Wednesday, January 31, 2007

REACH OUT AND CRUSH MOVING FORWARD: Kinetic solutions equals 'bomb the $%#! out of 'em

Last week, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow gamed Operation Radiating Rubble, a strategic and tactical air assault on Iran. It maintained that any way the bread is sliced, a good deal of what is allegedly Iran's modern military is maimed.

In today's Los Angeles Times, a story entitled "Air Force's role in Iraq could grow," focused to a large extent on bombing Iran.

The Air Force, you see, is feeling blue. It just hasn't had enough to do since the heady two weeks after March 19, 2003. And being low on the totem pole in Nicky Fury'sDavid Petraeus's strategy for Baghdad escalation isn't enough.

However, bombing various parts of Iran until rubble bounces is something the USAF can do very well.

For the Los Angeles Times, anonymous Pentagon zoomies don't use the "B" word. Instead, it's "kinetic solutions."

"Air power plays major roles and one of those is as a deterrent, whether it be in border control, air sovereignty or something more kinetic," said an anonymous senior zoomie to the newspaper's Julian E. Barnes.

"Other military officers," wrote Barnes, "argue there may be no need for 'kinetic strikes.' It is possible stepped up air operations over Iraq could provide a deterrent..."

In Iraq, "[y]ou will see the full spectrum of [Air Force] capabilities all the way from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to kinetic effects," said an air force man to the paper.

Kinetic effects. Make it's sound like a physics or chemistry course.

Note above picture, from the Uncle Sam & the JDAMs page, on "kinetic effects." (Apologies for the white space.)

" ...Air Force officials argue that smaller bombs and precision guidance systems can minimize civilian casualties and play a vital role in fighting the insurgency," writes Barnes. " ' I wouldn't automatically write off air power in an urban environment for fear of collateral damage," said one zoomie to the Times reporter.

The reader of the article isn't given any indication whether or not reporter Barnes still believes this old swill.

In any case, DD can argue that the above pic, from those days of 'mission accomplished' in no way indicates minimization of civilian casualties. Hey, wouldn't you feel great seeing that on your street? Oh man, sorry, your head's crushed and your lungs blown out by the blast wave!

But back to Iran. Iran is a place the air force can workover but good.

"For every [IED] that goes off in Iraq, a bomb should go off in Iran," said Thomas G. McInerney, a retired air force man, to the newspaper.

"Iran is precisely the type of target they know how to deal with," said Loren Thompson, another expert, to the newspaper. Attacking Iran "[may] actually be used if we feel the Iranians are trying to subvert democracy in Iraq."

Democracy in Iraq, it's being subverted! That's an interesting way of putting it. Ha-ha, such funny experts the newspaper uses.

Returning to Operation Radiating Rubble, one thing war sims cannot model is the people factor. There's simply no consistant and always reliable way to model the excellence of ineptitude of individuals in combat in a large operation. You can sort of get at it by rating the combat power of formations and detachments upward or downward.

The engine for Radiating Rubble, however, relies on relatively straightforward assessments of combat power based on operating doctrines, equipment, platforms and ordnance.

For example, one could argue that Iran will be less of an opponent in an immediate air campaign than was modelled in Radiating Rubble. The Iranian air force, for example, could be so bad that it's something of a danger to itself.

Will Iranian pilots fly upside down, crash into mountains, swerve off the runway and tank under fire on the take-off roll, shoot at each other in the dark and go in the wrong direction? Perhaps we'll all find out.

The LA Times piece is here. Note: No direct link to newspaper. Reason: The LA Times has a stubbornly reader hostile design. DD is a Times subscriber and the old-fashioned paper copy in no way reflects this. It is excellent.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

GENERAL IRON MAN: He was turned to steel in the media magnetic field

Heavy boots of lead . . . dah-dah-dah, dah dum-dum dah

The deification of David Petraeus is a symptom of failure and decadence on many levels. How else to explain such irrational and inappropriate praise? Only a national leadership and media incapable of critical thinking could produce it.

One would have to rate the meme of the alleged military genius, David Petraeus, winning in Iraq as akin to stupidly believing an erupting volcano can be stopped by a geologist.

On Sunday, DD sampled the worstbest of the print hagiography on Petraeus.

It's sickening stuff. There's no other way to describe it.

The breakdown.

Petraeus, the physical fitness freak

"A physical fitness buff, Petraeus was accidentally shot in the chest at the firing range in Fort Campbell in 1991. His surgeon was Bill Frist . . . --Clarksville Leaf Chronicle

"He's a fitness fanatic, a PhD in international relations from Princeton, an expert on counterinsurgency tactics and known for his ambition ..." --Toronto Globe and Mail

"Petraeus, a counterinsurgency expert and an intensely competitive fitness nut ..." --Slate

Lickspittle and bootlicking

"IT WAS A different war back in November 2003 ... Petraeus's office was 100 percent USA, with its military issue desk, topography maps, and his battle gear -- a vest, helmet, and boots -- mounted on a wooden cross and standing at the ready. His running shoes -- Petraeus is a marathon runner -- were neatly placed in a corner.

"And in the months that followed the invasion, Petraeus, armed with his Princeton doctorate and his reputation as a 'warrior scholar,' was credited with finding perhaps the best balance of hard and soft power in Iraq ... Petraeus found a way to use his new assignment -- and his intellect -- to influence events on the ground despite being stationed in Kansas. --Charles M. Sennott, the Boston Globe

Compared to T.E. Lawrence, Robert E. Lee, Obi Wan Kenobi and Steven Jobs.

"[Petraeus] looks more like the real Colonel T. E. Lawrence, not the too-beautiful version played by Peter O'Toole in the movies. Like Lawrence, Petraeus is a little bit on the plain side, and he's short like Lawrence, with the slightly stooped posture of a hardcore long-distance runner who simply can't give it up despite his fifty-three years... A Washington Post article in November 2005 described Petraeus's recall from Iraq as akin to Jefferson Davis deciding to pull General Robert E. Lee from the field of battle early in the Civil War...[Petraeus presided] over the Jedi Knights, which is the nickname given to the students of the college's elite School of Advanced Military Studies—sort of the Army's version of Top Gun. These are the guys whom the generals turn to when they want to take down some Death Star." --Esquire

"By naming Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus as the top American military commander in Iraq, President Bush has done roughly what Apple Computer's board of directors did when they brought back Steve Jobs in 1996: turned to a popular figure with a reputation for brilliant innovation to solve seemingly intractable problems." --San Francisco Chronicle

PowerPoint slides of wisdom

"And so Petraeus also has his own version of [T.E. Lawrence's] Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which in his case number thirteen. It's a simple PowerPoint package of thirteen slides of lessons learned in the war." --Esquire, again

A brilliant scholar. Did we say brilliant enough times? Well, he's brilliant!

"Petraeus is regarded as an incisive leader and a 'warrior-scholar.' The 1974 West Point graduate also has a doctorate from Princeton University." --CNN

"You see, David Petraeus is one of a rare breed of senior scholar-soldiers who knows—and can convince others, drawing on extensive historical facts..." --Family Security Matters

"Petraeus is a Warrior/Scholar in the classic tradition..." --typical random dimwit at a newspaper, the name of which I forgot to jot down

"There is no question that General Petraeus, your new military commander in Iraq, is a brilliant scholar and military mind ... " --Westwood Press

"David Petraeus. This man is probably the most brilliant person in uniform, genius IQ and Ph.D. from Princeton." --Bloomington Pantagraph

"Members of his staff, that I know, say that he is the most brilliant man they know..." --The American Thinker

"Petraeus truly is a brilliant talent..." --The One Republic

"A guy like Petraeus is so ferociously creative and brilliant, sometimes that makes the buttoned-down senior military leadership nervous..." --The Guardian

"He's a brilliant general who has already spent years in Iraq." --Robertson County Times


"His cordial relations with the media, and the Newsweek cover story that depicted him as a potential savior for the Bush administration, rankled some of his superiors in the Pentagon..." Eudora News, Kansas, originally from the WaPost. Jeez, it must have killed them to write that.

The hometown newspaper, overjoyed that someone, now a big deal, who lived there a long time ago will go to Iraq

" 'David was always well groomed, one of the guys who had the right personality ...'He was always on time, always had his homework done, always had a smile.'"

"...[A] flip through the general's high school yearbook reads like a U.S. Military Academy admissions brochure: President of the ski club; striker on the 1969 championship soccer team; National Honor Society scholar; actor; linguist.

"In his West Point yearbook four years later, Petraeus was remembered as 'always going for it in sports, academics, leadership, and even his social life.' The accolades have continued. These days, Petraeus is seen as one of the Army's premier intellectuals, with a doctorate from Princeton to bookend his West Point education. His drive and physical toughness — he's an obsessive athlete and survived an accidental M-16 round to his chest...At 5 feet 9 and 155 pounds, the general has been compared to 'an intensely compacted hank of steel wire.'" --The Cornwall Record

Hey, here's a bit of wisdom from Shakespeare's Henry V. Your horse would trot as well were some of the brags dismounted. Make that all of them.

Next week: Tougher than Nick Fury, brainier than Reed Richards.

And we're paying this guy's salary, too?

From the Associated Press, more "no shit, Sherlock" moments on the situation in Iraq.

"The US overestimated the ability of Iraqi forces to take control and underestimated the enemy's persistence, the admiral poised to become the top American commander in the Middle East says," writes AP.

" 'Securing the stability of the country has been more difficult than anticipated,' Admiral William Fallon says in a written statement to the US Senate Armed Services Committee. 'Our ability to correctly assess the political, economic and security situation in Iraq has been lacking.'"

"The admiral's remarks were submitted in advance of a confirmation hearing due late last night."

Friday, January 26, 2007


He's the mainstream newsmedia's favorite general. Make no mistake, DD has no idea what David Petraeus is like, only the image of him delivered by reporters and pundits. However, enough already. Can he be asked to leave the room now? When Iraq refuses to bend to our national will once again, will we stop hearing about the man of steel from Princeton? (We stopped hearing about how Don Rumsfeld was a Princeton man and a wrestler fond of the fireman's carry/barrel roll PDQ!)

First off, a collection of Petraeus' "no shit, Sherlock" moments in front of Congress, captured by every media organization, portrayed as pearls of wisdom. My bald and flaking pate bows to them.

"None of this will be rapid . . . In fact, the way ahead will be neither quick nor easy and there undoubtedly will be tough days."

"The way ahead will be very hard. But hard is not hopeless."

"Actions taken in Sadr City will have to be carefully considered ..."

From .pdf files furnished to Congress ...

First, from Dale Carnegie's How to Make Friends and Influence People"lessons learned" on Iraq:

"There is no substitute for flexible, adaptable leaders."

"Intelligence is the key to success."

"A leader's most important task is to set the right tone."

From the "what do you consider to be the most significant mistakes" freshman collegiate essayanswer to Congress:

"First there were a number of assumptions and assessments that did not bear out."

" . . . as noted recently by President Bush, there were a number of situations that did not develop as was envisioned."

"There was an underestimation of the security challenges in Iraq."

DD could go on, but it's just more of the same bathwater. Media coverage cried out for someone, perhaps even Petraeus himself, to just cry out: "For Pete's sake, STFU, we've [or you've] heard it ad nauseum!"

Anyway, nope, none of that. Just more bad intelligence-insulting theatre. David Petraeus, the man with the plan, the general for Iraq. And in case you've forgotten --

The aphorisms of Zig ZiglarDavid Petraeus: "Physical and mental toughness are...essential [to] leadership. It's hard to lead from the front if you are in the rear of the formation."

Or ...

"[David Petraeus'] Screaming Eagles built schools, they cleaned up the water and sewage systems, they won hearts and minds . . . "

"Petraeus puts a strong emphasis on physical fitness. Many of his soldiers dread the invitation to go on a run with him because it takes so much energy to keep up."

"[Petraeus] keeps himself maniacally fit. The speed of his recovery from a gunshot wound received on a rifle range when he was commanding a battalion in the 101st Airborne is legendary."

Here's a question Congress might have asked. "Do you think you can run the Iraqis into submission? Is physical fitness as a measuring stick of who should win something they will bend to?"

The biggest tubload of the dumbly obvious from Petraeus repackaged as something gnomic was assembled by The Washington Post. On the 14th of this month, Rachel Dry posted excerpts from his Ph.D. thesis, on lessons learned from the Vietnam war. Petraeus presented it in 1987. It's here.

Here's a slew of popular books on Vietnam. Note the many well known titles written prior to Petraeus' work. Keep in mind, Ph.D. theses are intended to be pieces of original research.

In 1991, DD bought a book entitled BAD, by Paul Fussell. Fussell has written extensively about war and while BAD was not about battle, it was a supercilious rant on the American condition.

Fussell partially defined BAD in this country as a consequence of bragging. "The United States especially overflows with it because of all countries it is most addicted to self-praise . . . " There were many things to do to cure BADness, wrote Fussell. One of them was to "curb the national impulse to brag."

The image of Petraeus in today's news smacks relentlessly of empty bragging, of praise for something which deserves little, if any.
WHY COUNTER-TERROR MEN OUGHT NOT TO DIRECT POLICY: Britain expands its select agent restrictions on recommendation of witchfinder generals

Today an item comes across the desk from AP out of London: "An expanded list of deadly toxins and pathogens held in laboratories and hospitals will be more tightly controlled to keep them out of the hands of terrorists, Britain's Home Office said on Thursday.

