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Suicide bombers mean Afghanistan can get worse (updated)

You can forget all the images and cartoons of the last decade that compared America’s withdrawal from Kabul with that of Saigon, all those choppers lifting away into the air.

This catastrophe now has it’s own images. Images we have become used to in the last twenty years. Images of the early 21st century. Images and horrors entirely unique to our age.

Deadliest Day for Troops in Afghanistan Since 2011

At least 12 Marines participating in the Afghanistan evacuation were killed in a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport on Thursday morning, making it the deadliest day in the war since 2011.

The civilian death toll will almost certainly be higher – current reports are 120, and given the images below that seems entirely possible. It appears to be multiple suicide bombing attacks, likely with vehicles on gates where people were entering the airport. The explosive attacks were accompanied by ISIS gunmen shooting at both US troops and civilians.

To anybody with even a faint knowledge of logistics it was obvious days ago that thousands of Americans and others were going to be left behind in the country as the US military itself would be drawing down towards the Taliban demand for a final departure date of August 31. Civilians were not going to continue to leave in packed planes right up until midnight on that day, at which point it would all magically stop. The troops would be the last ones out, as usual.

But now, even as confused and disorganised as the withdrawal has been, with the State Department suspending processing of Visa applications, with six Afghan’s on a no-fly list departing anyhow, and other insanities, despite heroic efforts from the troops on the ground, it’s possible that it will to come to a complete stop, especially if such attacks are ongoing.

Last week, Joe Biden bragged about evacuation efforts during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC by saying:

“But, look – but no one’s being killed right now, God forgive me if I’m wrong about that, but no one’s being killed right now.”

Another boast from President Ice Cream that will now have to be chucked down the memory hole, possibly where even God cannot reach. Even at the time there were multiple, solid reports of at least seven deaths amid the chaos.

More than this was that none other than the State Department had issued this warning a few days ago:

Due to threats outside the Kabul airport, US citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates unless you receive instructions to do so. Those at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.

As with other recent events where the President was contradicted in his statements within hours by his own agencies, the Pentagon and State, it seems that the entire Administration is confused and not communicating well internally. That alone is a condemnation of the Biden crowd.

The bombing appears not to be the work of the Taliban but ISIS, which matches recent reports, both from unsourced intelligence reports to reporters, that ISIS and Al Queda were once more on the ground in Afghanistan.

UPDATE

Reports and video coming in of more explosions at the airport.

FFS:

U.S. officials gave the Taliban a list of names of U.S. citizens, green card holders & Afghan allies to grant entry into the outer perimeter of the city’s airport, prompting outrage behind the scenes from lawmakers and military officials.

What were they thinking? They basically handed the Taliban a kill list.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 27, 2021 at 7:55 am

Posted in Military, USA

Tagged with , ,

Afghan Veterans: one British view (updated)

Tom Tugendhat is a Conservative MP in the British Parliament.

He is also a veteran of the Afghanistan War (2001-2021).

His speech to the House the other day is sobering and sombre, rich with pathos and sorrow, even though I cannot agree with the overall thrust of his argument:

He starts by talking about the impact of recent events on him and his fellow Afghan veterans, as they see their sacrifices churned into the dust, with himself feeling “anger, and grief and rage”, as well as “the feeling of abandonment“:

“I’ve watched good men go into the earth, taking with them a part of me, a part of all of us.”

I cannot but help think of how Vietnam veterans dealt with this?

But it is the following that got me, where he is clearly talking not of the Americans beside whom he fought but of other comrades in arms:

That connection links us also to our European partners, to our European neighbours, and to our international friends.

And so it is with great sadness that I now criticise one of them. Because I was never prouder than when I was decorated by the 82nd Airborne after the capture of Musa Qala. It was a huge privilege. A huge privilege to be recognised by such an extraordinary unit in combat.

To see their commander in chief call into question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran … shameful.

Those who have never fought for the colours they fly should be careful about criticising those who have.

The Afghan Army suffered some 60,000 deaths over the last twenty years, plus god knows how many casualties fighting against the Taliban and other such groups.

