Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘WMDs’ Category

Everything you always wanted to know about fallout but were afraid to ask

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OK, in a previous post we have escaped being incinerated by a nuclear weapon’s initial flash through dumb luck, and escaped being crushed and imploded by the ensuing shock wave through quick wits and a fortuitously placed shelter of some sort. Now we are standing outside the subway staring at the starkly beautiful and terrible mushroom cloud rising a few miles away. “This can’t be good” would be a reasonable assessment of the situation, aren’t we now doomed to die a horrible death from fallout induced radiation poisoning? No. In fact if you’ve made it this far, there’s a good chance you will be around to tell this story to your grandchildren. And they won’t be mutants from fifties horror movies either, well, at least some of them.

The reason is that the danger from fallout is exaggerated, and even better, a few simple precautions can reduce that danger considerably. What is fallout? Fallout is dust and debris sucked up and pulverized and irradiated by the nuclear explosion, tossed up into the air by the mushroom cloud, and delivered to nearby locations by the wind. Unless the bomb was designed to create fallout, which is unlikely, fallout is going to be rather minimal. However, even better, fallout is simply radioactive dust falling from the sky, possibleyin rain, possibly invisibly. Why is that better? Because, for that dust to really hurt you, it has to get inside you. Thats right, the mere presence of radioactive fallout, while not a good thing, is not nearly so bad as inhaling or swallowing the dust.

So now the clever reader just figured out the purpose of the pillowcase they had stuffed in their briefcase or purse because they read about it in Doug’s Darkworld, and has already ripped it into strips to act as an impromptu breathing mask. Wrap your face so that as much as possible you’re breathing through cloth, wet cloth if it can be arranged, and proceed on your way. The fallout is only going to drift downwind from the bomb site, try to proceed away from both the bomb site and any area downwind from the site. Think of it this way, invisible poisonous dust may be falling from the sky, if you can avoid breathing or eating it, you will be OK. It’s also a good idea to not let any accumulate on your body.

How can all this be accomplished? Wear a mask of some sort, improvised if necessary. Change the mask every 15 minutes or so. Don’t eat or drink anything that has been exposed to fallout, not a good time to quench one’s thirst in puddles or fountains. Changing into uncontaminated clothes and showering yourself off is a good idea when possible. A good idea to cover your hair if you are outside.

OK, by now it is clear that while fallout danger can be minimized, boy, it’s not going to be easy or safe to run around in a fallout contaminated area. On the plus side only areas downwind of the central blast site are going to get fallout. That means if facing the mushroom cloud the wind is at your back, count your blessings and proceed in a direction away from the blast area, preferably with the wind in your face.  Fallout is only really dangerous for a few days, it takes decades to fade away entirely but most of the radioactive material in fallout is unstable and decays into harmless dust very quickly. This is why the fallout shelter was invented, if one can get to a decent fallout shelter fast enough, the danger from fallout is mitigated even further.

Which leads to part three of my “How to survive a nuclear attack” series. Fallout shelters. Yes, rather than run around in the aftermath of a nuclear attack, it might be a good idea to lay low in a fallout safe structure. It is even possible to build a fallout shelter. Coming soon. In conclusion, I’m not trying to minimize the terrible danger of nuclear weapons (or nuclear power plant fires, the above information also applies if your local nuclear plant catches fire,) I’m trying to illustrate the central idea that there are many possible calamities in our lives where a little knowledge quickly applied is the difference between being a survivor…or a statistic.

(The above image was taken by a US government employee in the course of their duties, and is thus public domain under US law. This is a picture from the Apple-2 nuclear test on 5 May 1945, also known as Operation Cue. This was the last big public(!) nuclear test, and was extensively covered by the media of the day. It’s also the test where the iconic video images linked in the previous post were. Yes, civilian volunteers were trucked in to witness the test and its aftermath, those were the good old days!)

Written by unitedcats

November 12, 2008 at 9:29 am

Posted in Health, Science, War, WMDs

Missile defense in Poland…one more step along the road to nuclear war with Russia…why are we doing this?

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In a little break from Georgia, I thought I’d mention that the world has slipped a little closer to nuclear Armageddon in Poland. Yes, the USA and Poland have signed a deal to deploy a US missile system in Poland, purportedly to defend the USA and Europe from missiles from rogue states such as Iran and Korea. This is fascinating several levels, almost all of them unpleasant.

First of all, North Korea and Iran have defence budgets that are trivial compared to the USA’s, and neither is known to possess advanced missile technology. The idea that they have or could have some sort of secret strategic weapons program that is a serious threat to the USA and Europe with their thousands of modern accurate nuclear warheads, is well, hard to swallow. So already this is a little sketchy, we’re spending a fortune to defend against a basically non-existent threat? Even if one makes a case that they might develop such weapons some day, look at the map, you’re going to defending Europe from Iran by building a missile defence in Poland? Why not Turkey, or Armenia, where the Russians offered to build a joint anti-Iranian missile defence system? Sadly, as has been the case since the collapse of the Soviet Union, any offer the Russians make is rejected out of hand, not to mentions promises made to them are broken. In any event, it’s hard to deny that a missile defence system in Poland is more directed at Russia than Iran. If it’s directed at Iran at all.