"Around 100 viruses and bacteria — including diseases such as rabies, polio and influenza — will be covered by the tough new regulations, policing and security minister Tony McNulty said.

"Commercial laboratories, universities and hospitals will be required to give police details of their precise stocks of the agents and the names of every person with access to them, the Home Office said."

Comments from the UK government to AP were all delivered anonymously. The original is here.

In the United States this function is administered by the Select Agent program, administered by the Centers for Disease Control.

As your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow, DD discussed it recentlyhere in connection with the criminal sale of botulinum toxin in this country.

What becomes apparent upon examination of the various restrictions imposed by Select Agent monitoring programs is that the formal rules and regulations aren't so important as the practice of common sense and due diligence in the scientific research community working with potentially dangerous materials.

No amount of restrictions or government oversight stopped sales of botulinum toxin in a business scam. A little common sense, less greed and pusuit of easy profit would have.

In the US, the limits and restrictions on select agents are still set by scientific working groups. While it may not be apparent to the casual observer, there is a good deal of disagreement within such groups, some scientists arguing that there ought not to be any limits set restricting research materials.

Others have argued convincingly that the new restrictions brought by the war on terror, while they do not exclude scientists from continuing valuable work, in practice -- do. It becomes too difficult for the newer scientist to gather the resources and go through the redtape necessary to justify research which utilizes restricted materials. Risks and potential penalties accrue which only well-established and well-funded laboratories and senior scientists wish to undertake.

However, it's a fact that all scientists have to start from scratch, not automatically hatching into well-known and well-compensated senior research programs. The net effect of such restrictions, in the name of the war on terror, is to stifle research.

This is done in the name of public safety and it is very often not justified by the actual nature of the threat.

With respect to the rationalizations furnished by the British government for AP's story, it appears not to be justified at all.

"In 2003, police said they had foiled a plot to spread the deadly toxin ricin in London," wrote AP, working from a script furnished by the British government. "Eight men were charged; four were acquitted and the other four were not tried. No traces of ricin were found but scientists said there was evidence of attempts to produce it."

This, of course, is all cocked up and a substantial distortion. DD has furnished ample evidence showing Kamel Bourgass, the only man convicted in the case, could not have produced anything from his foolish poison recipes. If there was evidence to produce poisons, it was only in a small pile of cherry stones and a handful of castor beans in a jewelry tin. None of these materials threatened the people of London, no matter how much Bourgass may have wished it to be so. Scientists, of course, knew this. A jury accepted it. The British government was not satisfied with these evaluations.

"Last November, a senior British diplomat warned that Islamic extremists had tried to acquire chemical and radiological weapons to use in attacks against Britain and other Western targets," continued the AP story.

Again, another functional lie is delivered through the newsmedia. Readers of this blog know the case of crackpot Dhiren Barot, the alleged al Qaeda man with plans to use thousands and thousands of smoke detectors -- it would have had to have been all the world's smoke detectors -- as a dirty bomb.

"The Foreign Office official, who demanded anonymity to discuss the issue, said intelligence chiefs believed terrorists could create weapons from substances with legitimate scientific or medical uses," intoned AP.

This is certainly true. Intelligence chiefs in the war on terror seem to believe that terrorists have MacGyver-like talents in fashioning WMDs from household, drugstore and hardware store items.

This is a superstition.

There is no substantial evidence to support any of it, although there are many incompetent terrorists who have believed the same things, often informed by crackpot writings and recipes on the Internet, originally published from the American neo-Nazi survivalist fringes in the Eighties.

"Britain's Home Office, which is advised by the domestic security service MI5, has also assessed a potential risk from the use of legitimately held toxins or medical waste, continued AP.

" 'There is a threat posed by the potential terrorist use of certain pathogens and toxins. There are examples of terrorist groups — including al-Qaida — attempting to gain access to such material, ' said a Home Office spokesman, on customary condition of anonymity.

"The spokesman said he could not confirm if attempts had been made by terrorist groups in Britain to acquire biological agents."

Could not confirm. Speaks only on conditions of anonymity.


This is as good example as any of what happens when policy is set by intelligence chiefs, today's equivalent of the witchfinder general.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

OPERATION RADIATING RUBBLE: Reach out and crush, part II

"The United States is unable to inflict serious damage on Iran," said that Ahmadinejad fellow the other day, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times in "US Ships headed to mideast called a warning to Iran." A second carrier battle group was on its way to the Middle East.

However, the United States can deliver a hurting, one that's probably inevitable given the way things go when you get our political leadership's attention these days.

Using GlobalSecurity.Org's assessment of Iran's current military capabilities, DD wrote up and gamed Operation Radiating Rubble using the Naval Warfare Fleet Command Project. It's here and some may recognize it as a rewrite of the old computer game, Jane's Fleet Command.

Jane's Fleet Command wasn't realistic but it was a fun game, requiring you to micromanage naval and air assaults around the world. The very good folks at Naval Warfare took it upon themselves to rewrite the specs on the sim and apply them to the existing engine in an attempt to make it much more realistic.

Up to a point, they were successful. It's still not real life but now it's a moderately useful abstraction.

For Operation Radiating Rubble, DD recreated most of Iran's southern military air and naval district. Then it assembled a combined USAF and Navy strategic strike force with two carrier battle groups, all tasked with bombing a subset of about half of Iran's nuclear research and suspected enrichment sites. Some were assumed to be extremely hard targets, or as hard as the game design would allow. The US was afforded no secret penetrating weapons or unrealistic force multipliers.

The screenshot is an opening capture of a strategic bomber force and fighter escort about to violate Iranian airspace at midnight. Blue, of course, is the US.

Uh-oh, it's looking bad for the mullahs already.

In the game, it's impossible to achieve tactical surprise. The computer brings up the Iranian air force to fight immediately. This isn't realistic and gives Iran an opportunity it won't get in real action.

However, it makes no difference. If the Iranian air force chooses to fight, and the computer artificial intelligence makes sure that it does, it is always destroyed. Having no integrated air defense and no world class experience in fighting a combat-hardened air force at night that comes hard, fast and with superior power -- the American way of battle -- the outcome is pretty much written in stone. One presumes that if Ahmadenijad and the mullahs don't know this, their generals must.

The Iranian navy has a very short and exciting life in Operation Radiating Rubble.

As simulated, this game is in no way fun to play. It can be fought any number of ways using a relatively large force set. However, it always boils down to a logistical exercise in launching Tomahawks, tearing the roof off a nation, and positioning strategic bombers equipped with JDAMs -- lots of JDAMs -- over presumed targets. Bombs and missiles miss or don't explode. Strikes must be redone. Attack timetables change because of a varying threat environments. None of it matters in the end.

Curtis LeMay would be a fan.

While the military outcome is never in doubt, it's difficult to achieve the complete destruction of all the hardened nuclear sites within the boundaries DD set for the game. Iran has the capability to launch theatre-range ballistic missiles. The player finds these aren't particularly effective but about as practical as US theatre ballistic missile defense.

If one is to take the sayings of Ahmadinejad seriously, he is probably right in the sense that a US assault can't get everything. However, such an assault would still be a complete disaster coming in the dead of night for the people of Iran. Therefore, it becomes obvious that it is in the interest of both nations to find some way to avoid it.

DD leaves the column with an excerpt from Peter George's book, the script version of Dr. Strangelove, paraphrased for today's reality.

Buck Turgidson looked quickly at the [Iranian ambassador], breathed heavily, then said, 'Mr. President, if I may speak freely now . . . The [Iranian] talks big but frankly we think he's short of know-how. I mean you just can't take a bunch of ignorant peasants and expect them to understand a machine like our boys . . . and I don't mean that as an insult Mr. Ambassador . . . '

Turgidson was becoming excited now . . . This was something on which he was an expert. 'Well, sir, if the pilot's a really good man, I mean really sharp, he can barrel that plane along so low, I mean, well you've just go to see it sometime. A real big plane like a fifty two, its jet exhaust frying chickens in the barnyard...

'Has he a chance?' the President cut in.

' . . . Has he a chance? Hell, yes. He has one hell of a chance!'

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

STRAPPED-DOWN CHICKEN TEST: The mobile micro-waver, again and ad nauseum

Many stories of technological glee from the military never go away even though one wishes they would. Prime among them is the tale of the military's mobile microwaver.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow wrote about it for the Village Voice back in 2002. It was old and annoying then. Time has not made it better, only more cruel and stupid.

"The Pentagon has always craved a phaser," DD wrote. "Now it's turning to microwaving as a potential means of singeing the enemy. The Department of Defense's bland name for this electronic heat ray is the Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial (VMAD) system, a mouthful of jargon that yields few clues about the weapon's nature. Allegedly designed for an Orwellian task—'humanitarian missions'—the VMAD is a giant version of your microwave oven, without the safety box surrounding it. The generals want to move it around on a humvee."

The Kool-Aid passed around on it was the microwaver was good for America, good for foes because it wouldn't kill them, good for everybody. So good!

However, ". . . anyone with first-hand experience broiling hot dogs and other non-robust meats in their tabletop microwave might be chary of such an assertion. Struck by the heat ray, 'Sssss,' went the eyeball."

"What is the microwaver's target? It must be unarmed civilians, because as described, the VMAD wouldn't seem to offer much against terrorists or regular soldiers ready to fire back with conventional weapons. What is certain is that the Pentagon's microwave projects lack oversight and common sense. In one manic, grandiose claim, the Defense Department calls VMAD 'the biggest breakthrough in weapons technology since the atomic bomb.'"

The entirety is here.

So the mobile microwaver is alleged to be absolutely safe. The favorite buzzword is "non-lethal." Anything to which this term can be attached is then peddled as good for humanity.

And to prove this military, over the years, has invited reporters and others to its strapped-down chicken tests where, if they wish, they can stand in front of it and be made to jump.

Manufactured by Raytheon, it's as good a waste of taxpayer dollars as can be imagined. The military microwaver, you see, has always been coming but never quite arriving, perhaps one reason being because no sensible officer wants to see his career go down in flames over it when it's unleashed on a defenseless crowd and creates an atrocity that's captured on TV camera. It is the equivalent of welfare for its crew of civilian and military boffin developers.

The current raft of stories came out of a test conducted at Moody AFB in Georgia, today. The most beamish headline DD saw was one from a local TV news station which apparently is driven to put a happy face on everything having to do with the nearby base.

"Moody tests new life-saving technology," it reads, leading one to think -- if only seeing it in newsfeed, that perhaps the military has invested in a new piece of medical equipment for the battlefield, or something good, not something noxious and pestilential. (The original.)

"The idea is that [its] heat wave will help deter combatants without killing them," reports the station. [One could say the same about BZ, an old and banned US military "tear gas" that created what might be described as a really really bad trip. That was to deter people, too.]

"And Team Moody [ DD loves Team Moody!] has no doubt the weapon would help with their security operations overseas. " 'It will help with all of our missions. Having this capability, this tool in our tool box for whatever mission we're going to go, we're glad to bring it with us,' Col. Decknick adds."

"The Active Denial System is still years away from production and DOD officials estimate it will cost millions of dollars each by the time they are ready to deploy."

In practical matters, one can see it immediately being taken out by a RPG or an IED in Iraq, being an attractive and hard-to-miss target, ensuring it stays safe in the motor pool. Seriously now, fellows, would you want to drive it on Iraq's mean streets? No thanks.

AP did the usual on the story. Send a reporter to report on the cheerful volunteers gleefully signed up to be targets, the chickens -- so to speak, in the test.

No one, of course, asks the obvious question. How long would it last in domestic use against a crowd before being sued out of action?

" 'There should be no collateral damage to this,' said Senior Airman Adam Navin, 22, of Green Bay, Wis., who has served several tours in Iraq," as reported by Associated Press.

"Navin and two other airmen were role players in Wednesday's demonstration.

"They and 10 reporters who volunteered were shot with the beams. The beams easily penetrated various layers of winter clothing.

"Airman Blaine Pernell, 22, of New Orleans, said he could have used the system during his four tours in Iraq, where he manned watchtowers around a base near Kirkuk. He said Iraqis constantly pulled up and faked car problems so they could scout out US forces.

"' All we could do is watch them,' he said. But if they had the ray gun, troops 'could have dispersed them.'" [Full AP story, here.)

Hmmm, maybe in his mind. Real life, one reckons, wouldn't be quite so cooperative or predictable.

Next year: Same story, different reporters to be burned, the lame made to see, the blind to walk, more life-saving technology. [Life-saving technology. That's so rich, DD loves it, perhaps making a great slogan for a T-shirt.]

Adding to last week's comment on the case of the London terrorists in love with the idea of drugstore peroxide as a means to bomb-making, the trial furnished pictures.

Yep, that's flour and peroxide on the floor, left after one of the attempted attacks. Doesn't look impressive, does it? Looks like spilled breakfast mush. Wait, what was that about flour bombs?

In any case, the prosecution has been trying to make the case that the incompetent plans of the Londonistan bombers were scientifically viable. With GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, DD can say this probably has something to do with the precedent set by the trial of the London ricin ring.

In it, prosecutor Nigel Sweeney, who is also on offense in this trial, tried and failed to convince a jury of the argument that Kamel Bourgass' silly recipes in home-made poison-making were workable. They weren't.

Bourgass was put away, anyway, which was proper.

