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Mail 250 March 24 - 30, 2003






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Monday  March 24, 2003

Subject: Censorship?

Are you as troubled as I am at the disappearance of those pictures of executed American GI's? War is never clean, and the American people deserve as clear a picture as the fog of war will allow. There is some protest that the pictures violate the Geneva Convention, but it still bugs me that Google disappeared those links once they were up. Google was once a source I trusted...

Perhaps it is time we raised the red flag on Iraqi combatants... no quarter asked, none given. Those who raise the white flag and come out with their hands up will be treated well... those who fire to expect death and no other. My old foreman always told me that there is no such thing as a fair fight....

And to that end, I've been hearing rumors that the Russians have been selling the Iraqis night vision goggles, GPS jammers, and anti-tank guided missles. _Recently_. I don't know where Neal Boortz is getting his sources, but he's usually a reliable source himself... And if the Russians are actively aiding the enemy, I fear we may be in a lot more trouble than we can get out of quickly. Fighting an ill-trained Iraqi army is easy. Going up against the Russian Bear, even indirectly, is not to be done lightly.

-- Glenn Stone

-- This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it. (now-Senator) Fred Thompson as ADM Josh Painter, "The Hunt for Red October"

Well, of course there is censorship: there always is in war, and that is as it should be. But yes I am disturbed that the pictures, already released and aired by al Jazeera, have vanished, both stills and video.

Jerry, You must immediately remove the links which show pictures of our dead soldiers. Its disgusting and Its not right. 



I understand the sentiment, but I don't share it. I won't post pictures where people will find them unexpectedly, but I think evidence may be needed to convince some people that we are engaged in war to the knife. I didn't advocate this war, but we are now in it, and those are our soldiers over there.

I am told that the al Jazeera site was hacked and that's why you now see porno pictures at the link. I am not sure that was the right thing to do.

One of your correspondents quoted this: "We cannot believe that we are in any way as informed as our leaders."

I'll lay odds that I'm considerably better informed.


Gregory Cochran

Well, we do have our sources...

I'm sure you get this kind of annoying mail all the time. For that, I apologize. On the other hand, that's the risk you take when you have a website and happen to be famous and have a lot of fans -- everyone wants a piece of you. :) At any rate, I've followed the posts on Chaos Manor concerning the possible war for a while, and now that it's a real, honest-to-God people-shooting-at-each-other-in-between-bombing-runs conflict I feel somehow compelled to pester you with *my* thoughts on the matter:

1. I won't be shedding any tears over Saddam Hussein being forced from power. Nor will I feel any particular sorrow over the chance he or his sons might be killed. Hussein is a vile man who has done horrible things in his quest to stay in power and expand that power base, and I'm having a lot of difficulty feeling any amount of pity for him.

2. I am, on the other hand, more than a little concerned about the way our President went about doing this. His main method of diplomacy seems to be to order other countries around, though he skillfully hides it behind an "aw shucks" personna that can be charming on television. Most of his arguments in support of the war have not convinced me -- the fact that he tried to tie Al Queda (a radical religious extremist terrorist organization) with Iraq (a very secular, though despotic, government) looked nothing more than a brazen attempt to inflame public support by riding on the coattails of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was disgusting political rhetoric, and for that alone he ought to be ashamed of himself. (That said, it seems to have worked. Which is another thing that bothers me).

3. That said, regardless of my problems with the Commander In Chief I really have no objections about the way the military is handling this. Let's be blunt, they're trained to kill people, over and over again, until the government tells them to stop. It's not a pretty job description, but if you're not good at it, the point of a military is somewhat moot. Whether I wish they were doing that job at right this moment is a moot point, because my wishing one way or the other isn't going to change anything.

4. But the thing that really bothers me, more than anything else in this mess, is that it seems that our political process and our society as a whole is largely incapable or unwilling to stick to our guns when it comes to actually participating in a democratic republic. There seems to be no middle ground for any real serious discussion of whether or not we should be in this war. The Hawks accuse the Doves of being anti-american, the Doves accuse the Hawks of being oilthirsty opportunists, and american citizens on both sides of the issue simply parrot whatever phrase they heard on television last night that best supports their group. The idea that clear and rational dissent is an integral and invaluable part of a free nation seems lost on everyone, from George Bush dismissing the "focus groups" demonstrating for peace to Mr. Rumsfeld verbally attacking journalists who try to ask probing questions to opponents of the war refusing to speak out because they don't want to lose their political stroke to the peace "activists" who stupidly believe that running around naked is really going to convince anyone that they should be taken seriously.

I could go on, but those are my four biggest opinions with this thing that I can only describe as a big ugly mess.

And now that I've said my peace, I'd like to add that I'm looking forward to your new book. :)


Christopher B. Wright 

I will leave comments to others. 

Dear Jerry—

The appearance by ‘Saddam’ on Iraqi TV would seem to be more of the SOP of totalitarian regimes. By threats and deception these bully-types try to appear stronger than they really are. If Saddam is incapacitated or killed, they have to cover up the fact to maintain control. They either still don’t get that their regime is finished, or they’re determined to hold on till the very end.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but the decision not to fly US (and UK) flags in Iraq seems an uncharacteristic Republican display of political correctness. I think this will neither mollify nor persuade anyone against the war, and if we believe in our cause, we should not in effect conceal our identity, as if we are ashamed to be going in. Then again, it could be a shrewd and even clever move--too clever is my fear--as the Iraqis undoubtedly know who is liberating them.

My best armchair-strategist guess is this will be a ‘Two (maybe even One) Weeks War’.

Some of H. Beam Piper’s observations seem to be currently applicable.

‘Xentos regarded war as an evidence of bad statesmanship. Maybe so, but statesmanship was operating on credit, and sooner or later your credit ran out and you had to pay off in hard money or get sold out.’

(Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, pg. 173)

‘Tanith had the ships and men and the will to act.’ (Space Viking, pg. 210)

‘So we go to Marduk and smash him now, while he’s still little enough to smash.’

(Otto Harkaman, ibid, pg. 216—Interesting that Marduk is a Babylonian deity. Did Piper know something we didn’t?)

‘Tanith was being defended where a planet ought to be; on somebody else’s real estate.’ (ibid, pg. 217)

And finally,

‘She laughed at that. "I’ll take my chances on the fire. I seem to see a lot of good firemen around."’

(Lucile, Princess Bentrick, ibid, pg. 201)

God bless our troops and those of our allies. May our victory be swift and as bloodless as possible.


--John A. Anderson (Piper researcher)

Beam was one of the best this field ever produced. Thanks.

As to Saddam, I cannot imagine that if he were capable of it, he would not be doing a defiant speech with current editions of papers, weapons, pictures of dead Americans, etc.

Since he isn't doing that, I don't think he's capable of it. He's wounded.



Did a quick search to see what you could do to meet your need to switch machines & cut & paste directly – the below item would seem to do this (& some other neat stuff) via a network shared clipboard. Let me know if you can use this.


1. A built in facility with Win 2000 server – which I believe you have


4980 » How do I install and use the ClipPool tool (Clippool.exe) to share a clipboard between computers?

ClipPool.exe is available in the Windows 2000 Resource Kit Supplement One.

For more information about the Windows 2000 Resource Kit and the Windows 2000 Resource Kit Supplement 1, visit the following Microsoft Web site:

Andy Gibbs






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Tuesday,  March 25, 2003

Hi Jerry,

a site with some more detail: 

next will probably be 

later today or tomorrow.

you will have to put some sustained effort to reach the site as it is "slashdotted"

It is a translation from 

which has announced to have an englisch site online as fast as possible.

