Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Winning the other argument

The Home Office unaccountably continues to survive my best efforts to compass its abolition. On the other hand, though... Nobody ever did try to explain why the RAF Harriers in Kandahar were being withdrawn just as 3,000 British soldiers were deployed there, but the MOD did better than trying to explain it: they reversed the stupid decision, and extended the deployment until next year. Which is tough, but it beats relying on nonflying helicopters or the friendly local friendly fire merchants.

Changing course when you see an iceberg - priceless. An innovation that could be picked up in other parts of government, no?

In other news, for several days the BIS- (Irbis) callsigns have been conspicuous by their absence from the Sharjah and Dubai-Iraq and Bagram/Kandahar schedules, and do not seem to have been replaced.

Funny Ha Ha!

27 chimps kill Sierra Leonian cab driver, armed police seek them. I mentioned this story to a colleague, who answered "Where was that - Dulwich?"

To which I said: "Now you know why cabbies won't go south of the river this time of night..it's the chimps.."

Well, I thought it was funny.

Like a Fiery (Safety) Elephant

Well, wasn't Charles Clarke's appearance on television fun? The boiling hatred and revenge just spumed off his hoggish cardiac-case chops. There's enough lard in there to fuel a whole West Greenlandic tribe for a decade, even though elephant would be a novelty to them. Apparently the only reason anyone disagrees with house arrest without trial, extraordinary renditions, the ID cards super-database, ASBOs, refugee-bashing, tube executions and the rest is that there aren't enough dictatorships in the world, so we're all transferring our feelings about them to the dear old UK.

This is a remarkable statement for many reasons. For a start, he's actually claiming that the world is running out of injustice! This is one of those Colonel, you're insane moments, when you realise that trying to understand what he's saying is as much use as gazing into the eyes of a fish hoping in George Bush's words to "see his soul". Can he really believe that we have passed, to coin a phrase, Peak Tyranny?

More importantly, look at what he's actually saying. The world at large is transferring its feelings about tyrants onto him. He is a victim of Lacanian transference, assuming of course that he sees himself in the role of psychoanalyst rather than patient. This is, I think, a key point to understand the contemporary world. It's Nick Cohen, I think, who likes to moan about "the post-modern Left" - rejecting the clear values of the Enlightenment, not interested in absolute truth, etc etc.

But he's got it epically wrong. We are ruled by the postmodern Right. What was intended as a critical theory that would dismantle the deceptions of the elite has been taken up chiefly by that elite, in a charmingly dialectical twist. Politics has operationalised the idea that truth is not absolute, that multiple truths can co-exist, that subjectivity trumps objectivity. Far from liberating the masses from the impositions of bourgeois thought, though, it has realised that it can liberate the masses from thought. What matters is not that you correctly predicted that the invasion of Iraq would be a disaster, but that you worked for Bill Clinton in the past. This is my truth. Don't listen to theirs - ours is easy, and they are on the side of THE TERRORISTS. Tony Blair: There is a difference between people's individual experience and their collective sense, which is based on perception.

About the best statement of Blair's fundamental approach to politics I've seen, really. (Never mind the grammar, btw.) Clarke's performance was right in this tradition. He bashed for Britain, grandly denying a variety of things that are actually true and scattering a cocktail of happy talk and thuggery.

Moving swiftly on, another example. Labour MP Nick Palmer writes to the paper.
Jenni Russell (Tony Blair's authoritarian populism is indefensible and dangerous, April 24) perpetuates two myths about ID cards: she says that they can be withdrawn at any time without appeal, and that their use will be stored on a central database. In fact, the law just passed by parliament requires people to be issued an ID card on request as soon as they have registered. If you report your card as stolen, it can be cancelled and replaced, like a passport, as you'd expect, but you can't be permanently refused a card. As for the database, only the fact that a check of identity has been made is recorded, so that you can review when you want to whether anyone unauthorised by you has made the check. There is no record of whether you have filed a prescription or withdrawn money, or any other information about your activity.

There is an email from anti-ID campaigners circulating making the same erroneous claims. Obviously there are arguments against ID cards, as with any proposal, but it's a pity if the debate is distorted by misunderstanding.
Nick Palmer MP
Lab, Broxtowe
Well, what can we deduce from this speech-act? First of all, the first two words are Jenni Russell, the Times columnist verbally assaulted by name in Clarke's speech. Evidently Palmer was detailed off for this job by party HQ. Immediately, her remarks are marked as "myths", and then comes the kicker. That their use will be stored on a central database is a myth. The evidence that it is a myth?
As for the database, only the fact that a check of identity has been made is recorded, so that you can review when you want to whether anyone unauthorised by you has made the check. There is no record of whether you have filed a prescription or withdrawn money, or any other information about your activity.
It is a myth that their use will be stored on a central database because the fact that a check of identity has been made is recorded on a database, which is all for your own good anyway. The first statement is a direct lie, but you get the choice of believing the alternative, Palmerworld truth rather than the more difficult one that he's lying.

In a hopelessly outdated way, I suppose, I ought to point out that the next sentence is also a lie.
There is no record of whether you have filed a prescription or withdrawn money, or any other information about your activity.
No, how could anyone possibly deduce from the fact your ID record was checked at a pharmacy that you might have filed a prescription, or that you might possibly be doing something involving cash if it was checked at a bank? Further, Palmer either doesn't know or doesn't care that by definition, if some sort of business process involves a National Identity Register lookup, obviously there's a record of your activity. If the hospital pharmacy is connected to the NHS National Programme for IT Spine, and they need to check your ID card to prescribe, evidently the ID card number must go into the NHS's record of that prescription..or else how would they know you weren't making it up? That means that, yes, the NHS will have records of prescriptions (and everything else) with ID card numbers in them, which means they can be searched by ID card number. And so will the bank - today, when a bank asks you for identification, they generally record the passport number, driver number or whathaveyou. If they request an ID card, they will use the ID card number, so their records are functionally part of the National Identity Register too.