The Russians are very upset about this, and have gone so far as to point out that this will make the missile sites in Poland legitimate nuclear targets. Why should Russia be worried about a defencive missile system? Couldn’t they easily defeat such a system if they tried? Well, maybe, but that’s not the point. These types of defencive missile systems were outlawed during the Cold War with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. They were considered destabilizing because they would just encourage the deployment of huge numbers of missiles and warheads in order to overwhelm the missile defence. And a working ABM system would be of great use in a first strike, since hopefully a successful first strike would leave Russia with only a few missiles to shoot back with. So these systems arguably aren’t defencive at all, in fact a missile defence system is the ultimate first strike weapon. It’s a safe bet the USA wouldn’t allow Russia to deploy a missile “defence” system in Cuba.

Lastly, it’s not even clear that the anti-missile system will even work. So we are raising tensions with Russia and risking war, over a probably non-workable missile defence system being built to defend against a non-existent threat. This is, frankly, nucking futz. Still, it’s part and parcel of the USA’s never ending effort to completely surround and isolate Russia, with the goal being the the so-called New American Century where the US is the world’s sole superpower and we won’t even allow regional powers to challenge our dominance. In the case of our relations to Russia, it means the USA is playing Monopoly while the Russians are playing chess. I’ve linked to that article before, but it’s such a good read I wanted to particularly recommend it to those who are trying to understand US foreign policy in regards to Russia.

The main point I want to raise here, which seems to be completely dismissed by the powers that be and the media, is that by pursuing a policy of confrontation and isolation toward Russia, we are risking nuclear war. Back in the seventies and eighties people were justifiably afraid of a nuclear war with Russia. Now it’s something that can just be brushed aside as an idle threat? While Americans are usually easily herded into supporting a war, like the citizens of many other countries sadly, this isn’t like a war with Panama or Iraq or even Iran, a nuclear exchange with Russia would be the worst catastrophe that the USA has ever seen. Think 9/11 except with three million, or thirty million, dead.

So we are risking nuclear war just so USA has access to central Asian oil and ever more money can be poured into arms industry coffers? World War One started over such silly machinations as this, at least they had the excuse of not really understanding how bad a world war could be in the industrial era. Nearly 100 years years later you’d think we would know that risking a world war is a really bad idea, but apparently not. I should also point out that the relative strengths of the USA and Russia haven’t really changed much since the Cold War, and in some ways the Russian position has greatly improved since then. Again, more reason to make peace with them, not war.

The other ticking time bomb in this NATO/Russia confrontation is the fifteen million Russians who found themselves no longer living in Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Many of them had been living in Russia for generations, and had no desire desire to stop being Russian citizens. The problems in Georgia are just a small sampler of this sort of thing, there are millions of other Russians living in post USSR states that not only consider themselves Russian, Russia considers them to be Russians. These people are for the most part now despised minorities in their new nations, and for the most part have not been treated fairly. The Georgians for example simply outlawed the Ossetians and Abkhazians from even forming their own political parties to press for their rights.

Nuclear war is a bad thing, we should be following Lincoln’s example, not Cato the Elder:

“Carthago delenda est!” (Carthage must be destroyed)
—Cato the Elder

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”
—Abraham Lincoln

We could have made friends with Russia after the Cold War, that’s certainly what they wanted. It’s probably too late now. Know where your nearest fallout shelter is?

(The above image was created by the author using public domain maps and may be freely reproduced for all non-commercial educational purposes. Credit & Copyright: Doug Stych. Coming soon, more on surviving fallout, clearly I was on the right track.)

Written by unitedcats

August 21, 2008 at 7:43 am

Is war with Iran imminent? My ten reasons not to attack Iran revisited

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There’s news today about a report concerning US preparations to attack Iran. I’ve been sort of quietly hoping that the whole issue will go away. The US can’t really be seriously considering attacking Iran, can they? If the report is to be believed, preparations are well under way for a massive aerial assault on Iran that will not only destroy Iran’s known nuclear facilities, it will also largely destroy the Iranian military and government. The goal would be to prevent Iran from getting a bomb, destroy any Iranian capability for retaliation, and so weaken the Iranian regime that it might be overthrown from within, or at least weakened so badly that it is no longer a regional threat. That’s the optimistic plan at least.