G! UK -- Uwe Klein [] KLEIN MESSGERAETE Habertwedt 1 D-24376 Groedersby b. Kappeln, GERMANY 


Subject: good war mage page

Strategy Page has put together a page discussing the war. 

Particularly useful is this map with markers 

showing the location of the various military units involved, updated on a regular basis.

Mike Z


Dr. Pournelle,

I have found the March 24 column Winning Big</a> by Ralph Peters (a retired Army officer and the author of <i>Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World.</i>) on the New York Post website to be a breath of fresh air.

Mr. Peters is a sensible alternative to some of the overly senationalistic reporting I've seen in the media lately...

Best regards, 

 David P. Huff | "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys | to teenage boys." -- P. J. O'Rourke




Given the massive amounts of munitions dropped on Baghdad on Friday, I find it amazing that the regime could only manage to scrape together 250 casualties. I suspect that a fair number of them were injured by anti-aircraft fire (on the principle that what goes up will come down somewhere). Also I do wonder how many of those 250 were "normal" injuries who would have turned up at hospital even if the bombs had not been falling, given the probability that the figures were generated by ringing the hospitals and asking them how many casualties the had had that day.

Doubtless we'll probably never know but the low numbers do seem to indicate that the "smart munitions" systems do seem to be working.

Also why is anybody surprised that prisoners have been executed . We know the nature of the regime in Baghdad, we know that executions have happened in previous conflicts. When will people start to learn that war is not nice or clean, though the media and their managers do seem to be trying hard to make it otherwise.

All the best

Ian Crowe

Indeed. But see below.

Dear Jerry:

For what its worth, pictures of the dead are considered pornography by the U.S. Military. Such was the case in Vietnam. And as a journalist I think the restraint shown by American journalists is laudable. You don't need to show the deed to know the deed was done. Given the lightning speed of global communications these days one has to consider the feelings of the victim's family and friends.

Everybody has a web site now. The 507th Maintenance Company is out of Fort Bliss. It's unclear whether or not the are regulars or National Guard, but my impression is that they were lightly armed,as befits non-combat arms soldiers, fought back bravely, and were overcome by superior numbers.

During the last Gulf War I wrote an Op/Ed about women in combat where I said, given Soviet tactics of deep penetration, the only difference between combat and combat support positions was the word "support". The Iraqi army is Soviet trained and equipped (and no one should be surprised that the Russians are selling them additional items and upgrades. Its a relationship that survived the demise of the USSR.)

The Iraqis didn't observed the Geneva Convention the last time we fought, so they're not likely to now. They seem to have executed prisoners. That makes it less likely other soldiers will allow themselves to be captured easily.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Regarding showing the pictures: there are many, including many of those on stage at the Academy Awards, who will not believe anything they haven't seen (and often not then). My guess is that the display of those pictures calmed that event considerably. Sometimes you do have to show the deeds.

To your main point: Actually, I am somewhat surprised: given the overwhelming force coming at them, simple self preservation ought to tempt local commanders to keep their POW's in good condition ready to testify to the honor and courage of their captors. If I have to negotiate surrender -- and it's pretty inevitable I will have to -- I would want some blue chips to negotiate with. 

Of course it helps if you're fighting arabs. But it can be hard on those who fall into their hands.

My answer remains:

Sports Illustrated, of all magazines, has an article about Saddam Hussein's son Uday. Grim reading.

I am grimly looking forward to the day when the TV cameras visit the torture houses. -- 

Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

I understand your words, but the word "dread" comes to mind in my case. I have seen more than enough of atrocities. 


Robert Bruce Thompson proposed, among other things"

"5. We will accept surrender of Iraqi military forces and civilians until the first time someone surrendering abuses our graciousness by setting off a suicide bomb or otherwise harming US troops. If that occurs, we will no longer accept surrender by any Iraqi, soldier or civilian. We will simply obliterate anything and anyone in our way."

This morning, I read the following:

"My uncle Edward Rosenfeld, now 90, was a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima. Fortunately for him, he was not in the first, nor the second wave of Marines to hit the island, because some of those units suffered casualties of up to 75 percent. But he was in the third wave, and he and his comrades had the awful job of attempting to roust the last Japanese soldiers out of their caves and hiding places. 'People wondered,' Uncle Ed reminisced several years ago, 'why we didn't take more Japanese prisoners. At first, we tried to. But one Japanese soldier came out with his hands up and then dropped to the ground so that the guy behind him could open fire. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We didn't take prisoners after that.'" 

Collective responsibility, as you rightly point out, is a dangerous policy. However, if enough surrenders turn out to be shams, I doubt any policy statement supporting it would need to be made, and I'm not sure how well a statement against it would be followed. Our troops are highly trained, and very professional, but still human with human limits to patience.

............Karl Lembke

We have faced this problem for a long time, including, of course, in Korea (against North Korea; the Chinese were much more civilized and honorable). It is a horrible dilemma for small unit commanders, whose responsibilities are both to national policy and to their own troops. It is not an obligation anyone willingly undertakes, but it is also one that lieutenants and captains can't escape.

The first time a 10 year old boy drops a grenade into a foxhole while begging for rations is an experience no junior lieutenant will ever forget.





Back to computing:


Saw your item in the latest column about wanting to be able to cut&paste between screens through a KVM. At My Current Employer (a large financial institution *formerly* based out of SF, now Charlotte), I manage Sun boxes, and run from a Linux desktop, but have to run my Windows laptop for the handful of apps with no Linux counterpart (MS-Project, Visio, and Lotus Sametime, which they use internally for IM).

In the latest copy of Linux Journal, there's an item on a software project called Synergy, which amounts to a 'software' keyboard/mouse switch between platforms. I run a server routine on the Linux box, then fire up the client on the laptop when I get in in the morning, and can merrily slide the mouse between screens the rest of the day. The keyboard focus follows the mouse. This also allows cut&paste between screens so I can sweep a block of text out of a logfile I'm VI'g on the Linux side and drop it into an IM window on the Windows laptop. Too useful. The server can run from any of the boxes, so working between Windows boxes is equally straightforward (and actually easier to configure from the Windows side).

I've taken the liberty of attaching the Windows version to the e-mail. Since I'd expect you to be a little paranoid of people e-mailing you attachments, though, the URL is .

Hope this proves useful to you.

Bob Halloran Jacksonville FL

I will have a look. Thanks. And we have:


I noticed your comment regarding the clipboard & the KVM switch. Use software ! I have a bunch of machines throughout the house: Solaris Sparc, WinXP, Win98, SunPCI, etc, which all have TightVNC server installed on them which I then remote control from my Win2k desktop (two screens for the real estate). This is a variant of VNC with speed optimisations. A search in google should get it. I use the fast compression client shortcut.

Anyhow the clipboard works great across all sessions, and my favourite feature: if my desktop crashes my remote sessions persist, so I don't lose context (and therefore have to make great demands on my memory). A usability indicator is that my WinXP machine sits in my loft (headless) running a webcam which (with custom weather protection) watches the outside of my house ( - and allows me to connect from my desktop via tightvnc to view video - yes it's fast enough. I use resolutions of 800x600 to 1152x900 for remote machines.



Mark Davis


'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

Thanks. And I love your end quote.




And on a subject dear to my heart:

Subject: Houston chronicle SPS piece

Interesting. The Houston Chronicle calls for energy independence via solar power sats.

Somewhat predictably, they say that doing it at current launch prices would be OK, presumably since much of the money would be spent in Houston. Other than that, the story lays out the case sensibly. 

Henry Vanderbilt

Indeed. It will come: and if we had done that already it would have cost less than the war. Would have made money in fact. Ah, well.