Even if they aren't using ID numbers, which begs the question why they would bother checking cards and even more so, why they would do NIR lookups that would be recorded, the fact your ID card was looked-up in - say - a clap clinic or a psychiatric institution is information of considerable value to any enemies you might have.

But who cares? Trust me..

Monday, April 24, 2006

Thundering Silence

Remember when it was meant to be a duty on us all to defend freedom of speech, Western values, the Enlightenment, democracy and probably golden retrievers as well by publishing the Danish cartoons?

Well, can anyone tell me why the same sort of people - Harry's Place/Kamm/etc - aren't noticeably furious that Bartholomew's Notes on Religion is being censored by rightwing religious zealots? Bart reported in February on the people behind a new lobby group, "Anglicans for Israel". One of these, Huw Shooter, is a veteran of the Young Conservatives in their 1980s Hang Mandela period.

Shooter, it seems, smashed up a model Trident submarine CND had placed outside the 1984 Conservative Party conference as part of an anti-nuclear demonstration. He was expelled from the Lewisham Conservative Association. Bart mentioned these facts. Shooter's mate and comanager of Anglicans for Israel, Simon McIlwaine, has now threatened to sue Bartholomew for libel.

How so? Surely Shooter is either guilty or innocent? Apparently not. As his conviction has since been spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, 1974, McIlwaine contends that it is libellous to mention its existence. It seems that, in the case of a spent conviction, an accusation of libel could be upheld even if true if there was no justifiable reason for reporting it and/or it was reported out of "malice". McIlwaine contends, according to his own (selfpenned) solicitor's letter, that being rude about the Israeli government is sufficient evidence of this:
It is evident that your reason for publishing those details was utterly malicious and that you did so out of spite because of Mr Shooter’s support for Israel.
This is risible. It is certainly of public interest that AFI is the work of a rightwing political activist who was sufficiently committed to use violence towards people he disagrees with. But it's illegal to call him a convict or a criminal.

Very well then. It's not libellous to assert that it was him who smashed the sub, because it's the truth, and his wanky lawyer's quibble about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act doesn't affect it. Much more embarrassing, I think, is the fact that one of the patrons of Anglicans for Israel is Professor David Marsland, who gave the following talk to something called the Springbok Club in July, 2004. I shall reproduce it in full, as I think the full madness is worth savouring.
We British – including the whole Anglophone diaspora – are slow to anger. But given sufficient provocation, we kick the hell out of everyone in sight. This is our tradition. It is a good tradition which has served the world well. It has been subverted in recent decades by communist propaganda, utopian dreams, and humanitarian fantasies. My aim in this paper is to repair, defend and justify our tradition of ruthless action on behalf of freedom. I take my text from an American prisoner of war in Japan. “When I heard we dropped a bomb on Hiroshima,” he said, “I thought, great – let’s drop ten more”.

At the moment when Islamist terrorists flew the first plane into the World Trade Centre on 9/11, the fate of their movement and its supporters world-wide was sealed. Afghanistan and Iraq are just the beginning. Realising their mistake, the friends of terror initiated an ambitious, malign campaign to “Stop the War”. Failing in this objective, the same enemies of freedom went on immediately to a program to “Sabotage the battle” – as if the Iraqi dictator could be saved from justice and his allies spared the price of their support for his neo-Aztec regime. Failing again – with the Saddomite army defeated, the tyrant captured and the regime destroyed – these same enemies of freedom have turned to the third phase of their mischievous programme – their “Ruin peace and stop reconstruction” campaign, consisting primarily of blowing up Iraqis and chopping the heads off innocent hostages.

If we are to learn from this experience the lessons which will secure success in future stages of the war on terrorism, we need to ask in relation to each stage – initiating war, fighting war and democratic re-construction – who our enemies are and how best to deal with them (Marsland, 2003). There are first the remnants of the domestic Left. The Prime Minister and the Security Services underestimated them badly. Networking and organisation in the “Stop the War” campaign are staffed largely by communists – Stalinists and Trotskyites, open operatives and sleepers, hard-line anti-capitalists and soft-porn pseudo-pacifists. The political parties, the civil service, the trade unions, the universities and the media are riddled with these lethal pests, all located in crucially influential positions. While Wedgewood Benn and Livingstone are treated all-round as if they were cuddly toys, while Hobsbawm, Pilger and the late Paul Foot are treated seriously, we evidently need an urgent, unapologetic, comprehensive McCarthyite purge. They are not “with us”. They are with the enemy. They are costing our soldiers’ lives now. They could cost tens of thousands of British lives in the future. We should get rid of them.

There are next on the domestic front our local Moslems. Extremists and so-called moderates alike (Liddle, 2004). They have all given comfort from 9/11 onwards to the terrorist enemy. Mendacious twaddle about “islamophobia” should be rebutted and dismissed. Suspects should be pursued ruthlessly wherever they are most likely to be found, and locked up. Enemy aliens should be deported without delay – and with or without hooks, or kept on ice. Any future flow of Islamic immigrants and refugees should be stopped-off permanently. Legalistic nit-picking should on no account be allowed to inhibit defence of the realm. Then there are the Liberal Democrats – the respectable, legitimating face of international terrorism. Can we bear another minute of Kennedy’s incoherent, peacenik bleating? Another second of Campbell’s sanctimoniously subversive sermonising? One is not surprised to learn from recent research in the archives of the Fourth Reich that one of the Liberal Democratic Party’s current and influential senior leaders worked for years as an agent of the GDR Stasi (Glees, 2003). There should be a systematic expose of the Liberal Democrats’ suspect liberal and democratic credentials before the next battle in the war on terrorism begins.