I still hope we don’t attack Iran, but anything is possible. It would be consistent with history and the Bush administration to up the ante so to speak, and it wouldn’t be the first time in history that the US expanded a war that was going badly in a misguided effort to improve the situation. Bush threatening Iran and invoking the holocaust doesn’t reassure me. These threats are simply the latest in what has been obviously concerted campaign to blame our problems in Iraq on Iran. Despite an almost complete lack of proof, and tons of proof that insurgents are getting most of their foreign help from Saudi Arabia.

So frankly, my concern levels are rising again. I have decided to revisited and expand my post of almost a year ago listing ten reasons not to attack Iran. My original reasons are listed below, with today’s addendum in italics.

  1. Iran has thousands if not tens of thousands of missiles to fire back, think Hezbollah on steroids. This hasn’t changed, thousands of Iranian missiles hitting the green zone and oil facilities in the gulf states and Saudi Arabia would be a non-trivial problem.
  2. The Shiites in Iraq would almost certainly turn on us, think Iraqi insurgency getting three or four times bigger. Again, want to find out what would happen if the Iranians did everything they could to support insurgents in Iraq? Attacking Iran will do the trick. Even if one thinks they are already helping Iraqi insurgents, if we attack them they can help openly without restriction.
  3. Other key American allies such as Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia could easily be swept away by fundamentalist revolutions. Well, Turkey would have to be added to this list now.
  4. The price of oil would spike, which means the cost of gas could easily double. Again, large scale war in the Persian Gulf could do far more than double the price of gas.
  5. Shock and Awe doesn’t work. Bombing Iran will no more make Iranians our compliant friends than 9-11 made Americans rush out and urge surrender to Bin Laden. I am planning a post on the “bombing myth” in the USA, Americans tend to wildly over estimate what can be accomplished with bombing.
  6. Islamic extremists everywhere would be empowered and legitimized by further proof that Bush’s “war on terror” is just a euphemism for “war on Islam.” OK, this is just an extension of number three in a way, but the point remains valid. OBL has persuaded a few losers on the west to undertake amateur terror attacks, some with deadly result. We need more of this?
  7. Our friends would think less of us, and our “friends” Russia and China would be encouraged to solve their international “problems” the same way. If anything, this item has gotten stronger and more relevant. Want to make the Russian/Chinese alliance stronger? Attacking Iran will do the trick.
  8. Other countries would have strong incentive to develop nuclear weapons themselves to deter US attack. Not that they don’t already have such incentive, heck, since I wrote this North Korea was rewarded for developing nukes.
  9. People would die, lots of people, innocent people. This is important. Still is.
  10. Worst of all, another war would mean giving Bush more powers. And if we give Bush any more powers, he’s going to start appearing in public in tights. No one wants that. I still stand by this, though it’s getting harder to make jokes about this situation.

All of the above aside, my current thinking is that there are three main reasons not to attack Iran. The first is that the case for war with Iran is based on some very questionable premises, more about that in a subsequent blog. The second is that major wars always have unintended consequences, they never turn out the way that was confidently predicted. The third and most important reason is that thepeople who conceived of and are planning this war, are the very same people who conceived of and planned the war on Iraq. Remember that? The cheap relatively bloodless war where the Iraqis were going to welcome us with open arms as liberators and democracy would flow through the streets of the Middle East.

We already know what’s flowing through the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan, adding Iran to the list is going to help?

(The above image of the Banberry US nuclear weapons test was produced by the US government and is public domain under US copyright law. I used it because it illustrates that the world is big and bomb explosions are small, and that even carefully planned things can go wrong…this underground nuclear test was not supposed to vent fallout like this. Lastly to remind people that this could be a nuclear war, I don’t think anyone wants that either.)

Written by unitedcats

August 29, 2007 at 8:14 am

Posted in Iran, Terrorism, War, WMDs, World

How did I miss this? Those ungrateful Kurds burned down the museum and memorial we built to commemorate the infamous 1988 Halabja gas attack!

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Quick history lesson. In 1988 Iraq and Iran were at war, Saddam’s Iraq was an American ally…and was slowly losing the war. (A war of aggression that Saddam blatantly started by the way.) The Iranians were allied with Kurdish insurgents in northern Iraq, in the spring of that year with Iranian help Kurdish insurgents captured the ethnically Kurdish town of Halabja (pop. approx. 70,000) from Saddam’s forces. Saddam’s response? His military attacked Halabja with chemical weapons in the worst chemical weapons attack on civilians in recent history. Hundreds of people died horribly, likely there 3-5,000 dead. While initially there was some attempt to blame the attack on Iran, almost all now agree the evidence points to Saddam and Iraq.

Fast forward. The Iranians looted the town before they withdrew, Saddam’s returning troops destroyed what was left. Nothing is done for more than a decade, Kurds live in huts in the ruins, suffering from the residual aftereffects of the gas attack. The USA invades and liberates Iraq. In 2003 a Museum/Memorial is opened in Halabja dedicated to the memory of the victims. Colin Powell even visits and is feted as a hero.

