Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
100 Years Ago: The Third battle of Krithia, 10,000 Dead, Nothing Accomplished. World War One in Miniature. We are so Much Smarter Now. Snort.
June 4th 1915. The tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. British, French, and Indian troops attempt to advance from their beachhead of about one square mile, and capture the highland dominating the end of the Gallipoli Peninsula. This was trench warfare, so the basic plan was to fire all sorts of artillery at the enemy, who would obligingly hide in bunkers, and then charge them after the artillery stopped, hopefully getting to them before they emerged from their bunkers and took up positions in their trenches again. One can see how this sort of warfare might lead to unpleasant miscalculations. In this case, since this was the third battle of Krithia, yes, the first two hadn’t gone so well.
This time was going to be different though, the British general had learned from his prior mistakes. This time his plan made sense. The artillery part was in fact very clever. They were going to fire their artillery, forcing the Turks to hide in their bunkers. Then they would stop firing, the Turks would run out of their bunkers … and the artillery would resume firing! And in fact it worked pretty well. It would have worked better, but the British artillery was low on ammunition. And worse, two British battleships had recently been sunk by a German submarine. This meant their heavy guns were unavailable, and worse, remaining battleships had to keep moving to reduce their danger to submarine attack, reducing their accuracy considerably.
Nonetheless, it worked out well. The Turks were caught by surprise by the second bombardment, and suffered terrible losses. The British, French, and Indians charged forward and overran the Turkish defenders. Well, in the centre of the front the did. The flanks, not so much. Despite heroic efforts, the Turks on the flanks held on. No worries, the troops in the centre were told to dig in. However, by four in the afternoon, the Turks were attacking them from three sides, and they had no choice but to withdraw. By the end of the day and the battle, the allies had advanced a few hundred yards. About 6500 dead to gain a few hundred yards. About ten men per foot. This was not a victory in any sense of the word.
If the British had had the troops to continue to attack the next day, they might have gotten somewhere, They didn’t. And the next two days, the reinforced Turks ferociously attacked, hoping to drive the British into the sea. The British held on, and that was that. The British never again attempted to capture Krithia and the heights above it, and eventually abandoned their beachheads on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
So why am I blogging about this minor and forgotten battle? Many reasons. Ten thousand people died this day, there must be something to learn. That’s about three times as many as died on 9/11. So pretty clearly, how many people died is only loosely correlated with how important an event is historically. Still, nowadays if the USA or its allies suffered thousands of dead in a one day battle, it would be a big deal. Proof that we are more peaceful now! No, not in my estimation. Proof that both the nature of war and the nature of propaganda has changed. Wars no longer involve (usually) the human wave attacks that characterized World War One battle. And the propaganda now is far more sophisticated and far more insulates home countries from the realities of their wars. The USA has been fighting constant wars for decades now, at a terrible cost in money and lives. And doing ghastly things abroad. And to most Americans it’s as remote from their lives as the Third Battle of Krithia.
Lastly, just to call attention to these lives lost 100 years ago. These were real people, with dreams, families, and lives. Everything they could ever have hoped to accomplish, turned into blood and dust far from their homes. Well, some of the Turks may have lived nearby, but otherwise their deaths were as pointless. At least the Turks died defending their homeland from a foreign invader, I suppose that’s something. In Manchester this battle is still remembered, it was not a good day for soldiers from Manchester.
World War One was the war to end all wars. That proved to be an optimistic assessment. As the Great War, as it was called, slides past the century ago mark, many will be remembering it. Not the participants though, they’re all dead now. Every last one. God rest their souls.
(The above image is a French colonial 75mm gun firing during the Third Battle of Krithia. It’s public domain under all laws. I used it because it is the best image I could find of the battle. These guys more than likely survived the battle. )
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” —William Shakespeare
It’s been two weeks since the Boston bombing. I’ve never heard so much bullshit in my life. Or more accurately, I’ve never heard so much pontificating crap regarding such a minor event. My God, one would think another Pearl Harbor or 9/11 happened from all the calls from on high for vengeance and change. Perspective people, two disaffected losers set off some bombs. Something that has happened multiple times in US history. Then, sanity prevailed, and life went on while the authorities did their job and hunted down the perpetrators. Except this time, it’s the crime of the century, and both the immediate response and the aftermath have been wildly out of proportion. The Mayor of New York has even suggested changing the Constitution, or at least our interpretation of it, in response to this. Good job freakazoids, now our real enemies know how to spook us; a few backpack bombs and we will run around like chickens with their heads cut off.
