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Mail 251 March 31 - April 6, 2003 






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Monday  March 31, 2003

Subject: Re: Michael Juergens, Sunday, March 30, 2003

I dare say you've met, at one time or another, communists who, when you challenged them about the Soviet Union, would insist that the Soviet Union was not really communism. And ditto for China, Vietnam, Cuba, Sendaro Luminoso, etc., until you had to ask whether there could actually exist such a thing as authentic communism.

Our leaders seem to be in a similar predicament, when, out of a dozen or so countries in the general vicinity of Iraq, they cannot identify even one which really meets their approval, and which has a license to absorb "failed states." For example, Nehru in India absorbed all of the five-hundred-odd princely states at independence, with the active backing of Mountbatten. In the early 1960's, he occupied Goa. His daughter intervened in what was then East Pakistan. In short, we showed no serious discontent when India did approximately the same thing on its own frontiers that we do in places like Haiti. Our government does not exhibit any uncontrolled need to dominate India or China. George W. Bush handled the spy plane episode with China well enough. No one over-reacted when South Africa denounced the AIDS-drug patents. There were no calls to bomb Cape Town and Johannesburg. We recognized Nelson Mandela as the southern african Nehru. Our problem is that we are utterly unable to find a middle eastern Nehru. Our leaders have two incompatible wishes. They want governments in the middle east strong enough so that these regimes can maintain order and institute progress. But our leaders also want regimes weak enough so that they will hand over the oil for almost nothing. You can't have it both ways.

At some point, we have to face the fact that the United States is an oil addict-- and as the saying goes, "you can't spank the monkey if he's on your back."

Andrew D. Todd 

Oil addiction is far more true of Europe than the US, which doesn't get all that much oil from the region. Indeed the oil sanctions against Iraq have harmed the US: the more oil producers competing the less effective any kind of cartel and the lower the price.

Moreover, I could show you that for the cost of the war and the military we must maintain I could have built (given any kind of rational politics and legal system here) enough fission nuclear power plants of the standard designs used in France and Japan to cut the oil imports here enormously, essentially relegating oil to transportation fuels; add to that hybrid cars, dependence on Near East oil would be gone. 

The price of energy dominates economics here. Energy addiction is incurable. However oil addiction is not.

Would you rather pay higher taxes or higher gasoline prices? But you know as well as I do that if taxes were a lot lower, and government less pervasive, there wouldn't be such high gasoline taxes. 

What the United States seems to be addicted to is entangling alliances and interventions in overseas territorial disputes, as well as immigration policies that ensure that we will continue the addictions. For good or ill, the notion of a Republic, with most matters relegated to the states, a nation that minds its own business and lives under cheap self government, is pretty well dead. We now live in a New World Order and both political parties are agreed on the general shape of that order and on American hegemony: their only real disagreements are over details, and of course who shall control the government. 

But this is no conspiracy among a few corporate masters. This is, for good or ill, the will of the Senate and People of the United States, and for all the war protests we see in the streets, I've seen none that couple anti-war with anti-Washington; I have seen few war protestors who simply want us to stand down and be a Republic that minds its own business. I'll bet you that most of the war protestors were perfectly happy with the air war on Serbia.

On your main point, I tend to agree, although I would certainly not characterize India as any kind of Western lackey; we did trust Nehru and his successors to keep the peace. We also overlooked a number of exceptions, such as Kashmir where there is little doubt of the outcome of a plebiscite.

The only such country in the Near East region is Turkey: not a lackey, not a threat to its neighbors. One of the outcomes of this war that might have worked out would have been to restore Turkish control of Mesopotamia; that would be preferable to what's there. But politically that's very unlikely.

Now an historical analysis:


A few days ago, right around the time that the furor over the Saddam Fedayeen first erupted, I made an observation on a discussion group that the Fedayeen were likely to be about as effective at stopping us as the franc-tireur were at stopping the Prussians in 1870. I was subsequently asked by a friend to write up a comparison of this war and the Franco-Prussian War. After thinking about it for a couple of days, I thought it might be of interset to you as well.

"I don't think you can draw a very close comparison between the war in Iraq and the Franco-Prussian War, but you can discern a few intriguing parallels:

The proximate causes of both wars (though the root causes are about as far apart as one could imagine) lay in serious miscalculations about opponents' capabilities, in the face of pretty convincing evidence to the contrary. In the case of France and Prussia, the French should have paid a lot closer attention to goings on in Austria four years previously. Likewise, the Iraqis obviously haven't been paying much attention to news from Afghanistan, nor do they seem to have gotten as much as they could have out of the 1991 war. Also in both cases, these miscalculations were exacerbated by essential hubris on the part of the responsible governments. (Though to be fair, the French government was driven by exceedingly strong anti-Prussian popular opinion; Saddam and the boyz say what they say because they are who they are.)

Both wars began with an unprecedented maneuver campaign which served to decisively unbalance the correlation of forces in the favor of the maneuvering party. The Prussian Army forced the Emperor and the main French field army out of the war at Sedan. Last week's "Baghdad Maneuver" on the ground and associated psyops maneuvers have accomplished essentially the same thing.

In both wars the invaded country's leader was removed from command early on by enemy action. Napoleon III was captured at Sedan, while Saddam seems to have been either incapacitated, or at least his ability to effectively command has been.

The French and the Iraqis both continued to fight with rump forces under devolved (at least effectively) command.

The French and Iraqis both resorted to guerillas in an attempt to slow the advance of the invaders. It is indeed true that the franc-tireur were patriots, while the Saddam Fedayeen are at best regime diehards, but their tactical purposes are the same. Their effect on the battle will both ultimately have been the same: nuisance value only.

Finally, each invading power realized that its true objective was the enemy regime. Both the US and the Prussians targeted the enemy capital as their primary geographical objective, representing as it did the center of gravity of the enemy regime. Though some outlying garrisons continued to resist for a while, the Prussians essentially won when Paris capitulated, just as the US will have won when Baghdad is occupied, even if some "dead enders" in the countryside carry on for a time.

Some of the above may be a bit of a stretch, but it serves to illustrate that though the current war is going somewhat against initial expectations, it is overwhelmingly likely to be concluded to our satisfaction, and decisively so."

I know that reasoning by analogy is suspect, but I haven't seen anything in the three days since I wrote this to change my analysis.

Tony Evans

People who do read history are condemned to watch it replayed by people who do not read history. This and the following arrived as I was writing my Monday Morning Quarterback analysis of what has happened so far.

Subject: Paul Van Riper,2763,787017,00.html  I heard this story about a year ago, but couldn't find much on it. Now that Iraq has failed to fall like a house of cards, Mr. Van Riper seems to be news-worthy. A friend of mine war-gamed against the US in NATO and Canada/US exercises, and the behavior of the US/Blues seems to be pretty consistent over the years. For the sake of the people on the ground, I hope the US's leaders have learned more than Mr. Van Riper seems to think they have.

Ian Moulding

I fail to see the relevance. Iraq may not have fallen like a house of cards, but we have fewer than a hundred casualties, there are no sunken ships, and we have lost more troops to our own weapons than to the enemy. How is Riper relevant?




Dear Dr Pournelle, Mr St. Onge's comment about the British in the Second World War needs a bit of thought:

"They'd been traumatized by WWI and the first three years of WWII, and expected the Germans to beat them."

Some time ago I saw a TV documentary of reminiscences about the war, and it included remarks by German soldiers about the nature of the resistance they met in the Blitzkrieg. The French did to some extent suffer from the syndrome described above - Marshal Petain famously blamed the Third Republic's politicians for that, and especially the Socialist Government of Leon Blum. So the German soldier recorded that with some exceptions - like de Gaulle's tank brigade, and the Legion - the French who surrendered were a sorry looking lot. But this was not true of one British platoon who surrendered after being cut off. On being directed where to go, the commanding officer gave crisp orders, and the column marched off singing. These were not, observed the German, men who felt that they or their nation had been beaten.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) ( System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni. PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ.


Strong criticism of Rumsfield by Seymour Hersh in New Yorker. I hope things are not as bad as this makes it sound.

"On at least six occasions, the planner told me, when Rumsfeld and his deputies were presented with operational plans—the Iraqi assault was designated Plan 1003—he insisted that the number of ground troops be sharply reduced. Rumsfeld’s faith in precision bombing and his insistence on streamlined military operations has had profound consequences for the ability of the armed forces to fight effectively overseas. “They’ve got no resources,” a former high-level intelligence official said. “He was so focussed on proving his point—that the Iraqis were going to fall apart.”

Mike Juergens

Why would they be that bad? Why would anyone think so? We ARE at the gates of Baghdad with under 200 casualties using anyone's estimates.

Dr. Pournelle,

I'm a proud graduate of the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College. While there, you get pounded into your head the concept of "branches and sequels" for an entire year, or what to do after your battle plan succeeds or fails. Trust me when I tell you, every possiblity has been war gamed and when "awe and shock" didn't work, branch Alpha Bravo came into play. And when Sadam's regime falls before expected, sequel Charlie Delta came into play to take advantage of success. There is no "Duh, what do we do now" that some reporters seem to think GEN Franks is thinking.

David A. Kickbusch Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Ret)

Well I have some faith in systems analysis -- after all I was a senior scientist in systems analysis in my last aerospace position -- but I also know that in war everything is very simple but the simplest things are very difficult...

Clearly we are making progress. Equally clearly it is not quite what the Wunderkinder thought it would be. But at least we don't have McNamara running this show.

Re: Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Well thought out, and very likely correct.

Why not consider bringing your technical and analytical gifts together with your military knowledge, and writing an analysis of American Military History over the past hundred years - what was done, why it was done, what shouldn't have been done and what could have been done better. I think it would be a fascinating text. I'd buy it.

By the way, I've changed my position on American involvement in Iraq: I now believe it is in America's best interest, Iraq's best interest, and ultimately the worlds best interest to depose Sadam Hussein. What changed my mind was the Amnesty International website, and the reams of information they have on human rights abuses in Iraq. If we judge by the independent record, then Sadam Hussein is a very evil man; and we cannot allow an evil man who hates America to control the disbursement of hundreds of billions of dollars of oil revenue.

Were Hussein an honourable statesman, I would still oppose US involvement in Iraq. But he is not; so I do not.

Actually, I think the world is damn lucky to have the US there.

Regards, Charles Worton Constelar Computational

He is certainly an evil man, and as I have said many times, if we make lists of people who need their necks wrung, he is high on that list. But the list is so long! Is that our goal in life? The business of America is to stamp out evil, whenever and wherever it gains power and riches? To protect the weak and make humble the proud?

It is a noble mission, but it cannot be accomplished by a Republic.




This "Special Notice" is from NASA Headquarters. Point of Contact: Glenn Mahone, Code P, 202-358-1898 ----------------------------------


Our Concern and Condolences for Helicopter Crew

This is another sad day for the NASA family. Yesterday afternoon, a helicopter searching for debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia crashed in the Angelina National Forest in east Texas. Pilot J. "Buzz" Mier of Arizona and Texas Forest Service Ranger Charles Krenek of Lufkin were killed in the accident. Three other crewmembers in the search effort were injured in the accident and are now being treated for non-life threatening injuries at the Memorial Medical Center of East Texas in Lufkin. They are: Ronnie Dale, NASA Safety and Process Assurance Branch, Kennedy Space Center; Richard Lange, United Space Alliance, Kennedy Space Center and Matt Tschacher, United States Forest Service.

