Friday, March 30, 2007

NUCLEAR ATTACKS COMING! First time we've read that this week. Run along now.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow gets a couple notifications a week on how the United States is unprepared for nuclear attack.

This blog tracked the phenom last year in a feature called The Daily Fallout. Eventually, I ran out of cool mushroom cloud photos and shelved it.

But it never stops.

There are always a couple of scientists, a handful of politicians, a gaggle of anti-terror experts and a squad of journalists to write about it.

No one is paying attention! There's not enough news on the subject! No one has made a report like ours!

Nonsense. If anything, we're way overinvested in alarm-bell ringers.

The latest scholarly boneheads in this charade are from at the Center for Mass Destruction Defense, located in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Georgia.

"Vulnerability of populations and the urban health care systems to nuclear weapon attack – examples from four American cities" is the title of the paper you probably don't have to read.

The scientists explain how the detonations and damage were modelled.

"The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has expended considerable effort to develop models for calculating mass casualties from a nuclear detonation," the authors write.

And then, off the rails.

"In order to specifically evaluate urban medical systems vulnerability we are employing the PC based Consequence Assessment Tool Set (CATS) v6, with ESRI's ArcGIS9 [14], CATS/JACE (Joint Assessment of Catastrophic Events) v5 with ESRI's ArcView 3.3, Hazard Prediction and Assessment Capability (HPAC) V4.04SP3 [15], as well as custom GIS and database software applications. HPAC does excellent Chemical Biological and Nuclear (CBN) modeling, although output could provide more flexibility. Additionally, results can be exported to CATS for further analysis and display."

No thanks. Been there, done that. Is there a federal agency or think tank that hasn't modelled the same and sent out news of it? DD doesn't think so. How 'bout some more of that, by the shovelful!

The conclusions: Nuclear explosions -- bad. Medical services -- they'll fail! Half a megaton blast on NYC. Diagram included. Really, really, really, really bad.

"Among the consequences of this outcome would be the probable loss of command-and-control, mass casualties that will have to be treated in an unorganized response by hospitals on the periphery, as well as other expected chaotic outcomes from inadequate administration in a crisis," it is written.

Call the President! Nothing less than a serious and concerted educational and indoctrinational effort to elucidate the danger is needed right now! Stop blowing it off, damn it.

Or just look at DD blog's graphics, collected from various places.

Baker-sized shot -- 12-20 kt -- on DC. Ouch.

Baker shot over Manhattan. Help!

Mike-scale blast -- 10 megatons -- obliterating five boroughs. That's a really big "Oof!"

Not enough mushroom clouds?! Heck, I got 'em coming out the ears and on top of the head -- here, here, here, here and here.

Cartoon begat by US military complaints about Iranian aiding "rebels" in Iraq, from June 2006 edition of this blog.

TIME mag has a short essay by Robert Baer with the premise a war with Iran is inevitable. Probably. Could be. Maybe. Flip a coin. See it here.

Tehran is paranoid, says Baer, and has good reason to be.

DD's belief is that, paranoid or not, the Iranians are despicable for taking British hostages and jackhandling a woman in front of TV cameras, prodding her into weird scripted letters obviously penned by Revolutionary Guardsmen. It shows they really don't have the slightest clue.

"Yes, the Islamic Revolution reserves us the right to abuse women and show it to the world," says the mullah. It's just as estimable as the Guantanamo proceedings and we know what we are but what are you?

Having gamed this months ago and now in the process of doing it again, DD still predicts that when and if the metal starts flying, the Iranians are going down hard.
One can cite the military is overstretched all one wants but when the balloon goes up can they take it to the bank and cash that check?

Dust off those copies of The Longest War and read how the Iranians are just as good at awful miscalculations as the United States.

Eagle Dynamics, the Russian game company responsible for Lock On, an air combat flight simulator, announced its commercial products were being delayed by contracts with the US military.

On the developer's forum, a designer commented on delays facing Black Shark, an add-on module to Lock On designed around the KA-50 Russian attack helicopter.

"While in years past [Eage Dynamics] has been primarily focused on the entertainment market, this has changed over the past year," writes one of the company's developers. "Much of our work now is also focused on supporting military simulation contracts. Some of you may have heard about the A-10C PE Desk Top Simulation (DTS) for the [US Air National Guard] that we're just finishing up. Due to the demands of this project and others, the bulk of our engineering resources had to be shifted away from Black Shark this year. Thankfully, these resources are now being shifted back.

"As other projects come up and we have to reprioritize resources, it's possible that Black Shark resources will once again need to be shifted, we just don't know right now."

Lock On, while an unusually buggy monster wargame notable for its complete lack of usable documentation and towering cliff of a learning curve in original release, appears to have impressed the US military in its potential as much as DD and others.

See the original notification at Lock On forum in Russia, here.

Last week: Return to the steppes of the monster wargame with Lock On.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

CRAZED BOTOX DOCTORS: Better with toxins than al Qaeda men

US anti-terror experts love to bang the drum about bioterrorism. One of the threats said to be faced ad nauseum is al Qaeda's potential use of the deadliest poison known to man, botox, to sicken and kill thousands.

However, no al Qaeda man has ever been caught with the capability to make the poison. And none of their voluminous electronic papers wishing for it have shown any scientific savvy in the matter.

On the other hand, unscrupulous American cosmetic surgeons, in indictments which read as if torn from episode's of Nip/Tuck you haven't seen, have misused it for their own ends.

The case of note is one in which two Arizona erected a front company called Toxins Research International for the purpose of buying purified botox made only for research purposes. They then repackaged and resold it around the country, at a profit, to other cosmetic surgeons as a cheap knock-off of Allergan's FDA-approved Botox.

Their scam came undone when a doctor in Florida poisoned himself and others with the material, landing them in hospitals with cases of life-threatening botulism. They were put on ventilators for months to keep them alive.

The ramifications of the case and technical details on it were written about in December in Dr. Frankenstein's cure for aging.

Toxins Research sold a great deal of the purified biotoxin, shilled in anti-aging seminars, thus making sure law enforcement and the justice department have a long list of practitioners of cosmetic surgery to work their way through.

A television station in Houston recently reported two more indictments related to the rebranding of purified botulinum toxin.

According to the station:
Prosecutors say [prominent Houston cosmetic doctor] Gayle Rothenberg sold 170 patients what they thought were Botox injections.

A federal grand jury indicted Dr. Rothenberg for allegedly participating in the scheme with her husband, U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle said.

Dr. Rothenberg and her husband, Saul Gower, were charged in a 14-count indictment with conspiracy, mail fraud, misbranding of a drug while held for sale and making false statements to an agent with the Food and Drug Administration.

Gower is an attorney and office manager for Rothenberg’s medical clinic, Image for Image Enhancement at 2000 Bering Drive.

Rothenberg and Gower were arrested Thursday after surrendering to investigating agents at the offices of the United States Marshal at the federal courthouse.

They posted $100,000 bond each after making their initial appearance before a United States Magistrate Judge Thursday afternoon.

Rothenberg and her husband are accused of conspiring together and perpetrating a scheme to profit from the use of a less expensive and unapproved form of Botulinum Toxin Type A, by selling it to her patients as the more expensive FDA-approved Botox.

"They were told that other doctors nationwide were using it without any side effects," said Joel Androphy, Rothenberg's attorney. "And there was no action at that time by the FDA to prevent its use or distribution."

But at least two patients are suing her, saying they now suffer neurological problems.

Although I haven't yet had a chance to look at the indictment, eventually it will be posted.

In the case of the owners of Toxins Research International, all parties initially denied wrongdoing. The resale of research botulinum toxin, while not common, is apparently extremely profitable.

The station reported that the accused treated 170 patients, making $98,000.

The original report is here.

Update: Rothenberg conviction in botox trial from November 2007 is here. Links to indictment and notice of conviction by jury.
AL QAEDA, BEWARE AMERICA'S FIERCE MARINE MAMMALS: Mr. President, we cannot and must not allow a dolphin gap in the war on terror!

Tonight, ABC's Neal Karlinsky acted as pitchman for the US Navy's latest dolphin and pony show.

The Navy's feeling blue and it's important for the service, even its friendliest parts, to make contributions to the war on terror.

"I have the answer!" someone shouted in San Diego and it was decided to ship off some dolphins and sea lions to protect ballistic missile submarines in Hood Canal, WA.

Dolphins would protect the submarines from terrorists, indicated ABC's Karlinsky, paraphrasing the Navy's rationale.

"The animals are trained to alert a handler when they detect anyone in the water," reports AP. "The handler, in a small boat, then places a strobe light on the nose of the animal, which speeds back and bumps the swimmer. The bump knocks light into the water, where it floats to mark the spot for security personnel to intercept the intruder."

Naturally, al Qaeda has no terroristic dolphins although DD once read about one at a Florida theme park who humped a man to death in a novel written by Carl Hiaasen. (That could be said to be terrifying.)

