THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 252 April 7 - 13, 2003
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here.
If you are not paying for this place, click here...
For Previous Weeks of the View, SEE VIEW HOME PAGE
Search: type in string and press return.
If you have no idea what you are doing here, see the What is this place?, which tries to make order of chaos.
If you intend to send MAIL to me, see the INSTRUCTIONS.
If you subscribed:
If you didn't and haven't, why not?
For the BYTE story, click here.
The freefind search remains:
April 7, 2003
Column filed tonight. Coming up for air.
And from Dr. Huth
Subject: sars revisited. Important article
Mark Huth mhuthATcoldswim.com
Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. twain
|This week:||Tuesday, April
I would do my Monday Morning Quarterbacking here, but what is the point? The 104th Chairborne was wrong. And most of my views will be up in next Monday's Column, which I filed last night.
I have errands. More mail later.
The Palestine Hotel story becomes clear: a bunch of journalists were aiming cameras and binoculars at advancing troops. The troops took mortar fire. They hadn't been told about any journalists or hotels. A lookout saw people in tall buildings examining them while mortar fire, obviously under control of a spotter, fell around them.
The company commander ordered his tanks to take out the artillery observer. It wasn't an observer in the military sense, perhaps, but it was someone observing them with binoculars, and someone else pointing a large device at them.
There may or may not have been Iraqi troops actually firing from the hotel, and there may or may not have been Iraqi artillery observers using the hotel to spot for mortars. That would depend in part on whether there is any reliable communication from the hotel to the mortar crews; clearly it is more likely that there is communication from there, where there is power and the foreign journalists get their stories out, than from any other tall building. On the other hand, doing that without being found out isn't easy. Journalists do try to find stories.
The probability is that there weren't any Iraqi elements in the hotel, and the journalists were just being journalists, and the company commander was concerned about his troops and gave orders on the basis of what he knew. The journalists were victims of the fog of war.
So what should the journalists have done?
Well, first, they might have thought through the situation, and made certain that Allied command knew where they were. Hanging big sheets out the windows wouldn't have hurt either.
If you are counting on the rules of engagement to keep you safe, you would do well to find out what those rules are. Those who choose to stay in a city under siege have shown courage, but there are ways to reduce the risks. Assuming no one will shoot at you isn't one of them.
And see mail.
He was one of the first professors to take science fiction seriously, and helped originate several awards. I recall a party at his house years ago with Harlan, Phil Dick, Harry Harrison, Jim Gunn, and many others: memorable for reasons I won't go into.
A bit fussy, but a man with a good heart and good mind, dedicated to our field. He'll be missed.
Things to remember:
As the allies' push into Iraq seemed to falter, many hearts in Moscow and in Europe rejoiced. In a poll taken in late March, 52 percent of Russians were of the opinion that the U.S.-led military action in Iraq was unsuccessful; 58 percent believed it would be a long war; 35 percent were convinced the United States would win in the end, while 33 percent assumed Iraq would prevail.
Last week it was disclosed that two retired three-star generals -- Vladislav Achalov (a former paratrooper and specialist in urban warfare) and Igor Maltsev (a specialist in air defense) -- visited Baghdad recently and were awarded medals by Hussein. The awards were handed out by Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Khashim Akhmed.
They sure can make good war plans, can't they? Amazing how well it all worked out...
April 10, 2003
The news is all about "weapons grade Plutonium" which will very likely turn out to be false, and not about the huge underground complex that Hans Blix and his ace inspectors never found; and the aftermath of the story will be that there wasn't any "weapons grade" Pu and therefore the war was needless.
I would say that hiding a large underground nuclear research facility from the UN inspectors was itself the big story, but that is likely to be lost in the noise over "weapons grade" Pu.
