09 September, 2006

9/11: Fruit and nut cases.

With the 5th anniversary of 9/11 looming, the lunatic fringe has been busy. Scholars for 9/11 Truth are in the van. The links on their website lead to enough fruit and nut cases to package Brazil's entire agricultural output for a decade.

In addition to the usual pseudo-academic "it didn't happen and here is the scientific and technical evidence which proves the Pentagon warmongers did it" nonsense are an 87 year old Nureremberg Prosecutor calling for George Bush to be prosecuted as a war criminal and, for older viewers, a nostalgic walk down memory lane as the traitor Daniel Ellsberg and the wimp John Dean share their thoughts about Watergate.

In fact the site is not really about 9/11 at all. It is a convention for self-hating radical nut-cases with a wide array of axes to grind about Western civilisation in general and American society in particular. Neither is much scholarship in evidence.

The serious question this blog wants to highlight is: why have Western higher educational institutions produced so many prize moonbats and so little learning and scholarship?

The Greeks are coming.

The Greeks have joined the UN Peace Keeping force in Lebanon. It's only one frigate, but it will be empowered to open fire if attacked. I assume it will have live ammunition on board.

I wonder why the Athens News Agency thinks it necessary to report that the frigate will be "fully-staffed". Does that mean it will have a full compliment of wine waiters?

Fatalities named in Afghanistan

The British Army's 40th fatality in Afghanistan has been named as Luke McCulloch by the Ministry of Defence:

Lance Corporal McCulloch was part of a force of a hundred soldiers from 1 R IRISH currently serving in Helmand Province as part of the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment Battle Group. Both 1 R IRISH and 3 PARA are part of 16 Air Assault Brigade, which is the lead British Military Formation in Southern Afghanistan.
A further three soldiers were injured in the attack and are being treated at a medical facility.

In Iraq, Gunner Lee Thornton has been named as the 118th fatality in that theatre. His commanding officer said,
This has been a very sad week for the Battery for they had already lost two soldiers killed in a roadside bomb on Monday, where a further soldier was seriously wounded. It was typical of Gunner Thornton that he volunteered to participate in the very next patrol which went out after the attack a day earlier. This gesture of defiance by Lee and his colleagues was aimed at the people who perpetrated the first attack. He showed no hesitation in driving out of the security of the Shaibah Logistics Base and facing the ever-present threat to British soldiers in Iraq.

European Cowardice

Quiz time: what do the following states have in common and what is tragically unique about four of them?

Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, UK, USA.

Answer, they are all member sates of NATO, but only four of them are regularly engaged in combat as part of NATO's ISAF mission in Afghanistan: Canada, Netherlands, UK and USA. Others, notably France, Germany and Spain have troops in the country but they are kept in the North, well out of the way of the deadly combat in the South. With the US fully committed elsewhere in the region, the British and Canadians (and to lesser extent the Dutch) are bearing the brunt of the Taliban insurgency. NATO is asking for another 2,500 troops to reinforce the hard-pressed British and Canadian contingents. As The Times wryly noted, "There were no immediate offers."

No wonder some seasoned observers think Afghanistan is at a tipping point, surely with some justification now that the Talibian have regrouped from their initial setbacks in Afghanistan and have a secure power base in Waziristan . Acccording to Rolf Tophoven, a German expert in terrorism, cited by Monsters and Critics,

The Taliban have come back better equipped... We know that because of the type of bombs now used there, and the types of ambushes that are set. The Taliban now fight against battalion-sized international units.'
He added the focus of insurgents had moved from Iraq to Afghanistan.
The situation is most critical in the southern provinces of the country, around Kandahar, where British, Canadian and Dutch troops are facing an ever-mounting death toll.
The ISAF mission is part of a wider, US-led strategy to defend the West from Islamic terrorism. The USA is now the leader, and main defender, of western civilisation, a responsibility to which President Bush has risen magnificently. It is no secret that many European states - Belgium is a serial offender - take a cowardly approach to Islamic terrorism and would rather appease the terrorists than stand firm with their allies who do have the political courage and will to stand firm with the USA.

Even before the current crisis is resolved, it is time to start asking, what is the point of being part of a military alliance in which the majority of governments will not provide the necessary resources for that alliance to carry out its missions. Structures other than NATO may provide better security.

