Archive for July, 2006

All British

Woman working on CIA contract fired for saying that waterboarding is torture and torture is wrong. Her employer? BAE SYSTEMS.

The last post went a bit off-topic as the rockets got in the way of the strategy. So, a recap. Hezbollah is following, I think, a sort of fleet-in-being strategy. They want to keep their militia and their quasi-state role inside Lebanon, and anything that weakens the Lebanese government is conducive to that. Even being forced to withdraw from the deep south isn’t that bad, as the return of Israeli forces there gives Hezbollah back its missing reason to exist. But what are the Israelis hoping to do, apart from exactly what the enemy want them to?

One argument is purely tactical, or tactics-as-strategy. That is that they just want to get the prisoners back and get the rocket fire shut off. The first counterargument is that Ariel Sharon achieved both these by negotiation, and if he did it you can hardly describe it as weak. Another is the official line, that they want the Lebanese government to deal with Hezbollah. Bwaaahaahaaha, as they say. The Lebanese government is going to be lucky to survive Operation LITANI II, and anyway doesn’t have the consensus or the strength to do so. (Over at Aqoul, Tom Scudder asks if a list of Lebanese military equipment suggests strength or weakness on the Lebanese army’s part. Answer: it’s irrelevant.) And if that is the aim, why did they just bomb a TV transmitter miles north of Beirut that is used by LBC – the Christian Lebanese TV station whose chief political commentator was menaced during the revolution for being too anti-Syrian – and a channel owned by the Hariris? Yes, that’s as in Rafiq Hariri.

Alternatively, this is just more of a pattern familiar from 2002. Back then, whilst demanding that the PA and PLO “crack down on the terrorists”, the Israelis responded to every terrorist incident by bombing Palestinian police stations – culminating when their army besieged the headquarters of the Palestinian secret service and took away the files on the, er, terrorists. Perhaps it’s a weird version of our old friend, airpower theory. This is lent credence by the fact that the IDF chief of general staff Dan Halutz is an aviator, for the first time in Tsahal’s history. Chris “Back to Iraq” Albritton dishes this policy nicely – after all, if this really worked, why didn’t the 11th of September raid make the US public overthrow George W. Bush? More seriously, Chris’s reaction is itself proof that it doesn’t. He’s getting bombed and he’s not any happier about it. Further empirical evidence for the criminal stupidity of this strategy is what’s happened to Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz’s polls since the rain started a-falling. Two weeks ago, Olmert’s approval rating stood at 43 per cent. Now it’s 78 per cent. Peretz’s have gone from 28 per cent to 61 per cent.

Apart from that, I defer to this post.

Hizbullah: Our little-girls-face-ripping-off missiles answer to God the most merciful, the most compassionate.
Israel: As Golda Meir once said: we do not actually hate them for ripping off our little girls’ faces but for making us rip off their little girls’ faces.
Hizbullah: And let’s not forget the Palestinians, they have lost their land and some of their little girls’ faces.
Israel: Oh that’s from honor killing, if the girls have sex, they rip off the girls’ faces.
{Angry shouting, inaudible}
Mediator{ pounding gavel}: Inadmissible, we are only talking about face-ripping-off-of-girls in war. We are trying to prevent another Mideast Girl Face Ripping Off Free-for-All.
Israel: Millions of Jewish girls have had their faces ripped off out of sheer cruelty and hate; and dozens and dozens of Israeli girls through suicide bombers and terrorists. We will never forget. So we are accidentally ripping off girls’ faces strategically for survival.
Hizbullah: We are compelled to rip off the faces of little girls in order to hasten justice. We will, if necessary, rip off little girls’ faces until justice is complete and the Compassionate One is sovereign and cruelty is banished.
Israel: We are a humane society and we never rip off faces of little girls except by accident. And by the way, they are overcounting their little girls with their faces ripped off.

Read the whole thing. If you want to be really, really depressed.

All those folk looking for dirt on John Prescott. It’s nice and quiet again now. Still, I’ve been away, far from the nearest wireless LAN, so far away I didn’t hear about the new war(s) until getting back to town, and now I’m back.