Annoyingly, there is not the slightest inkling al Qaeda has any frogmen either or even poses a faintly validated threat to ballistic missile subs although a few years ago the FBI tried getting some local newsmen to believe so because people with dark skin were said to be hanging out at dive shops. Imagine that!

In any case, dolphins and sea lions were shipped to the Persian Gulf to do their part in the war against Saddam.

Zak the sea lion was the media star then and to this day DD wonders just how the old toothy fisheater is doing. Indeed, Zak was such an amusing icon I turned him into this blog's unofficial mascot.

At the time, the Navy delivered the same jolly boilerplate on the value of marine mammals in the war against enemy frogmen, in this case Saddam's, who didn't show up.

From the Village Voice in 2003:
In a recent pinniped-and-pony show, the navy said Zak would do everything within his aquatic power to keep our ships safe from enemy Islamic frogmen.

Hailing from San Diego, Zak was trained in the navy's marine mammal warrior program, which in the past has focused on the military applications of dolphins. Having keen underwater sight, Zak is said to be excellent at spotting wetsuited troublemakers while on patrol. Zak can raise the alarm, clamp an enemy's leg with a handcuff-like thing attached to a buoy, or even chase a fleeing terrorist onto dry land. Since no enemy frogmen have yet done us harm, there can be no doubt Zak is a highly effective deterrent.

Perhaps because Flipper and Keiko have ruined public taste for cetaceans as tools of humankind, the navy is using a happy face to showcase Bahrain Zak. A photo essay entitled "Zak on Patrol" has been widely distributed, showing pics of the sea lion swimming merrily past a rusty barge and displaying a powerful-looking set of jaws.

Those who protest that a sea lion cannot know he is being set up for combat duty, as an enlisted man would, are just troublemaking grumblers. Historically, there have always been a few in the military who would use any animal in combat if it could be cajoled into taking orders. In World War II, the U.S. launched Project X-Ray, a plan to bomb Japan with kamikaze bats carrying tiny incendiary satchels. The operation collapsed in the testing phase, when the bats went awry and incinerated a military airfield in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

On the navy's Marine Mammal Web page, readers learn that our brave sea lion squad has been trained to tag
mines ... Other scientific papers cited reveal the tale of a sea lion retrieving a depth charge in 1972 and the use of a type of saltpeter in reducing testosterone in male dolphins.

DD thought of snatching a jazzy photo of sub-protecting dolphin off SPAWAR's Marine Mammals Program, but the pics are pretty k-lame.

The site appears to have not been updated in years and the most recent news is a clip from Smithsonian magazine insisting the dolphins did quite the job in the Persian Gulf.
"In March [2003], Kahili, along with eight other dolphins that are a part of the U.S. Navy's Special Clearance Team One, became the first marine mammals to take part in mine-clearing operations in an active combat situation. Together with Navy SEALS, Marine Corps reconnaissance swimmers, explosive ordnance disposal divers and unmanned undersea vehicles, they helped disarm more than 100 antiship mines and underwater booby traps planted in Umm Qasr's port by Saddam Hussein's forces...In fact, the team proved so effective that coalition forces were able to open Umm Qasr to ship traffic, including the British supply ship Sir Galahad loaded with rice and other foodstuffs, only a week after hostilities began." (Gasperini,W. (September 2003) "Uncle Sam's Dolphins," Smithsonian, pp. 28-29.)

Someone please send DD a copy of the mil-dolphin trading card featured in this show. Zak needs company.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

MOST LIKELY TO DESERVE A PUNCH IN THE MOUTH: Iran surpasses Bush administration

If there's any country that has worked hard at earning a brushback or even a beanball pitch than our country in the war on terror, it must be Iran.

Iran likes to take hostages. And then it likes to keep them, treat them poorly -- as pawns for making the victimized nation squirm.

A great many of my countrymen can't forget the Iranian hostage crisis. And there would be little regret, as much disliked as George W. Bush is, if the military was given the green light to take a big swing at the Revolutionary Guard. Lefty blogs would bitch loudly but even more would just shrug and say, "They had it coming."

Speaking in family, it seems obvious to everyone in the household on a shady street in Pasadena that Iranians pulled this on the Royal Navy precisely because they knew what would have been more likely to happen if they tried it on the less polite USN.

However, putting this aside, it is illuminating to turn again to Dilip Hiro's account of the Iran-Iraq conflict, The Longest War.

That war, lasting eight years, was extremely bloody and ineptly fought by both sides. When either side gained tactical victories, it was because the guy on the other side of the line was taken completely by surprise, ran away, or both.

Hiro's chapter, "Conclusions," is still worth reading for its relevance to our time.

"There was a deep-seated antipathy between the two countries [Iran and the US] at the popular level, which persists," Hiro writes. "The long ordeal of the American hostages in Iran in 1979-80, played up day after day in the US media, left a deep mark on the American population. This became obvious when President Reagan's tough stance against Iran in the Gulf ... which resulted in considerable loss of Iranian fighters and civilians as well as oil rigs and naval craft -- received overwhelming backing ... "

Hiro writes one of the main reasons for the Iranians acceptance of a ceasefire in the war was "a failure to cause division between [the American] government and its citizenry."

Iranian revolutionaries considered Americans to be sick people, indicated Hiro, riddled with corruption, slaves to sexual promiscuity, beset by venereal diseases, imagined as other equally dumb and sweeping caricatures.

At the same time, Iran "visualized itself as the regional superpower."

To be "superpower" its leaders felt it would have to gain power in the Gulf at the expense of Washington. "It was this potential that Iran wished to see realized under its leadership which would have stemmed from [a] victory in the Gulf War," Hiro continues.

Of course, this didn't happen. The Iranians miscalculated as much as Saddam Hussein and seemed not expect other nations in the region, those not enthusiastic about revolutionary Shiaism, to align against them.

Then the United States Navy subsequently taught Iran a lesson, essentially opening another front on that country's southern flank. (It made a hash of the idea of using enthusiastic Revolutionary Guardsmen and patrol boats in action against the USN. Example: April 18, 1988 -- "US warships blow up two oil rigs, destroy an Iranian frigate and immobilize another, and sink an Iranian missile boat.")

The long war also cemented the position of the revolutionary Islamic government in Iran.

"It provided the clerical rulers with a platform with which to rejuvenate the drive for national unity and Islamic revolution," writes Hiro.

Hiro states the war fed into reinforcing conditions which were fertilizer for "Shiaism." These included "struggle" and "renewal through suffering."

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow can't reprint all of Hiro's finishing chapter here. However, it is possible to vigorously recommend the book for those wishing more background and light when pondering potential escalations in the Persian Gulf.

Friday, March 23, 2007

ACHTUNG PANZER! Return to the steppes of monster wargaming

Bundeswehr panzers go into action north of Simferopol in Lock On.

A recent post by Sharon Weinberger on the Danger Room blog led to an interesting interview with a Brit military man in the Guardian newspaper. About computer gaming and simulation, it didn't include the usual eyewash on how games mimic reality or how they constitute a superior form of training.

"These days we're constantly being told how authentic military combat games are, the Ghost Recon and Battlefield series' focusing heavily on real-world weapons and situations. But how realistic are these games? Do they portray anything of the conflicts we're seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan?" asks the interviewer.

If it had been in a US publication, you'd prepare yourself for the marketing and salesmenship disguised as truth.

"I think that consumer military simulations are never going to be totally realistic because ultimately people don't really die or get injured, and thus the fear element is never going to be there," replies the subject. "I think that what is missing is the chaos of battle."

"Finally the combat environments are complex, and what is missing, particularly in an urban environment, are civilians mixed in with military forces."

The military man goes onto say that in his survey of games, "I think one type of warfare missing from computer games, which may be used in the future is the weapons of mass destruction or effect (WMD/E) including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and enhanced-explosive (aka CBRNE). These are proliferating at an accelerating rate ... In every sim I have tried (be it on PC or XBox 360) I have yet to see this type of warfare represented, or seen friendly forces having to take precautions against its use."

One has to go back a long way to find tactical nuclear weapons in computer gaming.

The primary serious example would be the old Three-Sixty Pacific title, Harpoon, made for DOS machines.

Pitting the naval forces of NATO against those of the Soviet Union in the north Atlantic, it allowed for release of tactical nuclear weapons. When this was done the game ended quickly.

All one found was that if you were going to use such weapons, you had to do so in a surprise attack and be sure all the enemy's assets were pounded in one massive strike. If you missed anything, the game was over the next turn.

Old military board games of the Eighties also modelled tactical nuclear and chemical weapons. Use of the first ended the interesting parts of the simulations and the latter were never realistically modelled. All involved Warsaw Pact forces going up against NATO, somewhere west of the Fulda Gap.

Where gaming intersects reality is that use of chemical weapons isn't militarily interesting. If one resorts to it, one has to be prepared to use high volumes in surprise attacks.

Chemical weapons are appropriate for exterminating nests of wasps or killer bees. The insects defend their turf, don't flee, and are struck down. There's not much analogous to use in a military environment unless one entertains using chemicals on people trapped in a building with nowhere to go. In such a case, one might just as well use high explosive.

