironically, that brigade is known as the Spartan Brigade, by the way. I served in the brigade in 1990-91 and I'm proud to see them continue their tradition. Unfortunately for them their political leadership, National Command Authority, has no strategy for what to do with the victory achieved.

The only solution I can come up with is as unpalatable to me as all others, but does have the simple elegance of working. The Republic must become an Empire, the only question is where is our Julius Caesar?

Looking back I see my email rambled a bit, it's not as focused as I would have hoped. But I did get to put my comments out there. And tell you how much I like your writing.


We don't have a Caesar. Yet. And it is not too late to become a Republic again if everything goes right. I have never seen everything go right.

subject: What do we do NOW?


Saturday you asked "What do we do NOW?" about the Abu Ghraib prison abuses. Well, one blogger had a good idea: turn them over to the Iraqis.

It's food for thought, anyway.

Casey (

So. Are you prepared to fight their comrades when you do this? Including, on reflection, me?

Diversity? UC Berkeley Gives No Admission Points for Distinguished Military Service

Posted by the ChronWatch Founder, Jim Sparkman Tuesday, May 11, 2004

For Monday's S.F. Chronicle, reporter Charles Burriss wrote a piece bemoaning the lack of diversity at U.C. Berkeley. Your reaction was probably the same as those of us at ChronWatch: One more time and I will scream! The implied theme is the usual one: blacks and Hispanics are "victims" once again. Read on as Charles weeps: <snip>

And now Anarcho-Tyranny in action:

"We're going to go after many antispam groups."


The judge in this case 

probably needs to be disbarred. This man -- "Scott Richter, the self-professed "Spam King" and president of e-mail marketing company OptIn," who uttered the quote above -- might want to tone down his rhetoric. If he has falsely represented any return addresses -- arguably fraud in each case -- his going after anti-spammers might be seen as a violation of the RICO act.

In any case, his arguably ill-gotten gain is clearly financing an effort that most of us would consider evil. In fact, most of us would consider all spammers like Mr. Richter to be evil. It will be interesting to see if the US "justice" system upholds this evil. Interesting, too, to see which judges uphold the spammers. Which president appointed them?


And do we know where they live?

Subject: You'll appreciate this

Desperately in need of enjoyable reading material, with time constraints on my browsing at Barnes & Noble in El Segundo, I decided to take the easy way out and re-read "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", by J.K. Rowling.

I stumbled across the following passage, which I admit I missed the first time through.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione are visiting the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley. The clerk was busy with another customer when they arrived, so they browsed the cages for a bit. "A pair of enormous purple toads sat gulping wetly and feasting on dead blowflies. A gigantic tortoise with a jewel-encrusted shell was glittering near the window. Poisonous orange snails were oozing slowly up the side of their glass tank, and a fat white rabbit kept changing into a silk top hat and back again with a loud popping noise. Then there were cats of every color, a noisy cage of ravens, a basket of funny custard-colored furballs that were humming loudly, and on the counter, a vast cage of sleek black rats playing some sort of skipping game using their long, bald tails."

Wait a minute. Pan back.

"... a basket of funny custard-colored furballs that were humming loudly..."

Excuse me? TRIBBLES?!?!?!

--John R. Strohm

Heinlein and David Gerold will appreciate it even more...

Quoted from Current View (  ) of Wed 5/12/04.

" Now that ought to work, right? I am sure those troops feel proud of themselves. Where in hell was the adult supervision?"


My definition of "adult" is a person that will take responsibilty for a situation and is capable of taking & discharging that responsibilty. From what I can tell there are very few "adults" left in America.

It seems that our country has not been good at producing them for some time. Between a faltering education system, and a fragmented society, the job just isn't getting done. ( I rate myself as being a marginal adult, and that only because of the infuence of my maternal grandmother. )

It looks to me as though there are almost no "adults" in the current administration, and very few in the government at large. Those few that are present almost always have a non-adult superior. That negates much of their ability to be an "adult" infuence.

If the American Military reflects American Society, and it rightly does - especially the National Guard, then it too is bereft of "adults". So it is no suprise that you ended up asking "where the hell was the adult supervision?", there wasn't any. Worse, THERE IS NONE NOW, nor is there any reasonable expectation of there being any in the future.

Mark Gosdin

No comment needed.... Or perhaps there is. It is tempting but wrong to visit all the sins of the society on the military. Our military people are not "just like" the rest of American youth.

This alienation of those who value pride and honor from the internal barbarism that is growing in our nation is one of the most worrisome trends I know of.

We have sown the wind.


You are correct, I made a more sweeping statement than I had intended. I apologize to any servicemen or women that I may have offended, that was never my intent.

Our American military is derived from the civilian population, but it has been filtered, refined might be a better word. It contains a substantially higher percentage of "adults" than the general population.

Perhaps Heinlein was right, only those with a record of service should vote. Maybe the odds would be better of getting "adult" leaders.

Mark Gosdin



A long Exchange of letters. Are things better than we believe?

Subj: Realistic but hopeful perspectives

 Success is Up to the People of Iraq - On Point Commentary by Austin Bay

== Is the American strategic goal of a self-policing, economically productive and politically exemplary (meaning rule of law in some democratic shape, form or fashion) Iraq achievable?

Yes it is, if -- IF the approximately 250 community governments already functioning as democratic incubators are used as an effective support network for the "federal" Iraq that is emerging with the encouragement of the United States and its coalition partners. ==

Are all the large-scale Sturm und Drang of international diplomacy and the Coalition Political Authority's political infighting between the State Department and Defense Department bureaucracies anything more than the magician's right hand distracting the corrosive attention of the Media from the real work that the magician's left hand has been doing, sowing the seeds of *local* free political institutions and cultivating the seedlings that sprout?

And maybe it's not even intentional, at least not intentional on the part of the humans involved: the "magician" might be Divine Providence rather than any merely human agency. It wouldn't be the first time He wrote straight with crooked lines.

Of course I may just be suffering from religious+neo-Jacobin insanity.  Briefing by MG Martin Dempsey, CG, 1st Armored Division

This man is not seeking some utopian perfection. He's -- in his own words -- "giving the opportunity to the Iraqis themselves to solve the particular problem of the man Muqtada al-Sadr."

His view of the condition of and prospects for the Iraqi security forces is a little different from all of "the sky is falling/it's hopeless/let's run away", "we have to put the Baathists back in power" and "we can instantly create cohesive large Iraqi units out of nothing".

Dempsey reports fifty percent disintegration of Iraqi units, not one hundred percent. Is that glass half empty, or half full? He thinks he sees why the successful 36th Battalion held together, and he plans to replicate that successful pattern. Is he perceptive? Or merely deluded?


My Reply was:

Come now. If you recall this is what I originally proposed.

But it isn't going to be enforced with an army, and the Iraqis can't yet build a constabulary that fast.

Without a long term occupation and goal it is a formula for civil war.

And the neo-Cons and the Bush advisors think Chalabi is their hero.

Monty’s reply:

The point I was trying to suggest was not that what Bay observes, and Dempsey does, are different from what you originally proposed. My point was rather that what is happening, and what the adults in charge on the ground understand themselves to be doing, might not be quite as different from the essence of what you originally proposed as you seem to think.

One interpretation of the situation -- from one of the gang, I think -- is that the civil war is already in progress, and that the US role is not completely to suppress it, but to moderate it and contain its violence, and keep victory from going to whichever faction is most ruthless, until the warring sides exhaust themselves and come to some mutually-tolerable *political* compromise.

Will that compromise be a perfect French-pattern unitary democratic state, out of the fantasies of the State Department nation-builders? Hell no! Will it be a nice, tranquil Swiss-pattern confederation, out of the fantasies of the neocons? Hell no doubled!

It'll be a muddle. So what? A muddle is pretty much what the American Constitution's Framers *strove*for*. And even then, it took re-muddling by the first batch of Amendments to make it acceptable. The Iraqis will be fortunate indeed if they do a quarter as well.