After that, nothing. No reconstruction, no medical help…despite the fact that the security situation in Halabja is excellent. Kurdish Islamic militants rapidly gain influence in the town as the corrupt and/or incompetent Kurdish “government” in northern Iraq makes excuses for not rebuilding the town. In 2006, on the eighteenth anniversary of the attack, locals were protesting the corruption and lack of rebuilding. (It must have been especially galling seeing American and Kurdish politicians invoking the massacre non stop for eighteen years to justify their cause, while actually doing nothing for the people of Halabja.) Kurdish troops started firing above the crowd, the protest turned into a riot and rioters attacked and burned down the Museum. At least one person was killed in the mêlée, many were injured. Nothing has happened since, Halabja remains in ruins and the locals are now so hostile to westerners that it simply isn’t safe for them to travel there.

Gee, one would think that considering how often and how loudly the USA invoked the massacre in Halabja to justify US policy in Iraq, we would have done something to actually help the victims? Even as survivors testified at Saddam’s trial about the atrocity, nothing was being done to help the town. The western press has gone to great lengths to avoid any mention of Halabja, there are only a tiny handful or articles about the town’s plight and the burning of the Museum. I didn’t know of any of this until yesterday, and I thought I followed the situation in Iraq very closely.

The lesson to be learnt here seems obvious to me. What politicians say has no bearing on reality. Despite all the concern about Halabja expressed by leaders in the west, they did nothing there except build a museum. And the Kurdish politicians, so often touted as the great benefactors of freedom and democracy of the American liberation, have done exactly the same. (The money donated by westerners to rebuild Halabja is missing in action.) Halabja neatly illustrates the almost mind numbing hypocrisy in the west regarding our policies in Iraq. We say we invaded Iraq for their own good, yet have done nothing to help Saddam’s most high profile victims except exploit them for propaganda purposes. How does Colin Powell sleep at night?

It should also be clear from the recent history of Halabja why Islamic fundamentalists and militants have grown so powerful and popular in Iraq. The western media largely ignores the light years wide gap between what the west says and what it does, to the people living under the benevolent colonial government we installed in Iraq the distinction is painfully obvious. Halabja’s plight neatly illustrates why so many of them hate us, and why fundamentalist militias and terrorists have found Iraq to be a fertile recruiting ground.

And the almost complete absence of this story in the western media once again shows what a myth the idea of the “liberal” media is. If the western media really was liberal and anti-Bush and anti-war, stories like Halabja’s burning museum would be front page news. I’m willing to bet that few if any readers ever saw the above image. What a mess.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and it is central to illustrating the post. Credit: New York Times)



Written by unitedcats

August 25, 2007 at 8:28 am

Posted in History, Iraq, WMDs

62 years ago…waiting for the bank to open, 11AM, Thursday, 9 August 1945.

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Almost everyone knows about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during the second world war. Few know the name of the other city bombed just three days later. Sixty two years ago today in the second (and so far the last) nuclear attack in history, America dropped the “Fat Man” atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki, Japan. Today with the possible use of nuclear weapons being used under discussion for the first time since the end of the cold war, I thought it was a good time to review this unpleasant topic.

The blast killed between 70 and 80 thousand people instantly. As nuclear weapons go, Fat Man was a small bomb, the yield was the equivalent of 21 thousand tons of TNT. That’s about what could be carried in 200 railroad boxcars, quite a bang for about 14 pounds of explosive. The blast reached 3800C (7000F,) winds generated were over 1000 kph (700 mph.) The blast occurred at about 450 M (1500 feet) above the ground. Someone was sitting on the steps of the Sumitomo Bank about 250m (250 yards) from the explosion. What is left of him or her is pictured above.

While killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, including hundreds of American POWs, the nuclear attacks on Japan hastened the end of the war and saved countless American lives. That at least is the rationale for the bombing that was developed and promulgated shortly after the war. It’s still debated today, many stick to the “saving American lives” line, while others suggest that the bombs were more intended to impress the Russians and/or to get Japan to surrender before the Russians “liberated” huge swaths of Japanese occupied China/Korea.

This is all of course self serving poppycock, as anyone who has any knowledge of history should acknowledge. Americans for the most part reviled the Japanese before and during the war, this was an era where blatant racism was acceptable. The atom bombs specifically were revenge for Pearl Harbor and generally were payback for Japanese atrocities throughout the war. People who say differently are deceiving themselves. (Even when I was in the service in the 70s a popular T-shirt had a picture of a mushroom cloud and the caption “Remember Pearl Harbour. Hiroshima, Nagasaki…they had it coming.”)

Just for grins, those who proffer the “military necessity” story have to explain away why General Eisenhower, General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and many other high ranking US commanders opposed the dropping of the bomb:

“…I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) then Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe, future President of the United Sates

“The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan.”

Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet

Like all atrocities, the nuclear attacks on Japan were a choice, not a necessity.