And a reply to a previous letter:

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                   
Date:  March 24, 2003 

  subject: Mr. Wright's Complaints

Dear Jerry:
        In his Monday letter, Christopher B. Wright makes several points he thinks are important.  You invite comments.  Briefly:
        1) "Hussein is a vile man."  Agreed,  although I don't think that goes far enough.  'Worse than Stalin's USSR' is more like it.
        2a) President Bush's " main method of diplomacy seems to be to order other countries around."  Just what _exactly_ do you want, Mr. Wright?  A public pledge that the President will never attack any country believed to be acting against us unless the Security Council veto powers and four of whomever else is on that body say yes?  The U.S. is required to wait X days before defying France & Germany?  What?
        2b) Bush should be ashamed of himself for trying "to tie Al Queda (a radical religious extremist terrorist organization) with Iraq (a very secular, though despotic, government)."  Even if it is the truth?  If the search engine was working, I'd point to previous letters of mine on this site.  Anyone who cares, e-mail me for details.  Or look here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or especially here, and here (fair warning: I have more).
        3) No comment.
        4) The "idea that clear and rational dissent is an integral and invaluable part of a free nation seems lost on everyone."  I agree, that is sad.  But alas, from my point of view, trying to have a rational discussion founders on the near-universal unwillingness of opponents of this campaign to pay the slightest attention to arguments.  I have, for example, seen dozens of rebuttals to the claim in point 2b.  The doves could dispute the evidence or logical arguments therein.  Instead, there's just silence, then repetition of 'Saddam and bin Laden would never cooperate.'  *Sheesh*  You want a debate, try listening, thinking, and _responding_.


Dear Mister Pournelle,

Without starting a discussion pro or contra the GulfWar II which could go on forever, I do think that when you show pictures of dead and possibly even executed american soldiers, you should also let the people see the civilian casualties :

And I must indeed warn you in advance, these images are not pretty either. As a matter of fact these pictures(from both sides that is) give me more insight into this war than 10.000 words on CNN. In my opinion you are quite right in saying that the pictures that you have already referred to should stay available, not turned into pornsites. 

May this war be over as soon as possible.

Yours truly,

Rob Baartwijk The Netherlands

Rules are the result of civilization, not the cause.

I had not seen any attempt to suppress those pictures; the remarkable thing is that given the amount of AAA fire in Baghdad there are so few casualty pictures to show. I think there were more civilian casualties in small villages in Korea than there have been in this war to date. Astonishing.

<annoyed pedantry> "Casualties" seems to be a much-misunderstood military term by the TV droids. In military parlance, "casualties" means dead PLUS wounded, IE, the total numbers put out of action. NOT the total number dead.

For two instances: When retired General Barry McCaffry predicts 3000 casualties for us in taking Baghdad, he is not saying we'll lose 3000 dead. A much more typical ratio for a modern army with good field care and medevac is ~10% of casualties actually die. So what McCaffry is actually saying is, ~300 dead, ~2700 wounded to take Baghdad - a little over twice the totals for the Gulf War, or about thirty seconds worth during the nastier bits of the D-Day landings. What McCaffrey is saying in that much-misquoted interview is that in his opinion we could lower those numbers somewhat if we'd sent a whole bunch more troops to do the job, not that we're on the verge of apocalypse.

Another instance - 300 to 500 casualties among attacking Iraqis going after elements of our 3rd Division today is not 300 to 500 dead, though depending on whether they had the good luck to be left wounded on a battlefield we held securely afterwards or not, the percentage ultimately dying could be considerably higher than 10%. At a guess, a hundred or so Iraqi dead and several hundred wounded is what the Army was saying.

</annoyed pedantry>

Henry Vanderbilt

Indeed. But in fact, one of our best divisions is NOT employed because it never got off the boats. We may thank the Turks for the extra casualties.










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Subject: Gun Control in the South Pacific

Gun Control in the South Pacific 

Some Americans remember Guadalcanal Island as the location of the first U.S. amphibious invasion in World War II. The Island witnessed some of the fiercest fighting in the War in the Pacific, with Americans landing from August 1942 until February 1943, when the intense Japanese resistance in the jungle interior was finally defeated. Few Americans, however, know that half a century later, Guadalcanal has been the site of intense fighting


Implications are interesting. The invaders vs. the original inhabitants. Which side should we take? Should we send aircraft to bomb the natives? We did in Kossovo. Don't we have at least as much interest here as we did in the Balkans?

Subject: A dose of reality for hydrogen dreams 

Eric Pobirs

It gets sensational in places (as for instance in the section on the DANGERS of hydrogen), but basically sound. But for fuel cells, hydrogen can be important: electrical energy storage is the key to using nuclear and solar cell electrical energy for transportation, and fuel cells look good for that. It's certainly not misplaced resources to invest in fuel cell technology.

There are no hydrogen wells. Solar satellites and nuclear power plants are sources of electricity. For static use electricity is good as it stands, and can be distributed on normal power grids. The problem comes when you want to replace the gas guzzlers...

Subject: ". . . a narrow wooden bridge over a sea of fire."

---- Roland Dobbins 

Violating the UN. - Sanctions on French and Soviets? From

 "Officers here believe the missile may be a new Russian variant, known as a Cornet, purchased despite United Nations sanctions on arms sales to Iraq."

So the US is now losing tanks to Russian high-tech weaponry, and is afraid of meeting French or German chemicals further down the road.

Is the UN now dead and just waiting for the coroner to issue the certificate? If the French and the Russians keep selling high tech weaponry in violation of UN resolutions, then how can they occupy a seat on the security council? They had their chance to veto at that time. If it can be proved that the Russian government was aware of high-tech anti-tank weaponry sold to Iraqis despite explicit bans, I see this as fatal to the UN.

Sigh. I *WANT* a multi-lateral body with teeth. I don't like Bush/Cheney's empire tendencies. But a UN that has no meaning to the French or the Russians is already dead. When do we turn off the respirator?

Greg Goss (angst-ridden pro-war liberal)

The universe does not always conform to your wishes.

Afternoon Jerry,

I'm sure you're familiar with the old tradition of displaying a Blue Star or service flag when a family member is serving in the military during wartime. I've attached a couple of links that might be of interest to your subscribers:  sells flags and provides some history on them.  has downloadable/printable images for folks who want to go that route.

I know that some people might not agree with the war, but now is the time to support the troops, and their families here at home.



On another note...a friend who's loved one is serving in the 1st Marine Expeditionary sent me this poem:

I Got Your Back I am a small and precious child, my dad's been sent to fight... The only place I'll see his face, is in my dreams at night. He will be gone too many days For my young mind to keep track. I may be sad, but I am proud. My daddy's got your back.

I am a caring mother. My son has gone to war... My mind is filled with worries that I have never known before Everyday I try to keep my thoughts from turning black. I may be scared, but I am proud. My son has got your back.

I am a strong and loving wife, with a husband soon to go. There are times I'm terrified in a way most never know. I bite my lip, and force a smile as I watch my husband pack... My heart may break, but I am proud. My husbands got your back...

I am a soldier... Serving Proudly, standing tall. I fight for freedom, yours and mine by answering this call. I do my job while knowing, the thanks it sometimes lacks. Say a prayer that I'll come home. It's me who's got your back.

Doug Lhotka 303.808.9906 PGP Sig: C2F9 EB96 127A D4DD 02C7 ABE0 13A0 4C30 9C93 9D6F

alterius gratia numquam vive nec pete ut alius tui gratia viva







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Thursday, March 27, 2003

Strange, virus like, activity installing MS03-010


Microsoft has just released  - Flaw in RPC Endpoint Mapper Could Allow Denial of Service Attacks - and, as I usually do, I backed up my system and then installed the patch. On a freshly booted system, with nothing unusual running except Microsoft's installer, I was skimming through the EULA and was surprised by a ZoneAlarm alert telling me that SPOOLSV.EXE had attempted to access the Internet.