Meanwhile, the US trains up a *territorial* (rather than ethnic or tribal or confessional) constabulary that can, eventually, suppress the ultimate hold-out factions that would try to keep the civil war going after everyone else was willing to compromise.

This is more or less the condition into which the US had got South Vietnam, right up through the smashing of the _first_ Soviet-equipped North Vietnamese conventional armored invasion by the South Vietnamese army and American air power. Then the Democrats in Congress cut off support the North Vietnamese rolled in with their _second_ Soviet-equipped armored army.

Is Bernard Lewis a neocon, or given to neocon delusions? Lewis proposed quite a while ago that the US recognize Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress as "the nucleus of" a provisional government of Iraq by Iraqis: 

Personally, I follow Machiavelli's view, that men are incapable both of absolute good and of absolute evil. Consequently, I consider Chalabi neither an angel nor a devil. He's just a politician, and his place is with the rest of the politicians, fighting for the support of the ruling elite-that-is-coming-into-being in Iraq, which will (with God's help) rule with the consent of the governed. Which is where, more or less, Bush put him.

Is Chalabi a hero? Was de Gaulle a hero? Chalabi is criticized for fleeing Saddam's Iraq and being a creature of the Americans, with no popular support. De Gaulle was criticized for fleeing Petain's France and for being a creature of the British and the Americans, with no popular support.

I would be pleasantly astonished to find a de Gaulle in Chalabi. I would also be pleasantly astonished to find he is willing to accept a federation of 1000 local governments as the solution to Iraq.

Most of those adventurers on the Governing Council have scores to settle, and most of them think "if there is any justice I will be compensated for putting my life into this enterprise." People who make great sacrifices for a cause expect eventually to be rewarded for doing that. George Washington was an exception; he really didn't want power.

But Cincinnatus is no longer in our schools (or even in our spell checkers), and no one has heard of him, or would think him anything but a fool to go back to his plow after saving the Republic. Politicians want power, and the more the better.

And neither party in the US seems to understand that muddling through to a solution is the right answer; although I will grant you that Bush has his heart in the right place on this matter. Whether his advisors know what they are doing is another matter.

The essence of the neo-Jacobin philosophy is that if you know the political secrets, the arcana, the secret knowledge, you can govern well, and those who don't know it have to muddle along. It is that you can fix society by tinkering with laws. It is that you can create institutions and make the work. It is the antithesis of Burke's concept of a political order where the dead, the living, and those yet to come are all part of a greater society; where institutions grow.

Everything Leo Strauss taught negated the notion of tinkering about, muddling through, letting things grow.

I don't blame you for hoping things will come out all right. I hope so too, and unlike my friend Greg Cochran, who has been right in nearly all his predictions so far, I don't think it is impossible to achieve Bush's goals. I do think it exceedingly unlikely, and I am nearly certain that the expected value of any outcome to this adventure is negative; but some are a lot more negative than others.

Despair is a sin. And while our troops are engaged on our orders we must look to their safety, and try not to allow their sacrifices to be wasted. And yes, we might yet muddle through to a viable society in Iraq.

South Viet Nam was a viable society invaded by determined ideologues. South Viet Nam was corrupt, their officers were incompetent, but by God the ARVN boys died. They looked like Beetle Bailey with those huge helmets and their equipment was too big and too expensive, but they went into battle and they died; and as you say, the Democrats threw away all the blood and treasure we had put into Viet Nam. Concentrating on the defects of our allies -- on the fact that they are not perfect, have not built The Good Society -- was the trick the Left used to make most Americans forget just what was happening in the North, and how the Soviet Union thrice -- thrice -- supplied the North with more armor than the Wehrmacht could ever get together for a single battle. We had no business intervening in an Asian Civil War, said our friends in academia.

It is no part of my ambition to play the role of those jackanapes. I do not look for defects in what we are doing. And I can pray God grants the US the wisdom to devise some plan of success, and the stamina and will to stay with it. But God works in mysterious ways, and I have seen little sign that He is answering that prayer.


A Virus Warning

Worms and viruses and links, oh my!


Everyone knows that attachments in e-mails aren't safe, but the idea that clicking on links isn't safe either hasn't sunk in yet. There's now a new e-mail virus that infects PC's via such a method:

From the article (emphasis added):

"When you receive a link to a Web site that you normally visit, don't click on the link, use your 'Favorites' or type in the address in manually,"

On a related topic, I hope the teenager in Germany who created Sasser does some hard time - years in prison. Yes, this needs to be done as an example to others, but primarily because what he did was criminal and deserves punishment. To heck with sentiment - he's not an ignorant kid. This was not a prank like covering a neighbor's house with toilet paper, nor is it like someone accidentally causing a forest fire by carelessness. It took an overt act to create the worm - an act of commission, versus omission. Anyone with the technical ability to create a worm or virus knows dammed well what they are doing - and that it's both wrong and illegal.

Lock him up.



Doug Lhotka doug[@]

"Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide." ~ Jim Burnham

"I swear, by my Life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." ~ John Galt, Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged



A long and thoughtful letter with insightful inferences on the prison scandal:

JEP said:

And I have a question from a friend:

I'm curious whether any correspondent has strong impressions/actual evidence of just what was going on behind the scenes during that really bizarre sudden firing of Garner and his replacement by Bremer, and which factions were involved for what reason.

Well, seven weeks or so ago, Garner gave an interview to BBC Newsnight. The Guardian picked up the story beforehand:,3858,4882387-103681,00.html 

or here (no endorsement of this organization should be taken): 

I waited for the actual transcript to pop up and it never did, so I just went digging. (It's kinda hard to find, few people linked to it): 

My read agrees with the Guardian. Garner appears to be trying to tell the truth without getting on the bad side of the administration. That said, it's implied that Rumsfeld fired him. You could maybe argue Powell 'got' to the President, but the problem is that 'economic shock therapy' and 'de-Baathization' doesn't particularly seem like Powell's bag. Returning sovereignty back to the Iraqis (minus Saddam) sounds like Powell.

If it's going around that it's all Powell's fault, then I expect that it's the Weekly Standard/NRO/Rumfeld group. Having recognized that that policy was kinda dumb, they're (probably) making lemonade out of lemons and blaming it on Powell since they hate him anyways. (After all, who is going to check?)

Seems about par for the course for that lot, at least when it comes to Iraq.


I don't buy the 'it was just a big frat prank' theory. There are psychological redlines involved here. Faced with being forced to participate in a sex act (as a prisoner, not as a willing frat pledge), most (men, anyways) are going to balk at that sort of thing.

I would. You say: 'How would you know?' I say: because I've been there and done that. To force me to do something like that, they'd have to beat me into the pavement. I've been beaten into the pavement both at gunpoint and not. With the former you just have to take it, the latter you can fight (and usually lose when you're heavily outnumbered). So when I see those pictures, I don't think those pictures are the record of the worst abuse. I see those as the trophies that the people taking the pictures thought were LEAST offensive (or illegal or immoral or most acceptable, whatever).

Somebody linked an NYT story that matches with that. Unfortunately it went up May 5th, so it goes away at midnight, but the choice quote is this:

"That changed in November — he does not know the exact date — when punishment for a prisoner fight at Abu Ghraib degenerated into torture. That night, he said, he and six other inmates were beaten, stripped naked (a particularly deep humiliation in the Arab world), forced to pile on top of one another, to straddle one another's backs naked, to simulate oral sex. American guards wrote words like "rapist" on their skin with Magic Marker, he said.

The curiosity, through much of the ordeal, was the camera. It was a detail he mentioned repeatedly as he recalled being forced against a wall and ordered by the Arabic translator to masturbate as he looked at one of the female guards.

"She was laughing, and she put her hands on her breasts," Mr. Abd said. "Of course, I couldn't do it. I told them that I couldn't, so they beat me in the stomach, and I fell to the ground. The translator said, `Do it! Do it! It's better than being beaten.' I said, `How can I do it?' So I put my hand on my penis, just pretending."