Historically, during the Iran-Iraq conflict, Iraqi military men under Hussein considered the Iranians to be "insects," according to Dilip Hiro's "The Longest War" and used them on that apparent basis.

Hiro cites a couple of examples in which the Iraqi military used heavy artillery barrages which included "cyanide gas and nerve agents [to] put the Iranians on the run." Usage of chemical weapons provided a few localized tactical victories in a war of bloody stalemates fought ineptly, World War I-style, by both sides.

Paradoxically, the Ayatollah Khomeini appeared to be opposed to retaliatory chemical warfare. "When he was approached on the subject by top officials, he reportedly reiterated his earlier refusal based on the argument that Islam prohibits its fighters from polluting the atmosphere even in the course of a jihad," writes Hiro.

On the other hand, "According to [Ayatollah Rafsanjani], the US and Iraq had made it crystal clear that they would resort to any means to prevent an Iranian victory, and that Iraq had been given 'the green light to commit any crime,' including the large scale deployment of chemical weapons in its offensives."

Trying to simulate use of biological weapons in a game like Ubisoft's Ghost Recon would probably entail a good bit of fiction and result in something of a mess.

Still, something of a mess is an adequate description for many wargames people wish to play.

Lock On: Modern Air Combat, by way of recent example, is something of a mess.

Buy it in stores and you get a truly buggy game with no practical documentation. Getting it to run smoothly requires patching. Learning it is an extended run of trial and error.

As a wargame it is furnished with designer missions which are in no way realistic. This is an appropriate designer decision. Real world missions, or even abstractions of them, are much less entertaining than the puzzle-like shoot-em-ups required by buyers of consumer electronics.

Since Lock On is about jet combat including close air support of ground offensives, it contains a fairly substantial capability for building land battles.

One uses it mission editor to construct these and upon delving into the program it is found that as the size of forces increase, an increasingly significant hit is put on processing, the consequence of allocating more artificial intelligence functions which the program employs to administer the game.

Interestingly, Lock On includes a great deal of civilian traffic, traffic which makes the euphemism "collateral damage" common. One can turn it off as it also drains processing power.

The designers, being Russian, also made what seems to me to be the audacious decision to allow the German army to return to grounds once scorched in the Crimea and the Caucasus, as part of a theoretical NATO effort to liberate, say, Georgia, from the grasp of Mother Russia.

Although I've chosen to use more snapshots of modern combat in open ground, the game allows for urban battles. Building them requires a lot of detail work.

How realistic Lock On is certainly open to debate. However, it does get one use to complexity and bad ideas, the kind which result in being quickly shot up.

The nut of it, as always, is that as one strives to achieve wargames which are realistic in even a minor way, the less they are games and the more they are work.

And it is unreasonable to think mass producers of BestBuy-stocked fare are particularly interested in making such games "realistic" although they are perfectly willing to sell and market them as products said to achieve new heights in realism.

That's show biz and the word immersive has more meaning when used in connection with the question, "How long is it going to stay on the hard drive?" rather than the statement, "So real, you'll smell the cordite!"

As explained in an earlier article, the trade-off was worked out in the monster wargames of the Eighties.

Cityfight, by Simulations Publications, was another such game, one that emulated modern urban combat. Scalable down to pathetic little actions in which terrorists drive pickup trucks and cars, its rulebook covered all contingincies and was voluminous. Its designers recommended a third player be included as referee to help interpret rules and smooth play.

Cityfight wasn't much of a repeat. But it could teach about a variety of historical urban combat environments and actions if one had the stamina and patience for it.

Monster wargames, including Cityfight, as potential training tools, in this document at the French Ministry of Defense's doctrinal website.

Related: Wargames for twenty bucks.

A panzer brews up on the steppe.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

THE WIT AND WISDOM OF KEN POLLACK: Much to the increase of the world's joy and laughter since 2002

Dumbo the Clown, without make-up

One often finds newspaper editors publicly wondering how to attract more readers.

One remedy is easy. Don't insult the minds of the readers you already have lest they go elsewhere.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times ran a frontpage story on how difficult it was to build up the trust of Iraqis. Inside the story, however, it was destroying the trust of its readers when it called upon Ken Pollack.

"We are doing it, and all the other smart aspects of the Baghdad security plan, very late in the day," said "Kenneth M. Pollack," a "counterinsurgency expert" "who was an advocate of the 2003 invasion."

Saying Pollack was an "advocate of the 2003 invasion" is like saying the flattening of Hiroshima in 1945 was caused by "an explosion." Technically, it's accurate, but it's missing something.

More accurately, Pollack, as a Brookings man, was the Dean of the Mountebank Foreign Policy School of Experts on the War On Terror.

During the approach to war in 2002 and in 2003, Pollack was in the news hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of times. He and Brookings regularly milked the media for publicity and the reasons for war. And as you know, the media happily went along.

In 2007, it is appropriate to view Pollack as the Fleischmann AND Pons of the war on terror. Seeing him cited in print is as bracing as seeing an article entitled "Cold Fusion Real!" in the science section.

"It is going to be very difficult to build up the trust among the Iraqi public to make any of this succeed," said Pollack, dumbly, to the Times. "And it is going to be very difficult to build up any trust in a readership when laundering the likes of Pollack back into stories on what to do about Iraq," someone should have added in parentheses.

So your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow decided to skim through the ineffable wit and wisdom on Pollack from that happier time.

Be careful while reading the following rib-ticklers. You may laugh so hard you'll cry.

Pollack argues his case well, going beyond the vituperative pronouncements of the administration to link operational objectives to national strategy, but he does not spend much time on the reconstruction of the country, which is, after all, the reason for invasion in the first place. He does make two noteworthy points, however: the removal of Saddam would allow for withdrawal of most of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region; and second, with its wealth in oil, Iraq can pay for its own reconstruction. Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option, and critics abound, but for Pollack the question is "not whether [we invade], but when." -- from a review of the man's best-selling book in the Naval War College Review, Autumn 2002

You can tell a lot by the books people read, especially when the readers are members of Congress making life and death decisions about a war.

Winston Churchill is big on Capitol Hill, among both Democrats and Republicans. So is Kenneth Pollack's new book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq," whose title is derived from Churchill's "The Gathering Storm."

Not on the must-read list are books like Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down," a harrowing account of just how grim urban street fights can get, even for today's most elite forces. Nor, judging by interviews and the buzz on Capitol Hill, is there a surge of interest in "hearts and minds" books on Arab history or the culture of radical Islam. -- The Christian Science Monitor, December 2002

Sean Penn needs to read [Ken Pollack's] book. So do Mike Farrell, George Clooney and all the protesters who marched and chanted against an American-led war on Iraq in cities across the world last weekend. -- The New York Observer, January 2003

"Saddam has taken the entire Iraqi program on the road," said Iraq expert and former National Security Council official Kenneth Pollack in his recent best-selling book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq." -- subsequently repeated thousands of times, like an incantation to ward off common sense, in the Scripps Howard newswire, February 2003

Given Saddam Hussein's current behavior, his track record, his aspirations and his terrifying beliefs about the utility of nuclear weapons, it would be reckless for us to assume that he can be deterred. Yes, we must weigh the costs of a war with Iraq today, but on the other side of the balance we must place the cost of a war with a nuclear-armed Iraq tomorrow. -- Pollack, on Hussein's alleged WMD program and the reason for war, in the New York Times opinion page, February 2003. One bets they wish they hadn't done that now.

Despite its human and financial cost (which [Ken Pollack] says could be less than we think even as we prepare for the worst), we are the only ones who can prevent the world from facing a nuclear-armed Hussein. It's in our interest; it is our duty. -- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 2002

While the anti-war forces are derided, the media have turned pro-war intellectuals into stars. Each time you look up, you find another interview with Kenneth Pollack, the ex--CIA analyst whose book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq is the bible of war supporters. -- LA Weekly, February 28, 2003

While Iraqis "danced in the streets of Baghdad" in DC the "jibes were out for the naysayers who had feared a grueling and protracted conflict" to oust Saddam Hussein. VP Cheney called the war "one of the most extraordinary military campaigns
ever conducted" and "praised the 'carefully drawn plan.'" Cheney "was riding high" "as one of an elite corps of political prophets who had accurately forecast a quick collapse" of Saddam's regime. Cheney insisted that the war "would last 'weeks, not months.'" Others who predicted a short and decisive victory included Sec/Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Dep. Sec/Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Defense policy analyst Richard Perle, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), ex-CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack, and ex-Reagan
admin. official Kenneth Adelman (Efron, Los Angeles Times) -- Bragging Rights for Iraq, The National Journal, April 2003

"It's looking like in truth the Iraqi (weapons) program was gray. The Bush administration was trying to say it was black," said former CIA Iraq expert Kenneth Pollack, now at the Brookings Institution, a research center.

Pollack, who advocated a war to overthrow Saddam, said he believes more evidence of Iraqi weapons activity will be found. -- Knight-Ridder newspapers, June 2003

The Bush administration-funded worldwide book blitz.