All of us at NASA wish to express our sincere condolences to the families of the helicopter crew members killed in the accident. We deeply empathize with their loss at such a trying time, and have lowered flags at all NASA centers to half-staff to honor the memory of their loved ones. Our thoughts and concerns go out to the injured crew members, and we pray for their speedy recovery.

Earlier this week, I visited the recovery operations area in east Texas and had the opportunity to thank the personnel searching for Columbia debris. NASA is deeply grateful for the support we have received during recovery operations from more than 2000 men and women from the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Park Service, Texas and Louisiana National Guard, and state and local authorities who have helped us locate, document, and collect debris.

While the ground search for Shuttle material will continue, all Shuttle search aircraft operations have been discontinued until officials are assured that operations can continue in the safest manner possible.

May God bless these heroic crew members, their families, and the members of the NASA family.

Sean O'Keefe NASA Administrator

Subject: A nit re lastest Byte column

"Software does precisely what the programmer told it to do. " And to add insult to injury this is preceded by "something we all know ".

Now I know what you meant, so I'll avoid wasting words arguing about it. But (there's always a but), I would have hoped this concept would have vanished eons ago. The complexity of modern software invalidates this "truth" at every level.

I wouldn't have even bothered to write except that I often encounter a very insidious outcome of this viewpoint. Frequently newcomers to computers first blame themselves when the computer does not respond as they expected. And that is sad.

: Frank Schmittroth

Come now. Computers do precisely what the programmer told them to do. The programmer may not know what he told it to do, of course, but the machines don't have minds of their own, and they don't capriciously go off and execute instructions they weren't given.

Now that may not strictly be true for some of the LISP programs that modify their own instructions in strange ways, but it's certainly true for business programs and such like. In the instance at hand, a programmer told the machine to flag delinquent accounts, when the account had aged long enough to send a narsty collection letter. He hadn't intended that to be triggered in the way that it happened to me, but that's what he told it to do.

Good heavens, why be so testy about it?








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Dear Jerry,

Bear in mind that TSA advises passengers not to lock luggage, because agents will break the locks if they inspect the bags.

So, we can't lock up our property when we fly, and we're pretty much SOL if (when?) our property is subsequently stolen.

Tell me again about the Blessings of Liberty; it's such a dim memory...


Gordon Runkle

-- "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -- Theodore Roosevelt

I think you misunderstand. The purpose of TSA is to condition people to think "Is this trip necessary" and cause them to avoid travel. It is working splendidly. Of course this mildly conflicts with the TSA as government agency existing largely to pay people with tax money while avoiding resp0nsibility for anything actually done, but they'll work that out.

But we were born free.

And lest someone be tempted to write to me about the need for security in these dangerous times, if you do, please specify how searching retired generals, old ladies in wheel chairs, and such like serves any purpose other than reminding people that we are subjects, not citizens. If the goal is to prevent hijackings, we know how to do that. If it is to prevent bombs put aboard airplanes, that's harder, but what we are doing is not a very good protection against that, and the cure is worse than the disease.

A major purpose of TSA is to make us understand that we are subjects, and that we have no rights against these servants of the people.

But we were born free.

Letter from Istanbul

Re: "The Turks have much to answer for"

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I have been reading your views of the war in Chaos Manor to keep up with your thoughts on a real situation. This is a letter voicing my sadness, for his comments on Turkey, to a person who in my mind is with people of Leonardo da Vinci caliber.

Turkish people have a long history of friendship with the American people. Ottoman Empire’s support of the American Revolution, the role of the Turkish troops in the Korean War, accepting the risk of being the front line nuclear defense against the Soviets, accepting the animosity of the whole Arab world by being the only supporter of Israel in the region since 1948, 1991 Gulf War, war on drugs, war on terrorism and total support after 9/11 are only a few examples. These facts should not be conveniently ignored when faced with difficulties.

In the Kunu-ri battle during the Korean conflict, the Turkish regiment, at the expense of 104 dead and 376 wounded, saved 3 regiments (9th, 23rd and the 38th) of U.S. troops from becoming "Janissaries" (link1). The full and unconditional support given to the coalition during the 1991 Gulf War resulted in a 10-year fight with the Kurdish PKK insurgents (leaving roughly 25000 dead troops and civilians.) During this time Turkey came under repeated terrorist attacks originating from northern Iraq and had to cope with floods of refugees in 1988 and 1991. The financial losses exceeded $150 billions including the war costs with the PKK. This 10-year drain is one of the main reasons for the poor economic condition that prevails in the country. In return, the reparations offered by the then-coalition were some comical $800 million to be retrieved from some Arab state. We can’t even tell if this money was ever received.

For the past 5 years we have been hearing about a strategic partnership with the U.S. Whereas, the U.S administrations for the past 15 years have been working on the creation (Kurdistan) and acquisition (Armenia, Georgia) of client states in the region. Both the Armenian state and Kurdish tribal chiefs make claims on Turkish soil. You should see some of the maps that started floating around after the Kurds won the U.S. support. Obviously, in Turkey’s case the U.S. administration has been re-defining "strategic partnership". The Iraq operation aims to rearrange borders and to create new client states whereas, back in the 30’s Turkey had declared to the world that she will consider the establishment of an independent Kurdish state at her borders as casus belli. Is the U.S. unaware of this, just like she has chosen not to ratify the 1924 Lausanne Treaty that defines the southeastern borders of Turkey? Really, where does all this double talk leave "the strategic partnership"?

Unlike what has been publicized in the U.S., the disagreement between the U.S. demands and the Turkish Parliament (please note, not the government) was not financial but political. Turks have a dim view of the fact that the Iraqi Kurds (who harbor 15 to 20 thousand ex-PKK terrorists) would be armed with U.S. weaponry of unknown types and quantities when legitimate security concerns persist and must be addressed. To exercise some control over this, the Turks proposed to have the U.S. and Turkish forces cooperate in the distribution of the armaments to the Kurds as well as in the disarmament that should follow when the job was done. Apparently, the U.S. administration did not want to do this and in return the Turkish Parliament did not authorize U.S. troop movements within and across the Turkish borders.

The financial aid discussions were related strictly to the cost of full involvement. This would have involved moving Turkish forces into northern Iraq, which would have helped the U.S. troops in more ways than one. Considering the cost of mobilizing troops in the 10s of thousands, loss of tourism, loss of trade and investments for unknown periods, and considering the economic mess that Turkey is in, Turkish government wanted some financial help to ease the burden. The money discussed was either $6 billion as a war grant or $24 billion as a long-term loan. As publicized in the U.S., the two were added together and hooted as if Turkey was going to receive $30 billion as a give-away. At this time Turkey is providing the coalition forces with all the support that could be given within the NATO and bilateral agreements framework (without any financial demands) in their effort to disarm Iraq (through the use of its airspace, emergency facilities, evacuation of the wounded and humanitarian assistance.)


Dear Doctor:

The discord between the U.S. administration and the Turkish government and the resulting blunder have been caused by a series of mistakes made (and still being made) by each side. I will not go into the mistakes made by the Turkish government because I do not know where to start. The mistakes that the U.S. administration made were based on the following (among others) false assumptions:

1. that striking a deal with a then-premiership hopeful (now premier and happens to be the chief of the majority party), in return for political and financial support, would be enough to get the necessary approval from the Turkish Parliament in having foreign troops massing in and marching through the country for indefinite periods of time. (But imagine this, please: Russia, in conflict with Mexico who has turned rogue, and in strategic partnership with the U.S., would like to land in Corpus Christi with 62000 troops fully armed with heavy weapons, wants to move across Texas to El Paso where they want to set up a permanent base, want to distribute arms to some Indian nation who has been making territorial claims from the U.S., want to set up an independent state for the same with Ciudad Juarez as the capital, want to start going in and out of Mexico declaring "they may stay in the region for as long as 20 years", and tell the U.S. that she cannot enter Mexico because it will interfere with the Russian-Indian operations and want the U.S. administration to get an approval for all this from the Congress. Sounds ridiculous, yes!)

2. that coercion and bribery would be more effective than to discuss and convince a "strategic partner" for what needs be done. Secretary Powell never visited Ankara, but lesser officials, in return for offering the money that they knew Turkey badly needed, handed down orders, sent in shopping lists and made implied threats. To make the situation worse, without waiting for the parliamentary approval (based on the false assumption 1) the troops and equipment were sent in on ships to the various Turkish ports, possibly, with the aim to impose a de facto situation thought to strengthen the Turkish governments hand with the parliament. Let us say "an offer one cannot refuse?"

3. that exploitation of the created and acquired client states in the region can replace the support provided by Turkey. It looks like U.S. preferred to use these entities rather than to continue her time-tested alliance with Turkey. In my opinion, this will be a poor substitute at best and will prove more so in the near and far future. Pax Ottoman prevailed in this region of the world for more than 400 years and as late as the 20’s and nothing better replaced it, yet. There is no good reason to believe that something will, either.

I agree with your prediction (verdict?): "The Turks have much to answer for here." This country had to endure a 9 year (1974-1983) arms and economic embargo from the U.S., a reprimand for having exercised her rights to save the Turkish population in Cyprus from massacre by the Greek communists. It can be expected that the present U.S. administration, in search for a scapegoat, will blame it all on Turkey. As one Turkish statesman (Inönü – 2 time nightmare of Sir Winston) once said about the U.S., "If you go to bed with an elephant, you should expect getting bruised."

Turkey cannot satisfy all demands of the U.S administration; neither can she do something to alleviate the effects of the smear campaign that is being conducted by this administration and its mouthpieces. Let us just hope that things do not go to from bad to worse and that the administration does not have to put Turkey on their list of rogue states to be preempted (Turkish Freedom?). Seriously, now is the time to start picking up the pieces and see if the alliance could be salvaged, although, it is obvious that things will never be the same again. Yet I feel that the U.S. will need Turkey’s help (not to forget Iran and Syria) more in the aftermath, when all is said and done and when it becomes easier to sort the good, the bad and the ugly. So the wise now should not contribute to the existing discord but rather help in any way they can to resolve the differences.

I will subscribe to your statement: "I was always skeptical about the prospect that we would be welcomed into Iraq. Most of the Iraqi people, other than Kurds, will see us as invaders to be resisted" and this is what’s happening already. In my opinion "the 4th Infantry sweeping down from the North" could not have prevented this. The main increase in casualties will be due to this reaction which could not have been prevented by an increased show of force. But then there were others at the Pentagon who warned the administration to no avail (link 2.) I have added some links on the subject (3,4,5.) Link 3, an article by Prof. Shlaim of Oxford is an exceptional analysis.

May God help us all, Dr. Pournelle.

With my deepest respects,


Ziya Bulun 

Istanbul, Turkey






The phrase I used, "have much to answer for," was chosen to convey prediction rather than judgment, and implications that the impasse is not insurmountable; as you note, there has long been friendship between our countries, and I am more than aware of the battle at Kunu-Ri; you might add units of the Cavalry to your list of beneficiaries of the Turkish military competence in the long retreat.

The only way Iraq might have been taken without battles would have been with such overwhelming force that no organized resistance developed. Whether that was possible will never be known; whether it was possible without strong action in the North is known for certain now. You will understand that those who framed the original war plan will continue to believe that it would have worked.

The US always had the option of arming the Kurds and operating with a Kurdish army with US air and Special Operations support. We did not do that largely in deference to Turkey: some of us well understand the severity of the problems a large independent Kurdistan with oil fields would pose to our NATO ally. But the only way to control the Kurds is with force, and if we have no force in Iraqi Kurd territory we have no control. I suspect we will all regret that.