But the next statement delivers a clear message and somewhat disturbing one, based partly on that shameful assessment by President Biden, but undoubtedly on deeper things than just that:

“We can set out a vision, clearly articulate it, for reinvigorating our European Nato partners, to make sure that we are not dependent on a single ally, on the decision of a single leader, that we can work together with Japan and Australia, France and Germany, with partners large and small and make sure we hold the line together.”

The message is that the USA can no longer be depended upon and that Europe, perhaps with other like-minded nations around the world, must draw closer together.

If a sober, Conservative, America-friendly MP is drawing that conclusion, what must others be thinking?

But sadly, despite his sacrifices, courage, intelligence, decency, together with his earnestness about such international and multinational efforts, I think such plans will come to naught. He is talking as if the globalist world of economics, trade and immigration spawned in the wake of the end of the end of the Cold War, the world carried forward by Clinton through Bush to Obama, still exists in the same way. It does not.

It has been broken by too many economic losses in the heartlands of America, too much debt, and in Europe, too many multicultural clashes. Too many vast failures like the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, Iraq, and now this. Dashed hopes for the liberalisation of not just Afghanistan and Iraq but China also. We are not at The End of History, and the Last Man has turned out to be a rather primitive man; the same sort of man who has impelled empires for three thousand years.

He finishes the speech with a terrible image, and a hope that this is not the future:

“It is the image of a man whose name I never knew, carrying a child who had died hours earlier, carrying this child into our fire base and begging for help.

There was nothing we could do.

It was over.

This is what defeat looks like when you no longer have the choice of how to help.”

Without the USA leading, I very much doubt that Mr Tugendhat’s vision of helping can be anything more than an electronic League of Nations, and probably unwanted by those it thinks it can help. The European nations are already suffering low birthrates and despite solid economies in many cases their militaries are pitiful, with only France and Britain being solid, and then by only a low bar.

UPDATE:

I guess I should have read up on what the rest of the British Parliament had to say:

MPs from all sides of the Commons were forceful in their criticism. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said: “The US is, of course, an important ally, but to overlook the fighting of the Afghan troops and forces, and the fact that they have been at the forefront of that fighting in recent years, is wrong.”

Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “The American decision to withdraw was not just a mistake – it was an avoidable mistake, from President Trump’s flawed deal with the Taliban to President Biden’s decision to proceed, and to proceed in such a disastrous way.”

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP, called Mr Biden’s remarks about Afghan soldiers “some of the most shameful comments ever from an American president”.

Since the days of Reagan I’ve grown used to hearing the British Left condemn American Presidents, usually Republican ones.

But I cannot recall such wide and deep condemnation from across the board in the British Parliament. I stand to be corrected but I think it is unprecedented.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 20, 2021 at 10:21 am

Afghan Veterans: one American view

In another post I’ve referred to the views expressed by a British Afghan veteran, now an MP, Afghan Veterans: one British view.

Now there are these comments made by an American Army veteran of the same war, courtesy of the Instapundit blog where the founder of the blog introduces it as:

THOUGHTS ON AFGHANISTAN, from a senior military officer with whom I am acquainted:

Click to read the whole thing but here are some key quotes from it:

I ask that you not use my name. I am a currently serving General Officer and what I have to say is highly critical of our current military leadership. But it must be said.

I don’t blame President Biden for the catastrophe in Afghanistan. It was the right decision to leave, the proof of which is how quickly the country collapsed without US support. Twenty years of training and equipping the Afghan army and all that they were capable of was a few hours of delay in a country the size of Texas. As for his predecessor, the only blame I place on President Trump was that he didn’t withdraw sooner.

We should blame President Bush, not for the decision to attack into Afghanistan following 9-11, but for his decision to “shift the goalposts” and attempt to reform Afghanistan society. That was a fool’s errand any student of history would have recognized. And yes, we should place blame on President Obama for his decision to double down on failure when he “surged” in Afghanistan, rather than to withdraw.

Of course in 2008 it was essential that the Democrats play The Bad War (Iraq) against The Good War (Afghanistan), in order to retain credibility with Democrat voters still feeling the pain of the 9/11 attacks.

