Archive for February, 2004

Well, the Russian joint forces nuclear exercise reported in these pages is on, but it seems that the weirdness has struck already…story

Apparently, a strategic missile submarine which was planned to launch one (or perhaps two) missiles into a test range in Siberia failed to launch. Or perhaps – depending on version – one was launched but broke up in flight – or perhaps there were no missiles. Apparently, Vladimir Putin was present aboard a nuclear submarine at the time. How embarrassing.

“Putin was on board the Arkhangelsk on Tuesday morning when the Novomoskovsk nuclear submarine was to have fired two sea-launched ballistic missiles, state-controlled news agencies reported Tuesday afternoon. The Novomoskovsk was to have fired one RSM-54 at 10:15 a.m. and another one at 10:22, but neither took off because the launch command was blocked by a satellite, Itar-Tass quoted a source in the Northern Fleet as saying. RIA-Novosti also reported that two ballistic missiles failed to take off.

Gazeta.ru, however, said that only one missile was to have been launched from the submerged Novomoskovsk and that it disintegrated right after emerging from the water.

And a government source told The Associated Press that the launch of the one missile failed after it was blocked by the submarine’s automatic safety system. The source did not elaborate.

After reporting two failures, RIA-Novosti dropped any mention of them and started relaying reports in which the Northern Fleet’s press service said the exercises were going “normally.” The press service told Interfax that “no unforeseen situations appeared in the course of the exercises.”

What elephant? It would appear that various state-controlled media including the defence ministry’s own paper, the Red Star, had announced that one strategic missile and one other weapon were to be launched. (the second one being part of a naval air defence exercise) But now the commander-in-chief of the Navy, Admiral Kuroyedov, says they were only ever going to simulate firing the missiles. How very Soviet. More details here

For amusement’s sake, check out this article from Pravda. And then try this one. So – the BBC made it all up, but the sub really did launch the rocket it was only simulating and it went off course and had to be blown up?

“Our information suggests that two two-inch blocks of wood were placed beneath the wheels of the trolley to stop it moving.

“Apparently loading had just commenced when the trolley crushed the wood and careered downhill.”

Mr Crow said there had been claims the workers were not aware that there were colleagues on the line down hill.

“If this information is correct our members will be outraged at the cavalier, reckless and disjointed approach to safety management and safe ways of working on the railways,” he said. BBC story

Oh Jesus Christ…I wonder whether this would have happened if the hand-back to Network Rail had already happened? Futile, I know, but it hardly smacks of railway expertise…

Thanks for the link, The UK Today!

Gap Year in Hell!

Army employing students in Iraq

The Army is paying students to put their degrees on hold and join troops in Iraq as Arabic interpreters. Five students have already been sent to areas under British control and 11 more are in the final stages of preparation, the Ministry of Defence said.

Their work includes translating documents and dealing with the public.

The MoD said they wear blue jackets and helmets to distinguish them from troops but have been warned: “There’s a degree of risk inherent in working in Iraq.”

You wanna bet? To come over all serious, this is a creative and original idea to address a vital problem..but I can’t help thinking it could turn out bad. What are you planning for your junior year abroad, Language Student? “Well, I thought I’d spend a while in a guerrilla war. Counterinsurgency tactics have always fascinated me, and I’m really looking forward to helping interrogate a few terrs..” In fact, the motivation is pretty clear – £200 a day living on the ration strength for a 6 month tour (ie 182 days) equals £36,400 raw cash. Now that’s what I call a top-up fee. But – hold hard! – a private soldier in the Infantry gets £213.29 weekly as a recruit (reference). If I were one of these studes, I think I would avoid talking about money.

And guess who is behind this scheme?

“Miss Culley, of Weymouth, Dorset, said she and her female friend were approached by recruiters from Kellog, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of US multinational Halliburton, a civilian contractor working for the Ministry of Defence, at Exeter University’s Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies.”

That’s right – Dick Cheney’s cut-lunch commandos. The folk who allegedly pay their staff in Iraq in raw cash dollars and assume a percentage for fraud in the books, are being investigated for profiteering off the US Army’s budget in Iraq…and are the subject of this post from Iraq Now…

“Youngster: Is the bonus in the form of a paper check? Or an automatic deposit?

