June 17, 2003


We got lost and a couple of blocks from where the two missiles had hit in Baghdad there was a Scud missile launcher with a Scud on top. We then realised the Iraqis were hiding Scuds in residential areas. If I'd said that I think we would have been thrown out the next day.

--Australian journalist Lindsey Hulsum. Blair and Currie are calling for her head. A couple things to note, however:

1) There is still no firm evidence that the Iraqis were lying when they said all their long-range missiles prohibited by the UN from the last Gulf War were destroyed. Wastern intelligence agencies, doing the math on pieces that could be reliably traced, at most said perhaps half-a-dozen were still unaccounted for. Given that the Al-Hussein missiles were made by welding two Scuds together, however, they admitted there was a large margin for error in that number, and the Iraqis could well be telling the truth.
2) If there was still a Scud or two left this spring, they almost certainly would have been in a position at the start of the war where they could hit something, like, say, Israel. A Scud in Baghdad would only have the range to hit other targets in Iraq, making Hulsum's entire story highly questionable. I deeply doubt Lindsey Hulsum would recognize a Scud if she saw one (as opposed to, say, a shorter range Ababil missile, or even a SAM-2 anti-aircraft missile).
3) There is no corroborative evidence to support her claim.

So would it really have been best for her to throw an uninformed, almost certainly incorrect allegation of an Iraqi war crime out in the middle of a war? Her reasoning for her silence was contemptible, but the truth was better served by it.

By the way, Angie Shultz and others commenting in Blair's item assume that putting a surface-to-air installation in a city is against the Geneva Conventions. I challenge anyone to show me the citation they base that on. (And please don't cite the First 1977 Protocol... neither Iraq nor the U.S. is among the signatories to that one.)

UPDATE: Bill Herbert comments. My point to be clear, based on my work a former air defence artillery officer, is that siting SAMs to defend a city pretty much implies putting the SAMs IN THE CITY. The 1977 Geneva protocol (which Canada HAS signed) cannot be interpreted to rule out ALL proximate deployments of troops to civilians. Sometimes putting troops in a city you're attempting to defend is legitimate. If this Scud was a SAM, then definitionally there can be no harm, no foul: it's a defensive system. The problem is that, every time Western militaries accuse lesser countries of placing weapons in mosques, schools, culturally sensitive locations, city streets, etc., it adds to a weight of argument that can only constrain their own deployment options down the road, for fear of criticism by their own sensitized civilians. To argue that putting even a full SAM installation in Baghdad is a war crime is to say it is when Stinger-tipped Hummers ring the White House, as well. Yes, I know that's an absurd comparison. That's the point.

One more thing re "corroborative evidence." I was actually referring more to the reporter blurting out her Scud story now. The Americans have had the run of the place for two months... they haven't found a Scud yet, not even an inoperative one. I was a reporter, too. If it was my story, and I knew that, it would certainly lead me to question my own belief that I might have seen a Scud in a Baghdad market: I would certainly at least question the other explanations. For her to say that with such asssurance now that she and only she saw the only Scud in Iraq is a sign of either colossal ignorance or deep twitdom.

Posted by BruceR at 07:19 PM


So, let me get this straight. Johnny Cash's stepdaughter, Carlene Carter, a well-known country music singer, had a boyfriend who died in a car crash. Said boyfriend was then cut up on the autopsy table for a Learning Channel documentary series, and although attempts were made to keep his identity private, his tattoos were recognized and people commented on the program to his grieving family. Meanwhile, Carlene was arrested for forging said boyfriend's identity, in order to score some tranquilizers. I really have to start watching more country music... Best quote: "'Do we need to carry around a little card in our wallet that says we don't want to be cut up and viewed on TV? Is that what it's going to come to?"

In other news, the Kennedys are fighting the tyranny of wind power.

Posted by BruceR at 06:08 PM


[British gulf war commander Brian] Burridge confirmed that British military commanders were expecting - on the basis of intelligence - that the Iraqi army would offer to help US and UK troops maintain law and order after the invasion.

--The Guardian

Posted by BruceR at 05:57 PM


The Poor Man figures out the solution to the Weapons of Mythical Disposition riddle:

Hillary ate the WMD. I heard she's gay.

Posted by BruceR at 05:14 PM


Steven Den Beste, on Americans training the native armies in their new protectorates:

There are also major cultural problems. We have to break them of their unwillingness to fail, or to admit failure; we have to instill in them an American attitude towards admitting mistakes so that they can be corrected.

Apparently, in actual American practice, in Afghanistan, at least, instilling American attitudes is seen as best done by avoiding paying the sepoys yourself and borrowing your actual instructors from... wait for it... the French:

Col. McDonnell says that when he first arrived from Fort Bragg, N.C., he had no money to pay the salaries of Afghan recruits. France, responsible for officer training at the center, stepped in to cover a monthly payroll of around $22,000.

Posted by BruceR at 04:34 PM


You see, when you hire someone purely on the basis of his mother's reprehensible involvement in a presidential impeachment scandal, this is the kind of indepth understanding of American literature you're likely to get.

(Yeah, yeah, I know, it's from last year. I just found my way to it now.)

Posted by BruceR at 02:00 PM


We're within one or two iterations of having "the facts" now on the Lynch issue, I'd say.

Posted by BruceR at 01:27 PM