Norton AV didn't detect anything, and I had just updated the AV defs at the same time I downloaded MS03-010. I doubt that Microsoft was trying to surreptitiously install something else, because they could easily have done so by including it in the original download, so the most plausible explanation is that they were trying to collect data about my PC.

I know that they are rumoured to collect data, anonymously, when we use Windows Update, but this is the first time I've seen something like this when installing a TechNet patch. Have you, or any of your very knowledgeable correspondents, ever heard of this before?

Thanks, as always, for one of the most useful, interesting and stimulating sites on the web

Paul Dove


During the last century, most soldiers have had less than a 50% chance of surviving their capture or surrender (except when they surrendered as a unit). In the Russian and Japanese campaigns, of course, the chances were much lower, but this was the rule even in Western Europe. Murdering prisoners is, of course, against the rules of civilized warfare, but prisoners are a burden and a danger, so it is often simpler to deal with them with a bullet.

The report of 150 dead in one battle is interesting in this context. That should correspond to about 600 wounded. That many casualties might be expected in a division-day in _heavy_ combat and won't usually occur unless the force taking the casualties has good cohesion. What were we up against? A target-rich environment (turkey-shoot) where the troops being fired upon weren't being given the chance to surrender?

Harry Erwin

I see little point in thinking much about the situation, given the incomplete -- necessarily incomplete -- information we have. We have command and control. It begins to appear that they do not.

Musings on Aljazeera

How does a despotic monarchy evolve towards a liberal democracy? How central to freedom is a free press? And how does a free press determine its rules of engagement over time?

The New York Stock Exchange has barred the Aljazeera reporter from its trading floor. In a world where outrage over "humiliation" of US soldiers was the top story of the week so far, and on a day where the market responded to the news by dropping almost 4%, perhaps they needed to punish someone. But is Aljazeera the villain here?

There were two things that Aljazeera rebroadcast from Iraq television. Pictures of American bodies, reported to have clearly been summarily executed, and minimal interviews with prisoners of war. The former is documenting something that is likely to be considered a "war crime" over time, and the latter seems very close to standard journalism. Documenting war crimes is a standard part of journalism. US journalists took pictures at Dachau or Auschwitz. And outwardly calm prisoners reciting first name, home state, occupation, unit number, and serial number seems to be less humiliating than the "bad morning" picture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed a month ago that has received wide circulation. I don't see humiliation of the prisoners on the clips that have "leaked" through the western press or have been described by those who watched the whole thing on Aljazeera.

Many in the west are infuriated by Aljazeera for publishing various releases from Al Qaeda. Those weren't news? Many in the west are infuriated at Aljazeera for publishing the Iraqi images of dead and captive Americans. In my opinion, this, too, is news.

One of the late-night interviews on CNN was with a Jordanian reporter. He commented that "everyone" has access to both Western and Arabian media. He commented on the differences that this competition is forcing onto the Iraqi "Information Ministry". In Gulf War One, casualty claims from Allied bombing were inflated by a huge factor. In this war, the government is claiming 62 such deaths, and the Arabian public media are speculating that "civilian deaths" are including Baath street monitors, whose "civilian" nature is debatable. For a while, the Iraqi government TV was claiming that the US/Brit forces had not yet entered Iraq. Aljazeera reported that claim as a claim, and directly pointed out the absurdity of it. Absurd claims wilt quickly in a marketplace of ideas. In the face of critical reporting by Aljazeera, the Iraqi information ministry has since been avoiding absurdities in their news conferences. A critical media is forcing governments to be plausible when reporting news, even when speaking to their own people. Fear of your claims being laughed at in your own language press is a powerful moderating force.

Some want to punish Aljazeera for being an independent news reporter. I think that a free press is important in the evolution of freedom and am often astonished at the effectiveness of Aljazeera in a region with very few other trappings of freedom. I think that the NYSE was wrong to punish them. Other than a very few expressions of frustration, the US Administration tends to leave Aljazeera alone, or even welcome them. I think that this is a better response, and one of the few policy decisions from this White House that I agree with.

(My only complaint with Aljazeera is that the translator service collapsed under the load and can no longer offer free translations from the Arabic. Without such assistance I can only take the word of others as to Aljazeera's fairness.)

Greg Goss

My only complaint with al Jazeera was showing the gruesome pictures of the grinning Iraqi manipulating the corpse -- not just once, but over and over. But perhaps that plays well with the Arab Street.

And now something important:

> We may thank the Turks for the extra casualties.

While it certainly would have been nice to have the fourth stomping their way south, I think we can thank our own political leaders for the Politically Correct ROE that has caused unnecessary casualties among US and UK forces and will cause more of them.

Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but it seems to me that the purpose of a military attack is to break things and kill people. Instead, we are doing our damndest to avoid breaking anything or hurting anyone, despite the fact that such a course demonstrably results in additional friendly casualties. God forbid that we should do anything to offend the people who are shooting at our troops, not to mention killing prisoners and many other violations of the rules of war.

The goal seems to be to fight this war without offending the enemy, let alone hurting them, with the idea that somehow they will welcome our forces as liberators instead of treating them as invaders. Predictably enough, that doesn't seem to be working. The Iraqis are not going to be our friends, and acting as though that is possible simply costs us casualties that we would not otherwise have taken.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson 

No. And thinking that way is an extreme problem. The purpose of war is to be better off at the end of the war than when you began it. It is to bend the other guy's will to conform to your desires. Breaking things and killing people are the means; they are not the end.

And sometimes restraint is the only way to achieve the purpose.

Eisenhower famously said in his book that he did not want to risk one US soldier for political goals; this in answer to why the US did not go hell for leather to enter Berlin before the Russians.  It is certainly the case that we would have lost troops going for Berlin; as Patton did lose troops going for Bohemia and other areas.

Had the US gone further into East Germany; had we invaded through Greece as Churchill wanted although that  would have been a far more difficult military route -- what would the effect have been on the future Cold War?  I don't want to go into that; I do want to point out that political objectives are in general the only thing you go to war for.

The objective of the United States in the Iraqi War is to make it clear to ruling elites everywhere that allowing activities against the US on your territory is a very dangerous thing; but to do that without generating such despair among a billion people that we make a hundred thousand desperate enemies who would rather harm us than live.

This is not easily done, and particularly not easily done by breaking things and killing people.

I would not have been in this war; but having got in it, I do not think it is best won by indiscriminate destruction.

What we want is to show that you are better off leaving the US alone.







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Friday, March 28, 2003


I'm incredibly upset with the media. They have no experience, skill or informational intelligence that supports the statements below. It's amazing what the coalition forces have accomplished in nine days, despite being held back by sandstorms, heroic attempts to avoid civilian casualties, and surrender then attack tactics exhibited by the fedayeen.

"...CRITICISM, first voiced by media military analysts dismissed by Pentagon officials as “armchair generals,” gained added credence Friday with the publication of comments by Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, the Army’s top ground commander in Iraq…." (From the MSNBC website:

I'm also piqued by the media saying, and I'm quoting "we were led to believe this was going to be a cakewalk." The only people I've ever heard say this was going to be easy is the media, and they've only indicated it by inference. Every U.S. and U.K. politico or military spokesman has stated clearly that it was going to be long and difficult.

As has been stated before on your website, giving the media unprecedented access to the military action has been a double edged sword.