In the flour and peroxide bomber case, it appears Sweeney is taking more care to convince that the bombs, which fizzled, were deadly. In this, a variety of experts are trotted out to make statements which kind of point in this direction. But only if you don't realize that any number of experts could be found to argue -- like me -- that you can fiddle with drugstore peroxide in your home all you want. You'll never amount to anything, though.

Now, on the other hand, if you're a trained chemist and you're stuck with drugstore peroxide and allowed to do strapped down chicken tests with complete access to laboratory assets then you might be able to come up with something.

But the lab scientist would also realize there are easier ways to skin a cat. For example, throwing concentrated sulfuric acid, a common reagent, would be much more immediate. Or you'd just go to the shelf and get the concentrated peroxide. (We'll get back to this in a moment.)

[Sidebar: Lay reading of spec sheets on various chemicals, like hydrogen peroxide, is often helpful. See here. Note: "Although it is impossible for H2O2 goods on the market to explode, contaminated hydrogen peroxide may exceed the ventilation capacity of its container and decompose. As for products with 65% or more H2O2, this decomposition will be naturally accelerated because the amount of its decomposition heat exceeds that of heat loss to the air. When the temperature of stored hydrogen peroxide rises at the rate of 1 to 2 per hour, this may signal explosion through decomposition."]

Returning to the case, the BBC reported:

"Ms McGavigan, a senior case officer at the Forensics Explosives Laboratory in Kent, tested samples [of the mess pictured above] from his [sic] bag. 'It was comparable to the gelignite and the TNT ...These are both high explosives as well,' she said.'

Remember what DD said about experts.

Comparable to TNT but it wouldn't explode. Blame the detonator.

In any case, the previous day a witness was brought to attest to the chemistry savvy of one of the bombers. He flunked an introductory chemistry course, it was said, and in our really nuts world of anti-terror work, instead of this being an example of a moron, it's the opposite.

Reported the Beeb:

"Ann Obatomi, [one of the terrorist's] chemistry teacher at Enfield College, told the court that when the student had taken the course, the syllabus included rates of reaction and 'looking at the effects of temperature, the use of catalysts, to increase the rate of reaction'.

" 'They would find out if they increase the concentration, that would increase the rate,' she said."

"The court was told that Mr Omar took four hours of chemistry a week but at the end of the academic year, in summer 1999, he failed the course as his attendance tailed off."

Well, it just so happens DD has taught a variety of chemistry and microbiology courses at the college level.

First, let's take a gander at Enfield.

It's the equivalent of a continuing education/community college. This means it's crap. Call me a snob but it needs to be said. Look here, too. A course called "Access to Teaching." Oof, that's a real resume builder!

DD doesn't find failing attendance in a crap school chemistry course very convincing in establishing expertise. However, there it is.

Anyway, since DD did teach first year chemistry at a university, one not for weekend warriors, it can be said with a great deal of certainty that even students who passed still didn't know much about chemistry. And they certainly hadn't been through a course on how to make bombs. It would be fortunate if they could balance elementary chemical reactions on paper, do a simple titration or an easy gravimetric analysis by the end of the year.

On the other hand, if DD was a terrorist and he was waisting time taking a community college course in chemistry, one with a lab section, he would steal some potentially useful reagents just before leaving class for the last time.

Instead, the incompetent class of terrorist can't seem to figure this out, glomming onto making bombs from hundreds of bottles of peroxide or poison from apple thousands of apple seeds or a handful of cherry pits.

And if it is important that to "increase the rate" of a reaction, one can increase the concentration of a reactant, well -- you don't actually need a course to teach you it.

Why this would be important in the trial, DD isn't sure. Presumably to show a judge and jury that a reason for boiling or heating peroxide was to increase concentration. However, one could just as well spend time arguing that as chemists, those in the dock were fools. That's good! It wouldn't seem to make much difference toward the final aim, putting them away.

On the alleged chemistry expertise here. And more here.

Chapatti Flour Gang Convicted.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Normally DD hasn't dealt much with arms manufacturers but it couldn't help but notice a news item concerning Lockheed Martin and the good business opportunities affforded by unquestioning fear of bioterrorism.

From a newswire, DD reads: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded a $135 million contract to Lockheed Martin Corp. to continue providing logistical and operational support to the agency's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response.

"The office manages the CDC Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement, which provides guidance and funding to state and local governments for preparedness and response, oversees the CDC Emergency Operations Center, regulates entities that use or transfer biological agents or toxins and manages the Strategic National Stockpile." (Original here.)

With GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, DD is sure of one thing. Lockheed Martin ought not to be allowed anywhere near anything to do with bioterrorism. And this includes office services as well as regulating transfer of biological agents and toxins.

If the US government is to pony up money, it would be much better to staff such an operation itself without allowing Lockheed Martin, a gigantic arms manufacturer, to get its fingers in the pie.

Lockheed Martin is far better at making weapons and technology for reaching out and crushing people worldwide, 24/7.

Easily observable by news feed, the fun business of Lockheed Martin can be observed.

Daily, it happily sells arms to mortal enemies around the world, engendering weapons technology races. It is always conducting job fairs and hiring people to program devices and software to accelerate the killing of foes.

And it gets plenty of good press for it. Business journalists love to write of the successes of Lockheed Martin.

Some recent examples:

"Lockheed Martin unit wins accolades for work on portable missile system," says the Orlando Sentinel.

"Lockheed Martin's Orlando missiles unit has landed a share of a Defense Department honor for its work supporting a key weapon system being used by U.S. forces in Iraq.

A team led by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control in Orlando and Raytheon Co. recently received the Defense Logistics Contractor of the Year Award for critical maintenance, trouble-shooting and other support work on the Javelin portable missile system ... The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency presented the honor to the Javelin Joint Venture Logistics Support Team during the 3rd Annual Defense Logistics awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. last month."


And AP reports gaily, "Lockheed Martin Gets $28.6M Navy Deal."

"Manassas, Va.-based Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors will supply the Navy with seven sonar system upgrades to allow submarines to detect each other."

"Shares of Lockheed Martin gained 47 cents to finish at $97.27 on the New York Stock Exchange."

Bullish stock!

How 'bout the arming of decades-old sworn enemies, preferably ones with atomic weapons? You sell to one, then the other. Fuel an arms race among the poorest nations in the world, ones with sort of wretched living conditions, a lot of destitute (and angry or restive) people and lousy governments. It's a ladder to success.

"Pakistan’s Navy received the first of eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft during a formal ceremony Jan. 18 at the Mehran Naval Air Station in Karachi," writes AP. "A second aircraft is expected in February, but fulfillment of the contract is not expected until 2010."

"The Navy named Lockheed Martin the sole-source contractor in June 2005 for a $300 million Foreign Military Sales contract."

"The new P-3s will replace five Fokker F27-200 and three Breguet Atlantique maritime patrol aircraft. Pakistan had four Atlantiques, but India shot down one of the aircraft in 1999.

This is profoundly great on many fronts. First, it beats out the French and their crummy Atlantiques. And it snubs its nose at American citizens who have relied upon P-3s, whether they know it or not, to contribute maritime patrolling against drug smuggling.

As the Los Angeles Times reported today in "Burdened US Military Cuts Role in Drug War." " . . . the Pentagon has grounded much of its fleet of P-3s for long stretches because of lack of pilots, money for flying time or maintenance issues . . . [Others] have been redeployed for . . . use in counter-terrorism missions. Those remaining ... have severe wing corrosion. Many of them have no working radar. But their replacements won't be ready until 2012."

Best of all, though, is that it keeps Pakistan and India buying stuff.

"India is close to concluding a contract with the US for acquiring six C-130J Super Hercules Transport Planes, the first deal between the two countries for military aircraft, defence sources said," reported a newswire from India.

"The deal, once approved by the US Congress and New Delhi, will be a one-off contract between the governments of the two countries under Washington's foreign military sales programme. There will also be an option for six additional Hercules Aircraft manufactured by aviation major Lockheed Martin, the sources said.

"Lockheed Martin is also in the race to sell India 126 multi-role combat jets and has offered the P-3C Orion Reconnaisance Aircraft to the Indian Navy."

Sell the same equipment to both sides so that they always need more! Our enemy has three of those things. We'd better get six, so there's no weapons gap.

However, the best entry today in the category of Reach Out and Crush Someone Anytime comes from "Lockheed Martin nets $654.9M deal for Trident II D5 missile" from Reliable [Manufacturing] Plant magazine.

"The U.S. Navy is awarding Lockheed Martin a contract valued at $654.9 million for fiscal year 2007 production and deployed system support for the Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) program.

" 'Our work in the coming years will span research and development, design, production, testing, operations and maintenance on this important Navy program,' said Tory Bruno, vice president of Strategic Missile Programs, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company."

Unsurprisingly, Lockheed Martin is hiring all over. If you live in the Syracuse area, go here to a job fair.

Occasionally, there are glitches in the business of reaching out to crush people.

"On Friday, the Navy halted the Bethesda, Md.-based contractor's work on a $197.6 million littoral combat ship under construction at the Bollinger Shipyard in Lockport, La," reported AP. "The Navy cited 'significant cost increases.' "

A rocket scientist for a company that does business analysis said, "[The Navy wants to 'signify its displeasure with the substantial cost overrun on the program.' "

To paraphrase Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove, it's not really fair to condemn an entire program for one or two slip-ups.

In The Weapon Shops of Isher, sci-fi author A. E. van Vogt emphasized, "The right to buy weapons is the right to be free."

In The Voyage of the Space Beagle, a collection of short stories, van Vogt also wrote about space-faring soldiers who met an assortment of aliens and killed them. The aliens always ate or parasitized a couple of our guys first, though.

Although he's dead, DD still really likes reading van Vogt. Like many famous sci-fi writers, the guy is a laugh riot, perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

NIGEL SWEENEY AND FLOUR & PEROXIDE BOMBS: Incompetent Londonistan terrorists again

Readers of DD blog know that London must have a certain class of incompetent terrorist. Whether they wish to make ricin, other biopoisons or dirty bombs, this class always comes up with ridiculous formulations or impractical processes ending in failure. (Obviously, this is good.) That a number of different bombers succeeded in an attack on 7/7 seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

They are so nuts in this regard one becomes curious as to the provenance of their plans. Where do they get their wretched ideas? (This is a bit of a rhetorical question. Generally, they come from "Pyro home chemistry for young menninnies" forums, semi-popular on the net, as per exampleshere and here.

With GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, DD can be convinced of the malicious intent of the incompetent but not by any aptitude they have for causing mass death.

The latest news from Londonistan is the case of the flour and peroxide bombers.

Their bombs were a hash -- fizzled and now a half-dozen are in the dock.

Over at Snapping Turtle, Bruce Rolston dubs the flour bombers complete idiots -- it's not too strong a description -- and comments on the formulation of bombs made from over two hundred bottles of drugstore peroxide. Yesterday, "Scare Us, We Love It," DD maintained astonishment that there are still people determined to believe drugstore peroxide is deadly.

"Here's the math, in case you don't get why this is such a joke," writes Rolston. "One story says the plotters purchased exactly 284 bottles of hydrogen peroxide. Pharmacies normally sell peroxide in pint bottles (473mL) at 3% concentration. That means the plotters could well have had 134.3 litres of solution, or the equivalent of 4kg of actual pure peroxide if all the water were to be boiled off and there was no loss."

Further, Rolston explains, "Between the five containers, there then would have needed to be at least 10.5L of concentrated peroxide solution, post-distillation, to make the 'bombs.'

"Do the math and that indicates the peroxide was likely at no more than a 40% concentration when it was mixed with the flour (the remainder being water and other impurities). That level of peroxide isn't even strongly corrosive, let alone explosive."

There's a lot more to the discussion and with the utmost enthusiasm, DD recommends you read it here.

As an intellectual exercise, consider the differences between such bombers -- and the more effective kind on display daily in Iraq where no one uses cooked drugstore peroxide and flour, buddy-boy!

In reporting from the trial, USA Today published an article containing statements from Crown prosecutor Nigel Sweeney. These were repeated across the land's newspapers through the wings of Associated Press.

From USA Today: "Sweeney said [one defendant] had told police that the bombs were 'a deliberate hoax in order to make a political point' and were not intended to kill. But Sweeney said forensic scientists had tested the mixture, and 'in every experiment this mixture has exploded.'"

In the parlance, this is known as a strapped down chicken test, a rigging.

It's another way of saying that scientists are allowed to go forward and make mimic bombs from highly concentrated peroxide and flour, correcting all the intellectual deficiencies and formulations of the terrorists, using lab assets terrorists do not have, to make something work in order that the case be made more convincing in court.

[Sidebar: Can you make a bomb of 70 percent to pure hydrogen peroxide? Yes, the Luftwaffe was good at it. Called T-Stoff, it was mixed with a fuel mixture called C-Stoff, in rocket-assisted takeoff pods used with jet aircraft and short runways. And rather infamously in the Komet, a dangerous in a useless way rocket-powered one-man bomber interceptor. Trivia note: The Komet was even modelled in the WW II air combat flight simulator, Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, which DD played regularly, refusing to ever fly the Komet, which was just as awful on PC as it was in real life.]

Readers with long memories may remember Nigel Sweeney from the botched case of the London ricin ring. In it, Sweeney presented the poison recipes of killer Kamel Bourgass.

"These were no playtime recipes ... These are recipes that experts give credence to and experiments show work. They are scientifically viable and potentially deadly," Sweeney claimed.

