December 18, 2001



An incredibly important and timely piece in the new issue of Parameters by Ralph Peters. Soldiers (and everybody else for that matter), if they read one professional development piece this year, should read this one. Best line: "Why are yesterday's borders more important than today's lives?"

Posted by BruceR at 10:04 PM



In an ironic twist, I cannot get that annoying song "Can't Get You Out of My Head" out of my head. I may have to take an icepick to my brain just to make it stop. Thanks, Ozzies. Next time can you just release anthrax?

Posted by BruceR at 03:58 PM



Here's my take on the Tom Walkom Bin Laden tape denial piece in the Star today (read Penny for another view). Walkom starts by claiming the anthrax attacks, because they were Ames strain baccili, could conceivably have come from the Canadian Forces' DRE Suffield, based on a widely circulated news report.

I'm old-fashioned. I think it is interesting that someone with access to a U.S. or British or maybe even a Canadian military lab is trying to conduct germ warfare against the North American populace. I am puzzled that so few others do.

Maybe, Tom, it's because the rest of us have read Wendy Orent's pretty thorough refutation of that same report in the New Republic this week. Pity you didn't.

Then Walkom claims in a carefully hedged paragraph that the Bin Laden tape was faked, citing prior U.S. bad acts as his evidence:

Would a government that once contemplated blowing up Fidel Castro with an exploding cigar balk at faking a video? Would a government that, during the Vietnam War, concocted a fake attack on one of its naval vessels in order to justify an escalated military campaign, be squeamish about doing a little digital wizardry?

Okay, maybe I'm dense here, but I would have thought the Americans' decades of failed (and often pathetic) attempts to assassinate Castro would have been evidence against the thesis that they could now brilliantly fake a videotape. The second part of the paragraph refers to the Tonkin Gulf Incident of 1964. For the record: the Americans' sin in 1964 was not that they "concocted a fake attack" by the North Vietnamese on Aug. 2, but that their covert naval support for South Vietnamese raiding operations into the North had goaded the North Vietnamese into attacking the nearby USS Maddox with torpedo boats. THERE REALLY WAS AN ATTACK. There were lots of dead Vietnamese and at least one sunk torpedo boat to show for it. Somewhat like Pearl Harbour, historians still debate whether the American actions were part of a secret plan to escalate the war, or just some huge miscalculation (with, admittedly, more evidence for the former in this case), but the resulting attack was certainly real. So Walkom's statement is specious.

In conclusion, he burbles:

That doesn't mean the video was falsified. It may well be real. I suspect it is (although I'm not sure what it would prove in a proper court of law).

First off, there's no evidence whatsoever that the video was faked. But Walkom apparently believes the presumption of innocence doesn't apply to American actions. Here they're presumed guilty until they somehow prove they're not... a logical impossibility, but never mind. Second, not even Walkom believes Bin Laden didn't do Sept. 11 -- or if he did he's never said it. So he apparently believes the Americans are faking a tape to help convict a guilty man. Obviously this isn't as much of a sin, is it? But even though they did a masterly enough job of it to pass Walkom's superb photogrammetric analysis, they didn't make it good enough to prove anything "in a proper court of law." It's another example of Walkom's (and others') Americans-as-really-stupid-Supermen thesis.

Finally, Walkom says, if Mullah Omar's only sin (!) is refusing to hand over a war criminal, aren't the Americans equally guilty?

In 1945, the U.S. government refused to hand over to justice those in charge of Japan's notorious Unit 731, a biological weapons research facility that tried out lethal experiments on human beings, conducted germ warfare against entire populations and was responsible for anywhere from 3,000 to 200,000 deaths. In fact, the U.S. government gave the Unit 731 commanders amnesty in return for a peek at their research... Would the Chinese and Russians, both of whom wanted to try these Japanese commanders for crimes against humanity, have been justified if they had attacked Washington in retaliation?

This is, predictably, historical misrepresentation. The U.S. kept the Japanese biological war establishment under their surveillance instead of handing them over to Russia or China because they were freaking bioweapons experts. Handing them over to the oh-so-fair communist court systems of those countries would have guaranteed a kickstart to Stalin's and Mao's own bioweapon programs, as the experts traded what they knew for their own lives. Outside of the X-Files, no one has ever claimed any American bioweapons advance came from studying the Japanese tests, so that "peek at the research" was useless to the U.S., but it could certainly have been useful to others in the great wide world. It's the price of non-proliferation, Tom: sometimes keeping people with the brains to create weapons of mass destruction right where you can see them has to trump lesser concerns like extradition requests from Communist dictatorships. (Arguably, they should have been tried in an American court, but that's not Walkom's argument here.) There is no analogy to the Omar case... unless you honestly believe Mullah Omar was refusing to hand over Bin Laden solely cause he believed the Americans might someday use his box-cutter innovations to crash an airliner into downtown Kabul. If anyone would notice the difference for the rubble.

Posted by BruceR at 11:46 AM



It pains me more than you know to say this, but Andrew Sullivan did no one any great service by citing a 1920 piece of xenophobic claptrap from the Atlantic as the latest evidence he'd uncovered for Muslim perfidy yesterday. Leaving aside the bit about Egyptian selling of sisters Sullivan mentioned, here's a few other quotes from that same piece he didn't use. Are all these stereotypes equally true, 'Drew?

[The Palestinian Christian is...] an accomplished liar, an abject coward, and a noxious parasite, pimp, and pander.

[The German is...] a braggart or a servile knave... [As for the Australian,] his exterior is rough and his heart is that of a little child.

[But even Muslims are still better than some...] the unlearned Turk is infinitely preferable to the Levantine, be he Jew or Gentile, Zionist or Greek... never a Greek or Jew came near me but to sell me, at three times its value, something I did not want; or he might have been a pimp, or a vendor of damnable liquor, adulterated from dregs to label... Greek Christians... were the reverse of clean.

Jesus wept, Sullivan. It's pieces like that that convince people Edward Said had a point.

P.S.: The writer's comments about a lack of Muslims in the Indian Army are completely divorced from historical reality. In fact, as writers like Byron Farwell have recorded, Punjabi Muslims were consistently one of the three largest ethnic contingents in British military service in India throughout the Raj, along with Sikhs and Gurkhas. It was actually the Hindu population that was consistently underrepresented among the soldiery, partly because the British never forgave them for the Mutiny.

Posted by BruceR at 12:33 AM