08 September, 2006


Never heard of it? You will have before long.

Waziristan is technically a province in North West Pakistan. In reality it is ungovernable bandit country, providing a base for terrorists, notably remnants of Al Qaeda, and the Taliban, driven out of next-door Afghanistan in 2001. It is an area in which the Pakistani army has been fighting the terrorists, without much success.

Now the Pakistan government has given up and surrendered the area to the murderous gangsters. No wonder the Chicago Tribune has dubbed it Terroristan. The CT articulates the obvious worry for the west:

It seems entirely likely that this area will become a sanctuary for terrorists, a protected place for them to regroup and rearm, a miniature version of what Afghanistan had become before the U.S. routed the Taliban starting in 2001.
The Times has a very thoughtful analysis of the serious consequences of Pakistan's actions, well worth a careful reading.

"Our Troops in Afghanistan Betrayed"

Max Hastings is a rara avis: an msm journalist who instinctively understands and supports the military. Unlike many, if not most, of his journalistic colleagues, Hastings is no knee-jerk anti-war jerk but a thinking journalist (and military historian) who, over more than two decades, has reported on the British armed forces worldwide, always sympathetic but never afraid to give constructive criticism when warranted. In the current edition of The Spectator he argues that British forces in Afghanistan are trying to fulfil a difficult task which is likely to end in failure because of inadequate resources, misconceived operational planning and a lack of political support.

Earlier this week, Crumbling Spires reported the concerns of senior army officers over inadequate equipment and lack of political support. Hastings adds some detail.

The junior Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells, asserted earlier this week that as far as he knows the army has everything it wants to do its job in Afghanistan. This is only the latest in a long series of disgracefully disingenuous government statements. The only reason the army is not crying from the rooftops for more helicopters in Afghanistan — there is no point in sending more men unless there are means to deploy them — is that the resources do not exist. Thus far, the government has not attempted the only possible measure that would help on the margin — leasing more heavy-lift helicopters on the open market...
Equally worrying is the "hideously misconceived" operational plan which places servicemen's lives in constant danger.

Small British detachments have been deployed in ‘platoon houses’ at key local centres, to provide visible support for the local authorities. The concept made political sense, but represented military folly. The platoon houses have provided fixed points for the Taleban to attack, and they have done so with persistence and growing skill. Rockets, mortar bombs and small arms fire have rained down on the posts, inflicting a steady stream of casualties. All resources are committed to supporting and supplying these little bases, together with providing casualty evacuation. To get a company in or out of its positions at Musa Quala, for instance, requires the commitment of the entire British battlegroup.
To illustrate the human cost of such tactical folly you have to root about in the local press, for example the Derbyshire Times, in the UK midlands:

[Lance Corporal Jack Dallas'] job was to help protect local villages from the Taliban, the British soldiers were under fire every day and it was during one of these attacks in July that Jack was shot. The bullet hit him in the back — narrowly missing his spine, heart and lungs — and after a week in an army hospital, he was flown back to Britain for treatment and is still recovering at his home in Kent.
Hasting's entire article makes many more serious points about the politics and strategy of British involvement in Afghanistan than I have highlighted here. It is required reading for anyone who wants top understand how our servicemen are coping in Afghanistan.

Afghan Casualties

The MoD has announced the death of Lance Corporal Paul Muirhead through wounds sustained in the action,on 1st September,in which Private Craig O'Donnell was killed.

On Wednesday, Corporal Mark William Wright was killed when his patrol entered an unmarked minefield in Helmand province.

The deaths of Lance Corporal Muirhead and Corporal Wright bring the total British Army fatalities in Afhganistan to 39.

07 September, 2006

Steve Irwin

A Guardian article by the inveterate self-publicist Germaine Greer, about Steve Irwin, the popular television entertainer killed recently, has caused much offence in parts of the blogoshpere; for example, over at Israellycool some readers are getting extremely annoyed.

And quite rightly too. It used to be civilised convention that one did not attack the deceased until after the funeral. However, civilised is not an adjective I have ever associated with Greer. She saw a commercial opportunity and took it.