In other words, we’ve so obsessed on preventing another 9/11 that our response to this bombing was wildly out of proportion. 9,000 troops deployed to hunt down a teenager? A whole city placed under unconstitutional martial law? American citizens treated like an occupied country? Because of one wounded teenager? This was insane. You’d have thought Chuck Norris was loose with a neutron bomb for God’s sake. And the thing that really shows how absurd this all was, the bomber wasn’t caught until after people were let out of their homes and a citizen spotted him. The whole goddamn shutdown of the city, and the massive cost that entailed, was completely utterly unnecessary. And yet people cheer, so caught up in the Hollywood style dark comedy that the War on Terror has become.
I have bad news people. We can’t prevent all terrorist attacks, assuming this is even terrorism, which is a stretch at this point. Welcome to reality. I mean, after 9/11 we spent trillions of dollars on foreign wars and creating the greatest expansion of federal government ever, so called Homeland Security. And we passed vast and sweeping laws allowing government unprecedented powers to snoop in the name of security. And with all this staggering expense, an expense that rivals our spending in World War Two, we still got “attacked.” And the knee-jerk response from government and pundits is “We need more security!” No, we need more sanity. We should analyze the risks facing America like adults, and not be panicked into doubling down on a strategy that not only has failed, a strategy that is making terrorism more likely, not less.
It’s already clear that it aint going to happen, self-reflection and debate is no longer part of the American character. Americans are living in a Dickian Hollywood movie now, a scary world where imaginary Hitlers infest every corner of the globe and must be fought with ever more blood and sacrifice. The Republic has failed.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and it is central to illustrating the post. Tomorrow, ten specific ways our response to Boston was exactly what our enemies wanted.)
Westerners who are “concerned” about the status of women in the third world are often unwittingly agents of colonialism and cultural imperialism. It’s rare (to non-existent) that the western media presents what the people we are so concerned about helping actually think. Such as items like the above that I have helpfully reblogged. —Doug
I want to write a post about the current situation in Gaza about as much as I want a root canal. Sigh. That means I must write one. It’s both a painful and a touchy subject personally. Worse, much much worse, globally this could easily lead to a wider war. It’s not like everything is hunky dory in the Middle East right now, this is going to inflame hatred further throughout the region. That’s never a good thing.
So, what’s going on? Well, it’s pretty simple. There’s been a lot of cross border incidents in the past year, including rocket attacks by various factions in Gaza. Israel assassinated a Hamas leader, Ahmed Jabari, on November 14th. Some rockets were fired out of Gaza in retaliation. And Israel escalated into launching large scale attacks and is threatening a ground invasion. In other words, Netanyahu chose to start and escalate this now, it’s not debatable. In fact the Hamas leader that was killed was in the process of trying to negotiate a permanent cease fire with Israel. Good thing they blew him away, eh? That’ll teach those Palestinians to try and work out a lasting peace with Israel. And of course England and the USA have fallen all over themselves supporting Israel. Western press coverage is simperingly pro-Israel. A blog dedicated to that is in the works.
Background: Israel has the military advantage by orders of magnitude. Israel wields one of the world’s greatest militaries. Gaza isn’t even on the charts. This is not a contest between equals, or anything even remotely close to it. Gaza is legally Israeli occupied territory. Israel captured it from Egypt in 1967. They pulled their troops out a few years ago, and imposed a crushing blockade on the territory. Hamas is the effective government of Gaza, though there are militants not under their control. Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas. The blockade has eased since the Egyptian revolution, Egypt has relaxed the blockade along their border with Gaza.