As well to rail against the wind...

Dear Jerry (AKA, The Doctor)

Please comment on the rate of friendly fire.

Is this just the fog of war?




from Jane's:

Angst of 'friendly fire' persists among coalition forces

Ian Kemp; JDW News Editor

So-called ‘friendly fire’ incidents remain a problem for US-led coalition forces fighting in Iraq. In the latest incident, two British Army soldiers were killed and two injured when their Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) was struck by a round fired by another tank.

The tanks were from a squadron of the Queen’s Royal Lancers (QRL) assigned to the 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Battle Group of 7th Armoured Brigade.

"The soldiers were killed last night [24 March] in a 'friendly fire' incident involving another Challenger 2 tank during a period of multiple engagements with Iraqi enemy forces on the outskirts of Basra," said British Army spokesman Col Chris Vernon.

Most of the British Army’s casualties during the 1990-91 Gulf War were the result of 'friendly fire' incidents. As no permanent vehicle identification system has been accepted yet by either the US Army or the British Army, a number of ad hoc measures have been introduced for the present conflict.

UK vehicles have been fitted with thermal recognition panels designed to produce a distinctive thermal signature when viewed through the Challenger 2’s Thermal Observation and Gunnery System and similar viewing devices. On many vehicles these panels have been fitted to the front, sides and rear. Some US vehicles are also fitted with these panels. Infra-red beacons have also been fitted to some combat vehicles. Some vehicles are also carrying fluorescent recognition systems.

However, none of these measures provides a fool-proof system of vehicle identification – particularly in close combat.

Douglas M. Colbary 


What remains to be said? The fact that most of our casualties are from our own weapons, in a campaign that has taken much of an entire country in a week, says a very great deal about the ineffectiveness of the other side, and the effectiveness of ours. Think of it as inoculations: if you don't inoculate you lose millions. If you do, you will lose hundreds to shot reactions. Choose.

There never was a clean war, a war without friction. Incidents happen, we try to learn from each and go on.


"You know the world is going crazy when... 

the best rapper is a white guy,
 the best golfer is a black guy, 
the Swiss hold the America's Cup,
 France is accusing the US of arrogance, 
and Germany doesn't want to go to war."

Courtesy of Louis Ruykeyser:

"Only a nation as desperate to be loved as the United States would fret about, rather than chuckle over, the Orwellian irony of being lectured to about arrogance by the French and about militarism by the Germans."

Tracy Walters

And now for something important:


Since on Tuesday you mentioned the Hungarian uprising of 1956, as a Hungarian and former resident of Budapest myself, I feel obliged to make a comment.

Yes, it'd have been nice to get American help in 1956. Yes, we do understand that "realpolitik" intervened, that Eisenhower (quite rightfully) didn't think that the fate of 10 million Hungarians was worth risking WWIII. No, most of us don't try to second guess him after the fact, and we don't blame leaders for not stretching things to the limit, since they didn't know, as we know now in hindsight, where those limits were. About the only thing that left a bitter aftertaste was the empty promises, especially on Radio Free Europe's Hungarian service, that continued give false hope to many Hungarian freedom fighters long after Eisenhower made his decision to abandon them. Being told the truth would have been nice.

But, and this really is my point, had you tried to right this wrong by invading Hungary 12 years later, in 1968, there'd have been very few Hungarians who'd have felt grateful. Some dictatorships, like the Taliban's Afghanistan, may be brutal enough so that war is preferable; Hungary's was not one of these. It's one thing to come to the aid of a revolution; it's another thing altogether to invade a country. We'd not have cheered at the sight of bombs destroying Budapest's television tranmission station, telephone switching offices, military barracks, munitions factories, or even the Communist party's offices; along with these, you'd also have destroyed our fragile lives, that precarious modus vivendi we found under the regime. "Humanitarian aid", a few sacks of flour handed out from the back of a track to keep us alive (civilian corpses are _so_ embarrassing) would not have made up for this.

I leave it to others to decide how this applies to the present; I don't really know how bad the Iraqi dictatorship is, some suggest that it's the worst this planet ever saw, others believe that it's really not much different from other countries in the region, and may be a great deal better (for women, especially) than, say, Saudi Arabia. I've never been there, and even if I visited, being a Western tourist is not the same as being a Kurdish farmer.

All I really wanted to say is that righting a wrong 12 years too late is not always the right thing to do.


I have no disagreement with any of that. Thank you.

As you may or may not know, I was heavily involved with the Captive Nations organizations during the 60's and had many friends who got out of Budapest after 1956. Most used assumed names like "Captain Lazlo" for the rest of their lives.

There is little to be said in favor of Saddam Hussein. That isn't the question here. Nor, in my judgment,  is the liberation of the Iraqi people a rational reason for the United States to go to war. Now that we are in the war, it's still the best way out. 

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                   
Date: March 27, 2003                                                               subject: Mr. Goss on the UN
Dear Jerry:
        Greg Goss writes:
        "Is the UN now dead and just waiting for the coroner to issue the certificate? If the French and the Russians keep selling high tech weaponry in violation of UN resolutions, then how can they occupy a seat on the security council? They had their chance to veto at that time. If it can be proved that the Russian government was aware of high-tech anti-tank weaponry sold to Iraqis despite explicit bans, I see this as fatal to the UN.

        "Sigh. I *WANT* a multi-lateral body with teeth. I don't like Bush/Cheney's empire tendencies. But a UN that has no meaning to the French or the Russians is already dead. When do we turn off the respirator?"

        I think the main things Mr. Goss and other fans of the UN miss are simple, but crucial: the reason England's American colonies were founded, the reason they later revolted to form the United States of America, the reason we got so most immigration through 1965 was _the people in question didn't want to be European_.  So disagreements with Europe are to be expected.  Rousseau to the contrary, agreement on fundamentals is not the natural state of mankind.

        The second thing that gets overlooked is that Europeans are too busy looking down on our society to understand it, so they don't know when they can get away with things, and when they can't, what we take seriously, and what we don't, etc.

        For more on this mess, see this interesting article on diplomatic winners and losers, and this one on Franco/German sabotage of our relations with Turkey (links from The Blogfather).

        The cold fact is, France and Germany are at best unfriendly rivals, and arguably flat out enemies.  We need to adjust our relationships accordingly -- for instance, withdraw from NATO, replaced perhaps by a US/UK/former Captive Nations alliance against Russia, Germany, and France.




I too heard the colonel's rant this afternoon and was somewhat taken aback at his comparison of the current situation in Iraq to that of Vietnam. I was never a debate team captain but I was picking holes in his arguments as he was making them:

1) He stated that our current tactics were straight out of WWII and would leave us with the same exposed supply lines that would drain infantrymen from the fight, "just like Vietnam". Well we are only ten days into the fight and I am already seeing moves to move up supply lines until rear areas are stabilized, such as using tactical airlift to more forward operating locations.

2) It should be obvious to anyone that the objective of the President is to WIN, period. I don't think Bush can be fairly compared to Johnson, who got us into Vietnam under false pretenses and then played footsie with the enemy. I am disturbed about the sanctuaries that have been established (schools, mosques, hospitals) where we have already seen tanks parked, but today's statement to Syria should make it clear that there will be no Cambodia in SWA.

3) As you have pointed out, this is one of the most stunning advances in the history of warfare, with fewer that 100 KIA. It is an astounding strategic map that has been drawn in the last week or so at an amazingly low cost. Didn't we have 10,000+ casualties on D-Day? Yet nothing is said about this by the colonel, and especially by the mainstream press. Instead, we are verging on a "quagmire".