I said long ago that we had two choices in the North: control by the Kurds, or control by the Turks. There are no other choices, and once yo let one of those groups win, you will not easily (or ever) get it 0ut. I long ago said I would prefer Turkish control; indeed, I would have opted for Turkish reconquest of most of Iraq as a means of stabilization of the area. I trust the Turkish military to honor Mustapha Kemal's last commands, to protect the secular constitution and otherwise stay out of politics. That they have done so for generations now is unprecedented in history, a reign of honor without ruling.

But much of that changed, in part due to the early opportunity to end the war with one strike. That didn't work, things started, and in war nothing goes as expected. And we are where we are now.

Responses below.

I have had several references to this:


This link provides some insight into one of the 'human shields' and what he experienced and why, just maybe, this war is a just war. 

It gives one a sense of why we see what we see there.

Freedom and Right Tommie L. Williams, Jr.

I certainly do not question the evil of this regime. If you make a list of people who need killing and regimes that need toppling, this one is high on the list. The question is, why is that our job? But that doesn't matter now. The Senate and People of the United States have made their decision.

Dr. Pournelle,

I'm not going to debate the merits of the war. The basic facts that prompted the war are in dispute and no intellectualizing will turn those facts either anti- or pro-war. Only the lens of history will suffice (and we all know history is written by the winners, so we can only hope for neutrality).

No, what I am most interested in, is what happens if the coalition forces do not find massive amounts of chemical and biological weapons? I'm talking about more than a few envelopes of anthrax. Without literally tons of smoking gun evidence, what happens?

What would be the political repercussions in that? Could the U.S. afford for the question to arise? Would somebody try to manufacture evidence if the forces come up with this century's version of Al Capone's Vault? Given the few poopdeck rockets that have been fired, what would constitute an acceptable level of WMDs (a phrase that will be somebody's epitaph in the next couple of years) that would constitute a war-making effort?

No one is hoping for a chemical/biological attack that has an ounce of soul. Yet the absence of attacks might very well auger the absence of the means to attack. Thus the dilemma that must cost people who look into the future a few precious winks of sleep.

Any thoughts?


Gary Mugford Idea Mechanic Bramalea ON Canada

If we don't find weapons, or if we find them and they are not used, it shows that deterrence worked;  it also shows that being deterred is not enough, you must be SEEN to have been deterred.

It is better to be feared than loved; we would never have been loved anyway. The foreign policy aspects of this war are one thing. The domestic consequences are another. Like it or not, we are closer to being The Senate and People of Washington than a nation of states, and I suspect there is no going back. 

Subject: Requirements of empire.

Differing views:

 Roland Dobbins

There are different forms of empire, as we shall learn; but lese majeste will be treason within a lifetime.

In any event, the endgame approaches:

Subject: Mother of all battles?

 Roland Dobbins

Subject: Machinery of empire.

 Roland Dobbins

I expect to see a number of such articles. I have little confidence in the Guardian's sources. The Washington Post is usually a bit more accurate. But all this is in the nature of counting chickens before they are hatched.

Follows a lot of mail I am catching up on; it's a mixed bag. This is column time so it all gets Short Shrift...


Hi Dr. Pournelle,

Not three days after having read about your struggles with WinXP's brain dead search function I ran into my own problem with this atrocity.

Microsoft has managed to break one of the fundamental features of the operating system. It turns out if you try to search for all files of a particular type that contain a string of interest (ie, all .txt files with the string "Hello") - you will get zero results, even if such files exist.

Forget about searching "All files and Folders" - that's a lie. Forget about turning on "View Hidden Files and Folders" - that's no help. Microsoft has changed the way the Search feature works so that it will only search within files that have a specifically registered handler. There is a work around available at  But this fix has to be applied for each and every file extension you are interested in searching in - once for .htm, once for .asp, once for .txt and so on.

Who did the usability testing for this "feature", and why is this thing still broken, even after a Service Pack release for XP?


Leander Kalpaxis

Good questions.

Subject: Economic implications of the US dollar as the currency of the world oil market.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

In your reply to Mr. Todd today, and Mr. Juergens last Sunday, you point out that the USA doesn't really need Iraqi oil all that much, but would benefit from an oil market with a more plentiful supply and less OPEC control. The two articles in the links below take the argument one step further: Because oil is traded in US dollars, both the US dollar and the US economy are a lot stronger than they would be otherwise. The dominance of the US dollar in the world markets is under some pressure, as some OPEC countries are considering switching away from the dollar, possibly to the euro. One OPEC member has already done this: Iraq.

One of the articles addresses a point Mr. St. Onge makes about the other Western nations (including Japan) not paying for their own defense: It argues that, though the 'dollar tax' on oil, they actually do.

Fair warning: the second article is a bit long-winded, and uses a kind of rhetoric you probably won't like.

'Bush's Deep Reasons for War on Iraq: Oil, Petrodollars, and the OPEC Euro Question' 

'The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War With Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth' 

With Kind Regards,


It's not the rhetoric, but the logic that I quarrel with. But you can always find places that are sure they know the "real" reasons for things.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

This was brought to my attention (regarding yet another way stars might go "poof"). I thought that, in your copious free time (:-)) you might enjoy reading it also: 


N. C. Shapero

In my copious free time, indeed. Thanks.

Subject: so called "anti-firewall" law

While I can certainly see the potential for abuse, it seems to me that the law (at least as represented in the Register article) would not necessarily outlaw VPNs or firewalls. The issue would be in what constitutes a communication. To my thinking, the VPN session itself is a "communication" as as there is not necessarily a disguise or encryption of the source or destination there should not be a problem. NAT-based firewalls might be a thornier problem because NAT does disguise the originating IP of the "communication". However, could one not argue that the "communication" exists in a un-disguised state between the firewall and the destination. (In other words, you could argue that it's not your PC communicating with the remote website but your PC communicating with your firewall, and your firewall communicating with the remote website.) Since this is a normal function of NAT-based firewalls one would think you'd be on higher ground. Where we are on shakier ground is with anonimizers (proxies and remailers). The courts have upheld several times the rights of individuals to anonimity under certain circumstances. If this law would make the devices that make anonimity possible illegal then I see a problem. 

-- David M. Girardot 


From Rich Pournelle:

Subject: Interesting article on the war and the market

Lord Rothschild was quoted in 1810 as saying: "Buy to the sound of cannons, sell to the sound of trumpets."

And another professional investor once said: "Buy in gloom and sell in boom."

Dr. Erwin wrote, "The EU was formed to counterbalance America." That seems a bit revisionist to me. If you go back to the founding of the original precursor of the EU, it was dreamed up by de Gaulle to tie Germany so tightly into the economic life of its neighbors that it could never seriously contemplate making war on them again. So far, it's succeeded brilliantly in that.

Geoff Styles

Dear Jerry, I have to disagree with Mr. St. Onge’s comment on Germany being a threat. I think it’s important to avoid lumping together everyone who opposed us on Iraq. France and Russia have a lot to answer for, but Germany shouldn’t be put in the same category. Viewing them as a potential adversary would be a mistake and could lead to a disastrous self-fulfilling prophecy.

Schroeder’s moves were pure domestic politics, tied to the current outpouring over Germany’s experience on the receiving end of strategic bombing in WWII. This was triggered by last year’s publication of “Der Brand”, by Joerg Friedrich. Appropriate or not, this is a big deal over there. If either the SPD or CDU had supported a pre-emptive war, it would have been political suicide.

Given our long history as allies, and a cultural gap much narrower than between either of us and the French, we will get past the current disagreement.

Thanks for your calm analysis on the war news. When will the media figure out that retired Air Force officers may not be the best commentators on a ground war?

Regards, Geoff Styles


On Hydrogen:

Jerry :

I looked at the cited website on hydrogen sited yesterday. It's a _passable_ discussion, but misses some pretty important considerations. Having worked for most of twenty years on various projects for alternate vehicle fuels, including risk assessments of the fuels, I think I have some qualification for comments. You're likely quite familiar with many of these points, I'd expect.

Firstly, the issue of storage and handling of hydrogen is a non-trivial problem. Hydrogen's a tricky fuel, and the materials for storage and handling of hydrogen, liquid or compressed, have to be chosen carefully. Hydrogen embrittlement resulting in cracking or blistering is a well-known phenomenon, and while it can be addressed with due dilgence, it would pretty much require a separate set of equipment for transportation and storage than that currently "in the field".

Hydrogen _containment_ is also a bit more rigorous than for, say, natural gas. The hydrogen molecule just zips through systems that would contain more typical hydrocarbons. Fittings, gaskets, valves - these all need to be capable of hydrogen service.

It's pretty doubtful that we could use existing hydrocarbon pipelines to transport hydrogen in bulk. Tank truck movement requires dedicated fleets of trucks. We have those kinds of trucks, hydrogen "tube trucks" are in use, but the numbers would have to increase by orders of magnitude.

The explosibility of hydrogen is a factor, although not the sensationalistic stuff one sees, especially the infamous Hindenberg case. Hydrogen's flammable limits are about 4% - 75% in air. By comparison, the flammable range for natural gas is about 5 - 16% (I use the term "about" here deliberately - no rational engineer would trust a mixture of more than 1/4 of the LFL in terms of deflagration). Hydrogen has a wonderful flame velocity in the range of ~3 m/s compared with about ~0.3 m/s for natural gas. This becomes important for flame arrestors and other suppression systems (a subject I spent my Master's degree around, performing experiments with deflagration and detonation in process equioment). Intrinsic flame velocity is a reasonable indicator of explosive damage potential, BTW, and is not the same as flame speed, which is the velocity that a mixture can reach in specific real-world conditions. Flame speed is typically _much_ higher than flame velocity. Which leads to...

Explosions with hydrogen in any degree of semi-confinement have a reasonable chance of progressing from a deflagration (roughly speaking a sub-sonic velocity explosion wave) to a detonation (again, roughly speaking, a supersonic explosion wave - I won't start to discuss Chapman-Jouget conditions <evil grin>), where most hydrocarbons don't transition to a detonation (there's been a debate for years if one can get natural gas to detonate without _very_ contrived circumstances. I say it can, but some colleagues in the field disagree with me...). Hydrogen/air mixtures detonate in pipework and equipment handily, with some impressive damage.

Again, none of this is insurmountable, but it adds some significant effort and expense to meet the challenge.

As so many point out, hydrogen leaks tend to dissipate quickly, and the material heads for the skies faster than almost anything else. But equally an issue is that hydrogen leaks are difficult to find - in most process plants, ignited leaks are found at night when the pale blue flame has some change of being seen - and annoying to repair. Maintenance costs are correspondingly higher.

Hydrogen "gas stations" would have a number of issues for location based on the public's fear of anything that's not "perfectly safe". I would expect to see some pretty stiff NIMBY approaches for this fuel to be deployed in urban or suburban areas. For an excellent example on this, look at Ontario, Canada's experience with LPG and CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) service stations in the latter part of the 'eighties on. Having personally chaired the government-industry risk assessment committee on that subject, I can say that the opposition to alternate fuels is very real and very well formed in some parts of the population, regardless of the objective risk. Of course, gasoline was considered "acceptable" by many of the same people, but that's another discussion.

The safety systems for hydrogen are all well within the current technological capability of our nation. We use them currently in refineries, chemical plants, and in rocket propulsion systems. They're just not commonly used or understood as are ones for, say, natural gas. And that's a reasonable comparison - look at the incidence of accidents with natural gas across the nation. That safety systems, including in that term both technological/hardware and proceedural safeguards, are available doesn't mean they are employed well, or even more importantly, perceived as effective. The nuclear power industry did, in my opinion, a very poor job of handling the public perception issues over a period of decades in this area. More to the point of the discussion here, we almost always see the famous photograph of the Hindenberg toppling from its mooring aflame when there is a discussion of hydrogen as a fuel.