They say they found "Yellowcake" and it was more radioactive than it should be. "Yellowcake" is Uranium Oxide, and is a term often used for refined Uranium ore. It would then be sent to an enrichment plant. It will typically have a very low U235 content; enrichment will bring up the ratio of U235 (actively radioactive) to U238 (more or less nuclearly inert, "depleted"). If what was supposed to be Yellowcake is more "radioactive" than it should be, then we need to know more about "how much more" and what kind of radiation is given off. As you can see here:
U-238 Beta Decay Energy: B- -147.065 +- 1.145 keV
U-235 Beta Decay Energy: B- -123.716 +- 0.869 keV
Pu-239 Beta Decay Energy: B- -802.912 +- 2.011 keV
The energies and decay properties should make it easy enough to see if there is Pu present, but without reasonably sophisticated tests, a larger proportion of U-235 than usual in Yellowcake can make it "more radioactive" than was supposed.
We will just have to wait and see, but I won't be terribly surprised if there was no "weapons grade" plutonium.
"Fuel grade" Uranium is on the order of 10% U-235 and is almost always in oxide form. "Weapons grade" Uranium is about 90% U-235 and is generally in metallic form. I don't know much about Pu. They did have some experimental Pu fuel rods at the San Onofre SCE nuclear plant some 30 years ago when I did an article on "America's Looming Power Crisis" and had access to (and toured) many power facilities in California, Nevada, and New Mexico, but I didn't note the composition at the time. I would presume "weapons grade" Plutonium to be about 90% metallic. Plutonium is exceedingly dangerous stuff to get inside you (it's not all that horrible if ingested, it's getting particles in the lungs that will kill you), and it's not likely to be around in Yellowcake.
However, when they said "Yellowcake" I assumed they meant Pu mixed with Uranium oxides. This can be the result of using Pu in a reactor. Pu is also a possible product of power fission processes (the amounts can be varied depending on geometries and other matters) but that will be contained in the fuel rods. Fuel rods before they go into the reactor are not dangerous. Once they have been in a reactor they are hideously dangerous.
Pu isn't all that violently radioactive -- that's why the half life is in tens of thousands of years -- and was thought not to occur naturally until a couple of decades ago a "natural reactor" -- a Uranium ore site with a geometry such that water could pool in it and serve as a moderator -- was found in, I believe Nigeria (certainly somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa). The natural reactor had been operating for thousands of years and had generated some Pu meaning that Pu has been found in "nature" and thus is not exclusively a "man - made" element like Californium.
I would be much surprised to find "weapons grade" plutonium in a research facility. But any Pu at all is interesting.
As I said, the real story is a large nuclear research facility underground and never seen by the weapons inspectors. Clearly it was hidden for what seemed good reasons to Saddam and Company.
The Marine who put the US Flag over Saddam's head was persuaded to take it down, and it and a pre-Saddam Iraqi flag were displayed together there. The rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say:
The American flag covering The head of the statue of Saddam in Baghdad was originally flying at the Pentagon on 9/11/2001.
Which makes it fitting enough...
German Embassy in Baghdad sacked
Should they send the bill to the UN?
"The German Embassy, a three-story off-white building in the center of al-Karada district, also was sacked. Looters emerged with air conditioners and computers. Mobs also cleaned out the French Cultural Center... "
On looting, Saddam and company looted the country for decades. Sacking his palaces seems fair enough; certainly would seem fair to those doing the sacking.
For a very sane analysis of the situation in Iraq see
Of course the same man wrote what is going to be his worst embarrassment only a week or so earlier:
But what the heck.
In another conference, a well known computer entrepreneur and sometimes politician wanted to be on record that the Iraqi War and occupation would be a disaster and seen to be that way, after the US was forced out by suicide bombers in a year or so; and we would never establish Jeffersonian Democracy over there. I decided it was time for me to be on record:
Let me be on record for some predictions about conditions over there after a year:
First, the occupation will not be a disaster, although there will be plenty of partisan politicians, coupled with friendly journalists, who will say it is a disaster and natter about it until some proportion of the US begins to believe it is a disaster; but in terms of numbers of casualties to both US and Iraqi soldiers and civilians, once the fight is over in about 4 weeks, the death rates to violence will be about the same as in Harlem or South LA, and probably lower than that.
The number of suicide bombers will be small but non-zero, and at least some contemplating suicide bombing will be turned in by Iraqis.