He does hold Biden directly responsible for the way the withdrawal has been conducted, correctly in my view, but it is the Military Brass into which he tears:

Afghanistan was worse than Vietnam in another respect: the military’s leaders of the Vietnam era had no precedent to dissuade them from a disastrous path. Today’s military leadership has the precedent of not just Vietnam, but also Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. That much obtuseness must be punished and removed from the system.

General Milley must resign. Not only is he the Chairman of the Joint Staff, prior to that he was the Chief of Staff of the Army. While all services share the blame, the Army is the land domain proponent. The 20 years of failure in Afghanistan is an Army failure. Scores of other generals also deserve a thorough evaluation; many of them are complicit in the lies to protect a decades-long failed strategy.

Secretary of Defense Austin also must be fired. The recently retired Army general and former CENTCOM commander was, and still is, part of the culture that is impervious to the fact that 20 years of trying it their way did not work.

He discusses how the military has been warped by two decades of fighting wars against insurgents. If the complaint early on was that a Cold War military did not know how to fight the likes of the Taliban, the opposite is now the case:

The Army today could not win a major war.

recent open-source studies conclude that the US military already is unable to defend against …. a Russian incursion in the Baltics or a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

Yet, winning a major war is the number one reason why an Army exists. It will take a generation to break bad habits, to think in terms of closing with and destroying the enemy versus winning hearts and minds. Keane sees raw numbers (and ignores the stark evidence that there was no progress over 20 years) and thinks that America’s Army can sustain that level of commitment. It cannot, and the opportunity cost to the culture of the force is much too great. Ignore him. Ignore Petraeus, McMaster, Stavridis, and the rest of their ilk.

I would like to think that the US Navy could win a major war, as well as the US Air Force, but in saying that I feel like those people who so recently talked of how an Afghan army of 300,000 could not lose to the vastly smaller, less well-equipped Taliban, and of course you would have to be a fool to ignore the fact that China is rapidly building a Navy.

He has a concise set of recommendations, starting with resources…

DoD must be halved. There are too many flag officers, too many agencies, departments, and directorates. It is the only secretariat with independent but supposedly subordinate secretaries. There are too many Geographic Component Commands—each led by a 4-star virtual proconsul whose budget dwarfs what the Department of State spends in their regions.

Unreformed, DoD is an inscrutable labyrinth which invites fraud, waste, and abuse. The excess attracts unscrupulous camp followers. Amazon did not choose Crystal City to locate its new headquarters because of low rents and ease of transportation access for its 25,000 employees. It chose the Arlington, Virginia neighborhood because it is two blocks from the Pentagon. That building controls the distribution of three-quarters of a trillion dollars every year. Most of it is wasted.

Of the ten richest counties in America, seven lie around Washington D.C. It is not a source of great mineral wealth or industry. It is not Silicon Valley. Given that it is a place that produces only paper and hot air there can be no other conclusion that it is the wealth of corruption.

He has legal recommendations also:

Congress must reevaluate the authorities contained within Sections 12301 through 12304 of Title X. The president has too much latitude to, on his own authority, mobilize tens or even hundreds of thousands of Guardsmen and Reservists without congressional approval. It must be the policy of the United States that we do not place our service members in harm’s way without first making the case to the American people. This also means ending the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force as well as strengthening Congress’ role in the War Powers Act such that, absent an actual declaration of war, there can be no war.

I doubt any Congress has the stomach to take back those powers, and I cannot see any President encouraging them to do so.

He doesn’t let other parts of the US Federal government off the hook either:

Let us not forget the intelligence agencies. They reported that Kabul was at risk of falling in as little as 90 days. That report was from last Thursday! The capital fell in less than 90 hours. Failure must be punished. And punishment in a bureaucracy means mass firings and a smaller budget—not more money so that they might be better the next time. Congress must consolidate and collapse our intelligence agencies. And when its reorganization is done, if the overall size of the nation’s intelligence apparatus is a quarter of what it is now, that still is too large.