Nor should the Conservative Party escape challenge. Overall and in the last resort they will fortunately always support the Bush-Blair alliance against terrorism – but they have made mistakes. Conservatives should support our troops and a Republican President unquestioningly. They should be urging the Prime Minister to back ruthless measures against terrorists at home and abroad. They should lead the attack against the Stop the War zealots, the Labour Left and the Liberal Democrats in Parliament, and against media treachery. They should constantly remind the Prime Minister of those splendid British role models for resisting evil – Salisbury, Churchill and Bomber Harris. Consider also our enemies abroad.

First and most despicable is the mafia gang comprising France, Germany and Russia. Between them they have for years been Iraq’s primary armourers, in the nineties – sanctions notwithstanding – as much as earlier. I will not be surprised if we learn eventually that Saddam Hussein’s chemical and biological weaponry was spirited out of Iraq into some Syrian or south Russian lair by a combined task-force of French, German and Russian secret-servicemen. Certainly all three of these rogue nations have played a viciously active part in the attempt to prevent war in Iraq, in sabotaging our troops’ courageous war-fighting, and in subverting stabilisation and re-construction. They are currently working hard to prevent NATO involvement. They are driven by a poisonous cocktail of anti-Americanism, anti-capitalism, anti-Semitism and suicidal self-hatred. The latter is born out of a deep and childish inferiority complex in the face of Anglophone American superiority and supremacy.

There are a number of serious implications of the role played by the French, the Germans and the Russians in jeopardising the lives of our troops and our people, and in threatening the security of freedom and civilisation. First, we should abandon membership of the EU immediately. We cannot afford to be associated with – let alone subjected to – irresponsibly mischievous states such as these. Moreover, in leaving this unholy Roman empire, we should do all we can to sabotage its survival. It has never been in Britain’s interests for Europe to be unified. It has never served freedom other than negatively for Europe to unite. We should return to Salisbury’s European policy – first British independence, second shifting alliances, and first, second and third British interests.

There are also serious implications of Franco-German treachery for the future of NATO. We should begin planning to wind it up and replace it with an Alliance for Freedom. The core membership would comprise the US, the UK, the other Anglophone states and Israel. To this might be added a small number of states from northern and central Europe, and – if they can prove their loyalty – a handful from Latin America and Asia. The key mission should be high technology, enhanced intelligence capacity, rapid deployment, increased and consistent defence spending, and an unremitting anti-terrorist focus.

The implications for the United Nations are also serious. It was foolish of the allies to pursue the will o’ the wisp of a second resolution. French intransigence was entirely predictable, and delay gave Iraq and al-Qa’eda the time to prepare and to hide their weapons of mass destruction. It was no less foolish to involve the UN in re-construction – as if multi-lateralism on the legal front could mean cooperation between the police and criminals. An organisation with the Soviet Union and Red China in its top leadership for decades; where Libya – of all the splendid police states available – could be appointed to the chair of the Human Rights Committee; and whose agencies have done more to peddle anti-capitalism for decades than the Comintern ever managed – such an organisation should be closed down lock, stock and barrel forthwith and its assets, if any, sold off. We should seize the opportunity provided by a Mafioso gang of war-resisters to withdraw from the UN, to wind it up, and to invent a more modest, more practical and more realistic alternative. Membership should not be universal but toughly selective, to be earned and awarded on the basis of rigorous criteria of democratism, honest governance, and economic good sense, with incentives offered for qualifying compliance. Its purposes and political mission should be entirely practical. Its budget should be kept small. Its operating agencies should be staffed by enterprising experts instead of remaindered incompetents.

The world has no need for a global talking shop. Since its inception it has been a Trade Union Council of crooked fixers. It stifles enterprise and competition with the narcotic poison of utopian ideology. It cripples democracy in the straightjacket of politically-correct nonsense. It abandons the masses on whose behalf it claims to speak to exploitative oppression and to the poverty of welfare dependency. It was not Messrs. Bush, Blair and Aznar who have sabotaged the United Nations. The culprits are in Germany, in France, in Russia and in China – and by subverting the UN for their own dishonourable ends they have done the world a great, if wholly unintended, service. Like Saddam Hussein, the UN is finished, and we should on both counts unreservedly rejoice. This leaves, among the friends of terrorism to be addressed just the media – and their effects in inhibiting the necessary ruthlessness of successful war on terrorism. They are the crucial link between all our enemies, mediating and amplifying their destructive lies.

With what wicked glee the editor of the Daily Mirror presented his fake photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqi terrorist prisoners. With what shameless relish the BBC bosses defended their reporter’s destructively erroneous calumnies against the British government. With what disingenuous naïveté – or worse – the BBC World Service routinely traduced the motives of American and British troops in Iraq, and underestimated their success. With what transparent mendacity have BBC and other television reporters referred – day after day and night after night – to terrorists as “innocent civilians”, to militants as “local inhabitants of a poor neighbourhood”, and to allied military reports as “allegations” – as if we should treat professionals serving a democratic country on the same footing as murderous habitual liars. With what mischievous zealotry is the “objective expertise” of Newsnight, Channel 4 News, Panorama, and all the rest of that ideologically monotone gang applied to raking over the latest report, the next story, and every rumour for evidence of the Prime Minister’s supposed guilt, the President’s alleged failings, and Israel’s presumptive faults.