The number of Iraqis jailed or killed by government will be smaller in 2003 than it was in 2002 and a lot smaller than in 1992
There won't be "Jeffersonian Democracy" in Iraq or in the United States of America, in a year or ten years.
In about a year there will be some semblance of rule of law, but it will take about 3 to 4 years to actually set up the country in ways that probably resemble Turkey but with oil, and a military that protects the constitution. Building a military that doesn't try to run the country will be the tough part, since there is no Ataturk to lead Iraq.
The Kurdish/Turkish situation will be damned tense, and the Turks will want some oil revenues and may get them; but the Turkish/Iraqi border will be more or less stable and there won't be more violence there than there has been for the past decade and more.
The Shi'ite population of Iraq will begin make nice with their co religionists in Iran, to the mutual benefit of both.
I could go on, but the bottom line is, it won't be all smooth and nice, there will be problems, journalists and alarmists will try to say it is a disaster, and the facts will say otherwise.
The disaster has happened already in the sense that there won't be Jeffersonian Democracy either in Iraq or the Unites States, and the war was one more nail in the coffin of the Republic, but the Republic was probably doomed by our silly immigration policies to begin with
Welcome to the Empire. Hail to the Chief.
Saddam's utter collapse shows this has not been a real war By John Keegan (Filed: 08/04/2003)
The war in Iraq seems to be drawing to a close in circumstances as mysterious as those that have surrounded its unfolding from the beginning. The chief mystery now is the whereabouts of Saddam and his entourage.
But see Mail, since there seems to be a view that Keegan has lost his marbles.
I sent a mailing to all subscribers today. I have updated the badmail page so check there. Many of you have full mail boxes and I can't do anything about that. In general I have eliminated those whose mail is returned as undeliverable. Instructions are on the badmail page.
April 11, 2003
Roberta wonders if San Francisco will now continue to be known as Baghdad on the Bay?
April 12, 2003
Is Baghdad Bob hiding in Baghdad by the Bay?
As to the looting of Iraqi Universities, I give you
F is for our Freedom right this minute,
Put them all together they spell MOTHER,
Poul Anderson, sometime in the 70's
Tales of women who run with the wolves: today we witnessed the total defeat of Dash, a very nice and conscientious Border Collie. Dash has lived in the neighborhood for years, and once he got to know you he would come to the front gate bringing a ball in hopes you would throw it. When we would walk past with Sasha, the dogs would touch noses through the gate. Sasha would ignore Dash while we threw his ball. After Sasha couldn't manage his walk any more we'd still throw the ball for Dash.
Then Dash's owner had twins after a long and rather difficult pregnancy. Dash's life changed. Now he knew he was supposed to protect his yard, but he'd still play ball with people he knew. Of course we never tried to go inside his yard, and all was well. He'd come over to greet old friend; until we got Sable. For a while she didn't come with us on our walks, and Dash would still come to the gate to see us, but he wasn't all that interested in ball playing; clearly he thought he had new duties. Then we brought Sable.
That was too much. A dog! Looking in at the gate! A wolf! He barked and snarled. But the wolf with with people he knew. Dilemma. He came up to the gate, bared his teeth and snarled.
Sable grinned and licked his bare teeth. Dash stood his ground but he was chagrinned.
Today he looked up from his porch, which is a good ways from the gate, saw it was us, wagged his tail at us, and ostentatiously lay back down on his rug. "I can defend my door, and I am damned if I am going to go snarl at a wolf who kisses me!" He sure looked frustrated...
April 13, 2003
I fear I have no interest in the debate over whether Keegan was mad or sane in his article. I thought it clear to me that he was speculating on what Iraq might have done differently. Those who choose to think that the collapse was inevitable and nothing could have been done are welcome to think so; I hope we have policy makers who think in slightly less optimistic terms.
In any event the military part of the war is pretty well over. We know how to conquer. It remains to be seen if we know how to rule. At least it should be clear to the enemies of the US that it is a bad idea even to be suspected of harboring those who attack us, and that, at least, is worth something.
I now have to do taxes.
Entire Site Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.