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:
THE WAR WANKER
"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 COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO WAR
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.
THE BURROWING NUKE
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?
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.