Why did Netanyahu attack? Damned if I know. He’s certainly a bellicose fellow. Some speculate he is doing it to get votes in an upcoming election. There’s speculation that he is trying to scuttle negotiations with Iran. There have been many rockets fired from Gaza in the past year by various factions, but no one in Israel has been killed. The timing of Netanyahu’s attack is very suspicious. If Netanyahu thinks waging war on Gaza will stop rocket attacks, why didn’t it work last time? Why launch the attack when Hamas wanted to talk permanent cease fire?
As of my writing this, Netanyahu is launching more attacks. I think it’s crazy. Weakening Hamas will just strengthen more radical Palestinian factions. And since this will likely strengthen Hamas, wtf? The attack gives hard liners in Egypt more traction, not to mention in Syria. The attack is also triggering anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment throughout the world, I don’t see how that is in Israel’s interests. And somehow I doubt Obama appreciates another layer of added complication to the Middle East situation. Lastly, the US’s enemies around the globe will be looking at this to see if they can exploit it in any way. Yeah, the USA needed that.
In other words, Netanyahu is risking terrible regional or even global consequences in order to strengthen his hand in elections. That strikes me as criminally insane. Yet some Americans are cheering him on. That’s just ordinary insane. There are Palestinians and Israelis working for peace, the Netanyahu government isn’t among them, and in fact is doing its best to perpetuate the violence.
The bottom line, the one so many in the west refuse to understand, is that Israel has held all the cards since 1967. (Since 1948 actually.) Yet instead of annexing the occupied territories, or letting them declare independence, Israel has kept them in stateless limbo for decades while slowly stealing their land bit by bit. Not to mention constantly and routinely using military force in the occupied territories, both a threat and an actuality that dwarfs the threat of Hamas rockets in Israel. Israel reaps what it sows, and it has been sowing war for decades.
My heart goes out to all the innocent people in the region, they as always are the victims. God help us all if this war spreads.
(The above image was taken from a Gazan web site, it claims to show some of the current violence. I’m claiming it as Fair Use, and since I am critical of Netanyahu’s current attack, hopefully the copyright holder wouldn’t object. And if it turns out the picture isn’t what it claims, well, the blarney is flowing thick and fast from almost every faction in this ugly mess. Just turn on the mainstream news or look at Wikipedia.)
Yes, yes it is. See, question answered at beginning of post, people who are in a hurry can move right along now. What, the gentle reader wants details? OK, I guess I have to actually write the rest of the post. We’ll start with what I don’t mean. Usually when someone talks about World War Three they are talking about a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR, basically a continuation of World War One and Two. Since the Soviet Union is no more, and World War Two is fading rapidly into history, technically World War Three is no longer possible. However, the term has so insinuated itself into the culture that the next major global war involving the industrial powers will likely be called World War Three. Some people decided after 9/11 that there was now a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the west, even going so far as to call it a World War. I could write a whole post on what a load of propaganda and malarkey that idea is, suffice it to say that’s not what I mean by World War Three either.
What I mean is what I have been saying for at least 20 years, World War Three is going to be the First World against the Third World. Granted in a certain sense that is what has been going on since the beginning of the European colonial era, but I think we’ve reached a point where the majority of the warfare on the planet is more or less the West, IE the first world, trying to impose its will on the third world. Basically to maintain the fiction that the governments and even the borders in the third world are legitimate. The ugly truth is that most of the third world’s borders were drawn up by the European powers for their own benefit, and most of the third world’s governments are willing partners in the exploitation of their nation’s resources for the benefit of their ruling elite only.
One excellent indication of this is how the UN has morphed into an organization that is now concerning itself with the “legitimacy” of nation’s governments, rather that acting as an agent to mediate conflicts between nations. This both gives a green light to colonial wars, it reinforces the fiction that the various countries in the Third World are actual legitimate nation states. And of course the western corporate controlled media plays right along with this, and regularly regurgitates the UN’s stance on whether or not a government is “legitimate.” Somalia is an excellent example, they always talk about the Somalian “government” as if it is some legitimate Somalian entity, instead of an ad hoc collection of exiles only kept in power by foreign troops. It’s about as legitimate as the US government would have been had England defeated the revolutionaries and installed a government. The other indication is to look at the so-called pariah nations, like Cuba, North Korea, Iran, etc. They are roundly and endlessly demonized in the western press, not to mention being endlessly persecuted via sanctions and embargoes, the US leading the way; but all they have in common is a refusal to let the IMF and the west dictate how they run their economies. This was Qaddafi and Milosevic’s crime, though of course in all cases the west uses the rubric of “democracy” and “human rights” to cover up its crimes. And of course with the blessing of the UN, the new version of the Vatican bestowing its blessings on crusades.