All the while, he said, the flash of the camera kept illuminating the dim room that once held prisoners of Mr. Hussein, recording images that have infuriated the Arab world and badly sullied America's image in a country more willing these days to think the worst of its occupiers."

Also: "The treatment in Um Qasr, he said, "was very good," adding: "There was no problem. The American guards were nice and good people.""


"The seven men were all placed in hoods, he said, and the beating began. "They beat our heads on the walls and the doors," he said. "I don't really know: I couldn't see." He said his jaw had been broken, badly enough that he still has trouble eating. In all, he said, he believes that he received about 50 blows over about two hours.

"Then the interpreter told us to strip," he said. "We told him: `You are Egyptian, and you are a Muslim. You know that as Muslims we can't do that.' When we refused to take off our clothes, they beat us and tore our clothes off with a blade." "


"I was so exhausted, I fell asleep," Mr. Abd said. "These were the same walls where Saddam Hussein used to interrogate people. We thought we would be executed."

But the next morning, he said, doctors and dentists arrived to care for their injuries. Beds and pillows were brought back in. They were fed. Everyone was nice, Mr. Abd said. Then at night, the same crew with "Joiner" would return and strip them and handcuff them to the walls.

That doesn't sound like the actions of a totally out-of-control unit. That sounds like POLICY set at some higher level. The Joe Ryan guy who was writing the weblog from Abu Ghraib had this in his two next-to-last entries (in chronological order):

"[April 24th]We have the Iraqi Governing Council showing up here tomorrow because someone told them that we have Syrian detainees here that were caught in Iraq. They are coming up here with news cameras and stuff, but they will not get a chance to talk to them because we will be interrogating them while they are here." [..]

"[April 25th]Today was a short day. There were six of us that had to come in early and conduct long interrogations to ensure that certain detainees were only able to be seen, but not talked to. The Iraqi Governing Council came and looked through our mirrors into the booths to see some of the foreign fighters we have detained.

“They wanted to talk to them and film to show the international media, but we refused, due to not being able to interrupt interrogations. They were much more patient than we thought they would be so they tried to wait us out. Five and a half hours in the booth was a long time, but we finally outlasted them. The IGC left with only the satisfaction that we have foreign fighters from Morocco, Syria, Jordan, and other countries detained here. To be clear, they are not sponsored by their respective countries to come here, but it is due to their individual choices, be it religious or stupidity."

If a bunch of sitting state cabinet members showed up at prison to talk to a prisoner they were told was important, would the guards be allowed to give them the run-around? Without the warden's approval? I'm not saying this Joe Ryan guy is involved with this prisoner-beating business. But somebody is in charge of that prison and it sounds an awful lot like they've gone 'free-lance'.

Or somebody above them has encouraged them to do so.

It bugs me that somebody is working overtime to burn these grunts with time in Leavenworth whereas the officers above them are 'reprimanded'. (Will they be getting their medical benefits and stuff?) What they did was illegal, but it's one thing is they just did it at random and another is someone TOLD them to do it.

It seems Abu Ghraib is being offered up as a prison consisting entirely of terrorists, but they've had 30-40,000 people in there. That to me sounds a lot more like Abu has become Bagdad's de facto drunk tank.

I wouldn't argue this prison stuff as the worst thing ever (it's not) and I have not lost my head over it. I know all about the shooting of prisoners in WWII and My Lai and all that, but in those instances we're talking about units involved in front line combat. This stuff went on for months in the rear, or as close to the rear as you're going to get. And maybe I'm weird, but it seems far kinder to me to just shoot them out of hand, and skip the torture.

It's just so damn DUMB. Nobody in charge over there seems to know what the hell they're tryin' to do. Or they do know, and they're just bloody incompetent. Gah.


 ['Stupid and mean is a bad combination.']







CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now




This day was devoured by locusts.





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, May 14, 2004

Subject: PopSci gives you credit for Thor (

Towards the bottom of the article:,12543,636378,00.html

- Roland Dobbins

I takes my fun where I finds it. Alas, "Dr." John A. Pike got higher billing and is an expert, while I'm just a scifi writers. Oh. Well.

And Greg Cochran answers:

Subject: Re: porcupines

addressing ' a serving officer' :

There were no chemical weapons in Jordan. I checked. Now that we've got that out of the way, it gets a little more difficult.

You see, it's hard to talk thermodynamics to someone who believes that all matter is made up of earth, air, fire and water - someone who hasn't even moved up to phlogiston yet. This is just as much fun as talking to your old-style ideological communist or Freudian, whose heads are crammed with ideological constructs that have no connection to reality at all. (No, Virginia, there is no such thing as the Oedipus complex, penis envy, or the final withering away of the state).

There is no such thing as islamofascism. Almost every Arab government is a boring bureaucratic despotism. They hardly have any ideology at all nowadays, other than the people on top staying on top. Most are looser than, say, Burma or Vietnam. Some are reasonably comfortable if you stay out of politics and don't expect an efficient sewer system ( true of Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco). Bin Laden is something different - but only a tiny fraction of the Arab world has anything to do with him.

" _they_ could attack us".

So, who are 'they"? Who is this 'they'? How was Iraq a part of 'they'? ANSWER : it wasn't. 'They' was Al-Qaeda, an organization of Wahabi-style fundamentaists. The attackers came from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Lebanon, Egypt. None came from Iraq or Syria - which is what you would expect, since the Baathists were irreligious 'modernizers', strongly opposed to Wahabis, the Moslem Brotherhood, and such. None came from Iran - although Iran is certainly hostile to the US, Wahabis are incredibly hostile to Shiism, which is the official brand of Islam in Iran.

"There is going to be an all out war between civilization and terrorists".

No, there isn't. They're simply not powerful enough for such a struggle (itself unlikely) to be called a war at all. Frankly, they're about as dangerous as Pancho Villa. Get all excited about the threat if you want, but it's a fantasy - we're talking about a tiny fraction of a culture that altogether has a GNP less than that of Spain, that is utterly insignificant in science or engineering. They don't amount to a hill of beans. Germany was a threat, the Soviet Union was a threat, China could be a threat - these guys are chickenfeed.

How grave is the threat? Not very. 9-11 was a 4-sigma event - 99 out of 100 similar attacks would fail, because there were far too many people involved. The damage was probably 10 times worse than anyone expected - nobody knew that the towers would fall, not the architects and certainly not a bunch of Arabs. That particular threat is gone - nobody's ever going to yield up a plane to hijackers again. African monkeys are a bigger threat - they're the source of AIDS, and could be the source of another plague. HIV has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, killed three million people worldwide last year. Have I hammered my point in sufficiently? Why aren't we fighting monkeys?

" I think the better place is in Iraq and not Manhattan. "

Puerile. Iraq had nothing to do with the attack on the US and was singularly free of the ideological trends that led to the attack. Wahabis had a short half-life under Saddam. I shall address one of your implicit but unstated errors- 'they all hate us anyhow', with the corollary that they will do so to very much the same extent no matter what we do. The evidence is against that. . Today majorities of every Arab country say they dislike the US. We had much more support a couple of years ago, before we invaded Iraq - majority support in peripheral countries like Morocco, or in much of the rest of the Moslem world. Indonesia,. has moved from 75% favorable to 83% unfavorable: we caused that by our recent actions. But then, opinion has moved very substantially against us in almost every country on Earth - _Brazilians_ are pissed at us. Gee, is it because Brazilians ' hate our freedom' ? Ya think?

Dislike matters, but mostly because it can (rarely) lead to action. It seldom does: so far we're talking tens , maybe a few hundred suicidal terrorists out of hundreds of millions of people. We have almost certainly increased that threat by invading Iraq - but it still isn't very big. They can hate us all day as long as it doesn't lead to anything. Look, the number of people in the world who hate the US is very large - Arabs don't account for a big fraction - and this Administration has surely doubled that number. Fortunately hatred by itself doesn't mean much. The only thing that matters is action, at least if we're talking immediate threats. There are more subtle consequences - widespread dislike of the US is going to have all kinds of costs - in business, in scientific and cultural exchanges ( it slows the brain drain).