Even as President Bush delivered his pivotal speech on September 12th to the United Nations regarding the conduct of Hussein's regime, we noted there was a very timely book launched at the same time by Ken Pollack of the Brookings Institute called, "The Threatening Storm." We contacted Mr. Pollack and asked him if he would interrupt his book tour, which was not that easy to persuade him to do, and he agreed and went on a number of digital video conferences and visits to countries as far spread as France, Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, and now he's scheduled for South Africa and he's agreed to do a series more. He's that third voice, and he is speaking about the cases, pro and con, of invading Iraq in a more reasoned and reasonable way than most people could, and he has another voice to offer. -- Undersecretary of State Charlotte Beers, at the National Press Club, December 2002

At a press briefing Dec. 18, State Dept. public diplomacy topper Charlotte Beers announced that her division has asked author Ken Pollack to interrupt a book tour and travel overseas to talk about his book "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq."

Turns out the State Dept. also has been courting foreign journalists over the past year.

"We set up many more responsive facilities than we've had in the past for the foreign press at the president's ranch in Texas, at the White House and in our own State foreign press centers, which are Washington, New York and Los Angeles," Beers said.

Storytelling stressed

A former Madison Avenie exec, Beers extolled the importance of "storytelling" in convincing overseas auds that the U.S. is only trying to do good. -- Daily Variety, December 2002

In fact, one of the reasons to go to war with Iraq sooner, rather than later, is so that we never find ourselves in that position where Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons and we have to risk the obliteration of Riyadh, or Kuwait, and the Saudi oil fields, or Amman, or any of the other capitals of the region that we would worry so much about. Or, for that matter, New York. If the Iraqi's decided to put a nuclear weapon on a freighter, they could just drive it into New York Harbor and have the same effect there. -- Pollack, State Department-sponsored worldwide video conference, two weeks before war

In hitting American forces with chemical weapons, Saddam would exact vengeance, said Ken Pollack, a former CIA analyst now with Brookings. He also might hope to delay them from entering the city. -- Course of Baghdad Battle Hinges on Unknowns, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2003

"Unlike so many Iraqi oppositionists, [Ahmed Chalabi] actually does what he says he's going to do," says Ken Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. -- from an article that should have been entitled, "Ahmed Chalabi -- A Great Guy!" by Sally Quinn, the Washington Post, November 2003

"I think that we will find the [WMD] stuff," Ken Pollack said. "I think it's simply a matter of time, but I think that we will find, at the very least, the production capability." -- in another State Department-funded worldwide videoconference with Ken Pollack, one entitled "Dr. Wrong, Once Again and With Passion," May 2003

In a New York Times op-ed piece, Brookings Institution analyst Ken Pollack writes "the search for Iraq's nonconventional weapons program has only just begun. In the meantime, accusations are mounting that the Bush administration made up the whole Iraqi weapons threat to justify an invasion. That is just not the case - American and its allies had plenty of evidence before the war, and before President Bush took office, indicating that Iraq was retaining its illegal weapons program" -- Pollack in the NYT via the National Journal, June 2003

In a world that valued logic and scholarly thought, Ken Pollack would have been run off the reservation a long time ago. This isn't that world.

However, Pollack is useful if you consider him to be mentally upside down. If Pollack makes a recommendation, do the opposite.

For example, when Pollack says "This is one of the biggest flies in the ointment in Iraq today ... If we're not willing to stay for the months, if not years, it will take to regain the trust of of average Iraqis, none of [David Petraeus's] smart moves are going to work."

Then the thing to do would be to recall General Physical Fitness and leave Iraq as soon as possible.

Better still, treat Pollack like Fleischmann and Pons.

Nb: "The Threatening Storm", hardback edition and in good shape, by Ken Pollack. One hundred fifty-two new and used copies from Amazon resellers, selling price: 37 cents in 2007.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

IMAGES OF COMPUTER WAR: Better than production values on the Military Channel

Pity the producers of the Military Channel's Futureweapons, the cable TV show devoted to the imagery of America's biggest weapons. Limited to the firing ranges of missile proving grounds, the best they can do is tape a variety of idiotic looking mannequins and jerry-rigged dugouts being shredded. The host, a shaven-headed ex-Navy SEAL, does his best to gin things up, often declaring they are the most exciting things he's ever seen.

But there's a limit to our credulity. The color of the desert isn't good, the skies are wan. Seen one dummy being blown apart by a fuel air bomb, seen 'em all, no need to see it three times in one week. In short, it just doesn't quite make it. Certainly not when compared with the computer wars one can fabricate using Lock On: Modern Air Combat, the most difficult, fractious and bulky air combat computer wargame, ever.

Lock On is not for sissies or even the sane with real lives to attend to.

Furnished without adequate documentation or even slightly helpful guides on how to play it, and designed in Russia with a love for early Nineties ex-Commie military hardware, it is a formidable surprise opponent for the unwitting purchaser of consumer electronics entertainments at BestBuy.

However, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow has figured it out so you don't have to. It has been determined that Lock On furnishes neo-photo-realistic computer imagery of brigade-sized combat, if one knows where and how to point the digital camera.

Futureweapons needs a copy of Lock On for when those videotapes of MLRS and Alford Technologies limpet mine test-firings just won't do.

A Smerch rocket in descending ballistic flight over Sevastopol, set ablaze by barrage at twilight.

A familiar sight: Civilian vehicles burn on The Highway of Death.

Panoramic view of a stick of bombs obliterating civilian traffic on The Highway of Death. Almost artistic in its melancholy atmosphere.

The locals learned use of an open field as cover for light armor and machine-gun armed Toyota trucks was inadequate.

Sight-seeing in the brilliant blue over the Sea of Azov. No Highway of Death today.
TWENTY MINUTES OF TERRORIZING DISINFO: The usual newsmen bang the gong

The nose of the mob is its imagination. By this, at any time, it can be quietly led. -- Edgar Allen Poe

Take 60 Minutes' recent special on "" Reported by Scott Pelley, the 800lb gorilla of US journalism led with the tired story of al Qaeda in cyberspace.

It was so poor one could easily reconstruct how it must have gone down. "Get the interns to Google 'al Qaeda' and 'the Internet,' then skim from the first page of returns," someone commanded. And so it was done, returning a couple of dated pieces on Younis Tsouli, aka jihadi hacker irhabi007, and a small cast of anti-terror industry shills who've turned jihadi websites and their electronic scribbles into a cash crop to be fed to intelligence agencies.

60 Minutes - like the terror war coverage by many of their news competitors - generally edits out any material critical while taking pains to leave in that which is purely sensational. For the segment, an irhabi007 document with the ominous acronym "CBRN" - for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons -was flashed across the screen...

Read the rest at el Reg here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

RELIVING THE WAR WANKERS: And other neat stuff

Four years on, it's good to remember how enthusiastic everyone was over the prospect of going to war with Iraq. How more glee erupted when the tanks rolled over the border -- oh, what a jolly war!

While writing for the Village Voice, an idea was come up with for a series of weekly columns which would take the most supercilious and critical tone possible for the happiness over the deployment and use of all things military. It was called Weapon of the Week.

It's why DD loves the Military Channel's Futureweapons so much, you know, that show hosted by the shaven-headed ex-Navy SEAL. Futureweapons is an accidental tribute to all that was Weapon of the Week.

From the archives:


"Operation Iraqi Freedom" would not be complete without the combined power of war wankers. The wanker army, consisting of retired generals, TV reporters, administration fuglemen, and national pundits, stroke and soothe the polity with kriegfreude—war glee.

It conducts this operation by either suppressing pictures of naked horror—war blood and guts—or delivering only the most fleeting images of it. Into this void it jams a wealth of interesting and true stories, the tales that are interesting being not true and the ones that are true being not interesting.

In the category of interesting but not true:

Iraqi Freedom will be an assault the like of which you have never seen.

This is true only in that Americans have never been on the receiving end of a strategic bombing. In all other respects, it's just the standard Pentagon method of overpowering a 98-pound weakling.

The Pentagon is only attacking "military and leadership" targets in Baghdad, and since the Iraqi people don't live near them they won't be hurt . . . much.

This can only be true if one believes those in the Iraqi military aren't human beings and that multistory buildings blowing up, catching fire, or collapsing to the ground in a metropolitan area is relatively good news.

True but not interesting include:

"Bunker bunker bunker."

You know this as the military call to run, hide, and put on the gas mask because Iraq has had the audacity to shoot back with a rocket, perhaps loaded with a chemical. War wankers wore snorkels on camera while armor advanced virtually unopposed into southern Iraq.

• U.S. troops are better equipped and trained than their adversaries, and this should help them in combat.

Stupidly obvious, a more informative statement would have been to admit that in Iraq, the U.S. faces an enemy more outmatched than Poland in 1939.

War wankers agonize over American casualties but leave enemy dead invisible. They yak about violations of the Geneva Convention without considering that the dropping of thousands of tons of explosives from on high requires a good deal of cold blood and inevitably inspires awful retaliations.