If we had had such defeatism in WWII, I don't think we could have won. Sheesh.

Matthew T. Farr

I am glad someone else heard it too, because I was astonished.

When the USSR started the Berlin Blockade, I was at summer camp with the California National Guard. I was surprised that we were not federalized and shipped right over to march or fight through that blockade. If an MP sergeant in a jeep had led a convoy up to the line, and informed them he was either going through or fighting, think of how many deaths might have been prevented. Compromise was and is a mistake.

Walter E. Wallis Palo Alto, CA

I thought so at the time, but I wasn't in charge...

As to the Powell quote:


That speech was at Davos, and it was the just recently retired +Canterbury who made such an ass of himself. The following URL gives fairly detailed information, and some good pointers if you want to follow up: 

Alan Biddle


Those who CAN remember the past are condemned to live among idiots repeating it.


Dear Jerry,

The way you framed the quote from Colin Powell made me think that it could stand snoping. The quote is real but there's more to the story; from

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The spirit of the quote cited above is true, although the context in which it was delivered has been greatly simplified.

During an address to the World Economic Forum, Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked a somewhat long and involved question by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, which ended with the following interrogative:

And would you not agree, as a very significant political figure in the United States, Colin, that America, at the present time, is in danger of relying too much upon the hard power and not enough upon building the trust from which the soft values, which of course all of our family life that actually at the bottom, when the bottom line is reached, is what makes human life valuable? Secretary Powell delivered a lengthy response to the former Archbishop's question, in the midst of which came the eloquent line quoted in the example above:

The United States believes strongly in what you call soft power, the value of democracy, the value of the free economic system, the value of making sure that each citizen is free and free to pursue their own God-given ambitions and to use the talents that they were given by God. And that is what we say to the rest of the world. That is why we participated in establishing a community of democracy within the Western Hemisphere. It's why we participate in all of these great international organizations.

There is nothing in American experience or in American political life or in our culture that suggests we want to use hard power. But what we have found over the decades is that unless you do have hard power -- and here I think you're referring to military power -- then sometimes you are faced with situations that you can't deal with.

I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the war was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan.

So our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear. And I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world.


We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we've done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Regards,

Steve Erbach Scientific Marketing Neenah, WI

"Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits." - Mark Twain

Again, I seldom bother with Snopes; they have an agenda, and it isn't mine. But sometimes they can be useful.

And here is a story that ought to be true:

An actual email from a Navy employee in DC area to a friend at NAVICP:

To nobody's surprise there were protesters today in DC, they attempted to disrupt the metro system and block the Key Bridge, a leading artery into DC from Northern Virginia. I got hosed twice because I come in from NoVA on the metro and it is raining hard which makes traffic worse any way. My commute was long and arduous and only caused further resentment for protesters (but that isn't the point of this thread). Anyway, I'll get to the point.

I got off the train in Rosslyn because I had to use the bathroom and the train was moving quite slowly. When I was getting back on the train, there were protesters on the train platform handing out pamphlets on the evils of America. I politely declined to take one. An elderly woman was behind me getting off the escalator and a young (20ish) female protester offered her a pamphlet, which she politely declined. The young protester put her hand on the old woman's shoulder as a guesture of friendship and in a very soft voice said, "Ma'am, don't you care about the children of Iraq?" The old woman looked up at her and said, "Honey, my first husband died in France during World War II so you could have the right to stand here and bad mouth your country. And if you touch me again, I'll stick this umbrella up your ass and open it."

I'm glad to report that loud applause broke out among the onlookers and the young protester was at a total loss for words.

And then:

I remember reading, once, that Churchill never really wanted to go into the Balkins, long known as "The Graveyard ofonqueror." What he was really doing was delaying the Second Front until we were strong enough to succeed. He "allowed" himself to be bought off by the North African landings, Sicily and the Italian campaign, as he felt these within the Allies' power, rather than let Overlord go forward too soon. He'd had ample proof that the technique worked, as it's one his own Cabinet used with him. -- Joe Zeff The Guy With the Sideburns If you can't play with words, what good are they?

And it may be true, although a campaign in Greece once we owned the Mediterranean might have been interesting.






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Saturday, March 29, 2003

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

I'm intrigued by the idea of solar power stations in earth orbit. I am a huge fan of space exploration/exploitation, and support the private commercialization of space.

I am admittedly naive about this technology, but this is my initial concern: Doesn't this put all our eggs in one basket?

Having our primary power sources so far away makes them very difficult to defend. We currently find ourselves in difficulty because we are so dependent upon foreign oil, much of which seems to be in the middle east. If we are concerning ourselves over the strategic control of the world's oil supplies, wouldn't we be in a similar position with SPS re protecting these assets? It just becomes a matter of geography, middle east or earth orbit.

For example, we have absolutely no say over the use of the airspace above another sovereign nation, and therefore no say over access to earth orbit and space. What would stop this potentially hostile nation from simply launching a series of satellites (one or two or ten for each of our SPS's in orbit) designed to neutralize our power sources? If this were the main source of our power, wouldn't we essentially be at the mercy of any technologically advanced nation with designs against us? Would we not go to war to protect these assets?

As an alternative, what are your thoughts on hydrogen power in contrast to SPS? If an American president were to give a Kennedyesque speech about "hydrogen power in this decade", wouldn't that be the best of all possible solutions to the energy problem? I know your position is that we would need to generate the hydrogen in order to use it. But the solution I envision is something where we could add water to a swamp cooler sized unit that could power the average house. I believe we could get there if we put the same kind of effort into this as we put into other scientific/defense pursuits.

Or, for example, why not set a government (i.e. taxpayer) sponsored "hydrogen X-prize" at, say, 100 Billion dollars, payable to anyone who can provide a solution to this problem as I described above? This amount is a pittance compared to what we spend on the oil based infrastructures of today. Once the technology is developed, we provide this contingency: As a condition of claiming the prize, the patent for this technology becomes public domain and anyone who cares to can build their own (likely a corporate undertaking due to the complexity of the technology.) Alternatively, if the creators decline the prize, they are free to market the technology as they see fit (probably the smarter choice as their profits would likely far exceed $100 Billion.) Either way, we have the technology in hand, which is the goal. This would allow us each to provide for our own power generation, as individuals.

Please understand, I am not a huge fan of government solutions to problems. It usually creates more problems than it solves. However, there is one thing the government does exceedingly well and that is spend taxpayers money. In this case, that is all they are asked to do. I find this acceptable because the government would effectively be doing its job - increasing the security of the United States by allowing us to disentangle ourselves from the mess in the middle east. That's easily worth a mere $100 Billion.

Best regards, Ken

PS: How's the pooch doing these days?

We have more control over outer space than we do over Venezuela or other overseas oil sources: we already depend on suppliers we don't control. Do you trust our military technology or our diplomacy?

There are no hydrogen wells. Water is hydrogen oxide: burnt hydrogen, if you will, and getting hydrogen from water is a bit like getting iron from rust. You can do it, but it takes energy. There is no magic pill or low energy converter. 

On the other hand, prizes for needed technologies would be very useful.

Stephen M. St. Onge suggests: "The cold fact is, France and Germany are at best unfriendly rivals, and arguably flat out enemies. We need to adjust our relationships accordingly -- for instance, withdraw from NATO, replaced perhaps by a US/UK/former Captive Nations alliance against Russia, Germany, and France."

The European Union is strange to modern Americans in a lot of ways. First of all, it's more a union of governments than of people. Second, it is still primarily a customs union. Third, it's very elitist--mandarins are very influential at the pan-European level. Fourth, it's militarily weak. I suspect Madison would have recognized the system.

