February 08, 2007

Roggio on helicopters: wrong

I can say one thing right away about Bill Roggio on the cause of an uptick in recent helicopter casualties: they're not going to be due to SA-7 missiles, as his intelligence sources are telling him. Way too old and primitive for this kind of kill rate: you'd have to fire a barrage each time, and the only reason there can be any doubt to the cause at this point is that these seem to be one- or at most two-shot kills.

Russian-manufactured shoulder-launched missiles basically fall into two very different families, the Strela (aka SA-7, SA-14 and the Chinese HN-5), and the Igla (aka SA-16, SA-18, and the Chinese QW-1 and 2). The Igla, which first entered Soviet service in 1981, is a Stinger-equivalent, modern missile, quite deadly against helicopters and other slow low-flying aircraft. The Strela, even in its last incarnations, was still essentially a Vietnam-era piece of junk.

If there's an uptick in helicopter kills now, it certainly could be an indication the more modern Iglas are beginning to make their way into Iraqi insurgent hands in sufficient numbers. Igla missiles, and their licensed and unlicensed copies, are produced in Pakistan, Iran, and China, as well as Russia.

Posted by BruceR at 02:33 PM

Goo bombers update, #2

Dick Destiny has more pictures from the trial proceedings for the hapless British goo bombers.

Posted by BruceR at 01:50 PM

Damned if you do...

"It is inexcusable that they [the military] have not investigated. This is not right."
--Afghan detainees' rights advocate and law professor Amir Attaran, Feb. 7, on allegations that an Afghan detained at an apparent bomb-making facility received superficial injuries while resisting attempts to take him into custody.

"In light of what happened a decade ago in Somalia, I very much doubt that [the military] should investigate internally."
--Attaran again, Feb. 8, upon hearing that the military had immediately launched separate criminal and administrative inquiries into his allegations.

Read Damian Brooks at the Torch for more.

The real question here is whether the independent Military Police Complaints Commission, established after the 1992 Somalia affair, should hold only its second-ever public inquiry into the new Attaran allegations, in addition to the two internal inquiries now ongoing. It certainly seems like it will be bureaucratically difficult for the MPCC to resist the kind of pressure it's under on this from Attaran and the Globe and Mail: to say no now would seem to be dooming itself to irrelevancy as a government watchdog agency. But Brooks' suggestion that this is a kind of forum-shopping by Attaran, who appears to be seeking a public venue for himself where he could gain standing to argue in relation to the larger issue of whether Canada should be handing over all its detainees to local Afghan authorities, does seem justified.

I've got a couple other questions myself about today's article, the third top-of-front-page screamer in the Globe in as many days on the Attaran allegations. I don't see how the Globe can characterize Attaran as a "whistle-blower;" isn't that term normally reserved for people inside the organization they are criticizing? He's more accurately an advocate for Afghan detainees, Taliban or otherwise.

Also, this, from Attaran: I have an obligation as a citizen, he said. I also have a super-added obligation as a lawyer to be vigilant of possible illegality; lawyers are officers of the court. And I have a further obligation as a professor, when it comes to sharing my research and educating policy makers and the public; research and education is what professors do.

Why then hasn't Attaran posted these documents he's received through his Access to Information requests, upon which the allegations are based, publicly, so others could review the conclusions he's been drawing? He's succeeded in making them public now, after all. It seems that would be the appropriate scholarly (and lawyerly) thing for him to do.

UPDATE: Finally, I'm surprised by Attaran's and the Globe's use of the word "intimidation" here. My understanding is that that word is normally reserved, at least in a legal sense, for acts of criminal threatening. For a lawyer to use it in this context is to suggest he felt the military officer in question was attempting to induce in him a fear of potential acts of physical violence by military members, or at least acts intended to damage him financially or reputationally. I don't see how one obtains that from either party's description of the conversation in question. It should be possible in to cast aspersions on someone's motives without being accused of threatening them. (Otherwise, journalists and bloggers would all be in big trouble.)

Posted by BruceR at 01:32 PM