However, my contribution to this affair is demand that we do not forget the Guardian's role. There was a time, not so long ago, when that once great newspaper would not print such an article. Not any more.

Dieting AIDS:

Mantombazana Edmie Tshabalala-Msimang is South Africa's Health minister. She has upset the medical profession, and others, with her plans to combat AIDS through her preferred alternative to mainstream antiviral treatments: a nutritious diet based on garlic, beetroot,lemon and African potatoes.

At a recent international AIDS conference in Canada, allAfrica.com reports, her ministry's display stand shocked the assembled delegates,

Woven telephone wire baskets filled with lemons, garlic, beetroot and African potato were on display in the bare stall. One bottle of multivitamins stood alongside a bag of samp and other nutritional mixtures in plastic bags.
Well, South Africa wanted majority rule and they got it.

Stating the bleedin' obvious

The Family Breakdown Working Group of the Conservative Party's Social Justice Policy Review has published a report which offers a breathtaking conclusion: children are best brought up in a family environment with their natural parents (Daily Telegraph). In a further penetrating insight, the report finds that married couples are likely to stay together for longer than unmarried couples.

Why do these pompous idiots feel the need to write reports telling us what every conservative instinctively already knows. In Cameron's natural habitat, Islington dinner party guests may well enthusiastically debate the nature of the optimum family unit but elsewhere the majority will already know what is best for children. Is it any wonder that, with drivel like this being issued on a regular basis, the Conservative party is failing to make much of an electoral impact, even on an incompetent and corrupt government which is falling apart at the seams.

Click here to download a pdf file of the splendidly named full report: "The conflation of marriage and cohabitation in government statistics – a denial of difference rendered untenable by an analysis of outcomes".

06 September, 2006

Why is the army in Afghanistan?

For anybody who has forgotten, here is a very basic reminder of why our soldiers are in Afghanistan.

In 2001, as part of the its response to 9/11, the UK launched Operation Veritas, which, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, attacked Al Qaeda (the group responsible for 9/11) in Afghanistan.

In October, 2001, UK naval and air forces were involved in the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom. Subsequently, the Royal marines launched Operation JACANA, a ground attack on Al Qaeda. By the end of 2001, Al Qaeda had been hammered out of much of Afghanistan and was forced to take refuge in Pakistan.

In December 2001, the UN set up the International Security Assistance Force to help stabilise Afghanistan and to ensure a stable government there. The ISAF established regional Provincial Reconstruction Teams which report to regional co-ordinators in Northern (at Mazar-e-Sharif), Western (at Herat) and Southern (at Khanadar) areas of Afghanistan. The British forces within the ISAF, (under the name Operation Herrick) currently numbering about 4,000, are concentrated in the south, around the provinces of Helmand, Zabol, Kandahar and Oruzgan.

The PRTs have yet to be expanded to the Eastern area. Indeed, their writ does not run fully throughout much of the rest of country. Before that can happen, insurgents, most significantly, Taliban, need to be tamed. These are the thugs trying to ambush and kill British servicemen. The current Operation MEDUSA aims to sort the buggers out; according to recent reports there are now 200-250 less Taliban than a week ago.

Click for map of Afghanistan

MoD Background Briefing 1
MoD Background Briefing 2

The Guardian has a helpful interactive guide.

How to kill British soldiers

It's really quite easy. Send them into dangerous areas in insufficient numbers and with inadequate equipment. That it what the British government is doing in Afghanistan, according to Colonel Tim Collins. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the Colonel sees it as a political problem:

The politicians fear the embarrassment of admitting that they misjudged what would be needed in Afghanistan. Can it be that they would rather lose lives than accept that embarrassment and deal with the shocking state of our [air] fleet in Afghanistan? They seem to be more concerned about their reputation and their jobs than with the servicemen and women who are putting their lives at risk for their country.
Sir Richard Dannatt, the new Chief of the General Staff (head of the army) is more circumspect but the underlying message is the same (Guardian):

British troops are fighting at the limit of their capacity, the new head of the Army has warned.
Sir Richard Dannatt said the Army was "meeting challenges on the hoof" and that soldiers could "only just" cope with the Government's demands.
In his first interview as chief of the general staff, Sir Richard said: "We are running hot, certainly running hot. Can we cope? I pause. I say 'just'."