The war wanker dwells lovingly on wonder weapons from the land of the brave, prattling on from a green television stage or a blacked-out flight deck.

But the best thing about the war wanker is that he or she comes cheap. Statements like "they'll be feeling pain tonight in Baghdad" are pennies on the word, with salaries almost always less than the cost of machinery of destruction. And some in this army even labor for free—the joy of the work being its own reward.

And how 'bout this 'greatest hit'?


The book behind what has become the most vilified and ridiculed American slogan in recent history should be on everyone's coffee table. In Shock & Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance, an arrestingly wretched set of briefs published in 1996, authors Harlan Ullman and James Wade—in association with the National Defense University—ripped off blitzkrieg and retitled it Rapid Dominance.

Since this ersatz Complete Idiot's Guide to War has a great deal to do with the intriguing catastrophe that is Gulf War II, the press should also scrutinize it—with an eye more toward its risible substance than its fantastic plans.

It is not stretching to say Shock & Awe reads as if written either by flatulent egotists or writers for intellectual children. Tracts of it are devoted to dumbly obvious recapitulations of military history, dumbly obvious oversimplifications of conflict suitable for a college term paper, and the occasional parable from a historical figure, meant to lend a literary quality. Some tidbits, just from Shock & Awe's opening chapter:

• "Since the end of World War II, the military strength and capability of the United States have never been greater . . . "

• "Shutting [Iraq] down would entail both the physical destruction of appropriate infrastructure and the shutdown and control of the flow of . . . information and associated commerce . . . "

• "Rapid Dominance [read blitzkrieg] might conceivably achieve this objective in a matter of days (or perhaps hours) . . . "

Inevitably, the authors refer to Sun Tzu's The Art of War, the equivalent of a soldier's Magic 8 Ball, a book chock-full of self-evident aphorisms for every battle occasion:

• "Sun Tzu observed that disarming an adversary before battle was joined was the most effective outcome a commander could achieve."

• "The 'Sun Tzu' example is based on selective, instant decapitation of military or societal targets. . . . " Decapitation—sounds familiar, like something simple George W. Bush would like that doesn't work.

• "The concubines merely laughed at Sun Tzu" until he cut the head off one of them. "The ladies still could not bring themselves to take the master's orders seriously. So, Sun Tzu had the head cut off a second . . . [and] the ladies learned to march with the precision of a drill team."

The decapitation cure-all, again.

It is difficult to know how seriously this tripe was taken by U.S. war planners. To be sure, not everyone wearing military dress can be a fan of it. And many of them also know that blitzkrieg was very often not rapid, but good at setting off long battles in which the enemy did not give up even though its cities, people, and treasure were pulverized with "overwhelming force." If any of the critics got through to Don Rumsfeld, perhaps their heads were cut off.


Six out of 10 Americans think it would be OK to nuke Iraq. And the president wants the option to use H-bombs preemptively in the war on terror. So what would be the Armageddon punch of choice for the Butcher of Baghdad and a million or so people standing too close to him?

Since The Washington Post spoke for the people on deployment of nukes, it would be good for some people to know that the go-to bomb would be the B-61—one of the nightmare weapons of the thermonuclear armory. [Yes, it was true. The Post actually conducted a poll and came back with the result that most Americans thought it would be OK to drop the bomb on Iraq.]

Also affectionately known as the "burrowing bomb," the newest edition of the B-61, called the Mk-11, was developed just for use against non-nuclear third-world patsy-tyrants who have heard the call of "Dig we must," and buried themselves and their alleged caches of biological and chemical weapons deep underground.

Built ram tough with a heavy metal casing for smashing through earth and concrete, the B-61 explodes with the force of an estimated 340,000 tons of TNT. It is lots of bang for the buck, literally two apocalypse bombs in one—a boosted plutonium firecracker called the primary, and a heavy hydrogen secondary for that good old-fashioned H-bomb fireball. The B-61 also features a detonation option called the Dial-a-Yield for those times when 340 kilotons is just a little too much.

To get a handle on the full power of the B-61, consider that the WW II A-bombs produced fireballs about 800 yards across. Seventeen times more powerful, a B-61 over the tip of Manhattan would probably provide decent annihilation, engulfing most of the borough while extending the same courtesy to Brooklyn, Queens, and a good chunk of Staten Island.

Saddam has dug but he won't be able to hide. One B-61 will bring on a calamity of biblical proportions between Tigris and Euphrates. The sky will turn the color of sackcloth, the Arab world will supernova, our European allies will try our leaders in absentia as war criminals in the Hague—but, hey, anyone who contemplates using the thing plans on America's hair getting a little mussed.

Strangeloves in the administration and the weapons labs believe future B-61 blasts will be contained below ground, making this a great war-fighter, not a doomsday device. But the only people who believe that get paid by the government to do so.

Now wasn't that fun?

Just In! DD's favorite program, the one with the shaven-headed ex-Navy SEAL as host, Futureweapons, was on LAST NIGHT. It's theme: "Weapons that annihilate en masse!"

Last night's crowning segment was the story of the thermobaric bomb! Four years after the fact, we can still enjoy the story of Vietnam refugee, An Duong, its creator.

You must remember it! Extolled by our press corps as a tale of immigrants giving back, the thermobaric bomb was rushed into action for the greasing of Osama bin Laden.

That worked well.

THE THERMOBARIC BOMB ca. December 2002

Only in the land of the free would a woman be given the opportunity to make the newest super-duper weapon—the thermobaric bomb!

Anh Duong, who fled Saigon for the U.S. in 1975, wished to serve her adopted country against tyranny. And in doing so she became the lead bomb-maker at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Maryland, where she is the designer behind the bunker-buster custom-crafted to atomize Osama bin Laden's underground lairs.

Duong and her team of bombing boffins worked out the explosive kinks at an accelerated pace, taking only two months to devise the ultra-powerful munition after the Defense Threat Reduction Agency sent out an order for a new fire in the hole. The first was sicced on a Nevada tunnel in December 2001.

The test brought the house down—turning a regular-looking mine into a really trashed-looking one.

The thermobaric bomb's magic ingredient is aluminum dust, also the secret component of another legendary weapon in the arsenal, the behemoth Daisy Cutter. Aluminum, handy foil in your kitchen drawer, is a highly dangerous explosive hazard when powdered. Duong's design duplicates conditions in a mine saturated with the flammable dust—and then strikes a match, unleashing a twisting inferno and metal-shredding concussion.

[Sidebar: You can read in today's news about an explosion in a coal mine in Russia, one which felled 60. Explosions in coal mines killed people in DD's youthful stomping ground, Schuylkill County, Pennsy. The idea of igniting dust in an enclosed space, like a mine or a cave, has never been particularly novel although the story of the thermobaric bomb, as told by the mainstream media, made it seem so.]

Ten thermobaric bombs were commissioned for the war in Afghanistan. One is known to have been used, according to The Baltimore Sun. That round missed, proving that even techno-wizard bangs are useless if one can't aim.

Despite publicly reported failure, the legend of the thermobaric bomb is great. Introduced as a wonder weapon by mainstream-media lapdogs, it has also been denounced as a weapon of mass destruction akin to a massive and sinister Russian fuel-air explosive used in Chechnya. One publication dubbed it an anti-Muslim bomb.

Not so, said an air force general assigned to spin control. The thermobaric incinerator was vetted by the Pentagon, and, in Kafkaesque wordage, "found consistent with all international legal obligations of the United States, including the law of armed conflict."

Straight with the law of armed conflict or not, it is certain the thermobaric bomb is now being eyed for use in Iraq. In Gulf War I, Baghdad bunker-busting backfired when civilians were cooked in a bomb shelter. With the thermobaric bomb, however, one cannot tell if one has hit Saddam or plain folk, because everything in range is . . . dusted.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

CHLORINE GAS ATTACK: Sickens 350, bad guys trying harder

"Gas attack sickens 350" reads an AP story on a mixed explosive-chlorine assault in Iraq today.

Two attacks, one in which "[a] suicide bomber detonated a dump truck containing a 200-gallon chlorine tank rigged with explosives at 7:13 p.m., also south of Fallujah in the Albu Issa tribal region, the military said. U.S. forces responded to the attack and found about 250 local civilians, including seven children, suffering from symptoms related to chlorine exposure, according to the statement."

The other, "... a similar explosion involving a dump truck south of Fallujah in Amiriyah that killed two policemen and left as many as 100 local citizens showing signs of chlorine exposure, with symptoms ranging from minor skin and lung irritations to vomiting, the military said."

Fortunately, although its psychological value may be worth something, the bad guys are finding chlorine is difficult to use as an immediately fatal poison gas.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow can show why this is with some rough calculations, stemming from background as a Ph.D. chemist and as one who worked with substantial amounts of liquid saturated chlorine in cylinders in water sanitation at a large community swimming pool.

Let's assume best case scenario for the bad guys, worst case for people at the initial strike point.

Given one two-hundred gallon cylinder [see editor's note], assume it is full -- and I'll make the statement here that it's probably much less -- and contains liquid chlorine.

Liquid chlorine has a density of about 1.5 g per milliliter.