Then there’s the USA’s global military empire. And I mean that quite literally, the USA has divided the world up into military commands, with a space command and a cyber command to boot. With hundreds of overseas bases as well, this isn’t some exercise on paper. No nation in history has ever had a world-wide military deployment like the USA. And it’s not just deployed, the USA is actively waging war in numerous countries. And the vast majority of the people we are fighting pose zero threat to the USA, in fact most of them are fighting for self-determination against a UN approved government. Granted I’m not saying that every insurgency or independent government on the planet is some force for good, far from it, they are all over the map when it comes to how justified their actions are. By the same token though, the propaganda fantasy that the US is fighting some vast evil “terrorist” network (They’re aligned with Al-Qaeda, so we can do whatever we want!) is equally silly.
My point is that the standard view most people have of the world, the view reinforced by the western media and education system, is a fiction. What’s really going on is far uglier. Granted this is the point I’ve tried to make in every other blog post, but I keep coming at it from different directions. It helps clarify my thinking, and if I’ve made some egregious leap of logic, usually some gentle reader sets me straight. On the plus side, like all empires that have vanquished all their foes, the USA is the most byzantine, corrupt, inefficient, bloated, and wasteful empire in the history of the world. I suspect it’s reached its high water mark. Time will tell.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit. I got it off of some random web page that didn’t attribute it. Always glad to add a link doing so if so requested.)
Romney Crushes Obama in Debate, Obama Flees Podium in Shame as the Crowd Screams: “Death Panels, Death Panels, Death Panels!” Next on Fox News, Iran’s Secret Plan the Rule the World.
OK, I listened to most of the debate. Sadly, it wasn’t all that interesting. A few good points that I’m sure the pundits will cover at great length. Romney wants to balance the budget by cutting PBS. Neil degrasse Tyson covered that nicely: “Cutting PBS support (0.012% of budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive.” Romney also regurgitated the Death Panels fallacy. No, Obamacare does not have death panels. And we already have death panels, they work for the insurance giants. All sorts of stuff and nonsense about the budget and the economy, which basically boiled down to a debate on how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Both Romney and Obama made points that their supporters will claim as great victories, oblivious to the fact that Romney and Obama are appealing to a different demographic. Truth be told though, Romney came across just fine, so no knock-out blows were delivered.
Fox News was covering a car chase the other day, and they accidentally broadcast live a man’s suicide by gun. Then they apologized profusely for it. This really pissed me off. `What, we’re fucking children that the news has to cover its eyes when something bad happens? To censor anything gritty and real out of the news is to infantalize the viewing population. Sometimes I think that’s the whole point, children are far more easily swayed by advertising … or propaganda.
It’s been discovered that climate change may shrink fish. So close and yet so far. If scientists could only show it will shrink something else, the world’s leaders will fall all over themselves addressing the issue.
The idea that our armies operating in foreign lands are some sort of crusading force for good is straight out of the Middle Ages, 1095 to be precise. Jesus wept.
I’ve been very busy with work. I will be back to my regular posting schedule soon. Lots of stuff is happening in the world, and as always I have opinions about it all. I think World War Three has already started. A post on that is coming soon. Since the US hasn’t won a war since World War Two the prognosis is not good. A post on that is in the works. And other stuff and nonsense.
Yes, this is a brief extemporaneous post.