In final ironic note, few know that unlike the Hiroshima bomb, the Nagasaki bomb missed its target, the city centre, by two miles. This is why fewer people died in this blast as opposed to the 90 thousand or more that died at Hiroshima. By missing the city by two miles the USA did hit another target spot on, the Nagasaki bomb detonated directly over the largest Christian community in Japan. Only a few of them survived. I still don’t know what to think about that, but it’s certainly something for Christians to ponder.

(The above image of the smudge left by a vapourized human being is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to the subject of the post, and it is an historically important image. The steps and last “remains” of this unknown person are now preserved in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.)

Written by unitedcats

August 9, 2007 at 7:10 am

Posted in History, Philosophy, War, WMDs, World

Through Thick and Thin July 17th

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OK, I’ve been a bit remiss here lately, we’ll see if I can’t get back up to speed. I have all sorts of half written posts, but seeing as I have been gone for a bit, I’ll just be lazy today and go over a few headlines and see if I can’t flense a few interesting observations from the news.

Al Qaida likely to attack the USA. You think? Gee, there’s news. This warning comes from the same people who let Al Qaida fly four airliners past our defenses last time, so I suppose it’s a distinct possibility. Dozens, maybe hundreds will die. Of course hundreds of Americans die every day, many from entirely and easily preventable causes. In fact some fourteen million Americans have died since 911, so let’s try to keep things in perspective here. I predict that Al Qaida and it’s offshoots will continue to attack America as long as we have boots on the ground in the Middle East. That’s what they promise, it makes perfect sense, and it’s a damn shame that only one American politician has the balls to say so.

Britain Expels Four Russian Diplomats. Putin refuses to hand a suspect over to Britain in the mysterious case of the Russian dissenter who was murdered with radioactive polonium. The Russians have been baring their teeth all around lately, withdrawing from a major European arms treaty for example. Let’s see, the USA promised them we wouldn’t expand NATO eastward after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We lied, and have expanded NATO up to Russia’s borders. And we are deploying a modern first strike weapons system on their borders, I would feel threatened too. Yes, it’s a “missile defense” system against Iran. Snort. Being conveniently deployed on the Russian border where it would be crucial in shooting down the handful of Russian missiles that survive a US first strike. Nothing defensive about it, in fact it might even trigger a Russian first strike if they think a US attack is imminent. This has always been the biggest lie about missile “defense,” there’s nothing defensive about it, it’s the ultimate first strike weapon system. Feel safer yet?

There’s been a lot of problems in Pakistan with militants. Hard to say how bad it is, the hinterlands of Pakistan have never really been under government control for starters. Bush however in his infinite wisdom has a plan to make the situation far worse. He plans to distribute nearly a billion dollars of aid in the tribal regions of Pakistan to buy their loyalty and alienate the Taliban. We all know how well this plan worked in Somalia and Palestine, people taking the aid were seen as tools of the west and were swept from power, massively increasing the power of radical Islamists in both regions. So the only question is whether Bush and his advisers are trying to trigger an Islamist revolution in Pakistan, or have they simply learnt absolutely nothing from their failures to buy loyalty with cash elsewhere? I can’t think of another possibility. Aside from the old observation that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Lots of bad news on the pollution front, it’s even so bad that it’s seeping through to the news. Terrible news from China, and an “island” of plastic trash in the Pacific bigger than Texas. The environmental movement is under hard times. With a one two punch of cleaning up the worst visible pollution and marginalizing and ridiculing environmentalists in the media, and corporations can continue to destroy the world without anyone being the wiser. I plan to blog on this more in the future, but it’s so depressing I hardly ever have the strength. Intelligent educated people have been hoodwinked into thinking that there is something wrong with being concerned about the environment. The mind reels.

In the good news front, the DOW Jones index is hitting record highs. My stock market guy says that most stocks are actually owned by the corporations themselves, so this just means the rich are getting even richer. OK, so it’s not really good news after all, unless you were already very well off. I know, I can see the cloud behind every silver lining, that’s why I named the blog Doug’s Darkworld.

(The above image of plastic debris on Aldabra Atoll is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and in no way interferes with the distribution of the parent program, the Voyage of the Odyssey. Credit: Chris Johnson. Aldabra Atoll is one of the remotest islands in the Indian Ocean, plastic pollution is a serous world wide problem.)

Written by unitedcats

July 17, 2007 at 2:12 pm


with one comment


The UN Security Council and the US are about to officially certify that Iraq did not have any banned WMDs. I see that exactly one paper in the so called “liberal media” is carrying this story. Gee, one would think that the official acknowledgement that the American casus belli for America invading Iraq never existed would be well covered by the news? Apparently not. I mean, it is an awkward situation. Hundreds of thousands are dead, millions are displaced, hundreds of billions of dollars have been borrowed and spent…and our justification turns out to have been in error?