I like the idea of hydrogen as an alternate fuel, accepting that we have energy losses in electrolysis (and let's _not_ run reformation systems for hydrogen - the energy wasted is simply unacceptable, especially when one considers the value of the feedstocks "as is"), and accepting that there are safety issues that are currently not part of the landscape for most users. Where I do have some question is if the expenditure to refit the hydrocarbon vehicle storage and distribution system to include compressed or liquified hydrogen would be cost-effective.

The use of fuel cells for hydrocarbons may have a better cost-benefit curve, despite the production of CO2 as well as H2O. We already have well-established liquid hydrocarbon storage and distribution systems that could be easily adapted to this use. The trick would be developing a new system to "trap" some major part of the CO2 generated, alleviating the anxieties of the global warming folks. Hydrogen fuel cells have some real potential, but there are _many_ fuels suited for the technology.

You're right on the money about the idea that fuel cell technology is a good area to invest in for the future. The question for those funding the research is whether they want to play the technology violin with only one string on the instrument. From my perspective, none of the people with the money have the equivalent technological virtuosity of a Paganini.

John P.

Hydrogen is very tricky. Distribution may have to be by swapping fuel cells. But the research is needed.

We need a way to have mobile systems that don't run on oil. Right now batteries don't work well enough to use electricity.

Gregg Goss said: >"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.

The Army Technology site has a page on the Cornet/Kornet - - and in the very first paragraph it says "The system, first shown in 1994, has been developed by the KBP Instrument Design Making Bureau, Tula, Russia and is in production and service with the Russian Army and has been sold to the Syrian Army."

If it's been sold to the Syrians, it's probably been sold to Iran, Lebanon, North Korea and so on and so forth. I don't think it is very hard to discern that Iraq, since 1991, has probably been acquiring all sorts of small arms and light weaponry from the Russians and others through third-parties such as Syria. They undoubtably paid through the nose for it. Given enough money, *I* could acquire that stuff.

The Russians have needed the hard currency, so it's no surprise that they would be exporting as much as possible of the one thing they manufacture well - weapons. It seems to me that we can hardly kvetch about Russian (small) arms sales to other countries when we 1> do the same ourselves, 2> declined to help them very much post-1991, and 3> we have refused to even fully fund the scheme whereby we purchased excess fissionables and warheads from them.

In the event, it is difficult to force a country to reduce the size of its armed forces. It is impossible to totally disarm a country short of occupation, and probably not even then. The NRA, for one, could tell you that. What would be shocking would be if the Iraqis had possessed no light/medium anti-tank weapons at all.

I doubt very much that the Iraqis have 'French/German chemical weapons' (as opposed to Brand X?) and if they do, I doubt very much they will use them, for the same reasons they haven't used them since 1988 - it wouldn't be useful. Chemical weapons are far more useful against civilians and the unprepared than against an prepared army. The Great War settled THAT.

As it stands, we have (reportedly) lost two Abrams and an APC, plus a Challenger lost to friendly fire, plus a hundred dead. Minimal losses, another words. In spite of the vaguely retarded nature of our overall strategic plan, the war is going extremely well (in the military sense), and I personally have every confidence in the Army and the Marines (and always have). We would win in far worse circumstances than this, and we will win in spite of oh, just about anybody, including the civilian leadership, if need be.

I wish I was there myself.

People need to calm down some, that TV junk will give you the vapours.

ash ['Isn't that what the old ladies always used to say?']


So, Mr. St. Onge issues a challenge to those who believe the substantial and credible published material denying a link between the Iraqi Baath regime and al Queda: "read the results of my research". Well, against my better judgement, I did follow the first link furnished. What did I find? An article by a columnist for Vanity Fair, a Hollywood gossip rag, that contains little but sound bites from unnamed sources that the author has (unsuccessfully, IMO) attempted to conglomerate into a convincing thread. On the assumption that Mr. St. Onge is smart enough to do some sort of ranking by credibility when supplying a list of cited sources, I see no need to waste my time on the rest, let alone take advantage of his offer of "more". And of all the garbage I have read from both sides concerning this war, his statement "worse than Stalin's USSR" is the most ludicrous, no contest. Sheesh!

Scott Miller

Dear Mr. Pournelle,

I would like to take this opportunity to reply to Mr. St. Onge's comments.

1. Mr. St. Onge agrees with my assessment of Saddam Hussein, but feels it didn't go "far enough." Specifically, he says that "Worse than Stalin's USSR" is a more accurate representation.

I mention this because it is possible that Mr. St. Onge feels my comment is an attempt to use an old rhetorical trick where the speaker claims to grant a point, then talks around it. The best example I can give at this point in time is just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Immediately following the attacks were posts from people who said, in effect, "yes, the 9/11 attacks were a tragedy, it was horrible, and nobody deserves such a thing, but..." and then proceeded to list all the supposed reasons why the US *did* deserve such a thing.

I consider that tactic a cheap shot, but it gets used a lot, and if Mr. St. Onge felt I was going that route I could understand that... so I want to clarify that I wasn't doing that. Mr. Hussein, as far as I'm concerned, is evil, and he is not one of the "victims" of this war.

That said, I'd like to quibble over Mr. St. Onge's assertion that Saddam Hussein is somehow "worse" or "more evil" than Stalin. Eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns where despotism is involved, and measuring one against the other has no practical value. I'd also like to suggest that Saddam's level of evil may be elevated because he has far nastier toys to play with than Stalin did in his day.

2. In point 2b, Mr. St. Onge suggests my assertion that there is no tie between Hussein and Al-Queda is wrong, and provides a number of links to support this. I looked at every link he suggested. A few were to sites that required a subscription (news sites, like the New York Times) and I'm irrationally leery of that so I didn't read those. One was to an web page advertising a book, so it wasn't much use for the specific discussion. Many of the links were to useful articles, however, and after reading those articles I can see where you can make a case for the *possibility* of a link... but based on the strength of those articles, however, I don't see how you could make a case strong enough to warrant an invasion. An article in the Washington Times suggests that the information linking Saddam to Al Queda is relatively new and still being sifted through, an article in the Philadelphia Daily News claims the government may have had information tying Iraq and Al Queda together as far back as the Oklahoma City bombings. An article in the New Yorker focuses mostly on the chemical warfare Saddam inflicted on Kurds living in Iraq, but points to a possible tie between Al Queda and Saddam's father-in-law. It does not, however, show any official link to Iraq itself... based on the information in the article, it could easily have been a powerful man using his connections to run a profitable side venture.

However, the most effective article was one taken from the ThisisLondon website, because it points out the fallacy in believing that a fundamental disagreement on religion would prevent Saddam and Al Queda from cooperating. After all, the United States and Osama Bin Laden cooperated against the Soviet Union. So I have to admit the possibility. At present, however, I don 't see enough evidence to prove it. I need more links.

3. In point 2a, Mr. St. Onge asks me what, exactly, I want. He essentially asks if I want to see the United States hamstrung by foreign powers. Actually, I don't want that at all... at the same time, I don't want foreign powers forced into a subservient role with the United States.

While that may sound like paranoid fears, consider that the United States has backed out of at least four treaties, on the grounds that our President did not want to abide by their terms. The US has also adopted a policy of expecting its allies to do what it wants (this policy is evident in Bush's speeches intended to be heard by foreign powers, he uses the phrase "we expect" an awful lot.) The US has adopted the stance that you are either with us or against us, and derides nations (specifically Germany and France) for opposing our desires.

From my perspective, it is very reasonable for countries, even allies, to be leery of following the lead of a country that has no qualms about breaking treaties it signed in the last administration, making sweeping demands, and asserting that it has a right to preemptively invade anyone it feels may ultimately be a direct threat (Iraq), while ignoring a country that is actively threatening its neighbors and the US with a nuclear exchange (North Korea). Further, the US assertion that Iraq needs to be invaded because it is run by a despot rings hollow when North Korea is *also* run by a despot, and we have no qualms about trying to find a diplomatic solution in that part of the world. It is hard *not* to be cynical when presented with that contradiction, and were I France or Germany I suspect I would be tempted to react in much the same manner.

What I "want" from the US is a foreign policy that is consistent and that doesn't pout when other countries, even allies, inevitably disagree with us. In truth, what I want is considerably more complicated than that, but I don' t have the space to get into that in this letter.

4. Finally, Mr. St. Onge agrees that the lack of clear and rational dissent is sad, but suggests that there is no clear and rational dissent because my side is full of very stupid people.

Well, that's unfair. However, he does imply that the doves shoulder the largest share of blame for this, and specifically suggests to me:

- - -

*Sheesh* You want a debate, try listening, thinking, and _responding_.

- - -

Unfortunately, because a debate requires an initial comment and then a response, I was unable to listen *or* respond until Mr. St. Onge replied to my letter. I suspect he jumped ahead of himself there, and was predicting (perhaps through experiences in similar arguments in other forums) how I was going to respond to his letter. However, such criticism seems inappropriate when rebutting an opening statement. If, after five or six rounds of a discussion, Mr. St Onge observes that I have done nothing but repeat "war is bad" over and over again, the chastisement will be far more warranted.

That said, this is the web, and I've encountered much worse and in much less interesting posts.

Thanks for your time.


Christopher B. Wright (

From Eric Pobirs:

I thought it quite odd that Rob Baartwijk would recommend an IndyMedia site to you. These loosely administered sites funded by Bill Moyers are utterly dripping for hatred of America. This is sort of like a church with Noam Chomsky as its Prophet. When in doubt, blame America.

These are the sites that proudly ran the picture of masked protestors bearing a banner reading "WE SUPPORT OUR TROOPS WHEN THEY SHOOT THEIR OFFICERS" then were filled with celebrational posts when just such an incident occurred.

And while we're accused of butchery by the Left we're actually running possibly the most careful restrained invasion in all of human history: 

I am shocked. Shocked.

As I am about this:


"... demonstrates a secular upward trend of 0.05 percent-per-decade between consecutive solar activity minima."





Here is a link to a site that sells a rather inexpensive PS/2 to USB adapter like the one you mentioned you were looking for in your most reecnt Byte column. 


Looks good.





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, April 2, 2003

From Jim Warren:

The Pope is visiting DC and President Bush takes him out for an afternoon on the Potomac ... sailing on the Presidential yacht.

They're admiring the sights when, all of a sudden, the Pope's hat (zucchetto) blows off his head and out onto the water.

Secret Service guys start to launch a boat, but Bush waves them off, saying "Wait, wait. I'll take care of this. Don't worry."

Bush then steps off the yacht onto the surface of the water and walks out to the Holy Father's little hat, bends over and picks it up, then walks back to the yacht and climbs aboard. He hands the hat to the Pope amid stunned silence.

The next morning, the Washington Post carries a story of the event. The banner headline is: "Bush Can't Swim!"

Of course Jim also sent this one-liner:

Stop the Mad Cowboy Disease!


Most American's are probably not aware that 90% of their oil is provided by Canada. The province of Alberta contains 25% of the world's oil reserves located mainly in the Tar Sands of Fort McMurray Alberta. What does this mean for the U.S.A.? The U.S. is likely to have a reliable supply of oil and natural gas for the next 30-40 yrs. Alberta is unlikely to limit supplies to the U.S. as many of the oil companies have heavy investment by American oil firms, and Alberta views it's oil sales to the U.S.A. as a means to keeping the province of Alberta one of the richest in Canada. The need to secure access to other oil supplies may be a nice insurance policy, designed to keep the price of oil low, but if the goal (of the U.S.A) is to ensure a reliable supply of oil, then the U.S.A, has already succeeded, since Alberta will continue ship enough oil and natural gas for years to come.