It seems that, after a week’s bombing to get in the mood, the Israeli army is going back into southern Lebanon. What are they trying to achieve? A question that could have been asked all week, but one that gains force with this escalation. Everyone’s talking about either “clearing a one-mile strip” along the border of Hezbollah rocket launchers, which cannot be true because it’s completely pointless, or else going north to the line of the River Litani (not the Lipari as Jamie K called it, although a brief holiday in Italy seems a far better idea).

The Israelis did that in 1978, indeed they called that invasion Operation LITANI so that the enemy would be in no doubt as to their objective. Reaching it without breaking sweat, and having bombed the hell out of everyone and everything in their path, they found surprisingly enough that the enemy of the day – Fatah – had retreated over it. There is no reason to think that Hezbollah won’t do the same, having made a token resistance. The difference is, though, that in 1978 going to the Litani at least transferred the risk from Katyusha rockets from civilians in northern Israel to the soldiers, so long as they stayed there. Now, it seems, the increased rocket range means that Hezbollah’s self-declared insecurity zone 30 kilometres into Israel can be maintained from beyond the river.

This scenario may not sound very much like the strategy of a militia determined to challenge the most powerful army in the Middle East, but a couple of points militate against this. For a start, this is Lebanon and Lebanese warlords do not cling to principle when to do so is inconvenient. Hezbollah’s interests are served by what would be described at sea as a fleet-in-being strategy, that is to say one that conserves their deterrent capability against the other parties in Lebanon and their northern Israeli insecurity zone. The second point is their stockpile of ATGWs, anti-tank guided weapons.

I predict that these will be this year’s surprise hit in the armoury, rather like RPGs were in 2004. If you’re not familiar, it’s basically a longer-ranged anti-tank rocket with some means of control so it can be shot in a straight line. The first ones to be fielded were the French SS10 and 11, oddly enough, at Suez in 1956 and (unofficially) on Israeli light armour in 1967. Their big success came later, though, with the Soviet AT-3 SAGGER. This missile was used in large numbers by the Egyptian army at the crossing of the Suez Canal in 1973, allowing their infantry to hold off the first Israeli armoured counter-attacks. In Vietnam, it made an appearance with the North Vietnamese army in the 1972 Easter offensive, where the Western answer (the US TOW missile) was also fielded for the first time. By the 1980s, with the arrival of large numbers of the things, a serious reassessment of the NATO-Warsaw Pact balance was in progress.

This wasn’t, as far as I can tell, widely realised at the time. The increased confidence of the NATO armies that they could at least force a negotiating pause on the Soviet forces in Germany had at least as much and probably more to do with infantry anti-tank weapons than the more widely publicised issue of tactical nuclear warfare. If small groups of infantry or recce personnel with wheeled vehicles and wire-guided missiles could take advantage of the growing urban sprawl between towns, the Soviet advance might be much slower and bloodier than expected even before the armoured battle began. The West German army in particular laid in large stocks of the rockets and trained its soldiers to aim for tanks with extra radio aerials – an indicator that they contained commanders.

So did Hezbollah. During the 1982-2000 occupation, they began to use more and more of these weapons, usually to attack fortified outposts from a safe distance as the Israelis kept off the roads towards the end.

This is what the Israelis face. Small teams of tank killers covering the main force’s getaway up the Litani valley towards the Beka’a, giving the prospect of quite a lot of tanks being destroyed for little result. Therefore, there will be a strong temptation to double or quits – try to cut off the retreat, which means going further into Lebanon, and then keep going towards the Beka’a or south Beirut, which means much more blood.

No doubt they will blame one state sponsor or other. Which is ironic, because if Iran really did give Hezbollah ATGWs, they…well…might well be any left over from the TOWs supplied to Iran in the 1980s by the United States, and Israel. One of the biggest categories of Iran-Contra stores was more rounds for the TOW launchers the Shah’s arsenal included, the Iranians having fired them all into Saddam’s tanks. This is pure snark, though. It doesn’t really matter very much where they came from originally, as the market in arms is global as few things are. ATGWs are highly smugglable – a key feature is that they must be man-portable, and if you can carry something on your back you can fit quite a few in a shipping container. That is, of course, what the founder of modern rocketry promised back in 1770-odd. Sir William Congreve claimed his rockets were the soule of Artillery without the body.