Ministers are willing to penny-pinch at the expense of British servicemen's lives, whilst at the same time spending billions on massively expanding public sector employment. Public sector employees generally vote Labour, the armed forces do not. It is not hard to figure out ministers' main concerns.

05 September, 2006

Further Afghanistan Casualty.

The 37th death of a member of the British armed forces in Afghanistan has been announced by the Ministry of Defence. Early reports indicate that a suicide bomber attacked a military convoy in Kabul.

It was indeed, a black day for Britain.

Update (5.9.06)
The soldier has now been named as Private Craig O’Donnell.

04 September, 2006

More Fatalities in Iraq

The Ministry of Defence has announced that, after an attack on their patrol, two soldiers have been killed, bringing the number of fatalities in Iraq to 117. The BBC and the Daily Telegraph have early reports.

Update (6.9.06)
One of the soldiers has been named as Gunner Stephen Wright.

The other soldier has now been named as Gunner Samuela Vanua, Royal Artillery.

Saving the Planet

Save the planet (Pluto, that is) say dissident astonomers from New Mexico, and from from Hawaii.

No such problems for Burmese astrologers. They have found an elegant solution to the astronomical controversy generated the International Astronomical Union's downgrading of Pluto from full planetary status: ignore the IAU.

Pluto has been traditionally defined as a planet in astrology, and it will retain that status," U Tiun Lin, president of the Myanmar Astrologers Association was quoted as saying in the Myanmar Times.
Good for them. I wish them well, whatever the future may hold.

Gene Robinson

Gene Robinson, the bishop with faulty chromosome, has been criticising the Orthodox Episcopalians for being extremists at the Anglicans' recent General Convention. He's upset by the moratorium on the consecration of homosexual priests. Still no sign of theological justification for his arguments.

He would be on stronger ground criticising the Orthodox Episcopalians if he called them unprincipled over the election of Bishop Schori. Did they really, as David Virtue wirtes, vote:

....for her to show up how morally and theologically bankrupt the Episcopal Church had become, and wanted to make that point in clear unequivocal terms to Rowan Williams and the Global South bishops.
Seems like a disreputable way to choose a bishop.

Sadly, it seems to be more and more the case that, as Virtue says, "The Episcopal Church is finished, it is dying and no one can now rescue it". If thatis true, the question becomes, what will replace it?

Nimrod Tragedy.

The Ministry of Defence has the detailed casualty list from Saturday's Nimrod disaster, as does the BBC.

The 12 RAF personnel killed were: Flight Lt Steven Johnson, Flt Lt Leigh Anthony Mitchelmore, Flt Lt Gareth Rodney Nicholas, Flt Lt Allan James Squires, Flt Lt Steven Swarbrick, Flt Sgt Gary Wayne Andrews, Flt Sgt Stephen Beattie, Flt Sgt Gerard Martin Bell and Flt Sgt Adrian Davies.

Also named were Sergeant Benjamin James Knight, Sgt John Joseph Langton and Sgt Gary Paul Quilliam.

The soldier who died was Lance Corporal Oliver Simon Dicketts from the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marine was named as Joseph David Windall.

In a message of condolence, Lieutenant-General David J. Richards, Commander, International Security Assistance Force said,

It is with a great sense of personal loss that I offer my sympathies and condolences to the families and loved ones of the brave Nimrod crew that crashed yesterday...

This was a tragic accident. As sad as they are, these things do happen. Whilst it is important and right to reflect on the losses and sacrifices that our forces continue to make, we must move on and continue with our vital mission here, in part to ensure that their sacrifice is not in vain.
I hope we can all echo the General's sentiments and also realise that, whatever the tragedies that befall them and however they personally feel about them, the armed services have to continue their work.

03 September, 2006

Good News from the Middle East 3:

Continuing the series inspired by bandit.three.six:

In the area around Khandahar, the RAF Regiment is patrolling on foot, getting to know the locals. Whilst performing their main security duties - securing the local air base - the regiment "is developing a series of projects such as wells and water pumps to help the local population".

They drive from village to village, wearing soft hats and maintaining a friendly posture, stopping to talk to the village elders, and giving pens and other small gifts to the crowds of young kids who flock round them every time they stop.