Let's also do fast calculations because that's what informed emergency responders would want or have to be doing on the spot. (The possibility for error exists here although I'm fairly sure this is accurate to the order of magnitude which, practically speaking, is all that's important for a comparison with other real world instances of poison gas warfare.)

There are about 3785 (or 4000) milliliters in a gallon.

If the release is one hundred percent efficient from an absolute volume of 200 gallons, you would derive 1,200,000 g of chlorine. That comes out to about 2,640 lbs or a little over one and a quarter ton.

By contrast, in the first chlorine attack in gas warfare on the western front in World War I, the Germans -- from a historical account -- released 160 tons of chlorine, not by explosion, but by opening a vast array of cylinders.

The bad guys are limited in their ability to get sufficient quantity of the gas into the immediate environment quickly and in great concentration. Compared to the traditional gas attack, they're deficient by two orders of magnitude. This is a significant barrier for them.

It also tends to explain why relatively immediate fatalities are few. Also consider, use of explosion to release this amount of chlorine has its pros and cons. It does it fast but there's no reason to believe it is particularly efficient in getting the most material on target, which is the aim, one supposes.

Earlier discussion on chlorine attack is here.

And for the slightly more procedurally-minded, there is discussion of chlorine release scenarios at a standard municipal water treatment facility here. Worst case scenario, readers will note, involves the release of one ton of the element.

Additional things to ponder: Chlorine attacks on this scale are uninteresting and insignificant from a military standpoint. In WWI, gas was employed in high volume in hopes that it would crack trench fortifications. Historically, it wasn't particularly successful in this endeavor. Nothing was on the western front.

In Iraq, it's obvious employment is as a terror weapon. But one must wonder at the savvy and long view of those employing it. Chlorine used in this way only serves to harden civilians against the employers of it. It must be seen as even more indiscriminate and pointlessly cruel than the standard daily bombings.

Armchair Generalist furnishes some more dissection.

Editor's note: An alert reader responded that in the old version of this write-up, DD made a mistake in stating "given one 200 pound cylinder..." A 200 gallon cylinder, containing chlorine of the stated density, would have weighed considerably more.

Quite right.

In my haste to publish, the fingers and brain slipped. But not on the final calculation which corrected the error, stating an optimal amount of chlorine at over one ton.

Thanks and a tip o' the hat.

Friday, March 16, 2007

SCREW TED KOPPEL 2.0: Even the most useless person can serve as a bad example, someone said

Last Saturday, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow worked over Ted Koppel's Our Children's Children's War on the Discovery Channel.

I promised to get back to it and will do so by first talking a little bit about what surrounded Koppel's show within the schedule of the Discovery Channel.

For better or worse, it's useful to think of the reasonably well-known cable offering as a venue for white-trash entertainments made faux high-falutin' through the use of better language and production values.

On the Saturday before Koppel's special ran, someone named Jamie "wrestled sharks" most of the day. If watching the channel for a week, one is also likely to be astonished by the number of times Dirty Jobs, a show on working in landfills, manure pits and sewage treatment plants, airs. Fundamentally, it's a video excuse for a stream of tricked-up shit jokes.

Running on Sunday night, Koppel's expose was sandwiched between two segments of Futureweapons.

Futureweapons, also in heavy rotation on the Military channel, is hosted by an ex-Navy SEAL with a shaven head, a man who becomes really excited and erect when gesticulating over the latest limpet mine (Sunday it was the Krakatoa from Alford Technologies), rocket-equipped artillery piece or billion dollar jet fighter.

Flashing the occasional tattoo so viewers know it's serious business, the ex-SEAL and the show deliver themed episodes like "weapons of mass annihilation" and "weapons which strike total fear into the heart of the enemy."

Surrounding Our Children's Children's War, the panoply of military might was shown. The ten greatest weapons, ever, chosen by viewer poll, were delivered via the glowing tube.

At number ten, the rocket-propelled grenade launcher!

Number nine -- the Tomahawk, was fondly described by Steven Zaloga, editor of Better Homes and Missiles magazine, or something like that. Another liver-spotted white guy waxed poetic on the Joint Direct Attack Munition, into the list and strong at number eight.

"Americans don't get enough credit for all the care they take to limit collateral damage," he added with some sincerity.

In essence, Koppel's show, on our emerging endless national struggle, was perfect spice for the red meat of Futureweapons.

From the start, Koppel's spiel on the coming forever war was off. Travelling to Central Command in Tampa, Koppel stood in a large command and intelligence center, trying to convey an air of gravity over the situation we are said to face. Giant computer screens flashed in the background. Too bad one of them was carrying a pro sporting event.

Mystery Science Theatre, a humor show whose hosts -- a man and two puppets, lampooned bad sci-fi movies, had a special response for those times when production lapsed. When viewing a particularly execrable selection, one in which the monsters were shown wearing sneakers or with zippers on rubber suits a little too obvious, everyone shouted, "They just didn't care!"

Well, for Koppel's Discovery news production, "They just didn't care!"

Naturally, ex-counter terror man Cofer Black played a big part. Now as one of the top men for mercenary/private security contractor Blackwater USA, Black would like you to imagine it as a potential relief organization fresh from the weight-training room, replacing the work of the UN, the Red Cross, or the Peace Corps in desperate places like sub-Saharan Africa.

However, humanitarian isn't the first thing one thinks of when one sees clips of ex-Special Forces men, Blackwater security troopers, steroidal and shouting, firing en masse on the company shooting range or engaging in a mock storming of a complex of rooms.

Koppel spent some time interviewing General John Abizaid, the former Iraq commander. In doing so, he unintentionally ruptured himself by not even blinking when Abizaid uttered the following howler: "If we ever decide we're going to fight this war by walking away from our values, we're going to lose it."

Slogging to Ethiopia, Koppel showed National Guardsmen from Guam training a squad of soldiers in fitness and bush combat. In the fictional high school yearbook of military organizations, next to this Ethiopian crew one might read: "Most likely to commit atrocities on a village of peasants in the next five years."

Ted Koppel wasn't always an intelligence-insulting schnook but Our Children's Children's War was an admittance card to the club. The good news is Koppel doesn't have nearly the audience he once had, so the damage was limited.
CELEBRITY PLAME: Political convenience and seven figure book deal

Whenever nature leaves a hole in a person's mind, she generally plasters it over with a thick helping of self-conceit. --Longfellow

"Today, I can tell this committee even more. In the run-up to the war with Iraq I worked in the counter proliferation division of the CIA -- still as a covert officer whose affiliation with the CIA was classified.

"I raced to discover solid intelligence for senior policymakers on Iraq's presumed weapons of mass destruction programs.

"While I helped to manage and run secret worldwide operations against this WMD target from CIA headquarters in Washington, I also traveled to foreign countries on secret missions to find vital intelligence..."

That certainly worked well.

"...Plame is working on [a book], Fair Game, although it has had a troubled history," reports one newswire.

"In May 2006, the Crown Publishing Group announced it would publish her book, a deal reportedly worth seven figures. But the two sides could not agree on a final contract, and two months later an agreement was announced with Simon & Schuster."

Obviously, we'll never be rid of Valerie Plame. Ascending to the category of famous for being famous, she will be our most well-known ex-secret agent. Expect more book deals, chortling appearances on television, perhaps a line of fashion, and an open seat on a network news show as a flavor of Rodomontade.

Plame testimony steno at CNN.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


The Los Angeles Times'Josh Meyer came to print with another story, like the one from the Voice of America, suggesting -- gosh (!) -- that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (or Mohammad, depending on the publication) might be confabulating.

And then the newspaper produced anonymoids to say the same.

Why anonymoids from the intelligence apparatus?

Because if you sign your name to even the most obvious statements, ones that people in the street might furnish for free given a fair shake, you'll be fired and forever banished from the security apparatus that mints your paycheck.

" 'Clearly [KSM] is responsible for some of the attacks. But I believe he is taking credit for things he did not have direct involvement in,' said one recently retired senior FBI counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity."

What insight.

" 'In my opinion, it's excellent,' the former official said of Mohammed's occasionally rambling statement. 'It proves the point that these people are not stable or predictable, but that they are lethal.' "

But would you still volunteer the opinion if your name had to go with it?

"[Another unnamed] U.S. counterterrorism official agreed that Mohammed probably was using the hearing, even though it was held behind closed doors, to exaggerate his role in Al Qaeda plots and attacks."

KSM is, of course, a piece of human excrement to be scraped off the bottom of the shoe and the sooner we are rid of this garbage, the better. Idiotic bullshit about being like George Washington only goes to show that even though he went to college in the US, he hardly understands any of my countrymen.

"At other times, [KSM] appeared contrite about ... killings, and at moments seemed downright folksy," wrote Meyer for the Times.

This slip of writerly judgment is akin to a New York Times nitwit's description of Alfredo Stroessner as a colorful dictator in 2006.

KSM may be many things. "Folksy" isn't one of them. Your editors should have been a safety net for you there, Josh Meyer. Shame on them and on you. The Times' reader's rep is going to hear about that from many, I think.