In matter of fact, Kamel Bourgass's plans were, indeed, "playtime recipes," downloaded from Yahoo servers in California. Copied to paper by hand, and later translated for the court, DD -- who consulted to the defense for this trial -- had the evidence and posted it on GlobalSecurity.Org here where the world was free to see that -- yes, Virginia -- they were the formulations of the utterly incompetent.

So when one hears or reads of prosecutor Nigel Sweeney attesting to matters in which something is claimed to be scientifically viable and deadly, or that other forensic scientists have reverse-engineered a thing that didn't work in the first place, one must always keep in mind that Nigel Sweeney has never been scientifically viable, so to speak.

One can admire and applaud his zeal for the locking up of the murderous but not his grasp of the science of mayhem.

Related: Dhiren Barot, the Londonistan dirty bomber who thought he could make a WMD from smoke-detectors.

Monday, January 15, 2007

SCARE US, WE LOVE IT: It's an unofficial religion

Americans love to be scared by their leaders and experts. How else to explain the regular fountain of scary stories about what terrorists can do to us? Why, just last night on 60 Minutes, George W. Bush said to the host that terrorists wanted to kill the guy, me and you.

And on 24, Jack Bauer was tortured, instead of doing the torture, by the fiendish Abu Fayad, a terrorist who was waiting for delivery of a mysterious cardboard box, pulled out of a wall in a nice home somewhere in the San Fernando Valley by Ahmed, who is sore at us because the neighbors mispronounce his name.

You can bet that box doesn't contain a fruitcake! There will be something magical in it, something which can be put in a backpack and carried into downtown LA -- terrorists love LA -- where it will kill thousands just like that.

On a side note, Jack was back to torturing in a virtual eye-blink, though, stabbing a terrorist until he screamed. However, he was rusty and stopped early, convinced the guy had nothing to spill. So Alexander Siddig took over. Dr. Bashir from Star Trek -- Deep Space 9!

You know cancelled doctors must know how to torture and Al did not disappoint. Now known as the good bad guy, he tortured the fellow really great, cracking him in seconds. Then Al killed him.

Jack said to Al that he didn't know if he could do torture, anymore. And Al Dr. Bashir Assad looked at Jack, smiled a little and said, "It'll come back to you." (Alexander Siddig was also in Syriana, as a nationalist whom we offed with a Hellfire missile because he wanted good things for his country.)

Anyway, back to our regular beat, on scaring everybody.

Today, the British news press informed of the start of a trial of terrorists who had bungled attempted suicide bombings in London.

Their bombs fizzled because they were made from hydrogen peroxide and flour! Never mind you can't make anything explode with drugstore peroxide. DD is always astonished to find people who think drugstore peroxide is a deadly weapon. (Fine dusts, on the other hand, can be made to combust but for the sake of avoiding a long discussion on the explosive hazards of aluminum powder or working at Atlas Powder or New Jersey Zinc, DD will say flour isn't the best choice for your suicide bomb vest. The guy who blew himself up on 24 last night sure was no flour user, buddy boy!)

So we love to be scared and the threats are gamed and estimated daily as part of the business of the war on terror. Books and TV shows and seminars and training are everywhere, a lot of it nonsense, but what are you going to do?


Yes, that's exactly what DD will do. And you can read another installment, done for el Reg, today. Being scared as an unofficial religion has had bad consequences. The United States was scared into getting into the deadly mess in Iraq. And there are more deadly messes waiting to be scared into just around the corner.

The scare industry has made a hash of thoughtful debate and exposition on the nature of the enemies we face.

Take the thoughtfulness of terror drills, for example, which seriously attempt to argue that a WMD can be made from rosary peas. DD doesn't think even Jack Bauer and CTU would go for that.

Jack would torture the truth out of someone about it, first.

How about the notion that Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania, could be poisoned by ricin water during college football season? That's over 150,000 people.

Now you're messing with the Nittany Lions, DD's favorite college team, you so-called terror readiness experts. Grrrrr! Stop, clowns, stop!

Read why it's impossible, and about other scares of the month like the smoky bomb and getting worried while reading about Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome bioterror in "Fact, fiction or bioterror drill?" -- here.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

LOS ANGELES TIMES LAUNDERS JUDITH MILLER: Bad move, some stains are ineradicable

Today the Los Angeles Times published a long op-ed piece by Judith Miller on ProMed. The well-known service describes itself as "[t]he global electronic reporting system for outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases & toxins, open to all sources," operated by the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

As an informative piece, Miller's item, entitled "Website for the germ obsessed," was middling.

However, it brings up an activity the Times has been fiddling with: The laundering of Judith Miller by sneaking her back into newspaper pages under the utilization of her journalistically accumulated "expertise" in germs.

The thinking appears to be that one can separate it from her disgraced work on WMDs in Iraq.

This is not really possible and to grasp why, you have to know a bit about why Miller is so interested -- one might say "obsessed" -- with germs.

First, Miller wrote a book about germs, entitled the same, along with NY Times colleagues William Broad and Steven Engelberg. The LA Times signature line for her duly notes this. What it doesn't note is that the book, while a bestseller, wasn't such a great thing.

It is a history of germ warfare and potentials for bioterror written from the point of view of Miller's favorite sources, the scientists who were involved in secret weapons programs. As such it is a long and horrifying trip through the macabre, based on the say-so of a very small group of weaponeers with a singularly weird view of what actually constitutes good science.

If you wish to be made afraid, very afraid, Miller's Germs is great. If you're more skeptical in light of current history, then you can read these commentaries on Miller, the book and one of her mentors, here and here.

Speaking professionally as GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow, one who has come to be known for some expertise on the subject of bioweapons, DD is by no means a believer in the worth of Miller's work prior to her fall from grace.

But getting back to the Los Angeles Times, the newspaper first laundered Miller in August of last year, publishing her tribute to a Russian bioweaponeer named Lev S. Sandakhchiev.

The scientist had died and Miller was there to salute him in the pages of the newspaper as someone who had allegedly saved the world from bioweapons.

Whoah, Nelly!

This is Miller's screwy take on the dark story of biological warfare. The scientists who developed these corrupt weapons, for her, become heroes and mentors. In Miller's world, the bioweapons developer is a great man because, as published on the opinion page of the Times, "[he] made a courageous decision."

"A compact, wiry, chain-smoking scientist, he grasped after the Soviet Union's collapse that the survival of his lab and its scientists depended on abandoning his life's long work in bioweapons and opening up to the West . . . "

Other scientists could just as easily say a more courageous decision would have been not to work on bioweapons at all. It is a decision tens of thousands of others have made without thinking twice.

Indeed, the blabbering bioweapons scientists of the Soviet Union, shrewdly realizing that the money and good life were going to dry up, spilled their secrets to the west in hopes of book deals and jobs. For some, this worked. It has instituted a system in which the US government pays them for their information and attempts to secure their employment in biodefense so that they don't run off and sell themselves to the highest bidders.

There's an infernal logic to it. One realizes the necessity of making pay-offs to such men but it's a severe twisting of things to paint the same people as individuals who save the world from bioweapons.

It's like insisting those who spend a lifetime developing sneaky ways to set fires to homes ought to be rewarded in their waning days for talking about it; as reformed arsonists, awarded jobs in fire departments so that they don't "go over to the dark side" again.

Yet this is the outlook that informs and infuses Miller's writing on germs. It would be difficult to find a stranger and more unscientific way of viewing things.

The average daily reader of the Los Angeles Times, of course, is not expected to know any of this. But its editors certainly should.

Miller's work has even contaminated peer-reviewed science.

In the summer of 2005, myself and well known bioweapons and arms control expert Milton Leitenberg publicly
critiqued a paper
published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science which purported to show how terrorists could easily kill Americans by contaminating the milk supply with botulinum toxin, the deadliest poison known to man.

The paper was entitled "Analyzing a Bioterror Attack on the Food Supply: The Case of Botulinum Toxin in the Milk." We found it alarmist and shot through with what, in our estimation, amounted to significant errors.

At the time, it was also astonishing to see an article of Judith Miller's as part of its scholarly footnotes.

The item in question was a piece written for the New York Times when Miller was embedded with the US military's team tasked with finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Readers may recall it was the rubbish reporting on WMD's in Iraq by Miller which led to her downfall.

For the PNAS paper, Miller's article was cited as evidence terrorists could easily make botulinum toxin of a certain potency.

During our analysis of the problem, I found no basis for this assumption in any scientific literature. It was, rather, the product of a man named Nissar Hindawi, a Miller source who was part of the stable of bad informants maintained by Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi. (You can look it up. The article, entitled "Aftereffects -- Germ Weapons: Leading Iraqi scientist says he lied to UN inspectors," from April 27, 2003. It is the same as that cited in the PNAS paper.)

In actuality, Miller's informant -- Hindawi, was another damnable bioweapons scientist, one who had left Iraq's programs in 1989 before the outbreak of the first Gulf War. (See WMD: Weapons of Miller's descriptions," a critical look at this work from The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Once again, these are arcane points to many readers. However, it is impossible to escape the toxic remnants of Miller's work at the New York Times when looking at issues having to do with weapons of mass destruction and biological terrorism. Even when least expected, Miller's thrown down articles lurk in collections of scholarly footnotes, buried like intellectual landmines which must be defused one by one.

For these reasons, Miller is a really bad choice to write about any aspects of disease or science. It is certainly one of her favorite subjects but her career's work shows it is informed and colored by an education gained from the worst sources -- bioweapons developers.

If the Los Angeles Times continues to launder her work back into the mainstream, it may find out the downside of the practice the hard way.

Coincidentally: David Petraeus, of all people, is found embedded in Miller's crap reporting about WMD's in Iraq. Petraeus, as no one can have missed, is the Bush adminstration's man to take control in Iraq, the fellow who rewrote the Army's training manual on counter-insurgency -- yadda-yadda -- the man who will make the deadly mess all right.

In April of 2003, Miller was embedded with the 101st Airborne in Iraq, covering an army exploitation team -- called MET-Alpha -- aimed at finding WMDs. Petraeus was commanding the 101st Airborne.

In a NY Times story entitled, "Iraq Destroys Illicit Arms," Miller writes of how just days before the war Iraqis had been getting rid of chemical weapons and that some unspecified materials found buried in the ground were expected to be "precursors for a toxic agent that is banned by chemical weapons treaties."

Wrote Miller:

"The potential of MET Alpha's work is 'enormous," said Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

" ' What they've discovered,' he added, 'could prove to be of incalculable value. Though much work must still be done to validate the information MET Alpha has uncovered, if it proves out it will clearly be one of the major discoveries of this operation, and it may be the major discovery.' "

Friday, January 12, 2007

SEA OF THUNDER: A good book to read

Even Thomas' Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign scratched DD's holiday itch for a good book on naval combat. You see, I'm a person who can never pass up titles like Jutland 1916, HMS Warspite, or Battleship Bismarck (the last two on Naval Institute Press, no less)!

Fighting tales from the sea float my boat.

Thomas' SoT tells the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II from the standpoints of two Japanese commanders, Takeo Kurita and Matome Ugaki, and two Americans, one famous -- Bull Halsey, and one not, Ernest Evans.

Halsey was America's fighting admiral in the Pacific, one famous for the signed declaration in the US naval base at Truk to "Kill japs, kill japs, kill more japs. You will help kill the yellow bastards if you do your job well."

Kurita was a Japanese battleship admiral, one who commanded a task force with the two largest ever built, the Musashi and the Yamato.

Ugaki and Evans are sidelights to the story, although Thomas did not mean them to be so. While their histories are interesting, they are secondary to the vivid arcs of Kurita and Halsey.

The Battle of Leyte was the biggest naval engagement in history.

It was the death ride of the Japanese navy and involved an elaborate plan in which two feints around the north and south of the Philippines were launched.

The feints were to lure the great blue fleet, Halsey's task force, away from defense of the landing beaches in Leyte Gulf. This would allow Kurita, in command of the mightiest wing of the Japanese attack, to sail unopposed through the San Bernardino Strait and into the rear of the American landing in the Philippines. His big battleships would then commence the destruction of troop transports and whatever other ships got in the way.

However, by this late juncture in the war, the Japanese had no real chance of success. Their plan, deemed overcomplicated even by its own commanders, was as much an attempt to die suicidally in combat, as it was aimed at killing Americans.

Thomas shows that the Japanese military leadership was something of a death cult, one which not only did not grasp the nature of their strategic defeat by the United States but which longed for battles in which they would gloriously meet their end.

During the battles leading up to Leyte Gulf, it happened for many of them. The Japanese Navy was effectively destroyed as a fighting force, even though its complicated plan sort of worked.

Halsey, commanding America's fast carriers and battleships in the Pacific, took the bait of the northern feint and went for a sacrificial Japanese force of crippled aircraft carriers. This left the San Bernardino Strait open to Kurita's force which sailed through under cover of darkness.

However, during the approach, Kurita's force took a fearful mauling from American naval aviation, the supposedly unsinkable battleship Musashi being sent to the bottom before firing a single shot at an American naval vessel.

Nevertheless, Kurita pushed on and emerged near the American landing area, confronted only by a force of small aircraft carriers known as "jeeps" and their destroyer escort. In the ensuing battle, the small aircraft carriers and destroyers put up a furious defense, one which further wore at the Japanese battle squadron.