Stephen Crawford


From JoAnne Dow

Subject: This makes me proud to be an American 

An icon for the war. Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer was just doing what he signed up for after 9/11, helping people as an Army medic. This is not medal earning behavior. It's just an embodiment of the American spirit and character in action.



I too find I cannot allow some of Dr. Erwin's comments go unchallenged. Too many of the statements are counter to reality.

Europe doesn't like military intervention? So why has France, the nation seeking to hold the EU reins, conducted over 35 such operations since 1960? (Germany is off the map on this subject for the same reason as Japan. They aren't allowed to do these things by us.) Including a sortie at this very moment into the Ivory Coast you may have heard about? Might it not be better said that Europe doesn't care for military intervention when the target is wealthy and looking to buy?

Where is this supposedly awesome military might supposed to come from? The Russians still have soldiers in outlying regions dependent on the kindness of local villages just to avoid starvation. Most of Europe has become greatly addicted to a US military presence both for the input to local economies near bases and allowing them to cut defense spending to the bone to further their social welfare programs. All the while those same programs foster a growing unassimilated Muslim immigrant population. There are already several incidents noted where local police forces are completely incapable of enforcing law within certain communities and the effective rule is Shari'a.

Not only would withdrawing our forces from Europe (especially now that we have active roles for those forces elsewhere in the world) cause considerable economic damage to those communities it would leave much of Europe with only token defenses. A strong defense force cannot be wished into existence with a signature on a budget bill. The example of the US military's condition in the period leading into WWII is a very good example. It took considerable time at the cost of much suffering to those nations already under siege before we could actually make a difference in the conflict.

Soldiers must be trained and equipped. The equipment must be procured and the industrial capacity to do so in a reasonable time frame must exist before that can happen. Were the US to abandon defending Europe tomorrow it would be near effortless for some small but well armed nations to start grabbing territory.

Mark Steyn on EUrabia:

France as enemy:

France appeases terror state if they have oil:

France no longer a Western country

Eric Pobirs

Eric also says

The attempts to claim that the war is all about OPEC switching to the Euro is laughable at face value and only gets more so as one examines the articles. It's pretty plain that the authors started with a conclusion and worked backwards.

The US has the most stable currency because we tend to do the least amount of utterly stupid things to our economy. Considering the things we have done it really points out far beyond the pale the Euro welfare states go. OPEC is naturally motivated by this to use our currency in turn lending it strength. This circle can only be broken if the US dollar first becomes next to worthless in respect to the Euro.

Current EU policies don't appear to make such an event imminent. If anything, the French and German leadership playing to the socialists to win re-election only promises to make their problems worsen.

The second article particularly exposes the lunatic fringe minds behind this claim. Directly below the title is the URL for IndyMedia, an organization that is like a Roach Motel for vermin of the lunatic left. Looking among the cited sources we find an array of such feet-on-the-ground deep thinkers like Gore Vidal and renowned moonbat Mike Ruppert.

One quoted source puts it all in perspective: "A bizarre political statement by Saddam Hussein has earned Iraq a windfall of hundreds of millions of euros. In October 2000 Iraq insisted upon dumping the US Dollar -- `the currency of the enemy' -- for the more multilateral euro.

Apparently in spite of most Western European nations participation in the first Gulf War they are not the enemy. Why? It likely has more than a little to do with their weak support (and in many instances outright violation) of the UN sanctions intended to prevent Iraq from threatening its neighbors again. If left to up to the EU the sanctions would have been dropped in the early 90's and the business of selling anything and everything to Iraq recommenced. It was the US and UK that provided the backbone needed to continue restraining a regime that had shown no remorse whatsoever for its behavior.

Another issue raised by "Harm" is the bizarre assertion that petroleum taxes in foreign nations make up for their lack of defense spending. To quote Douglas Adams, accepting this statement requires a suspension of disbelief that would stun a Scientologist. Taxes are revenue, pure and simple. If little or none of that revenue is channeled into defense it matters not how that revenue is gathered or recorded. It doesn't matter how many euphemisms one has for a protection racket if you fail to buy guns and provide protection should the need actually arise.

 Eric Pobirs





Dear Dr Pournelle, Mr Styles' observations about France and Germany were on the whole thoughtful and considered, so I feel bad trying to contradict one of them: "If you go back to the founding of the original precursor of the EU, it was dreamed up by de Gaulle to tie Germany so tightly into the economic life of its neighbors that it could never seriously contemplate making war on them again."

If memory serves, Jean Monnet and not de Gaulle dreamed of a Europe at peace through trade. He a very great man indeed, but one of whom Americans know little, which is quite surprising given his close relationship with America and, especially, Britain. But one might be forgiven for confusing his contribution to history with that of de Gaulle, for Monnet did not believe in claiming the credit for his own ideas. Claiming credit would hinder their adoption.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) ( System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni. PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ.



I thought this was rather interesting.,,59-610145,00.html 


Supplies of arms and oil revenues From Professor Andrew J. Hamilton Sir, I have often heard the claim that “we armed Saddam”. Thankfully A. H. Cordesman, in his 1998 report on the Iraqi military for the Center for Strategic & International Studies, has enlightened me.

In the key period between 1973-91 the US exported a mere $5 million of weapons to Iraq; more reprehensibly the UK sold $330 million-worth of arms. Of much greater interest are the arms export totals to Iraq of the four countries most against military action: Germany with $995 million, China $5,500 million, France $9,240 million, and the Russians a massive $31,800 million. So the claim that we armed Saddam has to be treated with a degree of care, particularly by those who would award the moral high ground in this debate to the leaders of nations such as Germany, France and Russia.

I remain your obedient servant, ANDREW HAMILTON, Dermatology Laboratory, Thomas Guy House, Guy’s Hospital, St Thomas’ Street, SE1 9RT. March 10.

***Extract Ends***


Craig Arnold


And a response to the letter from Istanbul:

This was a thought provoking letter and seemed to be well thought out. I would like to respond to one point from item #2. "To make the situation worse, without waiting for the parliamentary approval (based on the false assumption 1) the troops and equipment were sent in on ships to the various Turkish ports, possibly, with the aim to impose a de facto situation thought to strengthen the Turkish governments hand with the parliament. Let us say "an offer one cannot refuse?"

I think the US government has treated the Turkish government with the utmost respect in this entire matter. In order for us to come to a future amicable resolution, we must all do some slack cutting. While it is easy to view 30 ships in port a ham fisted threat, please remember that not one bullet or cracker was unloaded. When Turkey refused permission, all the ships left.

Let us consider the poor military planner. Moving the 4ID was not a trivial task. The fleet had to sail from point A to point B. Point B had to be a single location and someone had to decide where to go. Ports in Kuwait were probably overloaded. Ports in Iraq were not secure. Turkish route was probably safer than Gulf route. It would also allow 4ID to hit the ground quicker. Turkey is our friend. Risk/reward seemed to point toward Turkey.

We all understand the complexity of putting on a dinner party in our home for 20 guests. Not many of us can even get in the neighborhood of understanding what it takes to move most of an entire division of troops. The planning effort is counted in man-years. Our decision makers know this and would never use such an operation as a show of force. There are much easier ways to do that. The only logical conclusion is that they made a calculated bet and lost. We paid the price for our decision; Turkey did not. Let's let the facts speak for themselves and not try to project ill intentions on each other.

Jim Reed

Turkey will in fact pay a fairly heavy price, given that we will now have armed Kurds in the north without US troops to control them.






This week:


read book now




Stephen Crawford is incorrect when he says that 90% of US oil is provided by Canada. US Consumption is about 16 million barrels per day, of which 60% or so is imported. Canada is an important supplier, but by no means dominant. There is no doubt that tar sands will be an important source of oil in years to come, but current production is small in the overall scheme of things.


Ross McMicken


Dear Mr. Pournelle, I would have to disagree a bit with Mr. Crawford's statement concerning US oil imports. These 2001 statistics show Canada being an important source of oil for the US, but only accounting for about 10% of total imports: 


That's a lot closer to what I would have thought.


Subject: Turkey to allow resupply.

 Roland Dobbins

I do wonder how much longer the war will continue because the 4th wasn't in it; and just how we can control the Kurds without an army up there to do it with.


Joel Rosenberg on Turkey:

Jim Reed writes: "Our decision makers know this and would never use such an operation as a show of force. There are much easier ways to do that. The only logical conclusion is that they made a calculated bet and lost. We paid the price for our decision; Turkey did not. Let's let the facts speak for themselves and not try to project ill intentions on each other."

I think that most of what he said not only makes sense, but is a good pointer toward how to handle things in the long run. Turkey is the closest thing that the Muslim world has to a real democracy, and -- present problems aside -- is a US ally of long standing. Allies are important; the Turks are allies.

As are the Iraqi Kurds. They don't, granted, have much choice in allies -- if they did, they'd quite probably look askance at the US, which has sold them out before. The Iraqi-Kurdish/US relationship reminds me of a black-humor version of Charlie Brown and Lucy, with the football: "Go ahead -- revolt. We'll help you, this time." If the Turks had gone along with the US, I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that that history was going to be repeated.

In the longterm, though, the failure (and I think it was a failure of State, although certainly others disagree) has made US operations in Northern Iraq much more dependent on the Kurds than they otherwise would be, and -- Republic or Empire -- betraying allies is not a good idea. The Kurds seem to be making fairly modest public demands -- some independence for Iraqi Kurdistan within some sort of Iraqi federal government. That's hardly consistent with your Turkish correspondent's notion of Turkish and US forces disarming the Kurds after the war.

Realistically, which side has more to fear from the other: the Iraqi Kurds or the Turks? (The issue of the 15,000 former PKK terrorists is a serious one -- even though the border between Turkey and Iraq is only about a hundred miles long.)

I think you have the right of it: Northern Iraq was going to have to end up either under Kurdish or Turkish control, and Turkey's decision not to allow the 4th Infantry in has made that decision.

It's one that Turkey, no doubt, will regret, in the short run. In the long run, who knows? There was a time when France and Germany were deadly enemies, after all.

If it's even vaguely possible for there to be a viable Arab state in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza -- heavily overpopulated, with minimal natural resources; rather more than 15,000 "former" terrorists, a disproportionately long and preposterously twisty border, if it's to be anything like the Green Line -- a viable Kurdish state or semi-independent part of an Iraqi Federal entity -- should be a relative cakewalk. The border problem is much easier to handle, the terrorist population is both lower in absolute and per capita terms, and there's all that oil to fund the creation of all sorts of useful public and private institutions.

Joel Rosenberg

-- ------------------------------------------------------------ 

Which prompted this important reply

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Mr. Rosenberg sounds like an expert about Kurds and Turks. One has to ask if he ever visited Turkey or north of Iraq and where he draws his ideas and conclusions from. From what he has written, his ideas look like they are based on some of the U.S newspaper and TV reporting. I may be wrong in this, of course, because we find similar thinking with many of the U.S. officials who are active in the present conflict and who definitely have a first hand basis acquaintance.

