30 October 2006

Sniper books

A Scottish newspaper reports that Iraqi resistance fighters are apparently using American sniper techniques in their war against the new Iraqi government and its American allies. While it is easy to single out the book mentioned by the newspaper, there are plenty of choices available for a potential sniper to browse among en route to getting a sniper's textbook. When I worked for one publisher, I remember well the horror of the editor who worked on this example. She was upset by the callous tone, and who could blame her?

Teeth and tails

It seems the Iraqi army is seriously lacking in the military "tail". The latest audit (06-032) from the Special Inspector General in Iraq, General Stuart W. Bowen to Congress reportedly finds the Iraqi army lacking in medical personnel and soldiers capable of keeping trucks on the road. These are the kind of "technical" troops that often seem to be lacking in the armies of what one used to refer to as the Third World, possibly because they can make more money in the private sector, or even emigrate. They also don't look so impressive on parade through the streets of the capital.

The mechanics, in particular, are vital to armies heavily reliant on road transport for supply. Imagine a heap of ammunition arriving at Basra. Road may be the best way to get it up country to the Sunni triangle. One can spot a tempting business opportunity for a company offering mercenary services, but how many of any imported car mechanics are going to get shot at or kidnapped by the Iraqi resistance

29 October 2006

War Memory

A lack of posts has been due to work and a vacation in Belgium. The first night I went to the Menin Gate and watched the Last Post ceremony. Unlike many, I didn't find it particularly moving, but I was struck almost dumb by the Menin Gate itself, with its long list of the missing. The Last Post tradition began the year following the the inauguration of the memorial. I found myself struck once again by how the impact that the First World War had on Britain and the Dominions resembles the sense of loss Americans acquired after the Civil War. I found myself wondering if the original solemnity of Decoration Day served as an inspiration for the obsequies for the First World War dead.

11 October 2006

Meaningful dates

While I spotted a couple of comments about yesterday being the anniversary of the battle of Tours, it also being the anniversay of the battle of Kerbala went unremarked in my very Western environment. For those who don't understand statistical coincidence, all this might seem very providential. However, my empirical observations have led me to conclude battles cluster at certain points in the seasons, even acdross the very different climates of Western Europe and the Middle East. And not necessarily where one might think.

09 October 2006


North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon. The "nuclear club" at one time included South Africa. You can find out more about their experience as a nuclear power here.