Harsh. But we are now in a time of harshness. I agree with much of it.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 20, 2021 at 8:00 am

Posted in Britain, Military, US Politics, USA

Tagged with ,

Meh, history eh?

I assume it’s not the same helicopter!

Still, those Chinook’s must be a good design as I see they first flew in 1961. They’re getting into B-52 legendary status.

It’s not just Biden either…

Written by Tom Hunter

August 16, 2021 at 9:09 am

Posted in History, Military, USA

Tagged with ,

Afghanistan: “Who goes? And who gets left behind?”

I vividly recall the fall of Saigon in 1975 as the ARVN collapsed and the North Vietnamese swept into South Vietnam in a perfectly conventional military attack, complete with tanks, a far cry from two decades of guerilla warfare.

It was the first “current affairs news” that I ever took notice of. But then the images were unforgettable: ARVN pilots escaping with their families using any helicopter they could get their hands on, landing on any US warship with deck space; American sailors pushing the machines over the side to make room for more; other choppers landing in the sea.

The best documentary of this event is the 2014 PBS special, Last Days in Vietnam. A terrifying, heartbreaking, gripping movie that you will not regret watching. The title of this post is a quote from one of the Americans involved in that evacuation.

I don’t think we’re going to see anything quite like that from Afghanistan. The cartoon above is actually from 2009, when hopes were high that newly elected President Barack Obama would withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan since, after all, eight years was surely enough.

A decade later hopes were also high that President Trump would withdraw from that benighted tribal land, but like Bush and Obama, he allowed himself to be convinced by the State Department and the Pentagon that the USA needed to stay a while longer, lest the Afghanistan Army and government collapsed.

If they were likely to collapse after almost two decades of American training and about $1 trillion of invested effort and resources, then what difference was another four years going to make? Even a decade ago these sorts of arguments had begun to have uncanny similarities to South Vietnam circa 1973-75.

There was also a nasty little pressure campaign launched by insiders in the Intelligence and Military, to the effect that dreaded Russians were paying bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops. It was total shite and obviously so from the start, given that the Taliban were only too happy to do that job for free. But it was designed to mesh perfectly with the Trump-Russia delusion; if Trump pulled out from Afghanistan it could only be because he was doing what the Russians wanted. How much that campaign played in Trump’s decision to respect the Pentagon’s wishes is not known.

Finally, earlier this year President Biden directed the US to leave, they have almost completely done so, and the Vietnam scenario that so many foresaw has begun. You’re going to soon see – probably in less than a month – similar cartoons to the one above, judging by these sorts of news headlines:

Afghan president appeals for help as Taliban close in on capital

US Embassy in Kabul directs staff to destroy sensitive documents as many diplomats prepare for evacuation

To get a picture of the acceleration of this destruction I present you with the Washington Post’s exposition of the predictions from the Best and The Brightest on August 11:

The Biden administration is preparing for Afghanistan’s capital to fall far sooner than feared only weeks ago, as a rapid disintegration of security has prompted the revision of an already stark intelligence assessment predicting Kabul could be overrunwithin six to 12 months of the U.S. military departing, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

By August 13 there’d been an update:

A new U.S. intelligence assessment has indicated Kabul could be overrun within 30 to 90 days.

Now:

It’s stuff like this that causes me to have some sympathy for President Biden when he said this weeks ago:

“The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”

Biden is as stupid a President as the US has ever had; bag of rocks dumb even before he grew senile, which is why he allowed himself to mouth that advice given to him by the same agencies that failed to predict the fall of the Shah of Iran, the collapse of the Eastern European Communist Bloc, and the 9/11 attacks.

By contrast many ordinary people, across the ideological and political spectrum around the world, without access to the “intelligence” and lacking PhD’s in Foreign Policy, have predicted this collapse for years now.

As such we should not let those “experts” off the hook and yet we have. Almost two years ago the Washington Post, – for once doing some real investigative journalism – and in yet another eerie echo of Vietnam, published The Afghanistan Papers, which detailed the failures of the US in that country and the lies that had been told to President’s Bush, Obama and Trump about the progress being made in Afghanistan and that the war was still worth fighting.