Oops. I guess it’s too late to say we’re sorry? Of course some of us knew before the invasion that Iraq had no WMDs. Let’s review quickly: Iraq had no conceivable use for WMDs, Iraq had excellent reasons not to develop WMDs, Iraq had no realistic way of obtaining or building WMDs. So the Bush administration was either hopelessly out of touch with reality, or was lying to justify a war. In either case, we’re screwed.

I may even blog less about the war from now on. I mean, this is the final nail in the coffin. The invasion of Iraq was at best a catastrophic miscalculation, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t even visible using the Hubble Space Telescope. Bush’s surge will be the high water mark of the American Empire, like the disastrous Pickett’s Charge was the high water mark of the Confederacy.

The other thing that shows how hopeless the situation is, is the steadily increasing use of air power in Iraq and Afghanistan. Air power is a sign of desperation when fighting an insurgency, it’s like using a flamethrower to get rid of the cockroaches in a house. Insurgents are very difficult to find and bomb, and every time a stray bomb kills a bunch of kids, the insurgents get more support. Try to imagine if the authorities responded to a crime on your street by bombing a house that held “suspected criminals,” killing innocent woman and children in the process.

In a final note of transcendent absurdity in this situation, as part of the certification process the UN Security Council is going through, the Maliki government in Iraq has to promise it will not develop WMDs! I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

(The above Mathew Brady photograph of the aftermath of Pickett’s Charge is public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

June 18, 2007 at 8:27 am

Posted in Bush, History, Iraq, War, WMDs

Is the Phony War Almost Over?

with 5 comments


Well, I’m in a terrible mood today. Looking at the news isn’t helping. So I thought I’d drop my usual cheery optimistic outlook on the world, and see what I can imagine if things get ugly. Maybe this will be cathartic, hopefully it won’t be prophetic. I still stick to my belief that when American tanks crossed into Iraq, we were in the run up to a world war. “The Phony War has begun” as one friend put it. Will the real war start this summer? This is my nightmare…

Seven Summer Days

Preamble: The violence in the occupied territories has spun out of control as Hamas shot its way back into power. American casualties continued to rise in Iraq and Afghanistan, with Washington increasingly blaming Iran. The violence on TV, and a few well publicized attacks against Christian institutions on the West Bank spark increasing calls from many western parties for someone to “do something.” Some vaguely worded but basically toothless UN resolutions are passed to no effect. Iran continues to defy US demands that it suspend its nuclear program.

Day One. On July fourth someone does something. The USA attacks Iran with one of the largest airstrikes in modern history, including the use of bunker busting nuclear weapons to destroy hardened nuclear sites. Israel simultaneously launches a full scale “humanitarian” intervention in the West Bank and Gaza strip. Images of Israeli tanks rolling into Palestinian territory, nuclear bombs going off in Iran, and Bush announcing the “final battle” in the “War on Terror” flood the media. “Unconditional surrender or we will use nucular weapons on you” is the choice Bush gives to the “terrorists…” Hezbollah, the Taliban, Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Al Qaeda are among those given this ultimatum.

Almost immediately there are anti-American demonstrations and attacks on Americans throughout the world wherever there are large Muslim populations, millions of people take to the streets in Pakistan and burn the US Embassy, and in Iraq the Maliki government and Army basically disappear. Iran and Hezbollah begin scattered rocket and missile fire against Israel and US installations in Iraq and on the Gulf coast, to little immediate effect.

On day two the American bombing campaign continues in Iran, the Iranian government doesn’t respond to Bush’s ultimatums. Al Sadr announces the creation of the “Islamic Republic of Iraq” and gives the Americans a counter ultimatum, call off their attack on Iran and begin pulling out of Iraq within 24 hours or he will call for war with America. Israeli troops swiftly move through the occupied territories, but Hamas and Fatah urban strongholds resist fiercely. De facto civil war breaks out in Lebanon. An Osama Bin Laden Tape is released announcing that retaliation against America will take place. The rocket fire from Hezbollah and Iran increases.

On day three Sadr announces “jihad” on America. Within an hour a small nuclear weapon is detonated over Sadr City, origin unknown. Iraq rises in full scale revolt against Americans, who dig into their fortified bases. The central Iranian government is still missing, but Revolutionary Guards units have seized local control throughout the country. In Pakistan, a military coup removes Musharraf from office and declares martial law. Rumours that fallout from the Sadr bomb drifted over the Green Zone or that an American ship has been sunk are denied by the White House.

Day four. Conventional American and Israeli bombing continues in Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon. Pictures of Muslim atrocities against westerners flood the air waves, few note that for every westerner killed, hundreds of Muslim civilians have been killed by western air strikes in Iran, Iraq, and Palestine. Pro and anti war demonstrators clash in several American cities. Pictures taken from Al Jazeera flood the media, apparently showing an American warship exploding. The Pentagon eventually announces that a US frigate was struck by a Chinese made Iranian silkworm missile on the second day of the war, exploding and sinking, with the loss of over 100 crew, the worst US Navy battle loss since World War Two.