Another common verbal fart: "They're coming for us". Not if we don't stamp their visa. How do you think they're going to get here - in mighty Moslem fleets? Using their invincible air armadas?

A big fraction of this country has gone friggin crazy. It's an expensive habit - Iraq has cost over $100 billion dollars.. We should get over it. Think like Odom, or Zinni, or the Army War college.

Greg Cochran

My difference with Greg is that I think it possible that rational people could conclude that invading Iraq was a good idea. I didn't, but I can respect some of those who did.

But the result was precisely what those who didn't want us to go in predicted.

Maybe if I brought flowers to the porcupine's mother?

But see below


Whitelists have their own problems:

Our server-based spam checker was too aggressive on certain domains (based on realtime blacklists), so we whitelisted a few people. The server, in addition to checking all the usual lists, also simply drops all emails with ".vbs" or ".exe" attachments (.pif, .scr, and .bat also), so I never see them.

Today, we got a virus email with a .vbs attachment. Normally, that should have been blocked, but because the faked "from" address was whitelisted, it got past the server.

Now, part of that is our own server rules; we should have had the whitelist override the domain-based RBLs but not the attachment rule. Client-side email virus scanning is a great idea to provide a second layer of protection beyond the server. And, my Mac wasn't in any danger from that particular virus anyway.

But it's interesting to think that a virus got "lucky" by being on a machine that had both our address and that of our whitelisted friend.

Steve Setzer








This week:


read book now








CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, May 16, 2004

This is very long, but worth reading.

A View from the Eye of the Storm


Talk delivered by a famous Israeli scientist at a meeting of the International Advisory Board of a large multi-national corporation, April, 2004


(When this was first posted, I was not at liberty to name the author. I can now do so:

A View from the Eye of the Storm Talk delivered by Haim Harari at a meeting of the International Advisory Board of a large multi-national corporation, April 2004.


 HAIM HARARI, a theoretical physicist, is the Chair, Davidson Institute of Science Education, and Former President, from 1988 to 2001, of the Weizmann Institute of Science.


 During his years as President of the Institute, it entered numerous new scientific fields and projects, built 47 new buildings, raised one Billion Dollars in philanthropic money, hired more than half of its current tenured Professors and became one of the highest royalty-earning academic organizations in the world.


 Throughout all his adult life, he has made major contributions to three different fields: Particle Physics Research on the international scene, Science Education in the Israeli school system and Science Administration and Policy Making.)


 As you know, I usually provide the scientific and technological "entertainment" in our meetings, but, on this occasion, our Chairman suggested that I present my own personal view on events in the part of the world from which I come. I have never been and I will never be a Government official and I have no privileged information. My perspective is entirely based on what I see, on what I read and on the fact that my family has lived in this region for almost 200 years. You may regard my views as those of the proverbial taxi driver, which you are supposed to question, when you visit a country.


 I could have shared with you some fascinating facts and some personal thoughts about the Israeli-Arab conflict. However, I will touch upon it only in passing. I prefer to devote most of my remarks to the broader picture of the region and its place in world events. I refer to the entire area between Pakistan and Morocco, which is predominantly Arab, predominantly Moslem, but includes many non-Arab and also significant non-Moslem minorities.


Why do I put aside Israel and its own immediate neighborhood? Because Israel and any problems related to it, in spite of what you might read or hear in the world media, is not the central issue, and has never been the central issue in the upheaval in the region. Yes, there is a 100 year-old Israeli-Arab conflict, but it is not where the main show is. The millions who died in the Iran-Iraq war had nothing to do with Israel. The mass murder happening right now in Sudan, where the Arab Moslem regime is massacring its black Christian citizens, has nothing to do with Israel. The frequent reports from Algeria about the murders of hundreds of civilian in one village or another by other Algerians have nothing to do with Israel. Saddam Hussein did not invade Kuwait, endangered Saudi Arabia and butchered his own people because of Israel. Egypt did not use poison gas against Yemen in the 60ís because of Israel. Assad the Father did not kill tens of thousands of his own citizens in one week in El Hamma in Syria because of Israel. The Taliban control of Afghanistan and the civil war there had nothing to do with Israel. The Libyan blowing up of the Pan-Am flight had nothing to do with Israel, and I could go on and on and on.


The root of the trouble is that this entire Moslem region is totally dysfunctional, by any standard of the word, and would have been so even if Israel would have joined the Arab league and an independent Palestine would have existed for 100 years. The 22 member countries of the Arab league, from Mauritania to the Gulf States, have a total population of 300 millions, larger than the US and almost as large as the EU before its expansion. They have a land area larger than either the US or all of Europe. These 22 countries, with all their oil and natural resources, have a combined GDP smaller than that of Netherlands plus Belgium and equal to half of the GDP of California alone. Within this meager GDP, the gaps between rich and poor are beyond belief and too many of the rich made their money not by succeeding in business, but by being corrupt rulers. The social status of women is far below what it was in the Western World 150 years ago. Human rights are below any reasonable standard, in spite of the grotesque fact that Libya was elected Chair of the UN Human Rights commission. According to a report prepared by a committee of Arab intellectuals and published under the auspices of the U.N., the number of books translated by the entire Arab world is much smaller than what little Greece alone translates. The total number of scientific publications of 300 million Arabs is less than that of 6 million Israelis. Birth rates in the region are very high, increasing the poverty, the social gaps and the cultural decline. And all of this is happening in a region, which only 30 years ago, was believed to be the next wealthy part of the world, and in a Moslem area, which developed, at some point in history, one of the most advanced cultures in the world.


It is fair to say that this creates an unprecedented breeding ground for cruel dictators, terror networks, fanaticism, incitement, suicide murders and general decline. It is also a fact that almost everybody in the region blames this situation on the United States, on Israel, on Western Civilization, on Judaism and Christianity, on anyone and anything, except themselves.


Do I say all of this with the satisfaction of someone discussing the failings of his enemies? On the contrary, I firmly believe that the world would have been a much better place and my own neighborhood would have been much more pleasant and peaceful, if things were different.


I should also say a word about the millions of decent, honest, good people who are either devout Moslems or are not very religious but grew up in Moslem families. They are double victims of an outside world, which now develops Islamophobia and of their own environment, which breaks their heart by being totally dysfunctional. The problem is that the vast silent majority of these Moslems are not part of the terror and of the incitement but they also do not stand up against it. They become accomplices, by omission, and this applies to political leaders, intellectuals, business people and many others. Many of them can certainly tell right from wrong, but are afraid to express their views.


The events of the last few years have amplified four issues, which have always existed, but have never been as rampant as in the present upheaval in the region. These are the four main pillars of the current World Conflict, or perhaps we should already refer to it as "the undeclared World War III". I have no better name for the present situation. A few more years may pass before everybody acknowledges that it is a World War, but we are already well into it.


The first element is the suicide murder. Suicide murders are not a new invention but they have been made popular, if I may use this expression, only lately. Even after September 11, it seems that most of the Western World does not yet understand this weapon. It is a very potent psychological weapon. Its real direct impact is relatively minor. The total number of casualties from hundreds of suicide murders within Israel in the last three years is much smaller than those due to car accidents. September 11 was quantitatively much less lethal than many earthquakes. More people die from AIDS in one day in Africa than all the Russians who died in the hands of Chechnya-based Moslem suicide murderers since that conflict started. Saddam killed every month more people than all those who died from suicide murders since the Coalition occupation of Iraq.


So what is all the fuss about suicide killings? It creates headlines. It is spectacular. It is frightening. It is a very cruel death with bodies dismembered and horrible severe lifelong injuries to many of the wounded. It is always shown on television in great detail. One such murder, with the help of hysterical media coverage, can destroy the tourism industry of a country for quite a while, as it did in Bali and in Turkey.


