Archive for November, 2003

The photo shows quite clearly that the no. 1 engine is intact and that the missile hit roughly halfway from the engine to the wingtip. The thingy between the damage and the engine is the flap track fairing, common to all of these aircraft, and is definitely not an antimissile device. It is believed that the 2 main hydraulic systems out of 3 were lost, as well as serious aerodynamic damage. This meant that neither the flaps nor the speedbrakes were available and an over-speed landing was inevitable (about 45 knots faster at touchdown- reference)- hence the over-run. Informed speculation on the web suggests that the plane was also overweight for landing, as it is unlikely that anyone would have risked holding to dump fuel during the SAM threat.

More pictures


Looks like this.

I’m sure you all know by now that the Georgian president and Soviet statesman, Eduard Shevardnadze, was overthrown by demonstrators enraged by alleged vote-rigging in the recent presidential election at the weekend. After the usual proceedings of post-Communist political theatre – mass demos under the new-old national flag, initial contempt from the boss, then offers of negotiations, followed by the ostentatious mobilisation of troops and the denouement often brought about by the generals refusing to fire into the crowd, usually for the worst of motives – Shevardnadze resigned yesterday, bringing the opposition speaker of parliament into the presidency pro tempore as laid down in the constitution. There were many curious features of what the new Georgian rulers are already calling their “velvet revolution”. For a start, there was an unusually democratic flavour – the two sides plotted to elect their own speakers rather than gathering guns, and the climax occurred when protestors burst into the parliamentary chamber to prevent the dismissal of their speaker. But more importantly, and more tellingly for the true nature of this particular “velvet revolution”, what was the Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov doing in so many photographs with the opposition leaders when we heard next to nothing of him at the time?

Russian intervention has been a standing feature of independent Georgia, ever since the Abkhazian rebellion in the early 90s, when most people involved believed that the Abkhaz were a cat’s paw of Russian power. Russian military bases exist to this day in Georgia. It was certainly remarkable that, after the Abkhaz rebels had brought the new state to the edge of collapse, the rebellion seemed to be turned off like a tap after talks between Shevardnadze and Russian representatives permitted the stationing of a Russian “peacekeeping force” in Abkhazia. Many curious events have been blamed on Russian interference – things like assassination attempts, for one. A persuasive argument exists that Shevardnadze started out being too independent for Russia, and then made a U-turn under duress – but continued to seek Western economic and military assistance as a guarantee. In recent years, this has gone further than ever before, with the deployment of US military advisers to Georgia in an effort to pursue supposed jihadists out of the Pankisi Gorge on the Chechen border. Russia was not remarkably pleased by that development. From a Georgian point of view, though, it was a stroke of the cunning Shevardnadze was famed for – it dealt with Russian demands that Georgia drive supposed Chechen rebels out of the Gorge or face Russian military intervention there, whilst also offering something like a Western guarantee of security. Russia, though, could hardly argue against the mission, having spent so much time demanding military action in the Gorge, which by now was a cauldron of weird politico-military groupings – Chechen rebels, for a start, jihadis, very likely Russian special forces, and something strange called the Brothers of the White Forest that claimed to be a Georgian nationalist guerrilla group equally opposed to Chechens and Russians, but might have been a front for Georgian government forces, Russian forces, or perhaps even the CIA. Confused yet?

Getting back to my title, though, an interesting sidelight on the whole story has emerged in various German-language papers. Almost all major German news sources have been reporting first that two “mysterious” aircraft arrived from Georgia at Baden-Baden Airport today, carrying various passengers including Eduard Shevardnadze. That in itself would not be surprising – Germany is the Western state most committed to Eastern Europe, and has close economic and diplomatic connections to Georgia, as well as a degree of historic interest going back to the First World War and to various romantic historians of the 1840s – if it wasn’t for the fact that the Federal Border Patrol (Bundesgrenzschutz) office in Weil am Rhein, responsible for Baden-Baden, has just categorically denied that Shevardnadze was one of the passengers. His family have meanwhile declared that he is at home in Tiflis. Who’s lying? Cunning he may be, but being in two places at once is a rare accomplishment.

FAZ story

Strangely enough, I notice in the Guardian today that their sketchwriter, Simon Hoggart, has noticed that Bush says “Trrr” when he means “terror”. Funny that, as I blogged on this as far back as the 11th of June. Curiously though, it’s spreading – just as if you are right wing enough you say “Pa’ment” and “Yurp” instead of “Parliament” and “Europe”, you also talk about the War on Trrr. “Trrr” is a curious concept – no-one seems able to say exactly what it is. It certainly isn’t the same thing as terror – the bomb campaign in Istanbul is terror, but is it trrr?

The terrorists seem very rarely to be Iraqis, but we invaded Iraq. An apparent paradox which is explained when you realise that far from being his accent, Bush really did declare War on Trrr. The only question is – will they tell us, one day in the future, what all that Trrr was about? And why are we safer now, when the enemy are deliberately picking on British targets, than before the war when they weren’t? Jack Straw made a very bad showing yesterday when he tried to say there was no reason to believe the bombings were specifically anti-British. What, they just happened by chance to attack a British diplomatic mission and a British bank on the day Bush was officially welcomed in Britain? Comfortable thinking again, I suspect.