I'm pretty sure withdrawing from NATO would reduce American influence over here. The EU countries are potentially stronger than America; the reason they're not actually stronger is the expenditure is not (currently) seen as being worth the opportunity cost, and they're willing to let America waste its wealth bearing the burden. The combination of the FSU and Europe would be militarily awesome.

There's exactly zero chance of our being able to form a US/UK/former Captive Nations alliance against the core of the EU plus the FSU. The EU was formed to counterbalance America, and all the member states (including the UK) are committed to further unification and rationalization measures. In the long term, the EU is likely to evolve towards a federal union, but starting about two centuries behind America.

The European opposition to military intervention should be easy to recognize--it has the same roots as the historical opposition to foreign adventures in America. Most EU citizens regard war and readiness for war as antithetical to prosperity. Strategically, European defense is based on European economic power. The standard of living of citizens in the core EU states exceeds that of any other nation in the world, so the surplus is there if a military force has to be built. -- 

Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <>







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Sunday, March 30, 2003

Henry Wyckoff -- Please post on Chaos Manor -- thanks :)

I don't want to offend anyone with what I am about to say, but I find it a little ironic that everywhere on the media -- on the TV, radio, and Internet -- I come across such indignation about how the Iraquis are pulling dirty tricks and breaking the rules of war...

I am aware that there has been a Western Code of War, understood if not actually written down. Still, I can't help but look at the situation and wonder why everyone is surprised. After all, we have two generally mismatched combatants.

If I were thrown into a fist fight with some guy who was three feet taller than me, healthier, and had fifteen buddies ready to beat the crap out of me at a moment's notice... you'd bet I'd use every dirty trick at my disposal to get that Bruno on his knees and then get the hell out of there. Even escaping with all my limbs attached would be a victory, and if I had to use any unfair advantage, I'd use it.

Maybe it's because I always found myself at the losing side of a fair fist fight that I can at least understand why Iraq would even go so far as to break the rules. The justness of the war is not really the issue in my mind -- let the politicans handle that -- but I do have to raise my eyebrows when I hear talk about the "rules of war", to which the Iraqis never subscribed to the best of my knowledge.

I also find it ironic that the American military would complain about recent Iraqi actions. I remember British accounts of many battles in the Revolutionary War, including the Concord skirmish, in which commanders complained that the Rebels wouldn't play by the rules. In other words, they wouldn't submit to standing in silly ranks and being mowed down like bowling pins. Our ancestors used tactics that worked, and I'm sure that many of them broke the established rules of the time, and yet we don't hear any West Point graduates saying that our ancestors were wrong for doing what they are doing.

I don't want to offend anyone. I'm just representing a point of view that I have not seen even once during this war.

Thanks for your time. Henry Wyckoff E-mail:

Well, Iraq is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. Most of the rules of war are unenforceable until one side wins. War Crimes trials are only held by victors.


You gave us a very cute link on March 20th. It's not so cute now. 

Hadley V. Stacey

I am not astonished. These things happen. Pity.

Hello Jerry,

Take a look at today's NYTimes editorial. Makes sense to me. 

Best regards - Bob Griswold

Well, USAF has always been in favor of flashier and more expensive aircraft. I don't agree with all the priorities in the editorial, but most of it is very much on target. But then I would prefer to give many USAF missions back to the Army to begin with.

And Michael Juergens says:

All this started as a response to someone who saw the point of Bush's war as the enabling of aggrandizement of government domestic power (Patriot Act II, etc). This comment grows as it goes, however. I end with what are, for me, some radical conclusions.

I think my original correspondent was elevating a side-effect (the blossoming of the security culture) to the level of the main strategic goals.

Do you recall the Trotskyesque Red Army leader in Dr. Zhivago? At one point it was suggested that the village they just shot up maybe wasn't the one that sold horses to the Whites. His response: "A village betrays us, a village is burned, the point is made." That's the first thing the Iraq war is about: making a point. The point to each and every state that doesn't possess a nuclear deterrent: don't piss us off, or we'll invade you. That's the New World Order.

The rationale is that in this age of global terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction, we can't afford to be Mr. Nice Guy any more. Instead, it's gloves off if you are harboring terrorists, or trying to build WMD. It's massive retaliation with conventional weapons: we are trying to make the consequences of doing what we don't want so great that no one will want to risk it.

This is an immoral strategy that won't work at a cost we'll be willing to pay, or can justifiably inflict. However it sounds good to a leadership that hates the idea that the world's "hyperpower" has to just wait for terrorists to strike and can't do anything about it. Discussion of sensible anti-terrorism policies that fall between the false dichotomy of "New World Order" and "can't do anything" can await another rock.

There are other unacknowledged agenda items being worked in the invasion too, of course. These explain why Iraq got elected to be the Great Example. First, this just happens to take out the regime Israel most fears in the region, and dispose of the man who fired all those Scuds at Israel. That's the sort of point Israel really likes to make. Second it puts the U.S. Army on top of a vast amount of oil, and right next door to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi's, conscious that we could conquer them in about 15 minutes, will become, in a word, pliant. Voila! OPEC R US! The point here is less physical possession of oil, and more control of the PRICE of oil. Cheap oil is expected to revive our economy. And people say Bush lacks a domestic agenda.

And finally, a battle-demonstrated army next door to Saudi and to Iran and to Syria is expected to convince those states to quash any terrorist types that may be running around.

The domestic power-grab in the name of security? That's a necessary go-with; empires have problems being all that democratic. But fulfilling the agenda of the security dweebs isn't the main point. The New World Order is the main point.

For now we're trying to be high-minded about all this. We feel have to take these otherwise-immoral steps to save what can be saved of humane values and liberal democracy. Otherwise, it is feared, terrorists and rogue states with WMD will drag the world down into Hobbesian chaos. Since we still honor these humane and liberal values, we try to mitigate the slaughter we commit. But I expect we will encounter more terrorism and WMD use than ever, and our high-mindedness will disappear as our losses mount. So, I have to say that my pains to point out our attempts to be humane and restrained as we head over this cliff haven't been addressing the real issue. We're at an altitude now, but we'll hit the Hobbesian bottom we fear soon enough.

Long enough message to do a summary:

The Real Agenda

1. Use Iraq as example to establish New World Order, a de facto American Empire in which we demonstrably will invade and change the regime of any (non-nuclear) state we wish. 

2. Remove Saddam as a threat to Israel. 

3. Establish control of world oil supply, both to benefit economy and to use as geopolitical power lever. 

4. Motivate Islamic regimes to suppress terrorist activities.

The above I've believed for a while. New to my thought, however, is an appreciation of just how bad this is liable to work out. It has counted for too much in my mind, up to now, that the top echelon of our government includes people who are trying to do good, and who believe their policies necessary to defend us. I would now say their self-righteous ability to rationalize they are doing right in pursuing this starkly immoral and harmful policy is a testament to the power of the human instinct to respond to threat with force, if you feel powerful.

Thanks to all my correspondents whom have again made me think, though I don't much like where my thoughts have taken me. 

Mike Juergens

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry. - William Butler Yeats, 1865 - 1939

The World is Changing.

Well I wouldn't agree that those are all the objectives. The first one certainly is an objective; as to oil policy, the  US doesn't need control of oil, just to open the markets: pump a lot of oil. Had we given the oil wells to the Turks so they pumped a lot to sell on the open market it would have the same effect. Or even let Saddam pump a lot of oil.

And to the extent there is a hidden agenda I would say it's to get the Iraqi oilfields going, with the money definitely not going to anyone who wants to harm the United States. This is not all that immoral an objective; indeed, it's hard to disagree with it. We don't need the money. We do need the oil in the market place. And the Iraqi people do need the money.