But the real fear comes from the undisputed fact that no defense and no preventive measures can succeed against a determined suicide murderer. This has not yet penetrated the thinking of the Western World. The U.S. and Europe are constantly improving their defense against the last murder, not the next one. We may arrange for the best airport security in the world. But if you want to murder by suicide, you do not have to board a plane in order to explode yourself and kill many people. Who could stop a suicide murder in the midst of the crowded line waiting to be checked by the airport metal detector? How about the lines to the check-in counters in a busy travel period? Put a metal detector in front of every train station in Spain and the terrorists will get the buses. Protect the buses and they will explode in movie theaters, concert halls, supermarkets, shopping malls, schools and hospitals. Put guards in front of every concert hall and there will always be a line of people to be checked by the guards and this line will be the target, not to speak of killing the guards themselves. You can somewhat reduce your vulnerability by preventive and defensive measures and by strict border controls but not eliminate it and definitely not win the war in a defensive way. And it is a war!


What is behind the suicide murders? Money, power and cold-blooded murderous incitement, nothing else. It has nothing to do with true fanatic religious beliefs. No Moslem preacher has ever blown himself up. No son of an Arab politician or religious leader has ever blown himself. No relative of anyone influential has done it. Wouldn’t you expect some of the religious leaders to do it themselves, or to talk their sons into doing it, if this is truly a supreme act of religious fervor? Aren’t they interested in the benefits of going to Heaven? Instead, they send outcast women, naive children, retarded people and young incited hotheads. They promise them the delights, mostly sexual, of the next world, and pay their families handsomely after the supreme act is performed and enough innocent people are dead.


Suicide murders also have nothing to do with poverty and despair. The poorest region in the world, by far, is Africa. It never happens there. There are numerous desperate people in the world, in different cultures, countries and continents. Desperation does not provide anyone with explosives, reconnaissance and transportation. There was certainly more despair in Saddam’s Iraq then in Paul Bremmer’s Iraq, and no one exploded himself. A suicide murder is simply a horrible, vicious weapon of cruel, inhuman, cynical, well-funded terrorists, with no regard to human life, including the life of their fellow countrymen, but with very high regard to their own affluent well-being and their hunger for power.


The only way to fight this new popular weapon is identical to the only way in which you fight organized crime or pirates on the high seas: the offensive way. Like in the case of organized crime, it is crucial that the forces on the offensive be united and it is crucial to reach the top of the crime pyramid. You cannot eliminate organized crime by arresting the little drug dealer in the street corner. You must go after the head of the "Family".


If part of the public supports it, others tolerate it, many are afraid of it and some try to explain it away by poverty or by a miserable childhood, organized crime will thrive and so will terrorism. The United States understands this now, after September 11. Russia is beginning to understand it. Turkey understands it well. I am very much afraid that most of Europe still does not understand it. Unfortunately, it seems that Europe will understand it only after suicide murders will arrive in Europe in a big way. In my humble opinion, this will definitely happen. The Spanish trains and the Istanbul bombings are only the beginning. The unity of the Civilized World in fighting this horror is absolutely indispensable. Until Europe wakes up, this unity will not be achieved.


The second ingredient is words, more precisely lies. Words can be lethal. They kill people. It is often said that politicians, diplomats and perhaps also lawyers and business people must sometimes lie, as part of their professional life. But the norms of politics and diplomacy are childish, in comparison with the level of incitement and total absolute deliberate fabrications, which have reached new heights in the region we are talking about. An incredible number of people in the Arab world believe that September 11 never happened, or was an American provocation or, even better, a Jewish plot.


You all remember the Iraqi Minister of Information, Mr. Mouhamad Said al-Sahaf and his press conferences when the US forces were already inside Baghdad. Disinformation at time of war is an accepted tactic. But to stand, day after day, and to make such preposterous statements, known to everybody to be lies, without even being ridiculed in your own milieu, can only happen in this region. Mr. Sahaf eventually became a popular icon as a court jester, but this did not stop some allegedly respectable newspapers from giving him equal time. It also does not prevent the Western press from giving credence, every day, even now, to similar liars. After all, if you want to be an antisemite, there are subtle ways of doing it. You do not have to claim that the holocaust never happened and that the Jewish temple in Jerusalem never existed. But millions of Moslems are told by their leaders that this is the case. When these same leaders make other statements, the Western media report them as if they could be true.


It is a daily occurrence that the same people, who finance, arm and dispatch suicide murderers, condemn the act in English in front of western TV cameras, talking to a world audience, which even partly believes them. It is a daily routine to hear the same leader making opposite statements in Arabic to his people and in English to the rest of the world. Incitement by Arab TV, accompanied by horror pictures of mutilated bodies, has become a powerful weapon of those who lie, distort and want to destroy everything. Little children are raised on deep hatred and on admiration of so-called martyrs, and the Western World does not notice it because its own TV sets are mostly tuned to soap operas and game shows. I recommend to you, even though most of you do not understand Arabic, to watch Al Jaseera, from time to time. You will not believe your own eyes.


But words also work in other ways, more subtle. A demonstration in Berlin, carrying banners supporting Saddam’s regime and featuring three-year old babies dressed as suicide murderers, is defined by the press and by political leaders as a peace demonstration. You may support or oppose the Iraq war, but to refer to fans of Saddam, Arafat or Bin Laden as peace activists is a bit too much. A woman walks into an Israeli restaurant in mid-day, eats, observes families with old people and children eating their lunch in the adjacent tables and pays the bill. She then blows herself up, killing 20 people, including many children, with heads and arms rolling around in the restaurant. She is called martyr by several Arab leaders and activist by the European press. Dignitaries condemn the act but visit her bereaved family and the money flows.


There is a new game in town: The actual murderer is called the military wing, the one who pays him, equips him and sends him is now called the political wing and the head of the operation is called the spiritual leader. There are numerous other examples of such Orwellian nomenclature, used every day not only by terror chiefs but also by Western media. These words are much more dangerous than many people realize. They provide an emotional infrastructure for atrocities. It was Joseph Goebels who said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. He is now being outperformed by his successors.


The third aspect is money. Huge amounts of money, which could have solved many social problems in this dysfunctional part of the world, are channeled into three concentric spheres supporting death and murder. In the inner circle are the terrorists themselves. The money funds their travel, explosives, hideouts and permanent search for soft vulnerable targets. They are surrounded by a second wider circle of direct supporters, planners, commanders, preachers, all of whom make a living, usually a very comfortable living, by serving as terror infrastructure. Finally, we find the third circle of so-called religious, educational and welfare organizations, which actually do some good, feed the hungry and provide some schooling, but brainwash a new generation with hatred, lies and ignorance. This circle operates mostly through mosques, madrasas and other religious establishments but also through inciting electronic and printed media. It is this circle that makes sure that women remain inferior, that democracy is unthinkable and that exposure to the outside world is minimal. It is also that circle that leads the way in blaming everybody outside the Moslem world, for the miseries of the region.


Figuratively speaking, this outer circle is the guardian, which makes sure that the people look and listen inwards to the inner circle of terror and incitement, rather than to the world outside. Some parts of this same outer circle actually operate as a result of fear from, or blackmail by, the inner circles. The horrifying added factor is the high birth rate. Half of the population of the Arab world is under the age of 20, the most receptive age to incitement, guaranteeing two more generations of blind hatred.


Of the three circles described above, the inner circles are primarily financed by terrorist states like Iran and Syria, until recently also by Iraq and Libya and earlier also by some of the Communist regimes. These states, as well as the Palestinian Authority, are the safe havens of the wholesale murder vendors. The outer circle is largely financed by Saudi Arabia, but also by donations from certain Moslem communities in the United States and Europe and, to a smaller extent, by donations of European Governments to various NGO's and by certain United Nations organizations, whose goals may be noble, but they are infested and exploited by agents of the outer circle. The Saudi regime, of course, will be the next victim of major terror, when the inner circle will explode into the outer circle. The Saudis are beginning to understand it, but they fight the inner circles, while still financing the infrastructure at the outer circle.