Day Five. The USA vetoes a Chinese/Russian UN resolution calling for an immediate end to hostilities by all combatants. The bombing continues, the US striking Iranian oil facilities for the first time. The price of oil and gas, already rising, hits historic highs. Pakistan remains relatively calm, as does Afghanistan. Israel announces it has established control in the West Bank and Palestine, an Israeli intervention in Lebanon is rumoured to be in the offing. Some now notice that missile and rocket fire from Hezbollah and Iran has been slowly increasing in quantity and accuracy.

Day Six. President Ahmadinejad emerges in Iran, widely believed to have been killed in the original attack, his re-appearance on Iranian TV sparks new anti western rioting throughout the Muslim world. Indonesia, Egypt, and Algeria (among others) declare martial law. Iran declares war on the United States, Iraq does the same within hours. Throughout the world Shia and Sunni clerics and leaders bury the hatchet and announce the expulsion of “the Zionist forces” from the Middle East. This time Ahmadinejad is quite explicit, he is calling for the utter destruction of Israel, the time for regime change is over. Taliban forces are reported to be marching unopposed into some Afghan towns, Karzais western backed troops fleeing or even joining them, western air power fully occupied defending America’s now besieged bases in Iraq.

Day Seven. American wakes up to the news that Al Qaeda has detonated a crude “dirty bomb” in Duluth, apparently smuggled in from Canada. The damage and casualties are minor, trivial really, but the media goes wild, within hours there is anti Muslim and anti liberal rioting in a dozen major US cities. That evening Bush declares martial law, gasoline rationing, the suspension of the constitution, and national conscription. Before the TV news and Internet are shut down the last thing Americans see is the American embassies burning in Turkey and Egypt.

It gets worse from there. Is this a likely scenario? Dear God I hope not. Is it possible? Certainly. Is it likely? Beats me. Sweet dreams everyone!

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. Credit: Daniel ©2005-2007 *I-NetGraFX)

Written by unitedcats

June 14, 2007 at 8:16 pm

Will my sanity survive the rest of Bush’s term in office?

with 6 comments

Some would say no. Some would say it’s already too late. I wonder myself sometimes. Another day, another collection of odd articles in the news to comment on. Or an odd guy commenting on articles in the news I suppose. In no particular order, but eventually getting somewhere, today’s news and ramblings:

The US army is developing a giant robot teddy bear to evacuate the wounded from the battlefield. On the one hand, I suppose this is a good thing. On the other hand, gee, the Army has money to spend on incredibly expensive stuff like this, but then the wounded are sent to a vermin infested hospital where the government goes to great lengths to avoid spending money on their care? I think there’s some misplaced priorities here. I’m sorry, but this kind of insane spending for technological gadgets is what is wrong with the Army.

Apparently several thousand Turkish troops crossed into Iraq yesterday in pursuit of Kurdish Freedom fighters. The USA warned Turkey not to do this, and once again George’s bluff has been called. While the incursion is limited and not (yet) the whole scale intervention that had been feared, it may be a harbinger of things to come. It complicates and weakens the American presence in Iraq, and is another fine example of how occupying Iraq has limited America’s options and left us in a position where even our allies are taking advantage of our weakness.

Speaking of Iraq, the Iraqi parliament passed a law that if it goes into force will give the Iraqi government a say in whether the mandate allowing the US occupation of their country will be extended when it expires in six months. That could be interesting. In a similar vein, Iraqi oil workers have gone on strike protesting their working conditions and the fact that they are getting no say in the oil law that the US is pressuring the Maliki government to enact. This law, purported to fairly divide up Iraq’s oil, would be the most generous oil contract US companies have ever gotten in the Middle East. Some seventy percent of the profits from Iraqi oil would go to US companies. Well, if this oil law passes, we know then who really won the war.

There’s breaking news that the G8 nations have reached a compromise deal on global warming and CO2 emissions. It’s a good sign I suppose, though it may already be too late. In the past few weeks new reports are coming in that the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctica are all warming much faster than the models can account for. In other words, it looks like global warming is proceeding faster than even the alarmists predicted. I can’t help but think that when the alarmists underestimated how bad things are, it means we’re really, really, hosed. On the other hand, it does seem to be lighting a fire under various world governments, so stay tuned.

There’s been major fighting in Sri Lanka, one of the world’s longest civil wars. Why they don’t just give the Tamil’s their independence is on the one hand baffling, on the other hand just normal for organized government. At some point sanity will prevail, since it should be clear to both sides that a military solution isn’t going to happen. Sri Lanka and it’s interminable civil war is sort of the world in a microcosm. I should be noted that this is an ethnic conflict, propaganda aside ethnicity, not religion, is the primary motivation for murdering your neighbours on this fine planet of ours. There’s also fighting in Lebanon and Gaza, same comments apply basically. I’m nearly 50 and wars seem as stupid now as when I was 13, am I missing something?