The original.

And why the same old beat-up-slumlord years-old photo of KSM? A current photo is too sensitive for the US government to allow? What's up with that?
AL QAEDA OMNIPOTENT: The usual suspect delivers the standard cant

Six hours ago your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow marveled at an extraordinary article from Reuters which entertained the idea that the terror organization might be, in the words of one, "a bunch of clowns."

It was a truly aberrant story, going against the river of terror war received wisdom, wisdom which dictates no experts ever dare suggest the terror group might be less than omnipotent.

This was likened to witnessing the town whore undergoing a religious conversion, one that wasn't going to stick long.

And it didn't.

For the Voice of America, it was almost back to the standard practice.

The Jakob Marley's Ghost of Terror Experts, Michael Scheuer, was produced to shake his chains and moan for the polity.

Scheuer has always had the same story to sell. Once it was new and had meaning. That was long ago.

Not on the inside anymore, the power of al Qaeda still stalks him and Scheuer can be counted upon to reliably give the worst interpretation to even ludicrous news.

Like Khalid Sheik Mohammed's [or Mohammad's, depending on the pub you're reading] confessing to everything.

But first let's divert for some man-in-the-cyberstreet opinion.

"As far as we know, [KSM] had nothing to do with Jennifer Hudson being eliminated on American Idol," said one wag on the I Love Everything chat board, showing more common sense and critical thinking in one sentence than the newsmedia will stomach from its usual terror experts.

"Khalid Sheikh Mohammed might be the Zelig of terrorism," said another.

See it here.

With that for perspective, we return to Scheuer.

"Other counter-terrorism experts, however, are not troubled by the fact that many of the plots Mohammad alludes to never actually occurred," reported Voice of America.

"Former CIA officer Michael Scheuer, who headed the agency's hunt for bin Laden, say al-Qaeda was engaging in contingency planning. He adds that while Khalid Sheikh Mohammad may have embellished somewhat, even the potential planning he outlines is a chilling indicator of al-Qaeda's danger.

" 'I think you come away from KSM's [Khalid Sheikh Mohammad's] testimony - even if you accept maybe a quarter of it being embroidery or swagger [exaggeration] - with a very clear view of a very potent, very intelligent, very innovative enemy,' he said."

Which reminds DD of a holiday season joke.

One very bad boy was given a stockingful of horse excrement for his Christmas present, a gesture his parents hoped would knock some sense into him.

But, instead, the boy spent Christmas day wandering about the house and grounds saying he knew there had to be a pony for him hidden away somewhere.

DD has no idea if al Qaeda is still "very potent" but has seen the work of a share of legitimate failures said to be allied with the organization. And I'm willing to bet the real state of affairs is much more complicated than the standard menacing blurb and, life being what it is, such blurbs stand a better than even chance of being more wrong than right.

The Voice of America reported "some experts believe that while Mohammad was indeed a key al-Qaeda figure, they also say some of his claims are open to question and that he may be inflating his importance in some areas."

Now why would anyone ever think such a thing?

The Voice of America original is here.
BUNCHES OF CLOWNS: Startling admission in war on terror

It's March 16 (DD's b-day) in Malaysia and the nation's Star newspaper published a delightful piece, written by a Reuters reporter, on the state of terrorism.

Triggered by Khalid Sheik Mohammed's admissions that he was responsible for everything terror-related -- yeah, sure buddy -- the wire agency entertained the possibility that al Qaeda wasn't so invincible. Further, it might have been dealt a crushing blow when it was driven from Afghanistan.

"This doesn't mean they don't continue to plot and don't continue to plan and don't have the capability to do damage -- they do. But there has been an erosion of leadership and operational experience," said one U.S. anonymoid for the article.

Why anonymous?

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow informs that if you dare to go against the religion that al Qaeda is on the march for the record and sign your name to it, you'll be fired.

It's almost like these guys are clowns," said another former intelligence man, who was named. "That's probably why we haven't been hit since Sept. 11."

It's a bit like witnessing the town whore filling out correspondence courses for the Church Universal and Triumphant. One can't help but be impressed but immediately wonders how long the change will last.

Readers know the standard script is the opposite. The terror organization is supreme in all things, according to the usual thrasonical gasbags passed off as national security experts, as written in the pages of dailies and delivered on television.

Al Qaeda's terror operators are canny and clever, not ever chowderheads who think they can make dirty bombs from smoke detectors and and explosives from chapati flour and beauty salon peroxide.

No one considers that expending your best men in one remarkable kamikaze operation might have cost a dear price in leadership.

60 Minutes, for example, says jihadis are beating the pants off us in cyberspace and that must be true!

And here's yet another gnomic assessment on the subject, one in a deluge of analysis and prognostication.

Plus Ted Koppel informs that our national struggle is just beginning for the Discovery Channel, right between two hour-long segments on "Futurweapons," the show devoted to making inspirational entertainments of the B-2 bomber, the Virginia attack submarine, Multiple Rocket Launcher Systems, Tomahawk missiles and the Steel Rain machine gun that can fire a million rounds a minute!

How could Ted ever be wrong? Easy. Screw Ted. Read here. (And we'll have more to say about this benighted fellow and his wretched show later today, too!)

The Los Angeles Times reported this morning that KSM "said he took part in plans to kill former presidents Carter and Clinton, as well as the late Pope John Paul II."

However, the Times, although its editors cannot come right out and say it, know the US government has turned the proceeding into an intelligence-insulting farce. KSM is surely a very bad man but by taking on the role of dungeonmaster, the United States government and military have destroyed the value of putting him through any process having to do with justice.

Times editors signalled this in big print, below the headline "9/11 Planner Confesses to Many Plots." "He Says He Was Tortured" read a subhed.

The Reuters original, in the Malaysia Star, is here.

In other news from the war on terror, the trial of the Chapati Flour Gang cranks on in England.

Their bombs fizzled and failed.

However, this never confutes terror experts. If the bombs were duds, the work of incompetents, boffins will strive to bring all resources to the table in reconstructing how they could work.

The United Kingdom's Forensic Explosives Laboratory went well beyond the usual strapped-down chicken test for the trial of the gang.

"Six men are accused of plotting to carry out a series of explosions on the London transport system, using home-made hydrogen peroxide and chapatti flour rucksack devices," wrote the Telegraph newspaper.

"[A Forensic Explosives Lab scientist] said he conducted ... tests using different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and different ratios of peroxide to flour. He concluded that one particular combination of the materials exploded more effectively than others."

The FEL-made bomb was detonated, filmed and shown to the jury. The originals, which didn't explode, were destroyed by the lab.

Reconstructing them was considered too dangerous, it was maintained. Or perhaps too screwed-up so the lab went ahead and empirically determined the correct way to make a bomb out of concentrated peroxide and flour.

The Telegraph piece and a court video are here.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

SCREW TED KOPPEL: Our national struggle is just beginning, news on page twenty of the entertainment section

Readers of your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow's blog know that the ocean of terror-bad-and-ruin-coming-to-America news is vast and deep.

In today's Los Angeles Times, reporter Tony Perry, usually covering the Marine Corps in Iraq, writes of Ted Koppel's special, "Our Children's Children's War," set to air Sunday night on the Discovery Channel. (Today on Discovery, "American Sharks" and "Mythbusters: Jaws Special," in which "Jamie wrestles with sharks.")

"In such perilous times, it's good to have [Koppel] on the beat," writes Perry. Ted is so good, the review is on the very last page of the newspaper, below the fold.

Ha-ha, Ted, an editor worked you over!

We don't need no more steen-king endless terror war stories -- of which this is yet another in a grand tradition.

Everyone knows about it Ted! These are not scintillating observations. Wake up, dummy! We're filled to the brim and you're fresh out of ideas, no matter how many of your pals think you're still swell.

Perry writes of the material in Ted's special, all the stuff we've heard, groaned and quaked over before.

It'll be generations before "we face down the threat" and "it is probably just a matter of time before a non-state actor -- read terrorist group -- gets its own nuclear weapon."

Wow! That's the first time your GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow has heard that one.

This week.

Let's see now, there was the cover story on the same subject in the New York Times Sunday magazine two weeks ago. And in the opinion pages, Frank Rich citing the chain-rattling Jakob Marley's Ghost of terror, Michael Scheuer, insisting al Qaeda was bringing the bomb to us as fast as humanly possible.

And don't forget the fifty megabyte animation of an atom bomb exploding near the White House, distributed by McClatchy News last week for "Experts: US unprepared for nuclear attack."

There's no enthusiasm for digging fall-out shelters and stocking dosimeters in the general populace laments Pentagon analyst John Brinkerhoff.

Plus the recent absolutely novel article in the Atlantic Monthly on how terrorists would get a nuclear weapon. And "The Bomb In the Backyard" in Foreign Policy in November.

Jeez, Ted's really onto something.

The military won't be enough to handle the endless war, it is said.

"Our military is quite stretched," says Cofer Black of the now famous mercenary/security contractor known as Blackwater.