The papers were based on a series of massive internal investigations done by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), created in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud in the war zone. But the agency ended up going much further than that with a project called “Lessons Learned” that ran through 2015:

The Lessons Learned staff interviewed more than 600 people with firsthand experience in the war. Most were Americans, but SIGAR analysts also traveled to London, Brussels and Berlin to interview NATO allies. In addition, they interviewed about 20 Afghan officials, discussing reconstruction and development programs.

The reports were packed with bureaucratic language, but it was the interviews, with 90% of the people promised anonymity, that hit hard. Only a few were prepared to go on the record. Here are just two:

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced thateverything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

Is it any wonder that the WaPo had to spend three years, including two lawsuits filed against SIGAR, to get access to such information:

Since 2001, the Defense Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University. Those figures do not include money spent by other agencies such as the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is responsible for medical care for wounded veterans.

Yet the radioactive fallout from these reports inside the Pentagon, State Department, CIA and other US Federal government institutions dealing with Afghanistan, has been non-existent.

That should not be a surprise given that the information fell upon the deaf ears of the American public, who apparently didn’t give a shit.

Certainly there was, and remains, an element of wishful thinking from those who listened to such lies, as president Bush demonstrated just the other day with these comments.

“It’s unbelievable how that society changed from the brutality of the Taliban, and all of a sudden — sadly — I’m afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm. I’m sad. Laura and I spent a lot of time with Afghan women, and they’re scared. And I think about all the interpreters and people that helped not only U.S. troops but NATO troops, and it seems like they’re just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people. And it breaks my heart.”

My feelings on Bush are summed up by a couple of comments:

I don’t care how George Bush feels about Afghan girls. Did any members of the Bush family die or suffer catastrophic injury to protect those girls. How many U.S. men and women was he willing to sacrifice so that he didn’t feel bad about the plight of Afghan girls?”

“Bush can spare us all the sob stories. He had eight years to establish the conditions for success in Afghanistan, and he didn’t….for eight years he let the CIA and State Department continually screw up and fail in their missions without any consequences, beginning with 9/11. 

Let me make it quite clear that I supported the initial invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In fact I saw no choice but to take out the Al Qaeda base camps, and if that meant the Taliban government fell then too bad.

That was done in a matter of months, but when I began to read stories about the likes of Bush and “Pottery Barn” Powell (“You break it. You buy it”) talking about setting up a democratic government there and building a “civil society” I absolutely disagreed.

Afghanistan is and always has been less a nation than a place of warring tribes. The idea of turning it into even an approximation of a civil society, even by the low standard of various Gulf States, seemed crazy to me. Were these people not aware of the history of Britain in two 19th century wars there, plus the USSR in the 1980’s? Here’s Churchill writing in his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, of the different policy options for Britain in the 1890’s:

The “Full steam ahead” method would be undoubtedly the most desirable.  This is the military view.  Mobilise, it is urged, a nice field force, and operate at leisure in the frontier valleys, until they are as safe a Hyde Park.  Nor need this course necessarily involve the extermination of the inhabitants.  Military rule is the best rule suited to the character and comprehension of the tribesmen.  They will soon recognize the futility of resistance, and will gradually welcome the increase of wealth and comfort that will follow a stable government.

Only one real objection has been advanced against this plan. But it is a crushing one, and it constitutes the most serious argument against the whole “Forward Policy.”  It is this: we have neither the troops nor the money to carry it out.

If they had not read Churchill – and I recall that he was all the rage with the Bush Whitehouse – surely they had read Kipling’s war poetry:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
and the women come out to cut up what remains,
jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
and go to your gawd like a soldier.

The likes of Bush claimed that they were aware of such history. Not just Bush but Obama-loving voices like David Brooks in the NYT, writing of spreading progressive values, because:

“at their core the liberal powers radiate a set of vital ideals — not just democracy and capitalism, but also feminism, multiculturalism, human rights, egalitarianism, L.G.B.T.Q. rights and the dream of racial justice.”