It does not occur to our high-minded reporters that soldiers might reasonably behave with a little indiscipline when their fellows have just been blown to pieces by lunatic terrorists. It does not apparently occur to our ace journalists that the enemies of freedom have long had highly professional fake photography and film units. It does not occur to these doyens of in-depth understanding that the Geneva Conventions have been used more often to protect terrorists than to prevent inhumanity, or that international law, so-called, has been routinely abused by international criminals for more than a century. As for Guantanamo and Falluja, how – with the prejudiced assumptions of the media being what they are – could we expect better than what they regularly give us – a complete reversal of the truth. Guantanamo, like Belmarsh, is not – as our journalists and crooked lawyers would have the people believe – a Nazi concentration camp – but a legally and operationally justifiable long-term lock-up for combatant murderers under investigation. We shall need more such prisons.

Again, Falluja is not – any more than Jenin or Gaza – a city of innocents under siege by barbarians, but a nest of vipers organising killing on a daily basis. Such places should be liquidated. The media lost us the Vietnam War – and cost the millions of people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia decades of communist oppression, genocide, starvation and poverty. If we let the media lose us this war, if we tolerate their lies and fail to stop their mouths, the cost will be worse by far – freedom destroyed and civilisation snuffed out.

In concluding, I summarise my proposals for the ruthless action necessary to defeat Islamist terrorism and save civilisation. The threat is real, imminent and persistent. Among our immigrant communities in Britain there are thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of al-Qa’eda sleepers, many of them trained in Afghanistan and eager for martyrdom. Arabs have been detected in large numbers crossing from Mexico to the United States in disguise (Galland, 2004). After Afghanistan and Iraq, another front of the war against terrorism will open up soon – probably before Iraq is fully settled. It may happen in the regions where it seems currently most likely – Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, or perhaps Iran. But it will more likely erupt quite unpredictably – in Cuba, in Central Asia, in the Philippines, in West Africa, or in the Mahgreb.

Whenever and wherever, it threatens death by the tens of thousands on our own streets, on the home front. We have to be ready. This means ruthless action at home and abroad – immune against inhibition by international opinion or by our domestic media. This requires consensual legislation in the US, the UK, Australia, and wherever else it can be managed. We need a Patriot Act plus, and patriotic action plus, plus, plus. We should not be inhibited in these measures by the bleating protests and the lying campaigns of the “human rights” crowd. Their commitment to rights is as fraudulent as Stalin’s when he stuffed the 1936 Soviet Constitution full with the longest list of rights in history. Their faith in humanity is as flagrantly specious as that of Robespierre or Lenin. Democratic societies uniquely have the legitimate authority to defend their interests and the lives of their people with merciless implacability (Marsland, 2004). This will not make Britain, as our enemies will claim, a police state: it will make us a nation appropriately armed at last to defend its democratic institutions and its freedoms.

* Make a formal declaration of war on al-Qa’eda, its associates, its supporters, and those who harbour them.
* Introduce compulsory electronic ID cards, beginning with recent immigrants, asylum seekers, anyone with a criminal record and the unemployed, and extending as quickly as possible to the whole population. Failure to produce an ID on demand to be punishable by six months in prison without appeal.
* Withdraw from and replace the UN, NATO and the EU.
* Withdraw immediately from all international treaties and agreements, including all aspects of so-called international law, which might be used by the enemy to impede national self-defence, including the use of pre-emptive military force.
* Immediately halt all immigration, asylum seeking, and student entry by Arab nationals and other Moslems. Identify, arrest and deport Arab and other Moslem illegals. No appeals to be allowed.
* Halt or segregate air flights into or out of Britain by Arabs.
* Transfer to the defence budget, and to the war against terrorism specifically, all the public expenditure currently squandered by the billions of pounds on welfare for derelicts, no-hopers, unemployables and moral delinquents, on legal assistance for career criminals, and on foreign aid to despotic, incompetent rulers in Africa and other parts of the “Third World”.
* Strengthen surveillance of Moslem communities throughout Britain – with no limitation of targets to self-avowed and known “extremists” (Browne, 2004).
* Strengthen anti-terrorist legislation to allow on suspicion indefinite secret imprisonment (without appeal, without visits and without any privileges), tough interrogation, and where necessary summary execution by authorised agents.
* End the production of official, legal, and other reports and enquiries concerning any aspect of the war on terrorism until the war is won. This will take as much as a decade.
* Speak out in support of Israel’s fight against terrorism.
* In Iraq and other anti-terrorist battle-fields, forget “hearts and minds”. The enemy are heartless and of low mentality. Build up allied and local forces and unleash them mercilessly until the enemy is wiped out.
* Rather than risk rescue, suicide or future political concessions, summarily execute Saddam and his top henchmen immediately.
* Never allow anyone – family, company or country – to pay-off hostage-takers, either in cash or in political concessions. Where hostages can be located within twenty-four hours, effect a military rescue if it can be done safely, otherwise destroy the hostages, the hostage-takers and their retinue by bombing. Where location proves impossible within twenty-four hours, bomb any convenient target associated with the hostage-takers.
* Reduce the need for prisons in Iraq by authorising summary execution of known enemy. Throw journalists, servicemen or anyone else who seek to file lying and negative reports about conditions in terrorist prisons in Iraq or elsewhere into these same prisons for an indefinite term.
* Censor prejudiced and negative reporting of the war against terrorism by British media. Neutralise by military means any Arab media providing a propaganda outlet for terrorists.
* Prepare militarily and politically for the next battle in the war on terrorism, wherever it may occur, by cultivating reliable allies; by enhancing the language capabilities of the armed and secret services; by developing unmanned weaponry; and by investing heavily in intelligence capability.

