January 21, 2003



This sums up all I have to say about celebrities and Iraq quite nicely.

I'll start taking celebrities opposed to war more seriously the day I see one -- just one -- sign up for some kind of military service. Not overseas... Reserve/National Guard would be fine. Just so I know they are willing to ante up and kick in the day actual collective effort really is required.

Posted by BruceR at 04:42 PM



Today's haul. Miro Cernetig, in the Globe:

When the two pilots mistook Canadian soldiers 20,000 feet below as enemies firing at their aircraft, the general [Sargeant, an F-16 tactics expert] said the proper response would have been to try to mark the position and fly to safety.

NO, HE DIDN'T. AT 20,000 feet, the pilots were already in safety. What Sargeant really said was the proper response to non-threatening fire is to stay in a safe position relative to the threat and not fly INTO danger in the act of chasing a non-threat. Again, the reporter accepts Schmidt's after-the-fact statement that he felt threatened without question.

Meanwhile, the National Post has sent reinforcements to back up their hapless cub reporter... noted crime columnist Christie Blatchford. Blatch is as big as they come in Canadian spot-news circles (she was also great to work with during the Toronto funeral for Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, one of those soldiers killed) but Schmidt's lawyers obviously did their research on her ahead of time... her first filing from Barksdale AFB, online tomorrow sometime, is going to be largely an interview with one of the lawyers' wives, a police officer whose actions when she shot and killed someone on duty were also investigated. (Imagine that!) Blatch is nail-tough, but she has never met a police officer she didn't like... to neutralize her by framing this story in those terms was, frankly, a stroke of PR genius. These guys are worth every cent the Schmidts and their town are paying for them.

Posted by BruceR at 02:59 PM



The latest dispatch from a Louisiana courtroom, from the Globe this time:

Both pilots insist they knew nothing of the Canadian exercises, a claim central to the defence's case.

No it's not. Neither Canadian nor American inquiries raised as a question of fact whether the pilots knew of the Canadian exercises: they did not question the pilots' statements on this narrow point, and the manslaughter charges were laid on that basis. The prosecution could stipulate that the pilots knew nothing about the exercise, and the charges would still stand.

Why? Because the nub of the prosecution case is that, regardless of what the pilots knew about Afghanistan, they certainly knew their rules of engagement, which denied independent engagement of targets in Afghanistan -- except in the case where they had a reasonable belief that to follow that order would put their own lives in jeopardy -- and they certainly heard the verbal orders they received that night confirming those same ROEs. So the only questions that make a difference in the judicial outcome relate to any evidence as to the reasonableness or unreasonableness of Maj. Schmidt's self-defence claim. Everything else is trivia being thrown up as a smokescreen by defence lawyers.

This one's classic:

Earlier in the day, it was revealed that crucial orders that could have prompted the pilots to flee the area never got to them because of a series of miscommunications and delays... It took 41 seconds for ground control to respond to the air controllers' message that the pilot had invoked self-defence and was about to drop the bomb.

Holy! 41 seconds! What did they do, go out for dinner first? I mean, really, since when is 41 seconds worthy of being called a delay? We're talking the centre that monitors all U.S. aircraft in the Middle East. It has no idea when the stopwatch starts ticking where the pilots are or what they're looking at, largely because Schmidt never gives coordinates. They have to figure out, probably by looking at datalinked information from the AWACS, where he actually is, what he's likely looking at, and how the ROEs apply in this circumstance... specifically, they have to decide what they can possibly do to talk the pilot out of a self-defence claim. (I wonder how much time these reporters have actually spent monitoring radio nets in heated situations.)

See, the right to self-defence is sacrosanct. A pilot must always have the final judgment call: presumably you know if you're being fired at. So, once Schmidt said the words "self-defence," despite an order to hold fire, he effectively took all responsibility for error back onto his shoulders. If he had time to spell it out, he would have said, "I know you said hold fire, but I think my life is in danger. So I'm going to fire, and I take full responsibility for the consequences."

It's entirely reasonable to believe that Schmidt, who I have no doubt honestly believed he was looking at some clueless Taliban, was frustrated with the AWACS guys himself; his boss, Nichols, had expressed open contempt for them. So he figured he'd kill some bad guys, and Nichols would back him up for what would, if he'd been right about his target, then been a minor breach of procedure. But by doing so he'd claimed ALL responsibility... so on the narrow question of culpability, whether Saudi Arabia took 21 or 41 seconds to get a grasp of what Schmidt was doing is irrelevant. In a legal sense, the bomb was on its deadly way from the point when Schmidt said "self-defence." Nothing the guys in Saudi Arabia could have said or done after those words were spoken was going to save anyone's life.

Once more, just to be clear: the criminal act Schmidt's accused of is not the bomb exploding, but the patently false claim of self-defence that preceded it. THAT'S what he's accused of.

Posted by BruceR at 01:18 AM