Perry doesn't identify Black by name in the preview, perhaps because if people start looking it up they'll find a lot of stuff to suggest Cofer's not a guy you want running an outsourced war on terror for the good of the nation.

The idea here is that Black wants to be part of the neverending struggle. He was in at the beginning of it for the CIA and State Department, apparently didn't get paid quite sufficiently trying to save the nation, and so now he'll get better money doing it privately.

For one, after 9/11, part of the lore on Black is that he ordered Osama bin Laden's head be brought to him in a box. That worked well, Cofer. Did you hear, they're celebrating bin Laden's birthday right now.

And more recently, Black created a stink when his quotes from a Special Forces convention were published in the Army Times.

"[Cofer Black] astonished special operations forces representatives gathered here from around the world with a proposal to use his company as an army for hire for the world's secondary battles," reported the publication in April of last year.

" 'It's an intriguing, good idea from a practical standpoint because we're low-cost and fast...The issue is, who's going to let us play on their team?'"

To read Black's words in the Army Times was to experience some hilarity at the faux nobility of the claims.

"Blackwater spends a lot of time thinking, 'How can we contribute to the common good?'" Black said.

"I just got tired of watching people not really do anything. It's heartbreaking." This, in reference to a wish to send a privatized brigade to the Sudan.

Was Black making a speech hoping to net a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize?

[Sidebar: In a January edition of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, one reads: "Always on the lookout for new markets, Blackwater USA may be close to getting a toehold in one of Africa's most strife-torn spots...The Moyock, N.C.-based private military company is angling for a role training security forces in southern Sudan, where a fragile peace agreement has been threatened recently by sporadic flare-ups of a decades-long civil war. Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, head of mission in Washington for southern Sudan's regional government, said he expects Blackwater to begin training the south's security forces within the next few weeks."]

So it is that Cofer Black would seem to be just the person to go to find recommendations on the business value of a hundred years war.

Similar points have been made, but from the negative and critical side, in the documentaries "Why We Fight," "Iraq for Sale" and "Nemesis," a book by Chalmers Johnson.

When war becomes so profitable, it is guaranteed you will have more of it, indicated Johnson in "Why We Fight." The movie has been running in medium heavy rotation on a number of movie channels. Johnson, also ex-CIA, is the logical antidote for the now embarrassingly large number of Cofer Blacks.

Back in February, The Washington Times reported private sector brigades are perhaps not quite enough for Black. Such formations will need their own clandestine intelligence service.

Black, and Rob Richer, another CIA man, "will create a new 'CIA-type' organization to address intelligence needs in the private sector. 'Terror attacks,' 'political instability,' 'avian-flu outbreaks,' and even severe weather events will be on the radar of the company, which the pair names Total Intelligence Solutions.'"

Although this show might indicate it, Ted Koppel is probably not completely washed up.

But work like this, even though it treks to Ethiopia and Afghanistan, should be put down in the strongest terms, taken to the glue factory and rendered for reasons which became clear a couple years ago. The story has been told many times. Get ready for the forever war, shouted ever louder and louder, an excruciating din no one has missed.

The original at the LA Times.

Jargon watch: "The phrase 'hearts and minds' is in disrepute. The new buzz phrase is 'human terrain'..." Perry writes.

In other words, old mutton now reseasoned as lamb because hearts-and-minds gets you laughed at as out of it.

Actually, "human terrain" is still hearts-and-minds, only packaged as a system with corporate-type jargon so someone in the service can call it their unique contribution, a new giftbox of more considerate personnel to take to foreign lands where things are blowing up daily beyond control and reason.

From Military Review's "The Human Terrain System:"

"The core building block of the system will be a five-person human terrain team (HTT) ... The HTT [provides] the commander [with]...civilian social scientists trained and skilled in cultural data research and analysis."

"During the Vietnam war, [a project] was administered to win the 'hearts and minds' of the South Vietnamese people ... In the above photo, a soldier ... is playing with children of An Dien ... a Viet Cong stronghold west of Saigon..."

That worked.

"In the current climate, there is broad agreement among operators ... that many, if not most, of the challenges we face in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted from our failure early on to understand the culture in which [US] forces were working. In other words, we failed to heed the lessons of Vietnam ... and we did not take the steps necessary to deal appropriately with the insurgencies within the context of their unique cultural environments."

"...With the introduction of the Human Terrain System and its human terrain teams, future deploying brigades will get a running start once they enter threater. They will be culturally empowered and able to key on the people and so prosecute counter-insurgency ... not by fire and maneuver but by winning hearts and minds. In turn, the Army, our Nation, and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan will benefit from the fielding of this powerful new instrument for conducting stability operations and reconstruction."

It's hard to think of anyone with common sense and whose pay grade, rank or job description not preclude they keep their mouths shut not laughing at such conceits. And as remarkable as this paper is in its weird and clouded military groupthink, see it here.

If you enjoyed this, you surely won't want to miss Screw Ted Koppel, Pt. 2.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A TALENT FOR THE OBVIOUS: A Ph.D. from Princeton, too!

General Physical Fitness, using emphatic hand gestures learned in a Dale Carnegie course on how to make friends and influence people, reported the US couldn't protect everyone in Iraq. Stiffs in the Baghdad news pool looked dumbly on.

David Petraeus, said to be the most brilliant man in the US military, resembling T.E. Lawrence and loaded with the stamina to perform more push-ups than others, stands before the newsmedia to tell us what we already know. Heads nod, fingers click on laptops. Sadly, it lacks the excitement of a Slayer concert and there will never be handfuls of nails and cups of soda hurled at the stage. Look, it's a map of Iraq, a country the size of California!

From the archives: More on General Physical Fitness.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

CRASH AND BURN: Mein kampf mit Lock On

DD was vexed by a series of nettlesome crashes in the fields near Dzankoy.

Lock On: Modern Air Combat, the greatest air combat flight wargame -- ever, continues to chew into free time. Playing with minimal satisfaction requires the gamer to write his own scripts for battle, a process that leaves more than enough room to hang oneself.

Learning the ejection seat is a necessity in Lock On.

Ninety-five percent of the time this saves the trouble of having to resurrect yourself from the dead in the game's logbook. Scrabbling about on the desktop, you learn it's an easy but tiresome hack of a game datafile, a file that is thankfully not checksummed by Lock On each time it logs you as dead.

If you're a freshly dead Lock On user, open 'pilots.xml' in Notepad, search for your name, and set your status from "0" back to "1." Save.

In Lock On, the player can also watch NATO ground forces slug it out with Russia in the Crimea, a secondary feature of what is primarily a flight simulator.

DD created a microcosm of the Eastern Front for the Nineties, pushing a panzer abteilung of Leopards against a mixed Russian force of T-80s and assault guns, south of Rostov and Don on the cheap, while flying overhead as forward observer.

Lock On is still a beast, a resource hog even as a combat simulator which isn't a precise use of it. As higher numbers of maneuvering battle groups are added, the processing shudders and slows. It's OK if you want to watch the game play itself, something it does well, but not so great if you're in it for the lightning action.

Friday, March 02, 2007

FRIDAY MORNING MUSIC CLUB: Neil Young fetish strikes a chord

Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter's new record is reviewed at

"Neil Young & Crazy Horse fans are to report and salute for Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter’s Like Love Lust & etc. However, the middle-aged ones probably won’t because they no longer pay attention to stuff. Instead, they’ll go see Young and embarrass their wives and kids by screaming for 'Cinnamon Girl' during an intimate acoustic set..."

Everyone in a garage band in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, played "Down by the River" in the early-Seventies. And if they were really good, they did "Cinnamon Girl," its riff being irresistible if you were a guitar player who liked the loud.

However, while I'm not the guy screaming for "Cinnamon Girl" during the middle of an acoustic set, DD no longer has any use for Neil Young. His hayseed frank-talkin' country-bumpkin singing about the travails of the salt-o-the-earth shtick wore out and made me sick years ago. I somehow missed all the wonderful and wise salt-o-the-earth country bumpkins growing up in Schuylkill County, PA.

The part-time farmer who was the assistant wrestling coach was a child-molester who committed suicide when the jig was up. The local leader of the Boy Scouts liked boys without shirts on too much. The Eagle Scout was a Nazi.

At Keystone Boys State one learned the fine art of marching in review and chanting in cadence from a USMC D.I. who came back to the dorm drunk every night. Catholics were Roundheads. For the Pinewood Derby, everyone cheated by loading their model cars. The locals liked to toss chickens over the fence into the community swimming pool on crowded days in July. When the Cubans came to Indiantown Gap military base, the town painted "Marielitos Go Home" on the side of a building on mainstreet. It stayed up for years and Christmas ornaments were left on poles until June. Guys shot their dogs and each other in their zeal for game at the beginning of hunting season. For years, the guy who ran the biggest gas station kept a wild and very angry red fox in a wire cage. Boy, it sure was great being a paperboy in that green and verdant land.

However, Jesse Sykes knows none of that and her record is a good one. Really! Go here for the rest of the review and a sample.