Our enemies will no doubt claim that measures such as these will “make us as bad as the terrorists”, that ends, however desirable, can never justify such “undemocratic” and “immoral” means. This is utopian nonsense calculated to assist al-Qa’eda. If means are not to be justified in terms of the ends they serve, how else are we to choose among them rationally and morally? We must keep our purposes – and the starkly contrasting purposes of our enemies – at the forefront of our minds. We are for freedom – they are for slavery. We are good – they are evil. We are us – and they are them.
Somebody ought to publish this as a record with suitable background music..I'm thinking Chris Morris's Blue Jam series, or failing that the Radio 4 UK Theme.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Beware: Airpower theorists

Some ideas never die, no matter how many times they get beaten. Look at the theory of land-value taxation, or social credit, or anything religious. The art of war, like every other field of intellectual activity, has its own. This is airpower theory, the notion developed by the Italian general (not, perhaps, a good sign) Giulio Douhet just after the first world war that victory could be achieved easily by bombing the enemy's strategic cities, which was later taken up by, well, every air force in the world.

Douhet was influenced by two things - one was the Italian experience of the first world war, which consisted of futilely battering at the Austrian southwestern front in the Alps in the face of their defensive strategy, which relied on the mountains and huge amounts of artillery as a substitute for manpower. The Austrians were short of men but had loads of big guns, thanks to the industries of what is now the Czech Republic and still the most advanced industrial area of central Europe. That sounds no fun at all, and it wasn't - the Italians lost a stupid number of people, not far off Britain's total, fighting out an entirely secondary war of their own, piling up offensives over the Isonzo river until the battles got into double figures.

He concluded, essentially, that rather than trying to fight over the mountains and through the Austrian artillery fire, it would be far better to blow up the Czech industries that supported them. This, he thought, could be achieved with big planes. The second thing that influenced him was the fact he was a fascist, although he didn't know it yet, and his fear and loathing of the working class provided the other half of his theory. Once the industries of Prague and Linz and the Vienna railway yards were at a standstill, he argued, the workers would turn on their rulers in a mobswarm of hell and the enemy would collapse from within.

Essentially, that's yer airpower theory - it went through a few iterations, moving to a strong form that argued that the so-called knock-out blow would cause not just revolution but total social collapse, then back to a weaker form that argued that targeting key facilities would bring about a slow blockadelike victory by strangulation, and even persuaded a lot of people on the Left despite all the rightwing baggage, but that's essentially it.

In the test of reality, several things became evident - first of all, as early as 1936, it became clear that effective air defence would be an option with the arrival of monoplane fighters and radar. Until then, a sort of proto-MAD theory had ruled, on the principle that only enough bombers to offer a credible threat of the KOB could provide security. Secondly, when the bombs began to drop, it turned out that bombing people doesn't - strangely enough - make them like you. From Madrid onwards, a whole string of populations were strategically bombed, and usually turned out to prefer revenge on the bombers to apocalyptic rebellion - or failing that, fatalism. Another thing the bombers realised was that it was harder than it looked to destroy the other side's industries. German industrial production peaked in November 1944, when much of urban Germany had been bombed to buggery, rebombed, bombed again, and bombed repeatedly to make the rubble bounce. Even bombing oil refineries (when the RAF could hit them, which was less often than you might think) turned out not to be anywhere near as destructive as you might think.

The RAF Bomber Command and the US 8th Air Force fell out about the exact interpretation of airpower theory they preferred. The Americans went for the weak form, hiring economists like J.K. Galbraith to analyse the German economy to work out what to destroy, like the famous Schweinfurt ball-bearing factory. "Bomber" Harris disagreed, essentially because he thought it was girlie and insufficiently savage (and, I suspect, because the people involved were cleverer than he was), preferring just to bomb everything in order to "dehouse" the working class, which would of course lead to the knock-out blow, revolution, back home for tea & medals. None of it worked.

This is the essential lesson of airpower theory - it doesn't work. It never has. Strategic bombing is pointless, unless you go nuclear and keep nuking until you kill 'em all. So far, it's been tried in the Spanish Civil War, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Iran-Iraq, GW1, Kosovo, Chechnya(arguably), Afghanistan (arguably, like Chechnya, being used to drive people out of the countryside), India/Pakistan (several times)...and it didn't decide any of them. It has a pernicious effect on the mind, too..once it gets a hold of you, it doesn't stop until you're convinced a bomb or two would improve anything from Najaf to Wimbledon, via Staines and Sondre Stromfjord. (Although..) Crack cocaine for generals, basically.

Now, to my point: worryingly, the Dick Cheney wing of the US government seems to have been at Curtis LeMay's old stash, and they want to try it on Iran. There is no even vaguely realistic prospect of enough troops to invade the place, so air it's gotta be..and they face a serious problem. They can bomb "nuclear sites", but they don't know where all of 'em are, and they can be repaired. Even if they take John Robb's advice and bomb the electricity grid, even that doesn't solve the problem, because unless they keep bombing it the Iranians can fix it, and start enriching again, get bombed again, fix it again, and stick it out until they arrive at The Bomb and impunity.