In my last post about the battle of Kiska, I discussed a battle that was fought even though the enemy side didn’t show up. Nonetheless hundreds of casualties were incurred by friendly fire before the “fighting” was over. I should also have added that in modern warfare, IE since gunpowder, about ten percent of wartime casualties are caused by friendly fire. While some incidents are harder to understand than others, it’s easy enough to understand that when one has millions of people firing deadly long range weapons at each other, mistakes will be made. General Grant’s right hand man, Stonewall Jackson, was killed by friendly fire. And equipment malfunctions. The Tang, America’s number one submarine ace of World War Two … was sunk by their own torpedo that swerved back and hit them. In fact if Kiska had been defended by the Japanese, there likely would have been more deaths by friendly fire, since there would have been a lot more fire, period.
In any event, while there are other battles in history that have been fought even though one side didn’t show up, I thought it would be interesting to write about a battle that was fought when the enemy made an unscheduled appearance. I am talking about Exercise Tiger, another American embarrassment in World War Two. Well, maybe not embarrassment, more like “let’s not mention this happened, OK?” This occurred while the allies, especially the Americans, were preparing for the D-Day landings. Eisenhower decided the American troops needed to practice the invasion under realistic conditions, and Exercise Tiger was born. Basically, an area of coastline with a good beach was evacuated (about 3,000 locals were moved,) and American troops would practice landing on it under realistic conditions. There would be a bombardment of the coast beforehand, and the bombardment would continue inland from the beach even after the troops hand landed. This way the troops would have some exposure to real gunfire in their proximity. More than 30,000 troops were involved, this was a big deal.
The exercise started on the morning of 27 April 1944. The shelling of the beach was to end half an hour before the troops waded ashore, giving officers on the shore half an hour to make sure no live rounds were laying around the beach. The shelling was delayed by an hour though. Some of the landing craft didn’t get the message … so numerous landing craft put ashore half an hour before the bombardment was finished. Oops. It was ugly, to say the least. Several hundred troops were killed, and many more wounded. Not an auspicious start to what was simply supposed to be a training exercise.
The next day, things got worse. A convoy of American LSTs (a large ship for landing troops and tanks on a beach) sailed out to practise landing the follow-up force to the landings of the day before. They had two British warships escorting them, however one of the warships developed mechanical problems and had to return to base. Unfortunately the Americans and British were using different radio frequencies, so the Americans weren’t informed about this. And since no one expected to be attacked, the ships were travelling in a big line. Think ducks in a row. Then the British escort ship received a message stating that German ships had been sighted in the area the previous night. The British assumed the Americans had also been informed of this. They hadn’t. So when nine warships appeared on the horizon, the Americans thought they were part of the exercise. And in a way, they were, just not a scheduled part of it. The nine warships were in fact German E-boats, or torpedo boats as they are called in America. They had no trouble telling friend from foe, and swooped in to attack the more or less defenceless American LSTs.
This is where it got really ugly. Two LSTs sank, one was severely damaged. A fourth was damaged by friendly fire. The remaining American ships and the British escort returned fire and the Germans fled, but the damage had been done. More than 600 Americans drowned. Later it turned out that many had drowned because in their haste they had donned their life vests wrong, so when they jumped in the water their vests flipped them upside down … head underwater. The survivors were sworn to secrecy, partly because the news would hurt morale and partly because they didn’t want to give the Germans intelligence and propaganda fodder. It’s been claimed by some that they were sworn to secrecy for life, but that isn’t the case. They were sworn to secrecy until the end of the war. And in fact the Allies announced the catastrophe quietly, both during and after the war, but it was overshadowed by greater events and more or less forgotten for decades.
Fortunately this story has a silver lining. Yes, the troops got some training under extremely realistic conditions. More importantly, major deficiencies in training and planning for D-Day were revealed. Three major changes were made. The British and Americans started using the same radio frequencies. A force of small rescue boats was added to D-Day invasion plans for rescuing troops in the water if their ships were sunk. And of course troops all got much better training on how to don and use their life vests. So no doubt these deaths saved many lives on D-Day, they didn’t die in vain.
God rest their souls.
(The above image is LST-289, hit and set afire by E-boats, it still made it back to port. Since the eighties efforts to memorialize these forgotten casualties have been underway, here’s a few links: The Slapton Sands Memorial Tank website. Yes, a Sherman Tank that sank in the disaster has been hauled out onto the beach and used a a memorial. The Slapton village memorial site. And of course the official US memorial site.)