In media news the TV show Jericho has been uncancelled. In real life something worse than 911 is almost unthinkable, but watching it on TV helps. And in real life the USA told Iran that we would hold them responsible for another Al Qaeda attack on US soil. Since Al-Qaeda wants the US to attack Iran, isn’t this like waving a red flag in Al Qaeda’s face? And if we can’t prevent an Al-Qaeda attack on the US, how the hell is Iran supposed to? I find this a little worrisome, are we being set up for something? I have bad feelings about the rest of Bush’s term in office, I sure hope I’m being paranoid and stupid.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is also claimed as public domain under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, is central to illustrating the post, and is an historically important image. The original painting is titled “The Scream” and is by Edvard Munch 1863-1944)



Written by unitedcats

June 7, 2007 at 10:23 am

Thursday’s headlines, and why is there a hole in Mars?

with 5 comments


Another day, another blog. Sometimes I think I blog just so I can put off going to work in the morning. So the more I blog, the poorer I get. Sigh. The alternative is to run out in the streets and grab people and scream “wake up” at them. So in the greater scheme of things I guess I shouldn’t complain. Speaking of blogs, my quizzes continue to get lots of traffic so more are definitely on the way. My World War Two quiz is already my number two post ever, go figure. My most popular post ever is The Bible and Global Warming. Yes, I’m mystified too. I’m planning a Gulf War I quiz, that should be interesting. I think the ignorance level regarding the origins and outcome of that nasty little business is at stratospheric levels. It’s been called “The biggest drive by shooting in history” by some. And there is more than just one villain involved. Brace yourself.

Moving right along, today’s headlines. Well, Spain is suing a salvage company about a disputed shipwreck where $500 million in gold coins were recovered. The salvage company isn’t saying where they found the booty, so Spain is suing on the suspicion that it is from a Spanish ship. As an aside, anyone ever wonder how Spain went from being the richest country the world had ever seen to one of Europe’s poorest countries in just a few short centuries? For over a hundred years galleons laden with gold, silver, and jewels hauled unimaginable wealth back to Spain, what happened to it all? The answer is easy, while the Dutch and British and other colonial powers reinvested their colonial profits in infrastructure and corporations to further their colonial exploits, the Spanish nobility blew their money on consumer goods and cathedrals. Ah, but it was fun while it lasted no doubt.

The Taliban shot down a NATO helicopter, killing seven people. Being the closest thing that Afghanistan has had to a popular national government in decades, they’ll be back in power soon enough. NATO keeps responding to Taliban attacks with air raids, which kill civilians, which drives more people into supporting the Taliban. Imagine if the police responded to crime in your neighbourhood by bombing a few houses more or less at random, and you will pretty much understand why the “missions” in both Iraq and Afghanistan are doomed to failure.

Russia has fired a test missile as a warning to the US about the US installation of a “missile defence” system in Eastern Europe. They aren’t really worried, the USA has been spending hundreds of billions of dollars on “defence systems” since the forties that purport to defend against trivial or nonexistent threats. The new missile defence is more of the same, it won’t actually work but it does make tons of money for the defence industry. (In that sense it works like a charm.) The Russians no doubt are trying to encourage us to spend even more money on this junk and further bankrupt ourselves in the process. George Bush has never seen a weapons system he didn’t like, so were making great progress on that front.

It’s not really a headline, but there’s an interesting article detailing just what an expensive joke the Department of “Homeland Security” is. Some of us have known that from the start. The day after 911 the head of the FBI, CIA, and Air Force should have been fired. Hell, in some countries they would have been put up against a wall and shot, if we’d done that their replacements might have actually started doing their jobs, which was to defend America. Instead we pretended that a known enemy attacking a known target with a method of attack that had been discussed since at least 1970 was a “surprise attack.” And then we responded by adding yet another layer of bureaucracy to what was already the world’s most bloated government. Anyhow, do read the article, it’s not reassuring. I especially like how easy it is to smuggle nuclear material across the border, yeesh. I was joking when I said that Iran would have to Fedex a nuclear bomb to the US, apparently I wasn’t far off the mark.

And finally, holes have been discovered in Mars. The hole pictured about is about the width of a football field. No one knows how deep it is, it’s deep enough so that no sunlight reaches the bottom. It’s speculated that they may be the entrances to caves, which is certainly possible. (Caves can be formed by water or volcanic activity, Mars has both.) Yet another target for future investigation and the search for possible life on Mars. Tomorrow, legless lizards and dieting cats!

(The above NASA/JPL image is used within the legal guidelines for such images, as long as one doesn’t use a NASA image to say that NASA endorses a product or service…they may be used freely.)

Written by unitedcats

May 31, 2007 at 9:01 am


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