They can't keep bombing at a slow pace indefinitely (see Iraq 1993-2003), either, for fear of the Iraq/oil/terror/finance consequences. So, they have to get a quick strategic decision, and the only thing that will offer this is a mob rising. And heeeeeerrr's Giulio! Bomb'em and they'll rebel. Jobzagoodun. This is where, speaking more generally, I have a criticism of the John Robb "Global Guerrillas" version of 4GW theory. So it's all about infrastructure disruption, right? Bugger about with the oil pipelines and the electricity enough and state failure, security privatisation etc - the 21st Century form of revolution - follows. Fair enough, seems to fit Iraq..but how is this different to the knock-out blow theory, which we know from experience to be a crock of shit with the force and effect of a lightly poached egg?

This is all very bad news, because the two things that have permitted strategic airpower theory to survive in a hostile memetic environment are as follows: firstly, it's highly congenial to several of our normal cognitive biases. Secondly, it's well adapted to life in bureaucracy, its usual habitat. First, airpower theory has always offered a quick and easy, but total, form of victory. It ain't cheap - AJP Taylor calculated the RAF bomber offensive sucked up 25% of UK industrial production - and it ain't necessarily light on casualties - being RAF Bomber Command aircrew was far more likely to kill you than being an infantryman, and only being a submariner was more dangerous, but at least the absolute number of people on your side who are exposed is small. Crucially, though, the essentially vicious nature of bombing seven bells of shit out of absolutely innocent civilians allows policymakers to feel that taking the easy option is actually a sign of toughness.

And the one thing airpower theory is good for is if you want to build an air force. Even if you want the air force for entirely different purposes - close air support, air defence, mobility, sea patrol - it seems that airpower theory is good for institution building. This is because it presupposes an independent, strategically self-governing air arm with its own doctrine, which fits the air force to thrive in the Darwinian struggle for budget. Airpower theorists, who tend to be either strategic bomber aviators or topline fighter pilots (the other key mafia in any air force), rise to the top of air forces, which enable them to rise to the top of defence establishments.

It's certainly notable that those air forces that espoused airpower theory seem to have been more successful over time than those who went tactical or remained part of the army. The Luftwaffe, despite Hitler's politically-driven boasts and general bomber fear, was an army-driven, tactical air force, something it did near perfectly. But it lacked the institutional infrastructure of technical schools, training, doctrine, aircraft maintenance and supply that Lord Trenchard insisted the RAF must have in its own independent control (rather like the contemporary new institutions of the UK, the BBC and the Royal Ballet, who both set out from the word go to have all the facilities and career paths they used in-house). Similarly, the USAF began as the US Army Air Force, but had from the beginning a strong airpower theory core given it by Billy Mitchell. The Japanese suffered from duplication between the Army and Navy.

It's just a pity the buggers start believing it.

Update: This post has been heavily linked to, and various criticisms aired in comments. Some of those have been dealt with by other comments, but I'll respond too. Essentially, the criticism is that "the technology's much better, and what about Gulf War 1 and Kosovo?"

Certainly the technology of dropping bombs onto precisely defined targets has improved dramatically, and air power played a huge role in recent US wars. But it wasn't air power that won Gulf 1 - sure, it helped, but there still had to be a gigantic armoured invasion of Guderian/Malinovskian scale. The popular memory that it was all over quickly and with few casualties tends to mask the fact that there was a LOT of tank fighting. Airpower certainly killed a lot of Iraqi soldiers, which brings us to a key point.

When advocates of the "Revolution in Military Affairs" talk about airpower, what they really mean is tactical airpower - essentially, tank-plinking, fancy reconnaissance, close air support and communications-interdiction. Stuff you do to the enemy's army in order to win the land (or sea) battle. The Kosovo campaign was initially imagined as a big tactical air attack on the JNA and police in Kosovo, with the aim of achieving the operational level success of preventing them from dragooning the Kosovars and hence the strategic level success of getting Milosevic to give up. When this arguably incoherent program didn't work - because there was no land battle, thus allowing the JNA to take its armour off the roads and hunker down - NATO tried some strategic bombing, bombing the TV station in Belgrade, the Novi Sad bridges and the Zastava factories...which didn't work. Neither did bombing the Chinese embassy, strangely enough.

Eventually, NATO brought up a sizable army with lavish close air support assets and all the tanks you can eat, and the KLA got strong enough to force the JNA to concentrate troops in the open. That created a valid situation for close air support, up to and including B52s in the tactical role. The prospect of trying to fight off the NATO 1 ARRC tanks with that kind of air support caused Milosevic to, eventually, give up.

The thing is, it's not the technology that makes strategic bombing, it's the aim. It's a feature of current warfare that aircraft, weapons and tactics designed for Cold War strategic and semistrategic tasks are used for tactical ones - B-1B Lancers circling for hours over Afghanistan waiting for the call from four special forces soldiers to drop a single bomb over there near that goat. The most strategic-like tasks are usually the "first night of the war" ones aimed at gaining air superiority, which is an operational goal not a strategic one. In a sense, the intervention in Afghanistan used strategic aircraft and support systems in a tactical role in order to help achieve the Northern Alliance's operational aims, in order to achieve the US's strategic goals.

Demon Strate!

Well, those of you who are taking part in today's protest against the Serious and Organised Crime & Police Act, aka the Brian Haw Act, may get to meet...me, as I'm quite likely to come over to the camp at Runnymede from the TYR operations centre in fabulous Egham. Beware.

Friday, April 21, 2006

We love the corruption

Remember this post from July 2005? Regarding the full sickology of the Iraqi war economy, it covered epic CPA corruption, heroin smuggling, Iraqi girls turning up turning tricks all over the Middle East, and of course Viktor Bout. In comments, someone claimed to have heard from a Kroll securigoon that Russian planes were bringing in CIS-area prostitutes to service the Green Zonies as "catering staff".