With all due respect, I find Mr. Rosenberg's comparison of the Kurds and the Turks as U.S. allies quite sophomoric. The facts just don't jive. There are no set of scales on which you can weigh a 70 million friendly nation descending from a 622 year empire with a 80 year old republic to a bunch of nomadic tribes who yet will have to form a state. No amount of oil or American aid will help. Want proof: look at the Arabs. I would have liked to present Mr. Rosenberg with some facts here but I do not want to clutter up CHAOS MANOR. He can, however, go to any public library and find out the facts if he can bring himself to face them.

It is quite strange to be described as "the closest thing that the Muslim world has to a real democracy". You can say many things about our democracy but why the Muslim part? Turkey is a secular state since 1923. The majority of people in this country do not think of U.S. as a Christian world or of Israeli as a Jewish world. But then, this is our strength derived from our genetic code, a result of having ruled over people of all races, religions and creeds for centuries and letting them be themselves. We are proud of the fact that we have preserved peoples' cultures and religions. Unlike some allegations without basis Ottomans did not assimilate. This is not to say the Ottomans did not have the chance. 400 years was long enough to convert to Islam the population from Vienna onward. Rather, they gave asylum to peoples being prosecuted for their religion, like the Sephardic Jews of Spain. I always thought that Americans have enough self confidence to refuse to think of people in terms religion. Mr. Rosenberg's thinking reminds me of the Crusades, a poor choice of thought.

I think something blinds people and they would not want to change their initial assumptions even after their hypotheses cannot stand the tests. What has happened to the scientific method? How many times one has to be proven wrong before one decides to discard the initial assumptions? The way I look at the issue at hand: the coalition is holding a glass jar of worms in their hands debating whether the jar will break or not if they let it drop. But like Dr. Pournelle has wisely observed, and I agree, maybe the djinn is already out of the bottle. The Brits had done it in the 20's (aah, but the euphoric romanticism felt -Lawrence and all- must have been worth it) with the present mess that the present war is trying to sort out. It will be a hard job to put the djinn back in the bottle.

With my respects.

Ziya Bulun

First a clarification and an apology: I am well aware that Turkey is a secular state, kept so by the Army which allows the government to rule but will not allow the country to be converted back into an Islamic state. However, the major religion in Turkey is Islam. I didn't think my use of the words "the Muslim world" implied anything else; if I did, I was unclear, not ignorant of the facts. However, I use the term in about the same way that I say "Christendom", which is a term that used to be employed fairly often, and which included the United States.

The United States was, until quite recently, accurately described as "part of the Christian world", and even as "a Christian nation", which didn't mean that every citizen was Christian. We also used the term "Judao-Christian" nation, even though there are many non-Christians here. The US Supreme Court has attempted to erect a "wall of separation" that goes to ridiculous lengths to remove the symbols of Christianity from our public life; whether or not that is a good thing is a subject for another, and far longer, discussion.

Second, I think I have made it fairly clear over the years that I do indeed consider Turkey both a friend and an ally, and I have personal reasons to be grateful for Turkish military competence.

Third, I think you read more into Joel Rosenberg's letter than he intended. Mr. Rosenberg has made it clear that he is a strong supporter of Israel, and he is more than aware that Israel and Turkey have strong and friendly relations.

Finally, your observation that most of our knowledge of your region, and indeed much of the world, is necessarily derived from books and newspapers is quite true, and correcting that is one reason for this web site. In my case, though, I do have some first hand accounts from my daughter who is an archeologist studying the ancient civilizations of Eastern Turkey and the Caucuses regions, and who tries to keep me on track when I stray...

As to the future: I believe the healing has begun, with the flow of supplies into the North, and Powell's visit. But I think we will all regret that there is no large US army force in the Kurdish regions of Iraq. And see below.

The Vermin's Lair:

The TV cameras haven't visited them yet but they are being found:- 

Most interesting is the comments from the Marines officer. It would seem to indicate a brotherhood of torturers who exchange hints and tips.

Yours in sadness

Ian Crowe

If what this story has to say about Pvt Lynch's conduct in battle is true, then she is a genuine hero. Not in the saintly suffering way beloved of liberals and their ilk, but in the sense of exemplary behavior in an extreme situation. Supply clerk in a maintenance company is about as unwarlike a position as you can find in the US Army, yet her ferocity in battle would do credit to a Ranger. Of course, Iraq's reputation regarding the treatment of POWs, especially females, might have something to do with it.

John Stephens


Those holding US prisoners would do well to realize that we will come get them.

And then we have this:

Subject: Maybe they know what they're doing

An interesting article on the topic of empire, already discussed here at length. Interesting for links to the source of the Bush National Security Strategy.

Perhaps they do know what they're doing.

In addition, I would like to draw your reader's attention to a recent book "Hatred's Kingdom" by Dore Gold. It documents the rise of Wahabbism and the Saudi kingdom. Gold is a former Israeli ambassador so some bits probably need to be taken cum grano salis. Nevertheless it is highly readable and extensively documented; you'd be hard pressed to find even a single unattributed reference.


-Bill Colsher

It is certainly worth reading. I await comments.

Subject: The AJC article

Mr. Colsher cites in Mail is essentially an encapsulation of Bachevich's recent book.

- Roland Dobbins

Yes, I suppose I should have pointed that out.


In reaction to BBC's article about the Bristish military cemetary defaced with graffiti in France, you write:

"And the French have asked that Allied dead buried in France be removed as defiling their country."

This is painting France with a rather wide brush. When you heard about John Walker Lindh captured in Afghanistan, you didn't announce that all Americans were turning en masse into Islamic guerilla fighters, now, did you?

The graffitis scribbled on the wall of the British cemetary in Etampes reveal their authors were 1. Idiots (pretty obvious), 2. Leftists (their reference to the International Court, the new symbol of the Leftist world justice dream now that UN has lost all credibility), 3. Arabs or Muslim sympathizers (the pro-Saddam slogans, the outrageous disrespect for French history).

Granted, it's debatable whether or not idiots are representative of France (disclaimer: I am a Frenchman). But Leftists and Muslims are definitely still a minority in France. As such, they represent "the French" as much as Jesse Jackson and John Walker Lindh represent "the Americans". Please keep in mind that there might be tacteless idiots in every country but that they aren't a majority.

Thank you,

--Fred Mora

If you read what I said, as opposed to what people have been saying I said, you will note that I understood that at the time. Apparently the local mayor was horrified, and the act was mostly done by local Algerian thugs. But France does have a problem; and has certainly forfeited any claim to a say in how Iraq is governed.

Subject: Hysterical.

Roland Dobbins


Jerry, this seems to be making the rounds.

A high-ranking official calls together all the Saddam Hussein look-alikes left in Iraq and says,

"I've got good news and bad news.

"The good news is, our beloved leader, Saddam Hussein, may his name be blessed, still lives!

"The bad news is, he lost an arm..."

.......Karl Lembke


Date: April 3, 2003

 subject: The Kurds

Dear Jerry:
        An article fresh from Iraq's Kurdish area gives some insight into Kurdish-Turkish enmity:
Stephen M. St. Onge                                                   


I don't always have high confidence in the New Yorker (McPhee being an exception) but this is interesting. Thanks.

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I agree with most of what Mr. Reed has said. He sounds like a scholar and a gentleman. I would like to comment on 2 points:

1. While writing about false assumption #2, I was not thinking about ill intentions on the part of the U.S. I am sorry if it sounded like that. I am, however, saying that this was a bad move and bad strategy.

2. "Mother" of the whole blunder is false assumption #1 and I hope that your readers give this serious consideration.

I, for one, would have wanted to see the 4th in the north of Iraq, agree with all the advantages this would have brought and feel badly that the Turks were not able to this for their American friends. I still think that this would not have had a significant effect on the number of casualties, however.

On the other hand, most of us writing on this platform (given the wealth of information available to the State Dept. on Turkey) could have come up with a better approach than the one that failed. I do not understand why this administration did not take example from how Papa George handled the relations with Turkey in 1991. He, probably, knew that the only way for smooth sailing was to develop a favorable Turkish public opinion. That is why he had Secretary Baker set up camp in Ankara for a week and convince Turkey. Mr. Baker succeeded and the Turks came through without any reservations and without any of the ugly dickering under criticism (here as well).

Mr. Powell's visit yesterday helped a lot but of course it was no remedy for the 4th's passage to north of Iraq. I wish he had done this 2 moths ago. We can at least say that things have got on the correct route, again.

Big Hurray for the rescue of private Jessica Lynch! It wrenched our hearts to see her cute face on the TV and to consider the terrible things that may have happened to her. This is the type of heroism that we would like to see from our American friends. It made my day and, even, made me forget that our soccer team got creamed by the Brits last night.

With my respects.

Ziya Bulun

Thank you.

U.S. Forces Swarm Over Baghdad Airport NEAR BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces have fanned out around the perimeter of the Saddam International Airport outside Baghdad and throughout the center of the facility, a Reuters witness said.

Correspondent Luke Baker said U.S. military sources indicated that U.S. troops had the airport in their grasp after heavy ground fighting and a night of aerial bombardment.

"They are everywhere (in the airport)," Baker said.

The new federal Transportation Security Administration says it is ready to begin sending baggage screeners to the airport as soon as it is secured. TSA officials report that they expect a dramatic drop in world-wide terrorist activity, since all Al Qaeda operatives would be stuck in line-ups getting their shoes searched.



Charles Milner








This week:


read book now


Friday, April 4, 2003

Considerable mail on Pfc. Lynch. Since we know so little, speculation isn't very helpful. Otherwise you get this:


PLEASE do not include my mane or address...

This is not a comment on the heroism of an American soldier!

Is this "spin" or just premature comment. On the news I just saw a briefing which said that the young woman had no gunshot wounds and no stab wounds.

First she was shot and stabbed now it's another story. Which is correct? Are either?

I wish our information providers would get their stories straight.

Best regards

To which the immediate reply is, it's not enough that she had two broken legs and a broken arm, requiring two days of surgery, she has to be stabbed and shot as well? Initial reports coming from troops who scooped her up and got her out of there are likely to be garbled, since the reporter is like to have got them from someone who heard it from someone who has a cousin who was on the raid who knows one of the people who actually saw her.

She was a mess and in pretty bad shape. That's all we ever got from official sources. As to making the "information providers" get their stories straight, isn't that called "censorship"?

At this stage I'll put up one more letter, which seems to cover it pretty well:

Dear Jerry:

The story of Jessica Lynch was the topic of much discussion last night at the LASFS. Scratch (Mike Galloway) and I agreed that, if the events are as reported, then she will probably, in due time, receive the Silver Star. Our concern is that the politicians will get ahold of the process and try to elevate this to a Medal of Honor. Scratch, as you know, has some direct experience with this. One of my six jobs in Vietnam was Awards and Decorations clerk, so I know what the regulations require before such a high award can be given. For any award for combat valor, multiple statements from actual witnesses are required. A CMH requires a further and lengthy investigation. Does the process get politicized? Unfortunately, yes. The most notable case during the Vietnam War was Bob Kerry. From statements he has made its obvious that he felt uncomfortable about it, but that, hey you just don't turn down the CMH, which is usually awarded personally by the President. You can see the political advantage here. Lynch would be the first woman since the Civil War to receive the CMH and the very first for direct combat. It would be historical. To a certain breed of politician, it makes the event itself almost irresistible whatever the actual merits of the case.. In "Nam, the entire issue of awards and decorations became very controversial. The process was corrupted in many places, despite the many precautions against it.

Pvt. Lynch has a long way to go to full recovery. The Army will protect her the best they can. They will take the time to get the story right to protect the integrity of the awards given. The descriptions of Lynch's injuries have changed. Now we are told that she was not shot or stabbed. The number of broken bones indicate torture by the paramilitary thugs who ambushed her unit. She is a young woman of considerable courage and pluck and comes from a part of the country where such qualities are part of the culture. (The novel I am currently writing is about such a woman, from that region).