Some of the leaders of these various circles live very comfortably on their loot. You meet their children in the best private schools in Europe, not in the training camps of suicide murderers. The Jihad "soldiers" join packaged death tours to Iraq and other hotspots, while some of their leaders ski in Switzerland. Mrs. Arafat, who lives in Paris with her daughter, receives tens of thousands Dollars per month from the allegedly bankrupt Palestinian Authority while a typical local ringleader of the Al-Aksa brigade, reporting to Arafat, receives only a cash payment of a couple of hundred dollars, for performing murders at the retail level.  The fourth element of the current world conflict is the total breaking of all laws. The civilized world believes in democracy, the rule of law, including international law, human rights, free speech and free press, among other liberties. There are naive old-fashioned habits such as respecting religious sites and symbols, not using ambulances and hospitals for acts of war, avoiding the mutilation of dead bodies and not using children as human shields or human bombs. Never in history, not even in the Nazi period, was there such total disregard of all of the above as we observe now. Every student of political science debates how you prevent an anti-democratic force from winning a democratic election and abolishing democracy. Other aspects of a civilized society must also have limitations. Can a policeman open fire on someone trying to kill him? Can a government listen to phone conversations of terrorists and drug dealers? Does free speech protects you when you shout fire in a crowded theater? Should there be death penalty for deliberate multiple murders? These are the old-fashioned dilemmas. But now we have an entire new set.


Do you raid a mosque, which serves as a terrorist ammunition storage? Do you return fire, if you are attacked from a hospital? Do you storm a church taken over by terrorists who took the priests hostages? Do you search every ambulance after a few suicide murderers use ambulances to reach their targets? Do you strip every woman because one pretended to be pregnant and carried a suicide bomb on her belly? Do you shoot back at someone trying to kill you, standing deliberately behind a group of children? Do you raid terrorist headquarters, hidden in a mental hospital? Do you shoot an arch-murderer who deliberately moves from one location to another, always surrounded by children? All of these happen daily in Iraq and in the Palestinian areas. What do you do? Well, you do not want to face the dilemma. But it cannot be avoided.


Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that someone would openly stay in a well-known address in Teheran, hosted by the Iranian Government and financed by it, executing one atrocity after another in Spain or in France, killing hundreds of innocent people, accepting responsibility for the crimes, promising in public TV interviews to do more of the same, while the Government of Iran issues public condemnations of his acts but continues to host him, invite him to official functions and treat him as a great dignitary. I leave it to you as homework to figure out what Spain or France would have done, in such a situation.


The problem is that the civilized world is still having illusions about the rule of law in a totally lawless environment. It is trying to play ice hockey by sending a ballerina ice-skater into the rink or to knock out a heavyweight boxer by a chess player. In the same way that no country has a law against cannibals eating its prime minister, because such an act is unthinkable, international law does not address killers shooting from hospitals, mosques and ambulances, while being protected by their Government or society. International law does not know how to handle someone who sends children to throw stones, stands behind them and shoots with immunity and cannot be arrested because he is sheltered by a Government. International law does not know how to deal with a leader of murderers who is royally and comfortably hosted by a country, which pretends to condemn his acts or just claims to be too weak to arrest him. The amazing thing is that all of these crooks demand protection under international law and define all those who attack them as war criminals, with some Western media repeating the allegations. The good news is that all of this is temporary, because the evolution of international law has always adapted itself to reality. The punishment for suicide murder should be death or arrest before the murder, not during and not after. After every world war, the rules of international law have changed and the same will happen after the present one. But during the twilight zone, a lot of harm can be done.


The picture I described here is not pretty. What can we do about it? In the short run, only fight and win. In the long run only educate the next generation and open it to the world. The inner circles can and must be destroyed by force. The outer circle cannot be eliminated by force. Here we need financial starvation of the organizing elite, more power to women, more education, counter propaganda, boycott whenever feasible and access to Western media, internet and the international scene. Above all, we need a total absolute unity and determination of the civilized world against all three circles of evil.


Allow me, for a moment, to depart from my alleged role as a taxi driver and return to science. When you have a malignant tumor, you may remove the tumor itself surgically. You may also starve it by preventing new blood from reaching it from other parts of the body, thereby preventing new "supplies" from expanding the tumor. If you want to be sure, it is best to do both.


But before you fight and win, by force or otherwise, you have to realize that you are in a war, and this may take Europe a few more years. In order to win, it is necessary to first eliminate the terrorist regimes, so that no Government in the world will serve as a safe haven for these people. I do not want to comment here on whether the American-led attack on Iraq was justified from the point of view of weapons of mass destruction or any other pre-war argument, but I can look at the post-war map of Western Asia. Now that Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are out, two and a half terrorist states remain: Iran, Syria and Lebanon, the latter being a Syrian colony. Perhaps Sudan should be added to the list. As a result of the conquest of Afghanistan and Iraq, both Iran and Syria are now totally surrounded by territories unfriendly to them. Iran is encircled by Afghanistan, by the Gulf States, Iraq and the Moslem republics of the former Soviet Union. Syria is surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. This is a significant strategic change and it applies strong pressure on the terrorist countries. It is not surprising that Iran is so active in trying to incite a Shiite uprising in Iraq. I do not know if the American plan was actually to encircle both Iran and Syria, but that is the resulting situation.


In my humble opinion, the number one danger to the world today is Iran and its regime. It definitely has ambitions to rule vast areas and to expand in all directions. It has an ideology, which claims supremacy over Western culture. It is ruthless. It has proven that it can execute elaborate terrorist acts without leaving too many traces, using Iranian Embassies. It is clearly trying to develop Nuclear Weapons. Its so-called moderates and conservatives play their own virtuoso version of the good-cop versus bad-cop game. Iran sponsors Syrian terrorism, it is certainly behind much of the action in Iraq, it is fully funding the Hizbulla and, through it, the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad, it performed acts of terror at least in Europe and in South America and probably also in Uzbekhistan and Saudi Arabia and it truly leads a multi-national terror consortium, which includes, as minor players, Syria, Lebanon and certain Shiite elements in Iraq. Nevertheless, most European countries still trade with Iran, try to appease it and refuse to read the clear signals.


In order to win the war it is also necessary to dry the financial resources of the terror conglomerate. It is pointless to try to understand the subtle differences between the Sunni terror of Al Qaida and Hamas and the Shiite terror of Hizbulla, Sadr and other Iranian inspired enterprises. When it serves their business needs, all of them collaborate beautifully.


It is crucial to stop Saudi and other financial support of the outer circle, which is the fertile breeding ground of terror. It is important to monitor all donations from the Western World to Islamic organizations, to monitor the finances of international relief organizations and to react with forceful economic measures to any small sign of financial aid to any of the three circles of terrorism. It is also important to act decisively against the campaign of lies and fabrications and to monitor those Western media who collaborate with it out of naivety, financial interests or ignorance.


Above all, never surrender to terror. No one will ever know whether the recent elections in Spain would have yielded a different result, if not for the train bombings a few days earlier. But it really does not matter. What matters is that the terrorists believe that they caused the result and that they won by driving Spain out of Iraq. The Spanish story will surely end up being extremely costly to other European countries, including France, who is now expelling inciting preachers and forbidding veils and including others who sent troops to Iraq. In the long run, Spain itself will pay even more.


Is the solution a democratic Arab world? If by democracy we mean free elections but also free press, free speech, a functioning judicial system, civil liberties, equality to women, free international travel, exposure to international media and ideas, laws against racial incitement and against defamation, and avoidance of lawless behavior regarding hospitals, places of worship and children, then yes, democracy is the solution. If democracy is just free elections, it is likely that the most fanatic regime will be elected, the one whose incitement and fabrications are the most inflammatory. We have seen it already in Algeria and, to a certain extent, in Turkey. It will happen again, if the ground is not prepared very carefully. On the other hand, a certain transition democracy, as in Jordan, may be a better temporary solution, paving the way for the real thing, perhaps in the same way that an immediate sudden democracy did not work in Russia and would not have worked in China.


I have no doubt that the civilized world will prevail. But the longer it takes us to understand the new landscape of this war, the more costly and painful the victory will be. Europe, more than any other region, is the key. Its understandable recoil from wars, following the horrors of World War II, may cost thousands of additional innocent lives, before the tide will turn.