Trainer: Neither. Neither method is expensive enough. We send a courier to find you in the field, and we just hand you a sack full of cash. Arthur Anderson reports that 2% of every cash dollar in a business leaves in an employee’s pocket. So we just assume the courier’s a thief, and write off 2% in theft as an expense. The expense—along with the courier’s fee– is reimbursed by the government, of course, plus an additional 2%-7% profit margin.”

Some other people Miss Culley might want to keep quiet about money towards would be the locally recruited interpreters. I’ve heard today that they are getting 200 a day as well – but that’s 200 US dollars, or £105.17 at current exchange rates, or damn near half what the students are getting! Now there’s fair.

Well, the Russian joint forces nuclear exercise reported in these pages is on, but it seems that the weirdness has struck already…story

Apparently, a strategic missile submarine which was planned to launch one (or perhaps two) missiles into a test range in Siberia failed to launch. Or perhaps – depending on version – one was launched but broke up in flight – or perhaps there were no missiles. Apparently, Vladimir Putin was present aboard a nuclear submarine at the time. How embarrassing.

“Putin was on board the Arkhangelsk on Tuesday morning when the Novomoskovsk nuclear submarine was to have fired two sea-launched ballistic missiles, state-controlled news agencies reported Tuesday afternoon. The Novomoskovsk was to have fired one RSM-54 at 10:15 a.m. and another one at 10:22, but neither took off because the launch command was blocked by a satellite, Itar-Tass quoted a source in the Northern Fleet as saying. RIA-Novosti also reported that two ballistic missiles failed to take off.

Gazeta.ru, however, said that only one missile was to have been launched from the submerged Novomoskovsk and that it disintegrated right after emerging from the water.

And a government source told The Associated Press that the launch of the one missile failed after it was blocked by the submarine’s automatic safety system. The source did not elaborate.

After reporting two failures, RIA-Novosti dropped any mention of them and started relaying reports in which the Northern Fleet’s press service said the exercises were going “normally.” The press service told Interfax that “no unforeseen situations appeared in the course of the exercises.”

What elephant? It would appear that various state-controlled media including the defence ministry’s own paper, the Red Star, had announced that one strategic missile and one other weapon were to be launched. (the second one being part of a naval air defence exercise) But now the commander-in-chief of the Navy, Admiral Kuroyedov, says they were only ever going to simulate firing the missiles. How very Soviet. More details here

For amusement’s sake, check out this article from Pravda. And then try this one. So – the BBC made it all up, but the sub really did launch the rocket it was only simulating and it went off course and had to be blown up?

“Our information suggests that two two-inch blocks of wood were placed beneath the wheels of the trolley to stop it moving.

“Apparently loading had just commenced when the trolley crushed the wood and careered downhill.”

Mr Crow said there had been claims the workers were not aware that there were colleagues on the line down hill.

“If this information is correct our members will be outraged at the cavalier, reckless and disjointed approach to safety management and safe ways of working on the railways,” he said. BBC story

Oh Jesus Christ…I wonder whether this would have happened if the hand-back to Network Rail had already happened? Futile, I know, but it hardly smacks of railway expertise…

Thanks for the link, The UK Today!

Gap Year in Hell!

Army employing students in Iraq

The Army is paying students to put their degrees on hold and join troops in Iraq as Arabic interpreters. Five students have already been sent to areas under British control and 11 more are in the final stages of preparation, the Ministry of Defence said.

Their work includes translating documents and dealing with the public.

The MoD said they wear blue jackets and helmets to distinguish them from troops but have been warned: “There’s a degree of risk inherent in working in Iraq.”

You wanna bet? To come over all serious, this is a creative and original idea to address a vital problem..but I can’t help thinking it could turn out bad. What are you planning for your junior year abroad, Language Student? “Well, I thought I’d spend a while in a guerrilla war. Counterinsurgency tactics have always fascinated me, and I’m really looking forward to helping interrogate a few terrs..” In fact, the motivation is pretty clear – £200 a day living on the ration strength for a 6 month tour (ie 182 days) equals £36,400 raw cash. Now that’s what I call a top-up fee. But – hold hard! – a private soldier in the Infantry gets £213.29 weekly as a recruit (reference). If I were one of these studes, I think I would avoid talking about money.

And guess who is behind this scheme?

“Miss Culley, of Weymouth, Dorset, said she and her female friend were approached by recruiters from Kellog, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of US multinational Halliburton, a civilian contractor working for the Ministry of Defence, at Exeter University’s Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies.”