Was her conduct extraordinary? Well, yes and no. Army Basic Training has much improved since the Vietnam War, when most of the DI's were draft dodgers in uniform who were promised they they, themselves would not have to go to Vietnam. There was a very good "reality" series on the History Channel a few months ago, about the way Basic Training is done now and it tells us that Lynch and every other soldier in that outfit was well prepared for combat. The truth is that her company is more representative of the reality of service than a "front line" outfit. In Vietnam nine out of ten were in so-called support roles. Cooks, drivers, mechanics, clerks and so on. Things have to go very wrong before most soldiers even have an opportunity for direct combat. You're more likely to be hit by a truck than a bullet.

Lynch responded to the situation as she had been trained...and perhaps a bit more. She had an "Audie Murphy" moment. I'd like to think she wasn't the only one. A company like hers has only the basic weapons. M-16's and little else. I well believe that she fought hard, otherwise they wouldn't have made such a point of punishing her for it. Near the end of the film "Blackhawk Down" there's this lovely line: "No one sets out to be a hero. Some days it just turns out that way." Jessica Lynch is a hero, just for coming through the experience. I suspect that the actual award or medals will not mean that much to her. I've noticed that those who've won such things always seem embarrassed to speak of them.

A certain amount of myth-making regarding Pvt. Lynch has already begun. I have a hard time buying the bit about the combat boots under the prom dress. Its a little too good to be true. So, while not wanting to take anything away from Pvt. Lynch that is her due, I want to get the story from the other soldiers in her unit who were there. That may take awhile.

Sincerely Francis Hamit

It would be useful to know what happened.

Subject: Map of Badghdad.

Roland Dobbins

Fairly good one, too. Thanks.

Subject: The end of Britain?

 Roland Dobbins

Well, the EU is designed to be the end of nations in Europe, no? Rule by Belgian bureaucrats is something not previously tried; it may be fun to watch.

Subject: I'm beginning to think

that someone in the Iraqi high command is deliberately helping things along:,2763,928531,00.html

Roland Dobbins

On the other hand, Moishe Dyan's dictum still stands.

Pfc Lynch:

Latest reports say that there were wounds from a small caliber weapon. This may be consistent with a group of "militia" who are armed with weapons more consistent with civilians than military, such as .22 or .25 caliber handguns.

What I am most impressed with is the story of the Iraqi who provided the information to the US military on her location and situation. This should be a reminder to us all that many of the the people of Iraq know the difference between right and wrong and will make the right choice when given the chance. If the region is ever to be rebuilt these people will need to have the trust and respect of the American people. If the story of his action in this matter is true, then this fellow sure has mine.

Al Lipscomb.

I suspect that lawyer has earned himself a post as a judge if he wants it. Or some other post in the new government. Apply to the Proconsul...

And yes, I know: he didn't do it for that. He wasn't trying to curry favor, he wanted to do the right thing. But virtue ought to be rewarded.












This week:


read book now


Saturday, April 5, 2003

Column Time: Short Shrift

Subject: Good article on battle plan

The Plan Unfolds By James Kitfield, National Journal

Rich Pournelle

Thanks. A bit dramatized, but a good picture.

Subject: Why couldn't it have been Geraldo?

Atlantic Monthly Editor Killed in Iraq 

As a columnist, Kelly was a caustic conservative who was merciless in his criticism of Bill Clinton and Al Gore and was generally supportive of President Bush, especially on foreign policy. In 1997, New Republic owner Martin Peretz, a close friend of Gore, fired Kelly as the magazine's editor over his continuing attacks on the Clinton administration.

[Name witheld]

Uncharitable. But we will miss Mr. Kelly.

And then:

Subject: Unlimited Power from water!!!

Jerry,  I ran across this group last week. Their pitch is a revolutionary way to break down water and then harness the power from recombining the constituents in a fuel cell. I contacted them and tried to get some information, specifically, patent numbers or references to patents pending for processes that defy the basics of thermodynamics. Surprise, surprise, they can't provide such. I wonder how many folks have parted with cash for a share in this scam! Chris Spratt

Anyone who finds this a credible idea should immediately talk to me about a bridge and land deal I have available.

Seriously, water is hydrogen oxide; it takes serious energy to disassociate hydrogen from water, so that you end up with less energy than you started with. Now if you have the Kilowatts and you need to make a fuel -- you can't use electric power directly -- or if you have high heat and need to make hydrogen or some such -- then ripping water apart, although energy inefficient, may be exactly what you want to do; but you have to have the Kilowatts to begin with. You sure can't increase net energy with this. Only fusion could do that, and this isn't anything like a fusion device.

They do seem to have got a bunch of otherwise intelligent people believing in them, which make me sad for the state of school system.

Dr. Pournelle,

I thought you might enjoy this: 

It's seems that someone else is trying these things so you don't have to . . . (grin)


Bruce Jones

With luck I will NEVER have to try THAT...

Subject: Operation Liberation Carthage


Forwarded without comment: 

--Erich Schwarz

And posted the same way...

And hmmm:


A little something that the Linux fanatics don't like to hear. But it is just something they need to see and believe.


> >Via Slashdot. > ><  > > >Non-stupid technical writer attempts to install Linux on a Win95 box. >--


It is getting there though. And see below about that article.







This week:


read book now


Sunday, April 6, 2003

The following is an important warning message. If you are using seti at home as a screen saver, READ IT:

On Sunday, April 6, 2003, at 02:46 PM, Jerry Pournelle wrote:

> Does this make sense? It looks garbled. >

Yes, sir - please post, along with this Web link (currently Slashdotted):

and this one: 



Subject: Fwd: [Full-Disclosure] Seti@home information leakage and remote compromise 


Please post ASAP, thanks!

Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Berend-Jan Wever" 
> Date: Sun Apr 6, 2003  3:10:08 AM US/Pacific
> To: <>, <>, 
> <>, "Windows NTBugtraq Mailing List" 
> Subject: [Full-Disclosure] Seti@home information leakage and remote 
> compromise
>         Information leakage and remotely  
> __________________________________
>   exploitable buffer overflow in various  SETI@home                   
>   seti@home clients and the main server.                       ..--''' 
> $$$$
>                                                            ,CCcc,   
> .-' "":
>     Januari 15, 2002 by Berend-Jan Wever                  $$$CCCCCCb   
>  ; :
>          _______________________________                  
> $$$$bbCCCCCCc;  '.
>         (_____ |                                          
> Y$$$$$$bCCCCCCc  :
>  _____________)|<\/                                        
> Y$$$$$$$$$bCCCCc:
>             Lined/                                          
> "$$$$$$$$$$$bCCc
>      The homepage for absolutly nothing!                      
> "Y$$$$$$$$$$$"
> ``"**""'`
> Confirmed information leaking:
>   This issue affects all clients.
> Confirmed remote exploitable:
>   setiathome-3.03.i386-pc-linux-gnu-gnulibc2.1
>   setiathome-3.03.i686-pc-linux-gnu-gnulibc2.1
>   setiathome-3.03.i386-pc-linux-gnulibc1-static
>   setiathome-3.03.i686-pc-linux-gnulibc1-static
>   setiathome-3.03.i386-winnt-cmdline.exe
>   i386-unknown-freebsd2.2.8 (Special thanks to Niels Heinen)
>   SETI@home.exe (v3.07 Screensaver)
> Confirmed DoS-able using buffer overflow:
>   The main seti@home server at
> Presumed vulnerable to buffer overflow:
>   All other clients.
> INFORMATION-----------------------------------------------------
> From "" :
>   "SETI@home is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected
>   computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You
>   can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes
>   radio telescope data. "
>   "The SETI@home program is a special kind of screensaver. Like other
>   screensavers it starts up when you leave your computer unattended, 
> and
>   it shuts down as soon as you return to work. What it does in the 
> interim
>   is unique. While you are getting coffee, or having lunch or sleeping,
>   your computer will be helping the Search for Extraterrestrial
>   Intelligence by analyzing data specially captured by the world's 
> largest
>   radio telescope. "
>   "The client/screensaver is available for download only from this web 
> page
>   - we do not support SETI@home software obtained elsewhere. This 
> software
>   will upload and download data only from our data server here at 
> Berkeley.
>   The data server doesn't download any executable code to your 
> computer.
>   All in all, the screensaver is much safer than the browser you're 
> running
>   right now!"
> There are currently over four million registered users of seti@home. 
> Over
> half a million of these users are "active"; they have returned at 
> least one
> result within the last four weeks.
> THE 
> VULNERABILITIES--------------------------------------------------------
> The seti@home clients use the HTTP protocol to download new workunits, 
> user
> information and to register new users. The implementation leaves two
> security vulnerabilities:
> 1) All information is send in plaintext across the network. This
> information includes the processor type and the operating system of the
> machine seti@home is running on.
> 2) There is a bufferoverflow in the server responds handler. Sending an
> overly large string followed by a newline ('\n') character to the 
> client
> will trigger this overflow. This has been tested with various versions 
> of
> the client. All versions are presumed to have this flaw in some form.
> 3) A similar buffer overflow seems to affect the main seti@home server 
> at
> It closes the connection after receiving a
> too large string of bytes followed by a '\n'.
> THE 
> TECHNIQUE--------------------------------------------------------------
> 1) Sniffing the information exposed by the seti@home client is trivial 
> and
> very useful to a malicious person planning an attack on a network. A
> passive scan of machines on a network can be made using any 
> packetsniffer
> to grab the information from the network.
> 2) All tested clients have similar buffer overflows, which allowed
> setting eip to an arbitrary value which can lead to arbitrary code
> execution. An attacker would have to reroute the connection the client
> tries to make to the seti@home webserver to a machine he or she 
> controls.
> This can be done using various widely available spoofing tools. 
> Seti@home
> also has the ability to use a HTTP-proxy, an attacker could also use 
> the
> machine the PROXY runs on as a base for this attack. Routers can also 
> be
> used as a base for this attack.
> 3) Exploitation of the bug in the server has of course not been tested.
> Do understand that successful exploitation of the bug in the server 
> would
> offer a platform from which ALL seti@home clients can be exploited.
> THE 
> EXPLOITS---------------------------------------------------------------
> Attached to this mail you will find a sample exploit running on linux 
> that
> will supply a remote shell to an attacker for various linux clients. It
> will crash the *BSD client, the windows commandline client and windows
> screensaver.
> TIMELINE---------------------------------------------------------------
> ----
> 2002/12/05 Information leakage discovered.
> 2002/12/14 Bufferoverflow in client discovered.
> 2002/12/31 Seti@home team contacted through their website
> 2003/01/07 Seti@home team contacted again.
> 2003/01/14 Bufferoverflow in server discovered.
> 2003/01/21 Seti@home team contacted again, this time through email.
> 2003/01/21 Seti@home team confirmed the problem.
> 2003/01/25 Seti@home team promissed fixed version are being build.
> 2003/02/03 Seti@home team informed me about problems with the fixes 
> for the
> win32 version.
> In more then three months, the seti@home has been unable to produce a
> patched version of the clients.
> THANKS-----------------------------------------------------------------
> ----
> Special thanks go out to:
> - Aleph1 for "Smashing the Stack for Fun and Profit".
> - Niels Heinen for his work on exploiting seti@home on FreeBSD.
> - Blazde and the other 0dd folks for help with the win32 shellcode.
> REQUEST----------------------------------------------------------
> I'd like to take this opportunity to inform everybody who's interested 
> that
> I am looking for a place to do an internship from august 2003 untill
> januari 2004. I am looking for a company where I can do some security
> related programming. I am a 26 year old student of Infomation 
> Technology at
> the TH Rijswijk in the Netherlands. I have experience with various
> programming and scripting languages, operating systems and protocols. 
> If you
> know of a company who would be interested or if you need more details 
> like
> my C.V., please contact me through email at the address below.
> Best regards,
> Berend-Jan Wever
> _______________________________________________
> Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.
> Charter:
Roland Dobbins



And perhaps we have the fix:


Seti version 3.0.8 with security fix available here-- 

Even the folks at Berkeley have technical difficulties 





Your correspondent in a prior email complains: "Microsoft has changed the way the Search feature works so that it will only search within files that have a specifically registered handler." I bet all file extensions created by Microsoft applications have registered handlers. The result of this "bug" is that files created by non-Microsoft applications can't be searched.