Subject: "public convenience"

---- Roland Dobbins

For your convenience this exit is closed....

Subject: A Constitutional Issue

I know that actually reading and following the words of the U.S. Contritution is considered an outmoded concept (by all major parties), but I don't recall the two thirds vote in both halves of Congress that would allow John Kerry to serve as a U.S. Senator, let alone President.

Amendment XIV: Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

If anyone thinks that J. F. Kerry's activities in and on the behalf of Vietnam Vets Against the War doesn't constitute giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, they didn't pay attention to what the man himself has said; not to mention the official credit for victory recently given to American Fifth Columnists by the (communist) government of Vietnam.

Greg Hemsath

What the Constitution doesn't do is determine who it is who can make a decision of record in those instances. The obvious intent of the Amendment was to leave the South leaderless during Reconstruction (and the same rules were applied by the occupation forces to keep the leadership class of the South from holding local public offices; one of the main reasons for the success of the Klan which became a shadow government. Of course I refer to the original Klan disbanded by Nathan Bedford Forest as part of the  Hayes/Tilden election compromise and deal, not the present Klan which began in the North and is an entirely different proposition.)

And a second question is, absent a Declaration of War, who is an "enemy" of the United States? One of those technicalities that would be decided by a formal Declaration of War, which we ought to have had in Viet Nam, against Iran after they stormed the embassy, and Iraq both times.

Subject: Re: Greg Hemsath, Aid and Comfort, Sunday, May 16, 2004

Here's an opinion from a lawyer who obviously doesn't have much use for John Kerry, but who admits the "aid and comfort"/treason accusation is meritless. 

The same law that protects John Kerry also protects Greg Hemsath himself, if he only stopped to think about it. After all, a malicious person could claim that Hemsath was inciting armed violence, and charge him on that grounds. That is why we have constructed a firm distinction between political speech and "overt acts."

Andrew D. Todd






Subject: Library at Alexandria rediscovered?

- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Bletchley Park boffins seek Holy Grail, Knights Templar.

--- Roland Dobbins

Which is in fact very interesting. The whole saga of the Knights Templar is worthy of more study; unlike the silly "Da Vinci Code" stuff that seems to have taken over my local bookstore, there is some reality in the notion that the Templars actually recovered the Grail. There is also tradition although little evidence that the Grail (an actual cup, possibly plated in silver or gold, according to some traditions) was brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

-- William Blake (1757-1827)

But the Da Vinci Code has it all wrong. The tradition, put forth among other places in a book I have seen recently revived, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, is that Jesus may have married: not Magdalene, but Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha; the Sons of Martha inherited service, the Sons of Mary inherited "that good part"...). Apparently there is evidence that the Albigensian Heresy had connections with this notion. The Rosicrucians and some other secret societies have held that the biological descendents of Jesus still exist and are the legitimate rulers of the world.

And it is certain that the Templars had some extraordinary secret treasures, and that many of them including a rather sizable war fleet escaped the purges, and after the Order was formally disbanded continued to play a part in history...


Subject: Speech may be free, but listening will cost you

SOMEbody clearly was not paying attention to Justice Scalia's little speech. (Hint: they're wearing a uniform...)


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two media companies and two of their reporters accused the U.S. Marshals Service in a lawsuit Monday of violating their constitutional rights by confiscating recording devices during a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and erasing his remarks.


Some Views about Cochran:

Dear Dr Pournelle, Mr Cochran has a marvelous grip on language but has quite lost it with his attacks on those who prefer a robust and confrontational attitude to places and people like Al Quaeda and Saddam Hussein. It seemed quite out of character.

It's one thing to believe that the interests of the US and UK were not served by invading Iraq. It's quite another to despise those who thought otherwise, such as Tony Blair, who is not a particularly warlike person.

This is especially unbecoming when it leads him to say things like "There is no such thing as islamofascism. Almost every Arab government is a boring bureaucratic despotism."

The first sentence is so plainly wrong one really doesn't know where to begin, and the second is a non sequitur. I mean it is quite beside the point. Most of us are aware, not least "serving officer", that islamofascists and Arab governments are far from the same thing.

If by 'islamofascist' one means someone intent on imposing Islam by authoritarian means, the present government of Iran fits quite nicely, as did the Taliban.

If instead one means someone intent on using Islam to impose the authority of a fascist clique, such people certainly exist and are well organized - even Hussein's government could depict themselves as Islamic for propaganda purposes - but Islamic fascists are not necessarily part of any government. Any more.

"Serving officer" can I'm sure argue for himself, but might feel it beneath his dignity. Just for completeness, "serving officer" noted that there was a "lead in the press on the Chemical Weapons that were going to be used in Jordan", a story I noted myself on Google News. To say "There were no chemical weapons in Jordan" is a 'straw man' argument. "Serving officer" never said there were, though as a matter of definition there may have been. He is probably referring to articles like this:

< > "At issue is the presence of a large quantity of sulfuric acid among the tons of chemicals seized by Jordanian authorities. Sulfuric acid can be used as a blister agent, but it more commonly can increase the size of conventional explosions".

To say such a cache was not chemical weapons is disingenuous, and Cochran's other remarks sometimes grate even more harshly. Phlogiston was not a stepping stone to thermodynamics. There are a great many "theys" who want America and all Americans, and everyone who thinks like them, garrotted, beheaded, drawn, quartered, and burned, whether justifiably or not, and don't you ever underestimate them. Don't you dare.

It may be fashionable to refer to Arabs as ragheads but they represent a culture which in its time was the leading light of the world and could be again. There are a billion Moslems world wide, fewer than there are Christians, but a great many Christians also detest everything Western culture stands for, so it won't be just Al Quaeda who will be gunning for "you".

Every woman who yells at her husband in public or who cuts off a man in traffic, every irreverent TV comic slandering someone's cult leader, will have individuals and packs coming for you in ways you cannot anticipate and it won't matter if the military significance of their attacks is a comparative pinprick, because it's not the body of western culture - industry, lives, money - they are really trying to kill. It's the mind, and more importantly the heart. I'm not convinced by opinion polls which show changes in favourability or otherwise, if only because Cochran's baseline of "a couple of years ago" relates to when the Islamic world was recoiling from the attack on the two towers.

It's not some trivial animadversion to recent events you have to deal with - it's a long-standing grievance of peoples and cultures who feel that history has passed them by. That, by they way, is why China is not the threat some people think. History has definitely not passed China by, nor is it likely to. But in most parts of the world an unreachable antipathy will exist against the West and all it stands for, simply because you are successful and they are not. That includes Brazil. From time to time a LatinoAmerican around 1904 might feel quite happy about trade goods from the elephant to the North, but that didn't stop the likes of Rubén Dario calling Teddy Roosevelt a militaristic buffoon in terms of unforgettable poetry ("To the worship of Hercules you have joined that of Mammon") where envy mixed with anger. After five hundred years of pioneering Brazil still has fat sloppy pirates on the Amazon who murder explorers and yachtsmen for a few dollars and change. Lula might make a difference but it's more likely to this spectator to be a very long term development, and in the meantime the US will be held to standards which no petty dictatorship in Latin America, the Islamic world, could possibly meet.

So what is a poor superpower to do? Should the US be shamed by the behaviour of its prison guards? Absolutely. Just like certain dark tales of the Marine stockade at Parris Island are an indelible stain on your history.

Does that mean, as the Chinese would argue, that such policies expose US hypocrisy in its criticisms of the human rights records of other nations? No, because in the first place there will be public trials of the malefactors - which will not go unnoticed, I promise you; in the second place, two wrongs do not make a right.

Does it mean the end of US war aims in Iraq? No, because June 30th is not that far off anyway. When the first riots erupt and the Governing Council is beheaded in front of reporters, should the US reinvade? You will do what you need to survive as a nation. So far, nothing new.