Strange how these things turn up. In the case of Philip Bloom, who's just gone to jail for kicking back $2 million of Iraqi public funds to CPA officials in exchange for contracts whilst working out of Hillah (CPA Region South-Centre, a civil shadow of the MND-SC command), it seems he maintained a villa staffed by tarts in Baghdad as part of his graft scheme. The main target was the CPA South-Centre comptroller, Robert Stein, who was given control of $82 million in reconstruction funding despite being a convicted fraudster. (More here.)

Meanwhile, a senior USAF officer has been caught apparently feeding security contracts to a South African mercenary firm she had a financial stake in. Weirdly, her boss, Jay Garner, is defending her on the grounds she only dunnit to keep his security detail in work by getting Bernard Kerik - for it is he! - to hire them. But she went much further, becoming a director of the company and registering its US subsidiary in her name, at her address in the Washington suburbs.

And the South African mercs hardly helped get the Iraqi police going. Then, of course, there were some other problems..
Employees were arrested in 2004 on suspicion of participating in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea. A former U.S. military official said some of the men had ties to Executive Outcomes, a controversial mercenary outfit involved in fighting civil wars in Sierra Leone and Angola.

"These guys were knuckle-draggers," the official said.
Well, the arrested men were two of the firm's founders, Hermanus Carlse and Lourens Horn, who took part in the EG raid "on leave" from Meteoric. It looks, too, as if that description was well on the mark, at least going by this report from the Cape Argus: one of their men was killed when he stopped to ask the way to a butcher's shop in Baghdad. Does anyone out there have any information about whether one Paddy McKay was involved with the firm in any way? Or whether, as I suspect, the "Air Mero"/Skylink/Jetline KBR contract was used for the "catering"?

Updated:: We interview Paddy McKay.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Further tests on the Religionatron

So there's this mad scientist! who's designed a machine that subjects people to a really strong magnetic field until they perceive - wow! - the presence of god. No, really. Then they tested it on..wait for it..Richard Dawkins!

Let me guess - it cranked up to a high-pitched chattering whine, sucking in so many prayer-watts that churches browned-out for miles around..and finally exploded in a blinding flash.

Not quite, but close.

Brunel Memorial Sale

200 years ago this week, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born. This week, this blog's favourite pig-incompetent, corrupt arms manufacturer BAE Systems decided to sell its 20% share of Airbus Industrie, including the Filton plant and design centre just three miles or so from Brunel's Clifton suspension bridge. BAE is apparently trying to make "bolt-on acquisitions" (read=pissant deals that don't change anything but do use up capital that could otherwise be squandered on innovation) in the US, perhaps including Level 3...no, not the big internet backbone operator, the firm that makes airport X-ray machines. After all, the US Department of Homeland Security is certain to keep spending at its current clip, right?

The real agenda, though, is pretty clear. Throughout first Dick Evans' tenure and now Mike Turner's, BAE has been frantically liquidating everything it designed indigenously. Regional jets? Shut down, just before Canadair and Embraer made a killing out of the RJ boom. Bizjets? Sold to Raytheon, just before they started going like hot cakes. Concorde? Stop. I'm feeling so snarky today I nearly convinced myself it made money! But the principle holds. Get rid of all that stuff so we can sell the firm to Boeing or Lockheed Martin, and then we'll have monster share options just like Dennis Kozlowski!

Just sack a few more engineers, and we'll make it to "Giant ice sculpture of Michelangelo's David pissing vodka" status...

Foam Party!

Information has reached me that some progress may have been achieved about the C-130 Defensive Aids Suite, and specifically about the foam in the fuel tanks that might have saved the crew of XV-179 on election day in Iraq. Apparently the K fleet (super-E in US parlance, CMk1 in UK officialese) are getting their foam as we blog, and the Js may do in the future. I wonder if it had anything to do with the delightful story that Geoff Hoon didn't know the plane that took him to Kabul wasn't foamed-up, armoured or DAS-equipped...until they told him! (Damn, I'd have given an eye to see his tory little face go blank with terror.)

Moving swiftly on, can anyone explain why, as the 16th Air Assault Brigade's build up in Helmand continues and the first casualties are reported, the RAF Harrier squadron is being recalled from Kandahar? The Paras will be relying for most of their firepower on six Apaches (being deployed for the very first time by British forces, and the first really complex aircraft to be used by the Army Air Corps - what is the serviceability rate going to be like?), and whatever the USAF can spare when the call comes. If they have learned to distinguish a British soldier from a goat, rock, suspected possible Taliban insurgent or pizza since last time out, that is.

I think it's probably because the II(AC) Squadron deployment to Kandahar was at least in part seen as a substitute for sending troops last year as the deployment slipped steadily to the right. Now, the logic (or what passes for logic) runs, the troops are going and so the planes can be pulled. Which is bizarre. We're short of soldiers, but we've got essentially a whole air force (less a slack handful of F3s in the Falklands and GR4s in support of Iraq) patrolling the hostile skies of Lincolnshire and waiting for the chance to take "premature voluntary release" and join BA..

Liars, Liars, Liars

They lie, they lie, they lie lie lie. We already knew that, but this is rather surprising in its sheer bare-arsed obviousness. Apparently, when Bush made his speech blathering about those "suspected mobile biological weapons labs" that turned out to be for filling weather balloons, the US government already knew from their own investigation of the vehicles that they were completely unsuited for anything WMDlike.