Moments away from total victory and the complete destruction of the American force under the mighty guns of the Yamato, Kurita turned away, confused by the US defense, exhausted by the fog of war and laboring under the suspicion that he had been led into a trap.

Thomas tells the story with excellence and rigor and the reader comes away not only engrossed with the controversial and mercurial nature of Halsey, but -- more impressively, the guarded and solemn personality of Kurita, a man who remains an enigma in World War II histories for turning away at the moment of his greatest triumph.

Why did he do so?

Mostly because the Japanese commander could not stand to see any more of his men killed in a battle he knew wouldn't influence the outcome of the war, writes Thomas.

After Leyte Gulf, with the northern and southern feints smashed, the southerly one in the last battleship action ever, Surigao, where American ships pulled from the muck of Pearl Harbor crushed their opposition under a rain of fire and steel, the Japanese fleet never sailed effectively again. The Yamato was eventually tossed away in a senseless sortie.

Sea of Thunder retells a magnificent tale of heroism and battle from both sides, adding to scholarly knowledge by informing from the perspective of Kurita's writings, largely unknown in the US.

Readers cannot help but be struck by the differences between the US war effort then -- which was waged by all, not just those who don't have other options -- and the war in Iraq.

Halsey and Kurita are unforgettable as opposed to modern commanders, appearing regularly in the news like managers of a failed corporate operation, one in which CEOs regularly retire and are replaced, seen occasionally before Congress or the newsmedia expressing themselves in ways which are neither strong, moving nor particularly elucidating.

Recommended, hardback, from Simon & Schuster.

Imagine DD's surprise upon reading morning news reports of the Director of National Intelligence muttering about Pakistan being a haven for al Qaeda!

But in George W. Bush's administration, up is down, right is left and dumb and obvious are the newastutes, the intelligence-insulting alleged intelligence man given respect and an audience.

Iraq is the central front in the war on terror -- remember 9/11 -- even though the man who didn't launch a sneak attack on America has had his neck stretched.

No, there are no inklings in the press of any American military leader, appointed by the Bush administration to prosecute this war saying, "Where the FUCK is Osama bin Laden and what are you doing about him?!"

Instead, the president tediously lectures the polity about how victory in the war on terror won't be signified by treaty-signing on a big battleship.

The logical might say America might easily have a Killing of Bin Laden Victory Day, like it had a V-E and V-J day. Extricating the military from Iraq and thinking about getting Osama bin Laden, after all, are easily graspable concepts, unlike the one which involves sending penny-packets of the US military to go house to house in hostile Baghdad neighborhoods, kicking down doors, taking a census on who is a bad guy and who is not.

Bad guys step to the right and we'll swipe a tissue over your hand that tells us you fired a gun or handled an explosive, never mind if the test stinks or the whole country has explosive residues hanging in the air.

In any case, Osama bin Laden no, sending a Spectre gunship to Somalia to hose down worthless real estate with cannon fire, yes! Ally with worthless and contemptible proxy army, again. Send a carrier battle group, along with the "guided missile cruiser, Anzio," according to today's LA Times, to sink the mighty al Qaeda navy. Yeah, kick their asses!

"Somalia targets survived, US says," wrote the Los Angeles Times. "None of the three most-wanted al Qaeda suspects believed to be hiding in southern Somalia were killed . . . "

Their names? You wouldn't remember them anyway.

"The three high value targets are still of intense interest to us," said an anonymous official to the Times.

According to the reporter, a mother fleeing from the gunship said, "I don't know what kind of plane it was. People were saying it was an AC-130. All I know is that it was doing a terrible bombing."

And in the next graf, "Another report said five clan elders trying to [read a port city] were shot to death by a gunship."

As a strategy, it can be compared to taking a steamroller to the other side of town to crush a few ants.

The rhetorical question: What's so hot damned important about sending a Spectre gunship to Somalia as opposed to sending gunships into Pakistan?

Yet these are the strategies of the worst civilian military leader the United States could possibly have, a troubled and troublesome man of unswervingly paralytic directives and command style.

In other news from the Times, the newspaper listed the brigades taken from various divisions spread across the country in Bush's escalation with penny-packet forces to Baghdad strategy.

One is to be taken from a division based out of Ft. Riley, Kansas, one from Ft. Benning, GA, one from a division at Ft. Lewis, WA, and one from Ft. Stewart, GA. To find the divisions, just Google the installations along with ""

And finally, from the slogging offensive in Diyala province, one with no discernible goal: "Joint assault amid canals resumes -- US and Iraqi troops mounting an offensive ... find arms caches and tunnels but few insurgents."

"I think we killed the people that were going to fight," said one soldier to the Times.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

SOXSTER TO THE RESCUE: Richard Clarke's 'Breakpoint', report to landfill

Readers know DD is no fan of national security expertcelebrity Richard Clarke. I wrote the most popular column on Clarke in the entire known universe, Legacy of Miscalculation.

Clarke's fetish was cyberterrorism and electronic Pearl Harbor until it became obvious there would be no glory in it. At which point it was time to retroactively burnish the reputation using the power of the media to tell the story, "If only Bush had listened to me, this might not have happened."

DD remembers Clarke differently. He recalls a teleconference between Clarke and representatives of the anti-virus industry during a newsmaking computer virus contagion, a teleconference which was supposed to be secure but which was invaded by a member of the tech media, recorded, burned to CD, and distributed by MP3.

The country should be disconnected from the Internet, recommended one vendor. It was going to "be a big ol' denial of service attack," said Clarke.

Clarke has a new book out, a techno-thriller. It is his second novel.

Clarke's been an active writer and according to the Los Angeles Times, his last piece of fiction, "The Scorpion's Gate," was a bestseller.

The last time DD checked on the writings of the man, it was for this piece of terror porn fiction for men at the Atlantic Monthly. Read it now, since the older it gets the more amusingly baked it appears.

Wasn't a Clarke fan when no one knew who he was except people who follow national security issues and never will be. DD will only jump up and down on whatever the man produces. Clarke is a celebrity only because what he had to say was convenient for the Democrats prior to Bush's re-election. We lost the election, anyway.

The Los Angeles Times reviewed Clarke's Breakpoint in "Upping the 'it's a scary world ante." Readers will have to admit that's not doable. We're already saturated with "it's a scary world." In the United States of America, "it's a scary world" is an unofficial religion. We marinate in the sauces of "it's a scary world" stories.

"Now we have Breakpoint, a techno-thriller in the Tom Clancy mode, interlaced with intimations of science fiction," writes reviewer Tim Rutten.

Rutten explains Clarke's characters and characterizations are shit.

"When the author ventures beyond [a] sort of technical or superficial detail, things go decidedly south," he states.

This would be no surprise to anyone who may have had the pleasure of listening to a Clarke speech prior to his celebritization by the newsmedia and publishing industry.

The plot of Breakpoint, according to the Times, is an Internet intrigue in which the scheme is to disrupt "the world's digital nervous system." "Suspicion falls on the Chinese, aggressive and upset by the US's support for Taiwan independence."

However, there's more to it than that, according to the paper, which furnishes no spoiler.

Clarke always comes back to his old love, cyberterror, and the Toffler-ian new way of war in which everything revolves around gadgetry you can read about every month in Popular Science or the famous tech comic book, Wired.

" . . . living Internet programs, nanotechnology . . . " are invoked, writes Rutten.

The protagonists of Clarke's book are accompanied by "Soxster, their faithful computer hacker -- a sort of high tech Tonto."

We can characterize Clarke as a poor man's Tom Clancy, or Larry Bond if he were a political celebrity.

Who is Larry Bond, you ask? A developer of a modern naval wargame, Harpoon, a Clancy-colleague whose books never did as well as those of his friend's even though they were virtually indistinguishable.

Clark'es Breakpoint is good enough for another ticket to go on whatever special Bill Maher's currently flogging on HBO or appearances on Air America.

As next step in the milking of it, DD recommends a computer game under Clarke's name, a hybrid somewhere between Clancy's numerous PC shoot-em-ups and John Madden Football. Players alternate between beating off digital Pearl Harbor, being a Paul Revere no one in power listens to, lobbying, or being famous for being famous.

Update: A review of 'Breakpoint' is found here. Contains spoilers.
OKDUBYA CRASHES: Thoughts are as usual

Here in Pasadena, DD is just warming up on one unusual cold day in the San Gabriel Valley. The tea leaves have already been read and the Bush speech has crashed and burned as it should.

DD sticks with its comparison of GWB and OKDubya to the paralytic military political command structure of the Wehrmacht, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, in World War II.

Bush's obsessions, one which exclude and prevent any sensible command, aren't the same as Hitler's military obsessions, but the end result is the same. The military loses. Blood is used to buy time and hold onto ground.

Paradoxically, the Fuhrer was obsessed with oil in southern Russia, a fixation that led the Wehrmacht to its eventual doom in Stalingrad.

George W. Bush's idee fixe is that Iraq is the primary battlefield in the war on terror.

This troubled man continues to believe that an ill-defined rinky-dink al Qaeda detachment in al Anbar province can take over Iraq, and then the entire middle east, like dominos falling in a line. Because of it, his speech contained mutually contradictory assumptions.

If newspaper reports are to be believed, the Iraq civil war is Shiites against Sunni. The Shiites easily outnumber al Qaeda and they are in control of the government of Iraq. No one sensible would think that such a large disparity in force would result in the triumph of al Qaeda in the Middle East, let alone Iraq. al Anbar province is probably even in doubt since there's no indication from the media that all the insurgents fighting there are in love with al Qaeda men.

Now DD takes a look at the escalation in force, which includes the dispatching of five brigades to Baghdad.

Does it make sense? Or is it more a dumb penny-packet drib-and-drabs approach, the kind the Fuhrer/OKW might have come up with when it was all downhill in WWII, everything lost.

The brigade as a task force is part of the current American army's modular approach to war. Take the tools out of the toolbox and put them together in a mix to solve the military problem posed. If the problem is unsolvable, that is not addressed.

The brigade is the smallest US military unit capable of being self-sustaining. There are three brigades per division -- sometimes one or two additional in special cases -- in the US military. The Baghdad escalation takes from five different American divisions, apparently, to achieve Bush's aims.

Normally, if armies wish to preserve the esprit de corps of units and work their organizational unity to the fullest, one dispatches divisions. In the Bush plan one could dispatch one or two divisions to Baghdad and achieve the same thing, instead of pulling apart units from various formations now at home in the United States (or in the case of the tabbed airborne brigade, in Kuwait) and playing to the local homefront interests that at least some of a division, based at a city somewhere in the US, will remain behind.

However, the current US military philosophy in Iraq uses brigades as individual task forces, presumably to stiffen the Iraqi "army" and do the block-by-block fighting when even that fails. As it does.

When the Wehrmacht was falling apart at the seams in WWII it became enamored of this tactic. By necessity it did so out of a lack of units, the insufficient size of the force for its tasks, and the need for relentlessly shifting reserves and fire brigades from front A to front B. They were called Kampfgruppen.

In any case, it is DD's impression that in Baghdad, one job was or is to fight and destroy Shiite militias and death squads to quell violence and that al Sadr's Mahdi Army will have to be engaged.

This is not fighting al Qaeda. It's a bit too complicated for DD to follow George W. Bush's logic about this as the key to the war on terror.

However, since the war on terror was so important to George W. Bush last night, where was the strategy for getting Osama bin Laden?

The guy who conducted the sneak attack on the US wasn't mentioned. The fellow who is the one easily graspable goal -- as someone to get and kill in the war on terror -- is absent from the strategy of OKDubya.

It's brilliant OKDubya strategy to send a Spectre gunship and an aircraft carrier task force to shoot at a small rabble in Somalia, perhaps to sink the al Qaeda navy -- rowboats, skiffs and sampans off the Horn of Africa, to use utterly repellent proxies once again -- Ethiopia!

But engage in a strategy with the American people to get Osama bin Laden?


Intellectual exercise: Can you name any inspiring military leaders -- except the ones mentioned in the last two weeks as replacements in Iraq -- from the war on terror? Why not? Shouldn't we know who our heroes are?

Anything that can be done to prevent the OKDubya strategy from going forward in Iraq would be good, not bad, for our country.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

MUSIC FOR OKDUBYA: Comical Ali, we hardly knew ye

Back in 2003, DD made up some tunes for the Uncle Sam CD. For some of them, Comical Ali furnished "found" vocals.

Known as Baghdad Bob in the US (Comical Ali is better, for which we have to thank the Brits I think, and their more dry sense of humor), who can forget even the spectacle of George W. Bush laughing it up for the television newsmedia, proclaiming Baghdad Bob was his man?

Already well-noted in a couple places by others, some of Comical Ali's better lines, now eerily accurate, were listed by Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, here.

Norman's favorites, and they're good ones, included: "The midget Bush and Rumsfeld deserve only to be beaten with shoes by freedom-loving people everywhere"; "Washington has thrown their soldiers on the fire"; "I speak better English than this villain Bush"; and "This invasion will end in failure."

For a blind pig, Comical Ali sure knew how to find truffles.

One is also reminded of busted watches being right twice a day, Ali being eventually on time better than that, George W. Bush not being right even once.

The art on the face of the Uncle Sam CD is above, courtesy of Pentagon information warfare artists. Excellent work, the colors are especially vivid.

Tunes included for your pleasure, drop ins courtesy of Comical Ali, are "The Faker, The Seer," here and "Mortared at Midnite, here.

