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07 February 2012


Ryan Mount

Make commerce, not war.

Or as Thomas Friedman once [now erroneously] quipped, "no two countries that both had a McDonald's had fought a war against each other."

Russ Steele

The war in Afganistan is being mismanaged according to a set of rules the Taliban does not understand or abide by. Consider this from the American Thinker by James Simpson this morning.

Last month, we brought you the story about Specialist Chazray Clark, the soldier wounded in Afghanistan by an IED who died due to delays because an unarmed medevac helicopter but a few miles away could not launch without armed escort.  This story first came to light through the intrepid front-line reporting of Michael Yon.  And yes, he did provide a videotape.  No sex, though -- only the agonizing moments waiting for the helicopter to arrive, while Chazray's life slipped away.

Army policy claims, incomprehensibly, that medevac helicopters must be unarmed and must be marked with the Red Cross logo to satisfy the Geneva Conventions.  However, the Conventions specifically allow for an exclusion when the enemy does not abide by it -- not even a joke question with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. 

But even if the enemy abides by the Conventions, no signatory is obligated to wear the red cross.  Doing so affords protection only when the wearer also follows specific guidelines such as not flying over the enemy, or getting permission to do so beforehand.  Imagine what the Taliban would say to that!  We fly over the enemy in Red Cross-marked helicopters all the time, in clear violation of these Geneva Conventions guidelines, making a mockery of the Army's claim that they are abiding by anything at all.

Those red crosses are irrelevant at best and a nice target at worst.  None of the other services use them, and all their rescue choppers are armed.  But the Army foolishly persists in a policy that requires the ubiquitous Red Cross markings on medevacs, and demands they go unarmed, in supposed adherence to a set of conventions that assume that the enemy will play by Queensbury rules.  But then they plainly ignore the spirit of the convention by requiring that unarmed medevacs be escorted by helicopter gunships.  At least they have that much sense!

I was in the miliary for 20 years and was involved with the first digital strategic aircraft the FB-111. We were not allowed to use the capability of the aircraft because the Generals who were making the decisions last aircarft was the B-47. So, we flew the FB-111 like it was a B-47.

Todd Juvinall

I say buy all the poppies and make it a good price. Then when the poor farmers of the place get a Ipod and three squares, running water an indoor plumbing perhaps they will rethink killing each other and the rest of us.

Douglas Keachie

It is the size of California, and so we put how many folks there?

I have an acquaintance who has moved to Vietnam to retire, and so far he is enjoying it immensely, between the beaches and the luxuries he can afford, in terms of personal service.

Let's be grateful the Taliban has not put IUD's and this ancient technology together.


(range to 1500 feet)

The farmers of Afghanistan have been getting hit from all sides, even before we got there. Taliban chain sawed many trees of those who would not kowtow.

Douglas Keachie

One of my notorious students posted this on Facebook recently, in response to someone who thought the two key switches for nuke launch could be hacked into, and as he pointed out, "no, that would defeat the purpose, they are electrically connected, but there is no external override possible.

In any event, it brought up the question, if a nuke is delivered by suitcase or cargo trailer being towed by a tractor (18 wheeler), is it possible to determine which country made the bomb. I've always thought this to be impossible, by someone on the news said otherwise, a couple of days back.

"Once again, a reply to a post has become a note. This is in reply to an individual who alleged that a hack of a nuclear launch facility (to the point of making launch possible) had taken place. My response, as a layperson with no expertise on the topic, is based entirely on public information I happen to have handy as coffee-table material.* For brevity, I have deliberately left out a fair number of incidents.


There have been accidental flight deviations, bird flocks with radar profiles *identical* to a bomber, the Soviet panic during Able Archer 83, near-launches on subs, bombs dropped with nuclear fuel but without arming mechanisms engaged (in one case something like 80% of the mechanisms armed, I think) years during which the launch codes were 00000000, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton all left their O4+/Yankee White cleared officer, with the "football" (or launch mechanism) behind on various occasions, but I recall no public coverage or OSINT regarding such hacks.

Clinton lost the "biscuit" with the Gold (launch) codes for four months; a Soviet duty officer named Stanislav Petrov received an automated missile launch report but made a judgment call that it was a malfunction.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-59 came under attack from the American carrier USS Randolph and 11 destroyers. Two out of three of the commanding officers agreed to launch a nuclear torpedo. All three had to agree for a launch to take place, under the impression that they were at a state of war.. XO Vasili Arkhipov was the lone holdout, and convinced the Captain to surface sufficiently to contact Moscow, averting extremely probable nuclear war.

Also, the so-called "Vela Incident" (named after the satellite type, in 1979) in which a satellite detected a "double flash" indicative of a nuclear explosion in the South Atlantic. This incident is considered by many in the IC and nuclear community to have a moderate-to-high confidence of being a joint Israeli-South African bomb test, as alleged by the commander of a nearby Soviet naval base, former South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad, and former CIA agent Tyler Drumheller who said he had collected "incontrovertible" evidence of a South African-Israeli test, etc.

During Able Archer 83, a U.S. & allied force exercise, the simulation of DEFCON 1 - condition of war - led the USSR to prepare a first strike. Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB officer at the London rezidentura, was an MI6 double-agent, and in a semi-unique position to know that no attack was underway. Confirming this information was Rainer Rupp, an East German intelligence officer highly placed in NATO. It was only by intelligence from Oleg that Reagan learned how likely the Soviets deemed a nuclear attack.

This doesn't include the numerous criticality excursions, loss of nuclear fuel, damage to nuclear weapons in handling, loss of nuclear weapons, and other nuclear accidents, civilian and military. It's just what I could come up with off the top of my head.

So yes, everyone almost died. But AFAIK, no launch systems were hacked.

* At the tender age of 13, I acquired a copy of "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons," from the waste bins behind Le Conte Hall at Berkeley. I used to wander the halls there, and found lots of graduate students who were thrilled to discuss their experiments.

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