Greg Cochran is right that no clear and present Islamic military threat, nor some pandemic like AIDS or the Spanish lady, could seriously menace civilisation as we know it; but a régime of harassment and hatred would cut power to the dynamo of the West, even more than any oil shock. This is something which "Serving officer" clearly understands, and which Mr Cochran to his discredit dismisses if he thinks of it at all.

If Cochran meant to say that he and the likes of "Serving officer" can have no common discourse, that would be about right, but just whose argument will be as dead as phlogiston in two decades? That is less clear. (A propos, when Carnot crystallised the uses of steam in the language of Physics - two decades after the death of Priestley - he used as a theoretical crutch the idea of "calorique" which like the ether flowed unseen and which, like phlogiston, was just as erroneous. But productive errors nonetheless).

For me the problem is that from every important actionable viewpoint I think Mr Cochran is right. There were better targets than Iraq. But it wasn't clear at the time, not to me, not to Bush, not even to Powell or Blair, and to claim otherwise is what strikes me as puerile.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator Dept. of Maths and Stats, Otago University PO. Box 56, Dunedin tel:64-3-4797739 NEW ZEALAND fax:64-3-4798427

As I have told Greg many times, I agree with his analysis but not the conclusion that all those who didn't, or now don't, agree are idiots. I said at the time we invaded Iraq that I had severe misgivings, but once we were committed we needed to do it well; and I still believe that. I also believe that reasonable people, including John Kerry, could vote for the resolution authorizing the invasion although I would not have.

And I still believe that the biggest cost of Iraq is opportunity cost: for that kind of money we could build a Space Navy and give ourselves independence of Middle Eastern oil. Let the Europeans and Japanese handle the situation since they will need the oil; we can see that we don't.

I trust our military to be able to break things, kill people, and win wars. No one in history has been better at it, and with fairly small forces given the numbers of people involved. But I do not trust our, or any, military with being able to build nations in Arab lands and still be the splendid force we sent into there.

I trust the United States to muddle through and find a way to build a new occupation force, a constabulary and military government force: the Marines have often been able to do this, and the Marines are the closest thing we have to the kinds of forces that can both win wars and impose order and build a civilization without becoming something other than Marines; but the process is expensive, and takes a long time, and has to play out in the drama of domestic politics and elections under the tender scrutiny of the Media; and if anyone purports to know what that will bring, he is either wiser or more foolish than me, and by a lot.

Subject: Cochran on chemical weapons

>> And Greg Cochran answers: >> There were no chemical weapons in Jordan. I checked. >> Now that we've got that out of the way, it gets a little more difficult

If that is the case, then what does Mr. Cochran do with: , which reports "In a series of raids, the Jordanians said, they seized 20 tons of chemicals and numerous explosives." with the intention of "the attack would have mixed a combination of 71 lethal chemicals, which they said has never been done before, including blistering agents to cause third-degree burns, nerve gas and choking agents."

Sure sounds like chemical weapons tome.


================ "Nothing is ever what it seems but everything is exactly what it is." - B. Banzai

Volunteers Replacing American Iraq Losses


I found this interesting.


The U.S. Army, which is taking the bulk of the casualties in Iraq, is still getting more volunteers than it needs. Standards have remained high, but the numbers needed have gone up as well. With over 6,000 casualties in Iraq during the last year, the number of new troops needed this year has been increased from 72,000 to 77,000. Most of the wounded troops return to duty, but all are out of action for days, or months, or forever in the case of the dead and crippled. This is all uncharted territory for the army, as it has been over 150 years since it was in a long war with an all-volunteer force.

The army has about eleven percent of its total (active and reserve) strength in Iraq, and the casualties are, in a historical first, disproportionately non-combat troops. This means that those joining the army can't guarantee they will stay away from combat by enlisting for a non-combat job. If you go to Iraq or Afghanistan, you are going to be shot at. Army basic training has been made longer, and more combat oriented as a result.

Anyone going to Iraq has a 4-5 percent chance of getting hurt. But so far that has not caused a decline in volunteers, despite media reports recruiting would suffer. There may yet be a decline in volunteers, and the army is paying close attention to recruiting efforts in order to detect any problems early, so they can try and counter them. One thing the army has noted is the increasing number of volunteers who are joining up not for the educational benefits or the money. Now a major incentive is patriotism. Many young Americans believe that Islamic radicals are a real threat to the United States and want to do something about it. But in past wars, this sort of enthusiasm diminished as the war went on. Historically, after three years, the number of volunteers declined dramatically. But in those past wars, mainly the Civil War and World War II, the casualties were high. This is not the case in Iraq, a war with historically very low casualties. No one knows what impact all this will have. There are still enough troops coming back dead or maimed to remind potential volunteers that this is a dangerous business. But since there is no precedent for a situation like this, the army can only watch, and wait.


Watch and wait: and wonder, what are we recruiting for? The nature of the army determines the nature of a republic.






Subject: both sexes on duty

Did this meme come from you, or to you?

You: "And again I keep wondering: is there anyone at all who doesn't understand the implications of putting young men and women together in situations like this without supervision? Hasn't anyone ever read an elementary psychology book? Or have any experience with units of mixed sexes? Or know much about what young men will do to impress young women?"

Linda Chavez:  "It is hard to know what led to this breakdown in discipline. But one factor that may have contributed -- but which I doubt investigators will want to even consider -- is whether the presence of women in the unit actually encouraged more misbehavior, especially of the sexual nature that the pictures reveal."

Lloyd Arnold Winterville, North Carolina

No data. Seemed obvious to me.

Subject: Wesley Clark checks in

Broken Engagement The strategy that won the Cold War could help bring democracy to the Middle East-- if only the Bush hawks understood it.

By Gen. Wesley Clark

During 2002 and early 2003, Bush administration officials put forth a shifting series of arguments for why we needed to invade Iraq. Nearly every one of these has been belied by subsequent events. We have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; assuming that they exist at all, they obviously never presented an imminent threat. Saddam's alleged connections to al Qaeda turned out to be tenuous at best and clearly had nothing to do with September 11. The terrorists now in Iraq have largely arrived because we are there, and Saddam's security forces aren't. And peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which prominent hawks argued could be achieved "only through Baghdad," seems further away than ever.

Advocates of the invasion are now down to their last argument: that transforming Iraq from brutal tyranny to stable democracy will spark a wave of democratic reform throughout the Middle East, thereby alleviating the conditions that give rise to terrorism. This argument is still standing because not enough time has elapsed to test it definitively--though events in the year since Baghdad's fall do not inspire confidence. For every report of a growing conversation in the Arab world about the importance of democracy, there's another report of moderate Arabs feeling their position undercut by the backlash against our invasion. For every example of progress (Libya giving up its WMD program), there's an instance of backsliding (the Iranian mullahs purging reformist parliamentarians).

What is certainly true is that any hope for a "domino theory" rests with Iraq's actually becoming something that resembles a stable democracy. But here, too, there has been little progress. Despite their heroic efforts, American soldiers have been unable to make the country consistently stable and safe. <snip>


Clark has earned the right to an opinion, but so have many others.



Subject: Third world perspective on Iraq


I’m heading back to Uganda today for a month or so. Back in the states around June 10. I came across the following article in one of Uganda’s two leading newspapers:








Hi Jerry,

Found: Saddam's WMDs 

- Paul

I think I have referred to this in View as well.


Dr. Pournelle,

Here is a unique job opportunity a large proportion of Chaos Manor readers undoubtedly will be interested in. Be sure to read the details. 

Respectfully submitted,

-- Earl Everett



Maybe we're getting bad news from Iraq because the reporters don't go where there is no news. Check this out, for example:

If it is even partly true, perhaps we should not pay attention to journalists there.


'Twas ever thus. But we're still a long way from a democratic republic.


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Not to distract from the political ramblings...

Now that you have broadband access you can more readily see movies like the following, which is a 3D fly-through from here to the Virgo Supercluster.

It's 25 Megs but well worth the download.

Imagine, if you will, future buyers of your books getting a companion CD with a movie like this but flying through, say, the Mote... It's the 21st century...


Gary Alston










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