The beginning and ending riffs in "The Faker" are taken from the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again."

"My feelings are as usual!" blurts Bob. This would be a good title for tonight's "New Way Forward" speech.

"Don't believe them, don't believe them, don't believe them!" shouts Bob at the end.

"You're not frightened, sir?" asked a British reporter three years ago. "Not at all, not at all, and you don't be frightened," replied Bob.

Also thrown in for good measure, the semi-instrumental, "Red Zone Bar-B-Q," here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

OKDUBYA MINUS ONE: General Mud comes to the front

Today's submission in the series "OKDubya: Studies in command" continues the comparison between the paralytic military-political directives of the Bush administration in Iraq and the paralytic strategic decrees delivered through the supreme command of the Wehrmacht in World War II. OKW, the initials of the Wehrmacht's supreme command, was a rubberstamp organization, as is the American military and political leadership for the conduct of the war in Iraq. And while the comparisons to Vietnam flow thick in the mainstream newsmedia, DD believes comparisons to the losers in World War II are more jarring and in many ways just as apt.

Wehrmacht generals knew the war was lost, they just couldn't do anything about it. The war in Iraq is lost. It will be left only to historians to decide when it was lost. Perhaps the very day the Bush administration decided to wage it.

Many are now in the same position as the German generals in World War II. They know it's over but they can't and won't say so.

For one of today's historical touchstones, a citation is taken from Paul Carrell's Scorched Earth. Along with Hitler Moves East, it is lively reading on the conduct of the war against Russia. And while the German army is treated with reverence and enthusiasm, it is clear to the reader that an alternative title could have just as easily been Lost Battles.

The framing shot now is the Berghof where Erich von Manstein, one of the Fuhrer's firemen generals dispatched to retrieve the unretrievable, is about to enter into argument with Adolf Hitler. Hitler blames his general for the bad conduct of the war and will take no advice.

"Manstein turned purple," wrote Carrell.

"Icily, but with deliberate calm he said: 'You, my Fuhrer, are to be blamed for what has happened. For eight months you have been presenting our forces ... with one strategically insoluble task after another. To cope with them you have granted me neither adequate reinforcements or freedom of movement. If you had done so you would not now be lamenting the disastrous situation. Responsibility for it lies at your door entirely."

Are there currently such such discussions between the Bush administration and its generals in OKDubya? The country wonders.

At OKDubya Zulu on Wednesday, count on George W. Bush to ask for more sacrifice without once brooking the intrusion reality. Expect to hear fantastical claims and assertions, the kind which can only be made when there is no one in the room to turn purple and let out a shout.

In today's Los Angeles Times, the newspaper continued its coverage of battle in the wilds of Iraq, one with no apparent goal, one that slogs on, keeping score by determining the arms it collects in a country that is an open ammo dump.

In "Diyala offensive gets caked in mud," it is written:

"A five day offensive into the troubled rural region east of Baghdad bogged down in mud Monday after US forces bombarded a warren of tunnels and canals were Arab insurgents were believed to be holed up.

" . . . An icy downpour turned dirt roads into muck that stuck to boots and wheels like cement and stopped American armored vehicles . . . US commanders poised for what they described as a final push ... fired phosphorus shells to burn dead weeds ...

" ' Time is on our side,'" said one American commander to the Times. " ... we have just bombed the hell out of them."

Vehicles "skidded and sank" in the mud, slid off roads and down "an incline into a field."

The German army also knew General Mud.

From Hitler Moves East, on the final offensive before Moscow:

"During [the] night a snow fell. For a few hours the vast landscape was shrouded in white. In the morning it thawed again. The roads were turned into bottomless skidpans."

" . . . On they drove. Or rather they did not drive -- they struggled through the mud. Entire companies were pulling bogged down lorries out of the mud of the roads."

The answer?

Horses and light farmcarts. "The motorized convoys were stuck in the mud but the small peasant carts got through."

In another Times article, a strike at "three" al Qaeda operatives in Somalia, the names which no Americans will remember, was reported. In World War II histories, such things were called pinprick raids, things which might have been good for morale but which accomplished nothing.

The country asks OKDubya what about Osama bin Laden? Mullah Omar? That Zawahiri guy? There are no answers prior to Zulu Wednesday but Somalia is where the action is.

One imagines, deep in some command center, the following discussion.

Man #1: On getting bin Laden, can't we send someone in to clean Pakistan's clock on the northern frontier? Who's our Otto Skorzeny, you know, the guy who was the most feared commando in WW II, the guy who snatched Mussolini, commanded a panzer brigade and rolled up Horthy's kid in a rug?

Man #2: Our Skorzeny? This guy. [Taps a dossier with index finger.]

Man #1: Good Lord!

Man #2: That's one way to put it.

Man #1: I guess I should be glad it's only Somalia, right?

Monday, January 08, 2007

WAITING FOR OKDUBYA: Another day at the front

Waiting for the coming directives of GROFAZ, the greatest commander of all time, DD read today's account of battle with inapparent objective in the Los Angeles Times.

From the Iraq grinder, "US launches air assault on Sunni haven" was the headline.

"Over the last four days, columns of troops have pushed through hamlets populated by wheat farmers and sheep herders to clear an area that is riddled with spider holes, tunnels and weapons caches," wrote the Times.

"A small cache, including bomb-making equipment, was found in a hole on one abandoned property . . . American forces on the ground and in the air have spotted small groups of men, some armed and on motorcycles, moving along . . . canals."

"The insurgents put up a fierce fight, attacking in squad sized units in a battle that left two Americans and more than 70 insurgents dead."

One indicator of success, apparently, is getting blown up.

"[A mine] disabled a US Bradly fighting vehicle, injuring eight people. Such explosions have destroyed numerous vehicles . . . "

" ' That's a key indicator we are on the right track, ' said [one soldier]. "They don't want us here."

So OKDubya will send another panzer corps. Hold on.

Today's excerpt from Carrell's Hitler Move East, in the exciting chapter, "Through the Nogay Steppe."

"The village lay close by the main road . . . A flock of sheep was coming out the village. Westphal waved his arm at the shepherd. "' Get your flock off the road man, we're in a hurry!' '

"But the Tartar did not seem to understand. Perhaps he did not want to? Westphal opened his throttle . . . The sheep bleated wildly and scattered off in panic. The shepherd shouted and sent his dogs after them. It was no use. The sheep ran off the road. A moment later the air was rent with thunder and lightning. The sheep were being blown to smithereens. The flock had run into a minefield . . . Shells were bursting outside and inside the village.

" ' Take cover! ' "

Sunday, January 07, 2007


DD's third installment of a series which started with "What would Oberkommando der Wehrmacht do" on Friday.

It continues the point that the political military leadership in the Bush administration can be appropriately compared with command style and failure of OKW, the high command of the German army, a staff which acted simply as a rubberstamp for the military directives of the supreme commander, the Fuhrer. Briefly put, what was regarded as the most powerful and tactically accomplished army in the world was directed by the worst military leader in the world. Draw your comparison with respect to the country's present dilemma.

One of the characteristics of OKW in World War II was its bottomless capacity for self-delusion. And it was a special kind of self-delusion in which reality was never brooked, one in which the German generals knew they were marching into disaster after disaster. They -- like our leadership -- chose to pretend that victory was only a few more panzer corps or new plans away.

Today it can be seen in the fountain of irrational huzzahing from the mainstream media on the appoitment of David Petraeus -- and to only a slightly lesser degree, the man known as Fox Fallon, as Bush administration firemen in Iraq.

More samples:

One of the new military chiefs, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, is an Iraq veteran who wrote a Princeton dissertation titled "The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam . . . In a statement, Bush said Fallon had earned a reputation as one of the nation's "foremost military strategists" . . . Of Petraeus, he said, "His service in Iraq has equipped him with expertise in irregular warfare and stability operations and an understanding of the enemy we face" . . . Petraeus . . . is seen as a blend of military veteran and politically savvy intellect . . . He earned a doctoral degree from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs . . . "Dave Petraeus is a terrific leader and well grounded in the challenges in Iraq . . ." -- Associated Press

Bush is said to be replacing almost all the top officials in Iraq. He wants to be sure that his "new way forward" is seen as an actual change and not merely rhetorical maneuvers.

Those of us in the Clarksville-Fort Campbell community know that Petraeus will serve the country well. He's already had two tours of duty in Iraq — in commanding the 101st during the initial deployment in the war and later in training Iraqi security forces. Most recently, he's been at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in charge of the Combined Arms Center training and education on counterinsurgency operations and is an expert in terrorism . . . Clearly, the United States would do well to take advantage of Petraeus' expertise on Iraq. -- not so clearly, from The Clarksville Leaf Chronicle

The son of a Dutch sea captain, Petraeus began his military career at West Point. And he is no ordinary general. He has a Ph.D. in history from Princeton. His thesis topic: The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam. -- NPR

My dad was an accountant for Alcoa Aluminum and I have a Ph.D. in chemistry from Lehigh University.

Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, currently commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, is an excellent choice to command U.S. troops in Iraq. The appointment will be his third Iraq assignment. Petraeus served as commander of the 101st Airborne Division, which was part of the invasion force that fought its way to Baghdad in 2003 . . . The fall of Saddam Hussein came much more rapidly than many had predicted, but the handling of the post-invasion conflict has gone badly, to put it mildly. Petraeus is a wise selection to command U.S. forces in Iraq. -- The Kansas City Star

A brilliant man and leather tough, too. "Pain don't hurt," said Patrick Swayze, as the bouncer, in the movie "Roadhouse."

David Petraeus holds a Princeton doctorate, is an accomplished runner and has proved himself a fearless combat leader . . . A skilled communicator, he is spoken of as a potential future president. But he will need all his military and intellectual skills as well as physical robustness to make a success of the most challenging appointment of his 35-year career. The consensus among senior officers yesterday was that if anyone could achieve what many regard as the impossible task of staving off military defeat in Iraq then Petraeus is that man . . . A renowned athlete, Petraeus, 54, resumed running just two months after he was shot in the chest in a training accident in 1991. He later broke his pelvis in a parachute landing but soon recuperated to run a 10-mile race in under 64 minutes. -- Washington correspondent of the Telegraph

New commander for Iraq called innovative . . . Shortly after arriving in the islands to head U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. William Fallon asked a former world surfing champion for lessons on riding the waves . . . "I was awfully impressed that a man that's in his 60s, as I am, would have the wisdom and the youthful spirit to take up surfing," said [a surfer] who also is a state senator . . . The 62-year-old Navy officer's willingness to try new things was one quality Defense Secretary Robert Gates cited Friday in giving Fallon one of the world's toughest jobs: commanding U.S. troops in the Middle East as they battle insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan . . ."Fox Fallon is one of the best strategic thinkers in uniform today and his reputation for innovation is without peer . . . " -- Associated Press

Many books on WW II describe various German generals as firemen, sent here and there with a panzer corps to stave off defeat.

Two books that were full of such examples were Paul Carell's Hitler Moves East and Scorched Earth, German accounts of the war in Russia. Carell was a controversial author but his books sold well when published as mass market paperbacks in the Sixites. They were eminently readable accounts of a significant part of WW II, a part Americans are simply not taught about. However, the German generals were always -- and DD means always -- utterly brilliant and tenacious and one learned to take Carell's "history" with grains of salt not necessary with more scholarly books. In others words, the tone and style is exactly the same as today's peppy journalism on fresh faces for Iraq.

In any case, from Hitler Moves East, here is a fairly standard description for a German general, Walther Model, always dispatched when a situation was beyond retrieval.

"His had been a meteoric rise. Three months earlier he had still been commanding a division -- the famous Third Panzer Division . . . This short wiry man from Genthin . . . was well known at the various headquarters . . . [and] he was popular with his troops, writes Carell.

"Everybody knew that where Model was in command the good fortune of war was present: the most daring enterprises came off and the most critical situations were retrieved. Nowhere was a man of his type needed more urgently at that moment than with Ninth Army."

In today's copy of the Los Angeles Times, OKDubya anonymoids began preparing the field for the directives to come later in the week.

"Their summary: Bush believes that the United States still has a chance to stop Iraq from descending into civil war -- and on the other side of the equation, that the consequences of withdrawal would be disastrous," wrote the newspaper.

"' Is this a war, or is it not a war"' one official asked, previewing an argument the president is likely to make. 'If it is, you have to be willing to sacrifice . . .'"

The German generals knew full well the futility of getting the Fuhrer off his military decisions. "Paulus . . . faced the most difficult question of conscience for every soldier: whether to disobey his superior's orders in order to handle the situation as he deems best," writes Beevor in Stalingrad.

While many generals secretly referred to the Fuhrer as GROFAZ, "the greatest commander of all time," there was no new way forward, so to speak.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

WHAT WILL OKDUBYA DO? (Another in an occasional series)

Continuing yesterday's riff -- What would Oberkommando der Wehrmacht do -- on the pathologies shared by the current civilian military leadership in the war in Iraq and the Wehrmacht's high command in World War II, we get right to a sampling of the hallujahs and huzzahs for David Petraeus.

There's no reason other than say-so from the mainstream media to believe any new commander would make a difference in Iraq. Practically speaking, one can compare the outlook as akin to the making of Paulus a field marshal at Stalingrad, a famous gesture in wishful thinking that hoped an avalanche of disasters beyond any control could be turned around.