Not that his were very effective – they didn’t have much benefit over horse artillery, and didn’t pack enough punch to be used as siege artillery, and were mostly used to frighten undisciplined colonial enemies unused to modern warfare – an early form of non-lethal weaponry, really. But it eventually arrived. Among the numerous variants of the Soviet katyusha, Grad, FROG and other artillery rocket systems, there are several that consist of the multiple launch tubes broken down into singles that can be carried, specifically designed for guerrilla use. (The Vietnamese invented this, re-purposing the 107mm and 122mm rockets to be fired from a wooden frame. The Soviet Union mass-produced the idea as, I think, the 9K51-P.)

Rockets don’t have to come from Iran, either. Ask the Black Watch – just off for their third tour in Iraq, two weeks after the Government denied it! – about their stint at Camp “Incoming”..Dogwood..in the winter of 2004. Grad MRLs are in use with some 50 countries, so they could come from almost anywhere. But the large sandy one with a civil war, vast ammunition stockpiles and no effective government that was exporting surplus military equipment via Beirut until last year cannot be ruled out.

Correction: the AT-3’s NATO designation is SAGGER, not “Snagger”. Good GlobalSec page on it here.

All those folk looking for dirt on John Prescott. It’s nice and quiet again now. Still, I’ve been away, far from the nearest wireless LAN, so far away I didn’t hear about the new war(s) until getting back to town, and now I’m back.

One thing not addressed in this post is the exact arrangements between the Government and AEG regarding the big…can it be a beer gut?…pimple on the Thames. As made clear in comments here, the terms under which AEG got the Dome specify that the Government gets a share in the profits over and above AEG’s costs plus a percentage markup. So, the insertion of a casino in the Dome would tend to bring forward the point at which the State makes money on the deal, not to mention increase the sums involved.

It’s been pointed out elsewhere that the thing was quite a while earlier, well before the Gambling Bill. Pshaw. I don’t see that this gets them off the hook – in fact it strikes me as more incriminating than Anschutz buying the Dome after the Gambling Bill passes, because implying a quid pro quo. Anyway, consider this report from the HoC Public Accounts Committee. Note that, although the c-word is used later in the document, the summary description of the AEG scheme makes no mention of a casino at all…although this had been mentioned in the press prior to the report.

Eventually you come to this:

10. There are various elements in this scheme which may generate future profits to the taxpayer, but which English Partnerships did not assume when evaluating the deal. For example the extent to which there might be a share in future profits from the Dome Arena and Waterfront is uncertain. Also in 2003 the Anschutz Group expressed interest in placing at the Dome one of the eight large Regional Casinos proposed in the government’s draft Gambling legislation. At the time of Meridian Delta’s original proposals there had been no discussion on casinos. A casino would require both planning permission and a licence under the recently enacted Gambling Act. The Government has indicated that there will only be one Regional Casino, and it is not yet clear whether the Dome will be successful in obtaining a licence. The Department has no firm view about whether a casino would be a positive or negative factor in terms of value to the deal. It is not party to any related negotiations with the Anschutz Entertainment Group, but recognises that Anschutz are pursuing it because they expect it to increase their profits, in which English Partnerships would take a 15% share after the operator had made a prior return. English Partnerships have not however assumed any return from a casino.[11]

So as early as 2003 they were talking slot machines. I wonder how often John Prescott has been to see the old railroad tycoon before his recent trip? According to the report, the sale closed in June, 2004. It’s hard not to see, as they say, a pattern of behaviour here. As far as I can make out, “the Department” is a strangely worded reference to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, not (as I first thought) to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

One thing not addressed in this post is the exact arrangements between the Government and AEG regarding the big…can it be a beer gut?…pimple on the Thames. As made clear in comments here, the terms under which AEG got the Dome specify that the Government gets a share in the profits over and above AEG’s costs plus a percentage markup. So, the insertion of a casino in the Dome would tend to bring forward the point at which the State makes money on the deal, not to mention increase the sums involved.

It’s been pointed out elsewhere that the thing was quite a while earlier, well before the Gambling Bill. Pshaw. I don’t see that this gets them off the hook – in fact it strikes me as more incriminating than Anschutz buying the Dome after the Gambling Bill passes, because implying a quid pro quo. Anyway, consider this report from the HoC Public Accounts Committee. Note that, although the c-word is used later in the document, the summary description of the AEG scheme makes no mention of a casino at all…although this had been mentioned in the press prior to the report.