People seem to forget Microsoft's goal is to SELL MICROSOFT SOFTWARE. In 2003, how can anyone be surprised that Microsoft makes its own software work better with its own operating systems? I can't count how many times I've heard their sales pitch about the benefits of Microsoft software's "integration". Integration, in their view, means working well with other Microsoft software but not with 3rd party software.

And yet he seems surprised: "Who did the usability testing for this "feature", and why is this thing still broken, even after a Service Pack release for XP?" I think its funny he apparently thinks Microsoft QA people have non-Microsoft software loaded on their QA machines (or files created by non-Microsoft software: say ".txt" files) or that Microsoft would test searching within files (like ".txt" files) created by non-Microsoft applications.

If you use all Microsoft software, everything works but if you use 3rd party software it won't work as well. By Microsoft's standards this isn't a bug but a feature. Why would they "fix" it? And if the "bug" doesn't cause anyone to switch operating systems it is not costing Microsoft any money while Microsoft may benefit from people switching to Microsoft word processors or spreadsheets to be able to search their documents.

Stop whining. Either live with it or consider changing operating systems.

Martin Dempsey

I may be the only person left in the world who finds commands to "stop whining" offensive, but leave that: is it a reasonable choice? 

Why would Microsoft fix problems? Because customers demand it. I don't much care to live in a monopoly world, but I don't much care to live in a world in which there is no commercial supplier of usable systems. It takes a while for an industry to mature, and standards to be set, but these things happen. Meanwhile, documenting problems is the best way I know to have a chance of getting them fixed.

In fact, some of the recent updates to XP have made Search more usable. And I will continue to describe problems in Microsoft software, and tell Microsoft about them. Sometime they actually fix them.


Subject: Recent events

I am glad I stumbled across my twenty year old copy of "The Mercenary". John Christian Falkenburg, where are you? We need " Christian Johnny " and the 42nd now more than ever. Not that I think General Franks and our armed forces are doing a poor job. They are demonstrating what a highly trained and high tech force can do to an army fighting with twenty year old tactics and technology. Anyway, am I the only one who thinks that your book of so long ago is an accurate prediction of the kind of war that is being fought today? As a longtime fan of your work I thought I would send you an email and tell you how I have enjoyed your work over the years, and I think that your analysis of the current situation is a good as it gets.

Philip Smith

Dear Jerry:

I've been reading reports on the performance of the new kevlar/ceramic composite body armor the US forces are using. Your predictions on body armor in the Co-Dominium books seem to have come true, more or less.

This current model of body armor issued is lighter than the previous type -- 16 lbs vs. 20 -- and provides full protection against point-blank hits by rifle and machine-gun rounds, not just against fragments and pistol-calibre weapons.

The results seem to be quite startling in terms of casualties; men are walking away from hits that would have killed them a few years ago, or getting away with broken ribs and bad bruising.

Very few of the injured brought into the aid stations have wounds in the chest or abdomen; the number whose lives were saved by this stuff in Afghanistan considerably exceeded all the American battle deaths there, and the same seems to be the case in Iraq.

In an action north of Najaf yesterday, the only US fatality was a man struck in the right armpit while firing his personal weapon down from the tank he was standing on.

Right now, this stuff gives us a very substantial advantage. When it becomes universal, it may signal the death of the small-calibre assault rifle, as you showed in the Falkenberg books.

If we have to go back to a bigger, more powerful round to defeat body armor, then we'll also have to substitute a semi-auto weapon, because anything with much more recoil than the 5.56 makes a shoulder-fired weapon uncontrollable in full-auto mode.

Incidentally, that action north of Najaf was also interesting in its own right. An American armored company with paratroopers along ran into an ambush in a built-up area; hundreds of Iraqis in buildings on either side, cutting loose with RPG's and automatic weapons at point-blank range.

The Americans broke the trap from the inside; hundreds of Iraqi dead and prisoners, with only one American fatality and some wounded, and no substantial delay to the advance. This degree of tactical dominance augers well for the rest of the war, I would think.

Yours, Steve Stirling

Well I did tend to get some of it right. Of course, so did you.

You will note that Falkenberg's troops do carry a large caliber semi-automatic rifle. Of course I also postulated that missiles would sweep military aviation out of combat roles. That could happen yet. And I had the good sense to put most of that combat out at the end of interstellar supply lines where logistics were horrendous...



How on earth did the Army ever allow a single mother of two kids (3 and 4) to go to Iraq and die there?

All the liberals in Cambridge, where I live, say "it was her right."

I put it squarely on Bill Clinton's policies

And now there are two kids without a father or a mother.

Larry May Cambridge, MA


"The Pentagon identified Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, one of the few American Indian women in the military, as one of eight soldiers found dead during the rescue of POW Jessica Lynch.

"Our family is proud of her. She is our hero," her brother Wayland said to reporters outside the family's home Saturday. "We are going to hold that in our hearts. She will not be forgotten. It gives us comfort to know that she is at peace right now."

Piestewa, 23, was the mother of a 4-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl and a source of pride in her Hopi community."


Mixed emotions here. But she was technically not in a combat unit. On the other hand, why was she there at all? With two small children.

"On the other hand, why was she there at all? With two small children"

She was there because she choose a career in the military. 

Are you suggesting that we should send the unmarried first, then the married w/o children next, then the unmarried with children, and finally the married with children?  Having children is a choice.

As a single military type I was always mad when the powers that were suggested that the singles should work holidays so that the married ones could have the time off.  It was rank discrimination.  Equal pay and
privileges for equal work is the way it should be.

Chris Landa
Army Security Agency
Vietnam Era

That would certainly be the standard equalitarian answer, and perhaps it is so.  My question is whether we have been playing with Western values to the point where we have lost something important.


I'm not sure what I am suggesting. The army I was in wouldn't have had her there, but then technically she wasn't in a combat unit, and in fact if someone hadn't monumentally fouled up, she'd never have been in a fire fight.

But it will certainly cost the Republic a lot more to raise her children now -- an obligation we certainly have -- than it would have cost to send someone in her place. I suppose it's a matter of priorities, and perhaps I am merely stuck in the past.

I've gotta reply to the guy who blamed two motherless children on Clinton:

Lo these many years ago when I was in the military, I went through my job training with a single mother. She was, BTW, among the best in our class.

When my training was completed and I was stationed overseas, there were several young women who had either come into the service as single mothers, or ended up that way. (And in many cases, it wasn't really their fault: The base had a "baby boomlet," evidently due to contraceptives which expired by the time they got to our end of the supply line.) We were technically not a combat unit either, but we were the closest Americans to Libya except for the Sixth Fleet, at a time when they were treating much of Libya as a free fire zone.

My Commander in Chief, from the day I signed up until I left, was Ronald Reagan. I'm therefore a bit skeptical of theories that suggest single mothers are only in harm's way because of a president elected some years later.

Rather than blaming any of our recent presidents, enjoyable as that might be, I'd call this a natural side effect of the all-volunteer military, especially when it is treated as an employer of last resort. Some people join the military because they can't find a job anywhere else. Some of those people are going to be single parents. And it's not surprising that some of them are going to end up in combat zones, because that's what the military does -- especially now.

It might be worthwhile for the military to have policies about sending single parents into combat. On the other hand... if Piestewa had been male, would you have let him out of Operation Iraqi Freedom for the sake of the children?

Patrick A. Bowman

Probably not. I suspect the women in combat issue will play itself out without help from me. Back in Genie days I used to forbid only two topics for discussion on the grounds that all the intellectual arguments had been made and there was little left but emotion. The topics were abortion and women in the military. It wasn't a bad rule.

The Spartans sent home from Thermopylae all the men who did not have living sons...



This looks big --

From the Telegraph of London:

A review of more than 240 scientific studies has shown that today's temperatures are neither the warmest over the past millennium, nor are they producing the most extreme weather - in stark contrast to the claims of the environmentalists. . . .

The findings prove that the world experienced a Medieval Warm Period between the ninth and 14th centuries with global temperatures significantly higher even than today. They also confirm claims that a Little Ice Age set in around 1300, during which the world cooled dramatically. Since 1900, the world has begun to warm up again - but has still to reach the balmy temperatures of the Middle Ages.

The timing of the end of the Little Ice Age is especially significant, as it implies that the records used by climate scientists date from a time when the Earth was relatively cold, thereby exaggerating the significance of today's temperature rise.

Carroll Bloyd

I have been trying to point out for years that the Vikings had dairy farms in Greenland. You can see them, down there under the ice. Hans Brinker skated on frozen brackish water canals in Holland. Leydon was fed in a siege during the Spanish attempt at pacification of the Netherlands by skaters on the Zuyder Zee. Everyone knows it has been both warmer and colder in historical times, but no one seems to care.

I agree it is important. Maybe this time someone will listen?


A reader named Bill submitted a link to the "non-stupid technical writer attempts to install Linux" story. His comment was "A little something that the Linux fanatics don't like to hear."

0) Maybe the idiot fanatics don't want to hear it -- perhaps the guys who always spell "Microsoft" as "Microslop" or some such. Most Linux enthusiasts have no problem with constructive criticism. (Note that the article was published on Linux web sites.)

1) The tech writer's requirements were stiff. Linux can be made to work on creaky old hardware, but that is harder than installing on new hardware. The tech writer wanted to do the install, on creaky old hardware, as a dual-boot, with access to the Win95 data files, but without having to study first. Linux enthusiasts like me accept that we need to study before installing. I would probably need to study, at least a little bit, before installing Windows XP, if I had unusual requirements like the tech writer.

I suspect that the most common case -- a full install on new hardware -- is very well tested and works very well on newer Linux distros such as Red Hat 8. I won't claim they are perfect.

All that said, I fully expect Red Hat to make a few changes to improve the installer now that this article is published (and famous).

2) If the tech writer had paid a Linux expert to set up the computer, almost any of those Linux versions could have been made to meet the requirements. Attending a Linux user group meeting where they help with installs (called an "install-fest") would have probably been enough to get it sorted out for free.

3) I suspect the tech writer didn't care so much about getting the thing to work, as much as probing Linux installers for their weaknesses to write an article. This is fine with me. But the article doesn't really prove that it takes 18 months of work to (imperfectly) install Linux.

4) Note that there is, in fact, no system that meets all the tech writer's requirements. Linux, WinXP, Mac OS X, BeOS, or anything else; the tech writer wound up leaving Win95 in place.

Linux isn't ready to take over the desktop, and I won't predict when that might happen. It's not perfect, but it is better than ever, and it's still improving.

P.S. It seems probable that "Tsu Dho Nimh" is a pseudonym.

Stay well. -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est" 







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