Stalingrad was one of many nightmarish graveyards for the Wehrmacht in WWII. In matter of scale it was way beyond the imagination of current dimensions of American military land power. It was easily three times the US deployment in Iraq with over 600,000 German soldiers in the Sixth Army charged with securing the city. And most of them never came home.

However, the OKW response to the Stalingrad disaster, which unfolded slowly, is mirrored in the Bush administration's strategy for Iraq. Dispatch more troops into the cauldron. Not a step back. We'll stay here the longest and nothing can make us give an inch. Time was/is bought with blood.

Germany's OKW and its rubberstamp approval of the Fuhrer's military directives, for the sake of comparison to the current US OKDubya, had firemen generals sent in to retrieve bad situations. Walther Model, Albert Kesselring or Herman Hoth come to mind, military tacticians thought of very highly by their peers and generally regarded as daring and unorthodox commanders by military authors. However, they always lost anyway, delaying only the inevitable by spending lives on the winning of strategically unimportant tactical victories, gaining reps through mere postponement of headlong collapse.

Petraeus has been hailed as the equivalent of a fireman in the past couple days. A few samples of the gushing:

As a supporter of increased forces in Iraq, General Petraeus is expected to back a rapid five-brigade expansion, in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who has been openly skeptical that additional troops would help stabilize the country . . .

Now, the White House will have an articulate officer to champion and shape that strategy, an important asset for an administration that has decided to buck the tide of public opinion by deepening the American military involvement in Iraq . . .

To many civilians, the military seems monolithic. But in fact, there has been a lively debate behind the scenes about the best way to achieve the United States’ objectives in Iraq . . . -- The New York Times

The naming of Lieutenant General David Petraeus as the top American ground commander in Iraq marks the arrival of one of the Army’s most daring and original thinkers at the top of U.S. decision making on Iraq. Petraeus has been the subject of two very different articles in Esquire in the last year—the first by contributing writer Thomas P.M. Barnett was part of an examination of lessons learned by U.S. military in Iraq, and the second by writer at large Tom Chiarella focused Petraeus’s deeply held views about addressing the crisis in leadership among American boys and young men.

As Barnett wrote in his profile of the general last year, Patreaus is without peer in the U.S. military in his experience and understanding of counterinsurgency and nation building. One of the most successful and respected combat comanders in Iraq, where he served two tours, he is also a scholar of unconventional war and a devoted student of T.E. Lawrence, whose ideas and tactics he teaches to his own commanders. -- Esquire

The expected appointment of Lieutenant General David Petraeus gets a thumbs-up from bloggers, who note his success in northern Iraq during the 2003 invasion.

"Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and did a fine job of making friends and mending fences when he was in charge of Mosul . . . -- a blog at the Guardian

The rain of overwritten praise speaks loudly. It stinks of delusion and one would have to be nuts to believe it.

In terms of the Iraqi army, DD is reliant upon the Los Angeles Times for daily reporting from Iraq. DD has not read of expert training of Iraqi forces or making friends and getting them to stand up for themselves.

DD has read about a fragmented poorly led force that runs away, gets in the way, can't be trusted, is criminal, weird, and dangerous in all the wrong ways -- militarily speaking.

From December, on the chewing of frogs:

The audience knew what to expect when Iraqi commandos took the stage at the stadium here Wednesday with frogs and a rabbit in hand, preparing to celebrate with a bloody flourish the transfer of local authority from U.S. to Iraqi troops.

But the Americans were in for a surprise.

As U.S. commanders and guests watched, the burly commandos in dark green T-shirts began taking bites out of the frogs.

One man knelt, placed the rabbit belly-up on his lap, and cut it open with his military knife. He screamed as he bit the rabbit's heart, then handed the carcass to his companions, who began gnawing away, blood flowing down their cheeks.

"But the Americans were in for a surprise" seems an understatement.

It underscores the inadequacy of flat he said/she said/I saw journalism in describing the event. A military whose men chew frogs and slaughter rabbits may be many things. However, doing whatever it is the US military requires of them is certainly not on the spec sheet.

In the Friday LA Times, " '[American officers] do not trust us, said one Iraqi soldier . . . "

For anyone with common sense, that'd be about right as you can get.

Nevertheless, the Iraqis puppet army is part of the strategy of escalation, like it or not.

"Despite temporary confusion and trust issues, the Iraqi soldiers seemed eager to work with their American partners. Some sang celebratory songs in unison as they grabbed their gear . . . "

Trust issues is a very interesting way of describing a state of affairs in which the proxies in the line next to you phone ahead to the enemy, letting them know of your plans.

In today's Times, the directives of the American OKDubyas were on the front page.

"A strategy advocated by McCain and [retired Army general] Jack Keane, who has advised Bush on Iraq policy calls for about 30,000 additional troops who would remain in Iraq from 18 months to two years."

The sending to the front of another panzer corps.

In Antony Beevor's sweeping WW II account, Stalingrad, the author writes of many German soldiers belief in the order of the day, even when disaster was at their door.

"' Hold on! The Fuhrer will get us out!' had proved very effective . . . "

Others were not so sure.

"We're never going to get out of this one," [said one lieutenant] . . . 'You're a real pessimist, the [another lieutenant] replied. I believe in [the Fuhrer]. What he said he'll do, he'll stick to."

The Fuhrer had promised relief of Stalingrad through a new panzer offensive. It took place but failed almost immediately.

Friday, January 05, 2007


This is the start of an off and blog feature to focus on some, perhaps, historically resonant aspects of the Bush administration's war in Iraq and how it manifests in daily newspaper reporting from the front. The relentless stream of daily news reports from embedded reporters with the Army and the Marines delivers only news of failure, reverses, stalemate and quandary.

In this it reminds DD of his bookshelf of tomes on World War II, specifically the parts where the alleged best standing land army in the world, the Wehrmacht, was directed by one of the worst military brains ever, the Fuhrer.

Now before you push the hate mail button, DD asserts in the strongest possible way that George W. Bush is no Hitler. However, he is our leader, the decider, the commander-in-chief, and DD is absolutely certain historians will portray him and his military advisors in the war as the worst available. The future will be merciless.

For those still interested, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in the title means Supreme Command of the Armed Forces. In World War II, OKW was the nexus between Hitler and his Wehrmacht field generals. Wilhelm Keitel was the head of OKW, appointed as the Fuhrer's yes-man. Indeed, he became known as "Lakeitel," his name twisted into a derivation torn from the German word for "lackey," "der Lakai."

It has become baldly apparent that the Bush administration appoints or approves of only lackeys in the war with Iraq, military leaders and civilians guaranteed to agree with and recommend whatever directives are issued by their commander-in-chief, even when they're senseless and experience has shown they will end in disaster.

In terms of practical leadership for the Iraq war and related endeavors, then, the command structure, its procedures, utterances and results can be compared with the same style of really atrocious command strategies thrust upon the Wehrmacht.

One can also include the Japanese command apparatus, which was equally terrible. The fighting men of both Axis militaries paid for it just like the US fighting man is paying for it in Iraq.

While Robert Gates is one obvious administration rubberstamp, today's Los Angeles Times portrays another, the general nominated to lead the escalation of military force in Iraq, David H. Petraeus.

There's no reason to believe Petraeus is any good at all and fair reason to believe he might be the opposite. The mainstream media more or less tells only brief stories that shed him in a good light as did the Los Angeles Times today when it wrote, "Petraeus rose quickly through the ranks after earning praise for commanding the 101st Airborne Division during the March 2003 Iraq invasion."

This could mean nothing since it is fair to characterize the US initial victory over Hussein's military as no more a feat than the Wehrmacht's crushing of Poland in 1939, or its use of the Balkans as a speed bump on the way to eastern Mediterranean coastline, Fall Marita, in 1941.

One becomes wary when bragging immediately intrudes into the equation, pride coming beforeth a fall and all that, and being an unusually inappropriate response to a war characterized by ever compounding failure.

Nevertheless, "Dave Petraeus may be the most talented person I ever met," comes the Times quoting retired Army generaly Barry McCaffrey from another source. "He's got phenomenal intellectual gifts."

Another leader set to take over in the Middle East is a navy man, William J. Fallon, to oversee Central Command. Again, writes the Times, "[Fallon] is highly regarded within the Pentagon for his willingness to speak his mind . . ." The Times writes Fallon was the second choice of the Bush administration, the first being an Air Force officer whose nomination was withdrawn because of his ties to a colleague who is apparently a crook.

Moving along, in Sea of Thunder, Evan Thomas' absorbing book on the Battle of Leyte, one of many disasters for the Japanese in World War II, it is written on pages 159-200: "The Japanese high command continued to believe that the Japanese could simply outlast America -- that the decadent liberal individualists of the west would fold in a test of wills with the Yamato spirit."

Sound familiar?

In today's Los Angeles Times, Army colonel Sean MacFarland, in Ramadi, says, "It's not a stalemate here . . . we're not in the trenches of World War I or the rice paddies of Vietnam."

The city has no functioning government, its leaders having run away.

"War is a contest of wills -- a test to see who is willing to keep fighting longer than the other guy . . . " opines MacFarland for the Times reporter, sounding ominously similar to DD's previous citation from Sea of Thunder. The book routinely tells of Japanese military leaders rigging their war games and views when the reality of the situation of the Pacific was informing them daily in the most brutal way possible that they could not win.

"Absolutely, we are winning . . . " is one utterance that comes to mind but the OKW way seems to have trickled down through many layers of the US military.

Note this, from the American Forces Press Service on December 20: "Coalition forces have never lost a battle here in Iraq, but we know that we cannot win the peace alone," said coalition spokesman U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell. "Today's transition to provincial Iraqi control in Najaf, shows that our other efforts are having effects."

As for Iraq's other forces, the ones to assume control, the weight of evidence from newspaper reports in the Los Angeles Times indicates they either run away, don't show up, collect pay without showing up, commit crimes, act as informers, bite the heads off frogs to show how fierce they are, or all of the above.

". . . this fall . . . [the] 5th Iraqi division started a campaign of what US officials describe as abusive raids and detentions . . . "

" . . . Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of the 3rd Brigade, took the unusual step of lecturing his Iraqi counterpart . . . Bullying an innocent person is unacceptable. Taking things from houses is unacceptable. Taking cars or things from cars is unacceptable," Sutherland related to the Times. "Before we send an undisciplined rabble into this fight, I will pull the plug," he is said to have told his Iraqi underling.

What would OKW have done in such a case?

Lecturing wasn't high on the list but sending an extra panzer corps, if one was available and usually it wasn't, was one common strategy. So Peter would be robbed to pay Paul and this is, in essence, the Bush administration's military strategy.

The Times has also been covering an ongoing military operation in Iraq that, if accounts are to be taken at face value, is doing nothing but chewing up terrain and killing people in a place called Al Shams. It has no significant or discernible goal although the newspaper wrote today, "The target of the strikes is an isolated landscape of farms and canals riddled with weapons caches, safe houses and training ranges, US officials [say]."

The assault moved slowly, wrote the paper, and was stopped for hours when a Hummvee was disabled by a bomb. Then it ran into prepared obstacles. It has been reported that the opposition always know when the US military is coming because its Iraqi proxy army is riddled with informers who phone ahead and tell everyone the plans.

Indeed, writes the Times, " . . . commanders kept details of the operation from their Iraqi counterparts until hours before it began, out of fear that information would leak . . . said Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "Sutherland said he suspected that information from Iraqi soldiers compromised counterinsurgency operations in November and December."

What would OKW do? Not a step back, would be the order, no withdrawal. Send in another panzer corps.

Postscript: Of course, OKW and the Wehrmacht's generals knew, along with the Japanese, that they could not win.

Again -- today -- another news item:

"I have reached the tentative conclusion that a significant portion of the administration, maybe even including the vice president, believes Iraq is lost. They have no answer to deal with how badly they have screwed it up. I am not being facetious now. Therefore, the best thing to do is keep it from totally collapsing on your watch and hand it off to the next guy -- literally not figuratively." -- Delaware solon Joe Biden.

What would Oberkommando der Wehrmacht do? Unfortunately, they didn't have the option of hanging on so as to "hand it off to the next guy."

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Reading the press releases and news proclamations about small companies working the bioterror funding street in the US sometimes make for dry comedy of a different sort. However, it's not material for everyone. One has to know the jargon, the basic science underneath the great predictions.

The mainstream media is notoriously bad at portraying the facts of it. Its one-size-fits-all security industry beat journalism allows that anything that protects from bioterror is good for you, good for everybody and good for jobs.

In reality, none of this is guaranteed to be true.

With Senior GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, DD can assure you most bioterror nostrums will never pan out. And those that do make it to this special market are unlikely to face a need, the potential threats having many times been only dreamt of in American national security labs.

As for jobs, the companies in the industry don't hire many people. The cumulative personnel in the McDonalds franchises in your hometown, for instance, employ more than the average small biotech/bioterror firm. And of the jobs that actually pay well within the bioterror industry, advanced degrees and a couple decades of training are required, putting them well out of reach of the average aspirations of Americans.

Moving on, DD comes to the fresh-off-the-presses "Letter to Shareholders" issued by CEO James A. Joyce of the small biodefense firm, Aethlon. Read it here.

Underneath the jargon and science discussion, what is essentially described is a revolution in medicine, coming to your courtesy of one medical device.

This device, a blood purifier, is advertised to selectively remove viruses, even those unknown from the blood. Shades of Keef and Mick allegedly going to Switzerland for blood cleansings in the 70s!