Eventually you come to this:

10. There are various elements in this scheme which may generate future profits to the taxpayer, but which English Partnerships did not assume when evaluating the deal. For example the extent to which there might be a share in future profits from the Dome Arena and Waterfront is uncertain. Also in 2003 the Anschutz Group expressed interest in placing at the Dome one of the eight large Regional Casinos proposed in the government’s draft Gambling legislation. At the time of Meridian Delta’s original proposals there had been no discussion on casinos. A casino would require both planning permission and a licence under the recently enacted Gambling Act. The Government has indicated that there will only be one Regional Casino, and it is not yet clear whether the Dome will be successful in obtaining a licence. The Department has no firm view about whether a casino would be a positive or negative factor in terms of value to the deal. It is not party to any related negotiations with the Anschutz Entertainment Group, but recognises that Anschutz are pursuing it because they expect it to increase their profits, in which English Partnerships would take a 15% share after the operator had made a prior return. English Partnerships have not however assumed any return from a casino.[11]

So as early as 2003 they were talking slot machines. I wonder how often John Prescott has been to see the old railroad tycoon before his recent trip? According to the report, the sale closed in June, 2004. It’s hard not to see, as they say, a pattern of behaviour here. As far as I can make out, “the Department” is a strangely worded reference to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, not (as I first thought) to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

We missed it

And again, we managed to miss it – the 10th of June, or blogday as it’s also known..three years of uninterrupted ranting. Just to celebrate, remember this post about casinos and the Dome? Well, it only took them a year to catch up.

In other schadenfreude-related news, tedious europhobe hack Richard North has fallen foul of Sadly, No!

We missed it

And again, we managed to miss it – the 10th of June, or blogday as it’s also known..three years of uninterrupted ranting. Just to celebrate, remember this post about casinos and the Dome? Well, it only took them a year to catch up.

In other schadenfreude-related news, tedious europhobe hack Richard North has fallen foul of Sadly, No!

Cows for Jesus

After all the serious stuff, something amusing. In the US, a cattleman is trying to breed perfect red heifers with no un-red hairs on them. Why is he doing this? It seems all-red heifers are a necessary part of God’s design for the Apocalypse, as part of the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple..

Artisans have re-created priestly robes of white linen, gem-studded breastplates, silver trumpets and solid-gold menorahs to be used in the Holy Temple — along with two 6½-ton marble cornerstones for the building’s foundation.

Then there is Clyde Lott, a Mississippi revivalist preacher and cattle rancher. He is trying to raise a unique herd of red heifers to satisfy an obscure injunction in the Book of Numbers: the sacrifice of a blemish-free red heifer for purification rituals needed to pave the way for the messiah.

So far, only one of his cows has been verified by rabbis as worthy, meaning they failed to turn up even three white or black hairs on the animal’s body…

Over in Mississippi, Lott believes that he is doing God’s work, and that is why he wants to raise a few head of red heifers for Jewish high priests. Citing Scripture, Lott and others say a pure red heifer must be sacrificed and burned and its ashes used in purification rituals to allow Jews to rebuild the temple.

But Lott’s plans have been sidetracked.

Facing a maze of red tape and testing involved in shipping animals overseas — and rumors of threats from Arabs and Jews alike who say the cows would only bring more trouble to the Middle East — he has given up on plans to fly planeloads of cows to Israel. For now.

In the meantime, some local ranchers have expressed an interest in raising their own red heifers for Israel, and fears of hoof-and-mouth disease and blue tongue forced Lott to relocate his only verified red heifer — a female born in 1993 — to Nebraska.

Cloning is out of the question, he said, because the technique “is not approved by the rabbinical council of Israel.” Artificial insemination has so far failed to produce another heifer certified by rabbis.

“Something deep in my heart says God wants me to be a blessing to Israel,” Lott said in a telephone interview. “But it’s complicated. We’re just not ready to send any red heifers over there.”

If not now, when?

“If there’s a sovereign God with his hand in the affairs of men, it’ll happen, and it’ll be a pivotal event,” he said. “That time is soon. Very soon.”

I wonder, are they red angus or Santa Gertrudis? And more importantly, what do they taste like?