In Utah, Public Works Project in Digital – NY Times

17 cities in the US state of Utah are getting together to build a huge public-sector broadband system.

Sounds like a good idea..


“In the daily reports of conflict, the British have become the forgotten army. And news of the Americans unleashing their ferocious firepower on the cities is greeted with raised eyebrows. Washington, twice, asked for British soldiers, paratroopers to be sent to Baghdad, and twice has been refused.

One young British soldier said yesterday: “Look, we are not here to fight a war now, I thought that was finished. The Yanks are fighting a war again, but we should not go down that path. I am very, very sorry for the kids getting killed, but we don’t have to get involved.

Apparently some people in Baghdad think that power cuts were deliberately organised by The Authorities recently as collective punishment. Ha! Nonsense! But is that any more ridiculous as a counter-guerrilla strategy than firing tactical ballistic missiles at buildings 120 miles to “get tough”? And what about this?

“There were assaults in several other cities, including Baqubah, 30 miles to the north-east, where American jets and Apache helicopter gunships blasted abandoned buildings, walls and trees”

Trees? Would that be former regime loyalist trees or al-Qa’ida infiltrator trees? We’re shooting trees?


It seems a report prepared by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies has revealed that the Americans in Iraq think that guerrilla activity will go on up to the day they leave the country. Dr Anthony Cordesman went to Iraq and spoke to – as well as assorted generals and spooks – Paul Bremer and David Kay, the chief wild goose chaser (sorry – he’s in charge of looking for weapons of mass destruction). Isn’t it amazing what people will tell a doctor?

“The Iraqi resistance movement is believed to have a war chest of up to $1bn – with a further $3bn hidden in Syria – and it is paying between $25 and $500 for each attack on US forces…

It also says 95 per cent of the threat is from former regime loyalists and that suicide bombings are being carried out largely by foreigners.”

So – 95% of the danger is from the FRLs but it’s foreigners who are blowing up? Surely a slight contradiction.

“Mr Bremer said that there was no evidence of a direct role by al-Qa’ida, though he felt that the devastating suicide bombs were carried out by non-Iraqis. But he made clear that he had “no hard intelligence to confirm that they were foreigners”.”

So that explains it. There’s no evidence to show that foreign terrorists are behind the bombs, but we “feel” this. We feel this because it is a convenient, comfortable thing to feel. We also feel this because we have been saying so for so long that it has become part of our language and hence of our mental furniture. Even if there were good reasons to believe this, we should of course still doubt it as this is the only way for imperfect human beings to approach the truth more closely. As J.S.Mill wrote in On Liberty, if you refuse to discuss something you are effectively claiming infallibility. No wonder, given this exercise in stupidity, that “We do not have a reliable picture of who is organising attacks, and the size and structure of various elements” and that “the CPA is seen as an over-centralised bureaucracy, isolated from the military, relies too much on contractors and is not realistically evaluating developments in the field.”

Meanwhile on the political front, Iraqi opinions of the Governing Council seem to bear a much greater degree of realism:

“Iraqi politicians independent of the US-appointed governing council interviewed by The Independent all believe that the council wanted to delay elections because its members feared they would not be elected. “They just want time to loot the country and then get out,” said one Iraqi leader bitterly.”

And, just to crown the lot:

“Dr Kay says that “Iraq was actively violating accords during later 1999 to 2003”. But despite a prolonged and vastly expensive search for chemical weapons there was “no evidence of weapons production” though Iraq could have produced sarin in two years and mustard gas in two months.”

Remember the lie. No weapons, no legality, no reason.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US babies get global brand names

Well, if I worked for the Al-Qa’ida Joint Centre for Propaganda and Corporate Communications, this is the sort of thing I might have made up – barbarian infidels, mindless materialism, decadence and the like. But I wouldn’t have had to.

“There are even two little boys, one in Michigan and one in Texas, called ESPN after the sports channel.”

You could cry.

Thanks to ConfinedSpace

..for putting us on to that last post.

An Anti-Labor Line in the Sand: LA Times

“In plants and factories all over Iraq, workers are quickly organizing unions. They want better wages. They want shorter hours (workers at the refinery and elsewhere often work 11- and 13-hour shifts without additional pay). They want safety shoes, goggles, masks and other protective gear. Most of all, they want a voice in the future of their jobs.

But in their quest for what they see as simple fairness in the workplace, they are encountering a determined foe: the Coalition Provisional Authority. Whenever the new unions try to talk with the managers or ministries that operate the plants, they’re told that a law passed by Saddam Hussein in 1987 is still being enforced by the CPA. This law says that workers in state-owned enterprises (where the majority of Iraqis work) have no right to form unions or to bargain for contracts.

The law violates at least two conventions of the United Nations’ International Labor Organization. But on June 5, CPA chief L. Paul Bremer III backed up this decree with another that Iraqi union activists say bans strikes and demonstrations that would disrupt economic activity.”

So this is democracy, eh? I am genuinely ashamed to be British. Seriously. This sort of activity is the only hope for Iraqi liberty. Freedom is not a thing that you can unload from the back of a truck. It is a practice, an activity, a process. The people who have formed 170 (at the last count) newspapers in Iraq are doing democracy. The union organisers are doing democracy. And we are apparently pointing guns at them.