Saddam was never a realistic threat to Israel. Israel is more of a threat to Syria than vice versa.

As to motivating Muslim regimes to suppress terror organization, well, yes; if that can be done, and it would be a Good Thing, no?

I do wish it could be done without turning Imperial. I am not sure it can.

And we have Alistair Cooke looking at history, and writing eloquently:

-----Original Message----- From: S Scholze 


Peace for our time by Alistair Cooke (who was there in 1938)

I promised to lay off topic A - Iraq - until the Security Council makes a judgement on the inspectors' report and I shall keep that promise. But I must tell you that throughout the past fortnight I've listened to everybody involved in or looking on to a monotonous din of words, like a tide crashing and receding on a beach - making a great noise and saying the same thing over and over. And this ordeal triggered a nightmare - a day-mare, if you like.

Through the ceaseless tide I heard a voice, a very English voice of an old man - Prime Minister Chamberlain saying: "I believe it is peace for our time" - a sentence that prompted a huge cheer, first from a listening street crowd and then from the House of Commons and next day from every newspaper in the land.

There was a move to urge that Mr. Chamberlain should receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In Parliament there was one unfamiliar old grumbler to growl out: "I believe we have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat."

He was, in view of the general sentiment, very properly booed down. This scene concluded in the autumn of 1938 the British prime minister's effectual signing away of most of Czechoslovakia to Hitler. The rest of it, within months, Hitler walked in and conquered. "Oh dear," said Mr. Chamberlain, thunderstruck. "He has betrayed my trust."

During the last fortnight a simple but startling thought occurred to me - every single official, diplomat, president, prime minister involved in the Iraq debate was in 1938 a toddler, most of them unborn. So the dreadful scene I've just drawn will not have been remembered by most listeners.

Hitler had started betraying our trust not 12 years but only two years before, when he broke the First World War peace treaty by occupying the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland. Only half his troops carried one reload of ammunition because Hitler knew that French morale was too low to confront any war just then and 10 million of 11 million British voters had signed a so-called peace ballot.

It stated no conditions, elaborated no terms, it simply counted the numbers of Britons who were "for peace."

The slogan of this movement was "Against war and fascism" - chanted at the time by every Labour man and Liberal and many moderate Conservatives- a slogan that now sounds as imbecilic as "against hospitals and disease." In blunter words a majority of Britons would do anything, absolutely anything, to get rid of Hitler except fight him.

At that time the word pre-emptive had not been invented, though today it's a catchword. After all the Rhineland was what it said it was - part of Germany. So to march in and throw Hitler out would have been pre-emptive - wouldn't it?

Nobody did anything and Hitler looked forward with confidence to gobbling up the rest of Western Europe country by country - "course by course", as growler Churchill put it.

I bring up Munich and the mid-30s because I was fully grown, on the verge of 30, and knew we were indeed living in the age of anxiety.

And so many of the arguments mounted against each other today, in the last fortnight, are exactly what we heard in the House of Commons debates and read in the French press.

The French especially urged, after every Hitler invasion, "negotiation, negotiation". They negotiated so successfully as to have their whole country defeated and occupied. But as one famous French leftist said: "We did anyway manage to make them declare Paris an open city - no bombs on us!"

In Britain the general response to every Hitler advance was disarmament and collective security. Collective security meant to leave every crisis to the League of Nations. It would put down aggressors, even though, like the United Nations, it had no army, navy or air force.

The League of Nations had its chance to prove itself when Mussolini invaded and conquered Ethiopia (Abyssinia).

The League didn't have any shot to fire. But still the cry was chanted in the House of Commons- the League and collective security is the only true guarantee of peace.

But after the Rhineland the maverick Churchill decided there was no collectivity in collective security and started a highly unpopular campaign for rearmament by Britain, warning against the general belief that Hitler had already built an enormous mechanized army and superior air force. But he's not used them, he's not used them - people protested.

Still for two years before the outbreak of the Second War you could read the debates in the House of Commons and now shiver at the famous Labour men - Major Attlee was one of them - who voted against rearmament and still went on pointing to the League of Nations as the saviour.

Now, this memory of mine may be totally irrelevant to the present crisis. It haunts me. I have to say I have written elsewhere with much conviction that most historical analogies are false because, however strikingly similar a new situation may be to an old one, there's usually one element that is different and it turns out to be the crucial one.

It may well be so here. All I know is that all the voices of the 30s are echoing through 2003.

It is as good a case for preventive war as I know.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Date: March 30, 2003 subject: Thoughts on Wars and Allies

Dear Jerry:

On the war in general, I think you have it nailed. This is a victory of historic proportions. Delaying would have worsened our diplomatic situation, and given Saddam more time to prepare. We were right to go when we did.

Sure, with hindsight, we should have had more troops on the ground, even if they only carried small arms. We need them as MPs, sentries, and prisoner guards. We should have put the screws to the Turks a lot harder. We should have anticipated more "asymmetric warfare," and foreseen the effect of our 1991 crime/blunder, nicely captured in a report from Iraq featured in Arab News:

"Iraqi men, women and children were playing it up for the TV cameras, chanting: ‘With our blood, with our souls, we will die for you Saddam.’

"I took a young Iraqi man . . . and asked him why they were all chanting that particular slogan . . .

"He said: ‘There are people from Baath here reporting everything that goes on. There are cameras here recording our faces. If the Americans were to withdraw and everything were to return to the way it was before, we want to make sure that we survive the massacre that would follow as Baath go house to house killing anyone who voiced opposition to Saddam. In public, we always pledge our allegiance to Saddam, but in our hearts we feel something else.’ "

I do think we should reconsider the rules of engagement. While they're generally right, we might, e.g., want to start enforcing the "caught under arms out of uniform, you get instantly executed" provision of the Geneva Convention.

Mostly, I think we're seeing culture wars being fought. The media culture is to find something to criticize, no matter how well we're doing, while the military's is to report only good news so morale isn't adversely affected. The government culture is to worry obsessively about casualties, while the civilians are either against the war regardless of casualties, or willing to pay the price of victory _provided we're actually allowed to win!_ (Hey, why am I shouting? And when did I step on this soapbox?). Many in the Pentagon hold with the 'big, obvious, dumb frontal assault' doctrine we used in most of WWII (OK, I'll get down now), while Rumsfeld and his advisors are with Patton and Macarthur in wanting to cut them off and let them wither on the vine.

This happens among allies too. Contra our mutual friend Joe Zeff, I don't think the British _ever_ wanted Overlord. They'd been traumatized by WWI and the first three years of WWII, and expected the Germans to beat them. Roosevelt and Marshall, with the experience of WWI as resounding victory, wanted Overlord in '43 (which probably would have worked).

Very interesting comment from Dr. Erwin, comparing the EU with the U.S. under the Articles of Confederation. But I'm not sure that all of Europe will side with Paris and against us if we force the issue. 'NATO exists to keep the Yanks in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.' An EU that "counterbalances" us will be Yanks out, Russians in, and Germans up again. Would Britain choose that? How 'bout Denmark and Poland?

Note that the moment we talked about repositioning our troops in S. Korea, we were suddenly showered with love and pleas to stay put. And wars have a way of changing what's politically possible. The Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic treaty were unthinkable till shortly before they became reality.

But in any case, it's time to force a choice. We shouldn't pretend our enemies are our friends, and we damned sure shouldn't be paying to defend them.

Best, Stephen



Subject: DRM, and the First Rule of Security Analysis

Excellent (short!) article that adds a little real analysis to the whole DRM mess:

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Pete Flugstad







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