The company, based in San Diego, has released a steady stream of press releases for the past couple years, few of which have made it to the mainstream media.

One place news has shown up is in Army Times, which published an article entitled "Firm creates 'kidney' for first responder, device may help troops during bioterror attacks," last February.

"Imagine being infected with a deadly germ like anthrax or the Ebola virus and never feeling any ill effects - or even having to slow down," wrote Gordon Lubold breathlessly.

"A small biotech company based in San Diego thinks it has the answer for troops and other first responders who need protection against the kinds of biological agents that can kill them in their line of work. It's a small device that can be worn on an arm or leg as it cleans toxins from your blood - and allows you to keep working without missing a beat, company officials say."

You should be ready to snicker at the concept of keeping our boys in action even when they're infected with "anthrax" or "Ebola virus." They are two very distinct microorganisms, the former a bacterium, the latter a virus.

No such single source cure exists in modern medicine.

If you have pulmonary anthrax, you definitely aren't in action. If you have Ebola, you're even closer to being dead. Ah, journalists who don't know the difference between the two and the mistakes and wishful thinking which result!

However, often the selling points for bioterror nostrums, as pitched to the government in 2006, are characterized by wishful thinking -- that one can come up with a silver bullet for all bioterror threats.

This has been fueled by propaganda coming from the bioterror-is-coming lobby. Yes, there certainly is such a thing, and it maintains that future threats will be those which are totally new to medicine, diseases for which no specific cures yet exist. Except, of course, the silver bullets which the anti-bioterror experts are investigating.

Aethlon's blood purifier purports to be an artificial lymph node. This should get the curious asking the question, "How is it better than the human lymphatic system, fine tuned by evolution?"

Fair enough.

The blood purifier, somewhat more accurately described in Aethlon company literature, aims at taking a broad spectrum of viruses out of circulating blood by affinity binding macromolecules on their surfaces.

Conceptually, this sounds good. It's an avenue of research that has been around for a very long time with scientists developing methods to purify materials by creating matrices which selectively bind unique macromolecules, surface moieties on bacteria, and receptors on all manner of living cells, antibodies and viruses.

It's damnably complicated stuff.

And it is chacterized by the truth that there are no magic silver bullets which apply to everything. However, this is essentially what is called for by invention of a blood purifier, useful in bioterror defense.

"It can be quite frightening, how vulnerable our citizens and troops are," said Aethlon's CEO for Army Times in February 2006.

"The tubelike device, about a foot long and two inches in diameter, can be strapped onto the body and connected to a large artery," writes the journal. "Then, the device, filled with thousands of hollow fibers, acts as a filter, removing toxins from the blood."

If only it were that simple.

Complicating matters is the fact that viruses are host specific to target cells.

Viruses penetrate the walls of their targets, then use materials in the cell interior to replicate or insinuate themselves into the genetic material of the host. Replicating viruses then spread by a variety of means, not just through the blood.

For instance, the flu virus targets the upper respiratory system, fusing with the membrane of target cells through a protein called hemagglutinin, sixteen subtypes which exist within influenza viruses.

This variability, or drift in this protein on a year to year basis, along with the genetic variance of another protein known as neuraminidase in the flu virus, are the reason human immunity doesn't last long.

Therefore, filtering out, or binding flu viruses on the basis of their surface macromolecules, is an elusive task and of transitory effectiveness, even for the remarkable human immune system.

What a viral blood purifier purports to do, then, is nothing less than apply the same strategy for all potential bioterror threats, or all viruses, even those now unknown. One might think of it as an endeavor along the lines of finding that one item among the swap meets and antique sales in your county which is worth a couple billion dollars.

For Army Times, Charles Bailey -- a bioterror researcher at George Mason University was furnished for comment.

The blood purifier ". . . shows significant promise and needs to be developed further," said Bailey to Army Times. "There are a lot of advantages that this procedure would have."

Wrote Army Times, " . . . Bailey said he has no stake in the financial future of the company."

Ha-ha. Such shitty journalism!

A quick look by DD blog into the great Internet archive, however, shows George Mason's Charles Bailey on the scientific advisory board of the company in February of 2006, the same month as publication of the Army Times piece.

Also on Aethlon's science advisory board is Ken Alibek, a colleague of Bailey's and
once a steward of the Soviet Union's secret biowarfare operation. An author of lurid tattler on the subject, entitled "Biohazard," Alibek is also a scientist. However, since the waning of publicity on his book and the retelling of its story over and over, Alibek has been in the news somewhat more for a more unusual brand of science.

In September of 2003, a George Mason University press release made the startling announcement on results Ken Alibek and a colleague, Ray Weinstein, had observed in ten subjects vaccinated against smallpox. They claimed to have found that the AIDS virus either did not grow or was inhibited to a certain degree in cells isolated from the immunized cohort. This suggested to them that smallpox vaccination could be adopted to provide protection against the AIDS virus. Subsequently, it was claimed that patents had been filed for “therapeutic use of the smallpox vaccine and its application to HIV vaccine research.”

“This is evidence of the caliber of bioscience research out-of-the-box thinking that is going on at George Mason” said Charles Bailey, the director of the school's National Center for Biodefense, in the same press release.

In news articles which appeared a couple of weeks after the announcement other scientists dismissed the Alibek/Weinstein research on the basis of a “lack of evidence” and criticized its delivery via press release, ostensibly done to gin up financial interest. It was added that The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) had rejected an Alibek article on the research. For his part, Alibek was “offended by claims that research produced by his university and the National Center for Biodefense may be tainted by financial conflicts of interest.”

More on this is here summarizing Alibek's science of unusual patent applications funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Army -- and the endorsement of health pills known as "Dr. Ken Alibek's Immune Support Formula."

Moving back to the blood purifier, its applications are currently said to be immediately addressed to combating avian flu and dengue virus infection.

"If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it could be fielded in a year or less, company officials said." wrote Army Times. At this point, it is said it could be marketed it to the military and medical practitioners.

In an editorial in the September 13 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Aethlon CEO Joyce wrote -- the op-ed was entitled "Bird flu complacency" -- that "society just can't accept the fact that 50 percent of the population could die" from avian flu, quoting yet another researcher, Robert Webster. The statement was included in a longer piece which argued that Tamiflu, one antiviral drug - manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant, Roche Labs -- with activity against avian flu, might not be so hot.

A short time later, one reader replied in the letters section of the newspaper: "Regarding 'Bird flu complacency' (Opinion, Sept. 13): . . . James A. Joyce starts with a quote from a 'bird flu expert' who predicts that 50 percent of the population could die. Deeper into the commentary we learn it's not 50 percent of the population but 50 percent of the individuals known to be infected might die. That's still a lot of people, and I wouldn't want our medical community to ignore the potential problem. But if I were trying to get FDA approval for one of my company's products, I might be tempted to stir up a bit of panic also."

According to Army Times, Aethlon was founded in 1998 by CEO Joyce, who according to a company biography also once played football for the Denver Broncos.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Hey, no one listen to albums anymore, it's all singles, shufflePod, mixtapes and piracy. A rocket scientist at the New York Times said so a couple days ago so it must be true.

DD, however, lives in the swamps of Paphlagonia. I still buy albums and when Tower went out of business, boy-oh-boy, did I go to town. And I was no vulture. In the last agonies of Pasadena's Tower people flooded the store lured by the idea they were going to get real price breaks on treasure before Christmas. Maybe they'd be able to score something for a friend and NOT SPEND MUCH MONEY.

They'd read in the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times, one contribution from a writer who did jokes for "Seinfeld" -- wow (!), there's a music expert -- who said he had been there to see crashing prices. And he said he was going to break out his checkbook which immediately told the intelligent he was a liar, making it up for the newspaper as celebrity contributors are wont to do, BECAUSE if he had actually been to Tower he would have seen the YELLOW SIGNS ALL OVER THE PLACE SAYING NO CHECKS ALLOWED, JUST CASH AND PLASTIC!

Readers know that the mainstream media hires contributors who lie and make stuff up all the time. Editors like it like that until they get found out and then they pretend to hate it and say it's bad.

The people flocking to Pasadena Tower didn't know it though. They thought there would be stuff they would want. They thought they'd get classic rock CDs by Genesis and Tool and Frank Zappa or Yes or the Who or some giant country artist or some famous album, like "Dark Side of the Moon" or Aerosmith's "Rocks" or "Frampton Comes Alive" or Nirvana for a dollar!

Ha-ha! That was all gone by the time prices hit firesale. Instead, DD heard people listlessly moping how there sure were a lot of CDs but they were all things no one had heard of or the album by the popular artist that had been roundly condemned and found to be the end of a career.

One fellow even started following DD around, noticing I had purpose, hoping for guidance. I had none to dispense, not the kind anyone wanted. DD's 24-karat gold is most people's blackened zinc. Nope, no one wanted that new Buckethead CD (neither did I), or the new one by the blind white guitarist -- the guy who was in the Patrick Swayze movie, "Roadhouse" -- playin' his favorite old jazz and ragtime standards.

No one wanted the 2,000 hear here today gone tomorrow hip-hop CDs crash-priced to between one and two dollars, each one with the the artist on the cover with his gold chains and gold teeth and XXL football jerseys and baseball hats. No, not even if you gave them a shovel and said, "Here, all you can put in a burlap sack, for 50 cents!"

The experience was making DD laugh. I was imagining people determinedly buying stuff that they didn't want, maybe one or two to slip into the stocking of a child or a friend, who'd see it and whine in dismay, "What's this?" The CD equivalent of the old Christmas fruitcake, that's what, the gift everyone always wanted from the insincere feigning sincerity.

And for New Year's rundown of the pile, DD couldn't even get to all of his booty. So here's some more.

Saigon Kick "Water" Hollywood hairspray hard rock, issuing this album after grunge had arrived. Reissued on Wounded Bird in 2005, languishing in Tower warehouses, twenty of them in the racks at Pasadena. Ace cover of Bowie's "Space Oddity" and a couple numbers that head toward late period Beatles, Revolver-Abbey Road-Magical Mystery Tour psychedelia. You almost expected Saigon Kick to cover the Monkees' "Porpoise Song" but it's not here.

Thunder "Their Finest Hour (and a bit)" English hairspray hardrock, crashed into the singles MTV-video charts in '90 or so with "Dirty Love" and one of the band members, the drummer, dressed in a tutu. "I don't need your dur-tee love, I don't need you touchin' me!" yells the singer in the hook, followed by even more catchy "Na-na-nas." Lots of hooks, lyrics which are not cringeworthy, good singing and a stomping rhythms. Successful in stadia for about six months in the US.

Daddy Longhead "Classic" Another one of the two hundred or more reasons the Man's Ruin record company went out of business. THIS IS STONER ROCK -- MANLY STUFF made by someone whose day job was in the Butthole Surfers. Sometimes he sings like Ozzy Osbourne.

The Move "Message from the Country" Another one that had been sitting in the warehouse, waiting for Tower to go into liquidation. Never saw it when it was issued, everyone passed it over maybe 'cuz the Move was never popular in the US. However, it features "Do Ya" (you know the ELO version, maybe) and "California Man," covered by Cheap Trick. A great mix of hard rock and Beatles-influenced pop, meaning they could sing and play guitar pretty good.

Enuff Z'Nuff "Favorites" See more Hollywood hairspray except they were from Chicago and were big on MTV way back when with the singles "New Thing" and "Fly High Michelle." An anthology of their career, compilations of such which DD sometimes doesn't like, unless they remind him of the old greatest hits, volumes one-two-three, by Herman's Hermits. Doesn't sound like Herman's Hermits, sounds like the Beatles doing psychedelia, particularly "The Freak," which should have scored for them long after everyone had forgotten and their hair had gone to seed.

Blackjack "Anthology" Michael Bolton's HARD ROCK band before he became wealthier than Midas doing schmaltz. Both of Blackjack's two records are on this 2006 reissue, complete with liner notes and interviews with other non-famous band members -- a guitarist who went on into Kiss -- insinuating their former buddy tried to have its release suppressed. Think of it as Taylor Hicks' first record, before "American Idol" and the Orange Bowl with Aretha last night, only better. Blackjack's first record was produced by Tom Dowd, making it sound a bit homespun and southern, the second by Eddie Offord, which sounds 80's and ready to compete with Bad Company in the arena. I had one of these on vinyl once, believe it or not. It looked like a deck of playing cards.

Sugerloaf "Alive in America" The band that had hits with "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" and "Green-Eyed Lady." Both are on here, jammed out and early-70's in concert hard rock style. What that means: If you liked the hits, you'd hate this. DD liked the hits and likes this, too, because the funky organ and guitar extensions cook.

Modern "promo" declined because of bounty from Tower (Or, "You'd Ignore This, Too.")

The County Medical Examiners "Odious Operettas" If Amazon sold all 789,345 grindhouse extreme heavy metal records ever made, this would come in at #345,221 on the ranking list. "Maturating Decompositional Gas" is a "kick me" title, suggesting this music for fans who drink two gallons of Coke while watching highlite reels culled from "Saw" movies or the remake of "The Hills Have Eyes." Don't even have to listen to know its grade-A urban slum metal made exclusively for readers of urban slum metal fan and webzines.

Coldworker "The Contaminated Void" Ibid. Except it comes in at #345,222.

Both guaranteed to sell 250-500 copies which is probably break even.