Not that it helps very much to know this, but it's nice to have it on record, so we can tie it to the shaft of the icepick that eventually gets driven in to the cracking skull of neoconservatism. To understand it, I suppose, you've got to look at the historical context; summer 2003, just as we went over that sick-stomach heave of oh shitty shitty shit, we've really, really fucked up this time. That realisation was when the tenuous restraints on Alistair Campbell's ego finally failed under air load, causing it to erupt like a polar bear from inside a cheap wardrobe and flip him into catastrophic instability and a war against the BBC. That was when the frantic demonisation of anyone who disagreed with the mad crusade in Iraq cranked up. It was a time for one of two courses - either dignified self-elimination (think John Profumo) or hardening into cultist fanaticism (think Powerline).

It will also come as absolutely no surprise to anyone with half a clue that the same people were at the bottom of the mobile-labs bullshit as were at the bottom of all the other WMD bamboozleology. It was the "Curveball"/Chalabi mob, that ever-reliable OC-192 link routing 10 gigabits a second of utter nonsense direct to the US/UK governmental group brain, aided as usual by the hyperfuckwit Michael Ledeen's Italian spook mates.

One possible outcome of Berlusconi's long-earned, richly deserved outkicking is, of course, that some clarity might emerge with regard exactly what motivation the Italian secret services had in cooking up the mess of chicken-fried bullshit used to sell the invasion of Iraq..

Thursday, April 06, 2006

DAS Again

Big media pick up a bit on the Hercules defensive-aids suite story (see here and here). Not much dig-in, though. This is just the latest in a sea of bullshit - there are 9 out of 25 RAF C-130s that have the full fit of defensive gear, including some really clever stuff like the Directional IRCM laser that picks out enemy missiles to flash an IR light in their eyes. However, the others don't have anything like that.

Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram told the House of Commons back in 2002 that all the aircraft used in Afghanistan had the DAS, but they didn't, and as previously posted the paperwork was fixed to get around the CENTAF threat matrix for Afghanistan. Geoff Hoon actually flew into Kabul on one of the not-defended C-130s, although no-one is sure if he knew he was in danger. (In fact I can answer that - does anyone think Hoon would have been on that plane if he thought his skin might be at risk?)

I'm also getting worried that the Op. Herrick deployment is drifting back towards an under-supported, over-numerous incoherence. This Air Assault Brigade we are sending only seems to be taking 6 Chinook and 4 Lynx, and perhaps some Apache (although they seem to be going quiet all of a sudden) - and the RAF Harrier squadron in Afghanistan is being withdrawn.

Scaling and Scoping an ID Card Protest

Tom of Blairwatch has been doing some sums on how badly the ID card registration process is going to fuck up. You may recall we did something similar for the biometrics. Using the Home Office's own figures, in which the best identifier (iris scanning) had a success rate of 96%, and assuming that each one of 44 million cardholders is checked once a year, there will be 4% of 44 million, or 1,760,000 misidentifications/nonidentifications. Even assuming that the identification can reach the reliability standards of the public-switched telephone network, 99.999% reliability on 99.999% uptime, there would still be 44 botches, any or all of which could result in wrongful arrests, fines etc.

Tom concludes that over the scheme's first ten years it will have to process people at the rate of 1 happy citizen-unit per 72 seconds. Charlie Stross argues that's optimistic for various reasons. But hold it for a second (or 1/72 of a citizen). As Tom points out, 1 per 72 seconds is the rate at which the queue grows when the thing spreads itself over the landscape in a pool of its own credibility.

Now, let's consider a hypothetical registration centre. Probably a good example might be the UKPS London passport office behind Victoria Station. There are (I think) two floors of processing, each with a queueing capacity of about 200. There is also a further queue to pass through security screening and a muppet check of documents, with perhaps space for 50. I.e. 450 people can queue at any given moment; 450/72=32,400=540 minutes' queue capacity=9 hours, or effectively a working day (actually, a queueing day - you don't have to give people breaks from queueing). That's not the whole story, though, as it's futile to queue more people than the centre can clear within the remaining working hours. Assuming (as Tom's original study does) that the shivil shervants work 8 hours a day, the maximum queue is some 4 hours=200 citizens.

To put it another way, the backlog increases whenever a centre - any centre - is disrupted for 4 hours. I would suspect that the natural burstiness of people arriving at the centres will mean that some fraction of the queueing capacity will always be in use - if it's an average of 50%, an effective 2-hour demo would queue-out that centre, with people spilling into the streets, backing up traffic and creating a risk to health and safety which (of course) neither they nor the employees in the centre can be exposed to.

A simple exploit would be simply for more people to turn up and join the queue. After all, only a few people at each site disruption would need to do anything arrest-worthy - the rest are just queuing up to get their ID cards. (Assumes J.G. Ballard voice) It would seem that the best way to defeat this tyranny is simply to yield to it.. And queueing as a means of revolution is certainly rooted in the organic context of British society.

Action time.

Really pissed off about the vomitous, turdridden herd of diseased bloodsucking rat-swine that masquerades as our government? Seriously? Do you live in Englefield Green East? Well, now's your chance to do something about it. On May the 4th, you could vote for me as your Liberal Democrat councillor.

There's a thought. TYR embarks on the Long March through the Institutions. If elected, which is unlikely due to the amorphous doughy strength of home-counties toryism, I promise to resist all efforts to make Runnymede Council services conditional on the production of ID cards, oppose further Heathrow expansion beyond existing plans, press for the council to take advice from our colleagues in Woking on running the council as an environmentally sensible organisation, and promote real policing rather than endless CCTV proliferation.

Sounds good to you? Vote for me. And while you're here, why not contribute to the campaign? I can spend, I think, up to £600. If there's more I promise to spend the surplus on beer. Now there's a political promise you can rely on.

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