That’s right – Dick Cheney’s cut-lunch commandos. The folk who allegedly pay their staff in Iraq in raw cash dollars and assume a percentage for fraud in the books, are being investigated for profiteering off the US Army’s budget in Iraq…and are the subject of this post from Iraq Now…

“Youngster: Is the bonus in the form of a paper check? Or an automatic deposit?

Trainer: Neither. Neither method is expensive enough. We send a courier to find you in the field, and we just hand you a sack full of cash. Arthur Anderson reports that 2% of every cash dollar in a business leaves in an employee’s pocket. So we just assume the courier’s a thief, and write off 2% in theft as an expense. The expense—along with the courier’s fee– is reimbursed by the government, of course, plus an additional 2%-7% profit margin.”

Some other people Miss Culley might want to keep quiet about money towards would be the locally recruited interpreters. I’ve heard today that they are getting 200 a day as well – but that’s 200 US dollars, or £105.17 at current exchange rates, or damn near half what the students are getting! Now there’s fair.

I’d forgotten this, but how strange! In her column last week, The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee decided to take the piss out of Michael Howard’s “I believe that the people should be big..”.

In fact, this is what she came up with: “A Conservative government would be smaller, he warned. “Smaller government, bigger people” is their slogan – somewhat unfortunate in anti-obesity week. So £80bn of excess fat would be liposucked from Britain’s body politic. “Could she have read this post in the Ranter of the 5th of January? I think we should be told.

By the way, she does have a point concerning the Tories’ proposed freeze on Civil Service recruitment. My attack is founded on the idea that if civil servants leaving the service are not replaced, then their jobs must be filled by somebody. Even if some of the jobs can be got rid of, people who are unequivocally necessary will still leave – they don’t live forever. So, with absolute certainty, the competent will retire and be replaced by those who were considered insufficiently competent to have that job before the holder’s retirement. There will be a process of progressive mediocritisation (and I claim the rights to that word).

It seems, according to the Independent, that the Americans now believe that the storming of the police station in Fallujah was carried out not by those elusive foreign militants but by Iraqis. I believe that the fight in Fallujah was an event of the first importance, for several reasons. For a start, this was no roadside bomb but a direct, force on force assault – a fair fight, if you like – in which the guerrillas “engaged the enemy more closely”. The symbolic importance is obvious. Also, the complexity of the raid suggests careful preparation and expertise. To recap, the police station and the nearby army barracks were simultaneously surprised. A diversionary group seems to have opened fire on the barracks and suppressed any response from there whlst the assault party broke into the police station and slaughtered the policemen. Although it is hard to determine exactly what happened with regard to the Americans, some accounts suggest that a relief party was held up by a third group of guerrillas acting as a rear guard and covering the getaway of the rest. Only four of them were killed. This took some organising, and tends to bear out the US contention that former Iraqi Army or Republican Guard officers were involved. But what the attack may tell us more about is the nature of the new Iraqi forces raised by the coalition.

After all, the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps (which isn’t a civil defence corps, it’s an army, or at least a militarised gendarmerie) unit next door was described as being “trapped” or “pinned down” in its barracks under “heavy” guerrilla fire although it suffered no casualties. This is rather reminiscent of the telegram from the Austrian army on Lissa in 1866 – “Intense cannonade from Italian ships: no casualties” – but in the opposite sense. But – according to the US operations chief in the area – the ICDC’s performance was satisfactory. What would it have taken for them to be considered a failure? The same briefing cleared up the question of the US forces’ position. Apparently “no assistance was requested and no assistance was rendered”. (Several of the surviving policemen had very publicly claimed that the Americans had let them down.) It don’t sound great, though, if this lot are the men with the mission of preventing civil war in Iraq or alternatively getting between the US Army and the ‘t other siders.

In fact it rather reminds of the battle of Bac in Vietnam, an action in which a sizeable force of the Southern army attempted to destroy a whole Viet Cong battalion. The US advisers were optimistic and had planned all to a T, but due to poor leadership and lack of drive the whole thing went to ratshit and the VC made off after nightfall having held up the equivalent of a brigade with armoured personnel carriers and air support all day and shot down a number of helicopters. The political repercussions were profound and led (in some people’s view) to the deployment of the US Army and Marines. (The story, in excessive detail, is in Neil Sheehan’s book A Bright, Shining Lie.)