FFS!. Insane. Quite utterly insane, and now here is the result of that insanity staring us in the face.

Having said that, and even holding Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump responsible for what they failed to do in Afghanistan, there’s no question that Biden has fucked this up badly.

For a start, he announced the order to withdraw in Spring – right at the start of the annual fighting season, when the Taliban are always gearing up to fight. Had he waited until Winter the Afghanistan government and military would have had six months to prepare to fight on their own.

In other “Lessons Not Learned”, according to the Wall Street Journal article:

“… about 5,000 civilians and military personnel are based at the embassy and Hamid Karzai International Airport.”

What the hell are 5,000 people still doing at the American embassy and airport offices? Can they be extracted? Apparently Biden has sent some 5000 US Marines and soldiers back in for that reason. Will they be able to extract the even greater numbers of Afghanis who helped the USA for years? There are more than 18,000 of them still in the country. They could have, and should have, been evacuated starting back in May. How hard can that be: you land planes, put people in them, and fly them out?

Finally, Biden has been reduced to pitiful displays of “diplomacy” and “military actions”:

  • Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. diplomat who negotiated a withdrawal deal with the Taliban last year, is back in Doha, Qatar, desperately trying to cobble together some kind of face-saving agreement for the Afghan government that would allow them to leave the country aliveKhalilzad will press for “a reduction of violence and ceasefire and a commitment not to recognize a government imposed by force,” and will urge the “Taliban to stop their military offensive.”
  • American B-52H bombers are understood to be conducting an attack on the largest Afghan air force base in order to destroy the aircraft based there. They don’t want A-29B & AC-208B attack aircraft remain in hands of Taliban.”
  • Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “The Taliban also has to make an assessment about what they want their role to be in the international community.”
  • State Department spokesman Ned Price:  “If this violence continues, if the Taliban continues down this path, we are likely to see a prolonged, protracted period of violence, of instability, and that is not in anyone’s interest.”

FFS! Like the North Vietnamese in 1975, the Taliban’s only interest is in victory.

In this Biden is unified with the equally useless and pathetic creatures of NATO and the EU, who have threatened the Taliban with “isolation” if they seize power.

You have to laugh or you’d cry.

Over on the US Powerline blog, Paul Mirengoff, made the following statement:

“Great nations don’t betray entire populations or the sacrifices of their own servicemen.”

Oh yes they do, Paul. They have always done so, and you as a former Vietnam War protestor should know that better than most. All we can hope for now is something less than a bloodbath. The following woo is not encouraging.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 15, 2021 at 5:36 pm

Barfight or Twitter Fight

Two recent posts on war and the possibility of a future war, reminded me of something that’s been floating around online for almost as long as the internet itself.

In the distant geological age of the 1990’s Interwebby thing, jokes would explode across email inboxes around the planet. This often resulted in embarrassment as people, not knowing email etiquette (looking at you Don Brash, you idiot), would simply forward these things to some group email they had or worse, hit “Reply All”.

I had a personal experience of the latter one day in Chicago when a couple of very intense young men appeared in my cubicle to ask if I had forwarded some piece-of-shit email. I had not, since I actually understood not just etiquette but what could happen to email apps with an ever-expanding shit storm of Reply All, especially with an attached app. They were from Computer Operations and thus people to be ignored usually, but on this occasion they had every reason to be pissed. My client’s system crashed 20 minutes later.

In between cut n’paste jokes, one piece of email humour that did the rounds was funny only to people who studied history, especially military history, but it was so clever that it’s actually been stored in online history forums, including ‘nzhistory.govt.nz’.

But it’s nice to see that the same theme has now appeared, twenty years later, in a different guise, wherein WWI starts in the nasty, toxic sewers of Social Media, complete with all the lingo of the youngins.

I also liked this addition.

Meantime for you oldies, the original bar fight version is here. But I may as well just paste it, just in case that government server ever gets killed, along with its backup.

Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint.

Austria demands Serbia buy it a complete new suit because there are splashes on its trouser leg.

Germany expresses its support for Austria’s point of view.

Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit.

Serbia points out that it can’t afford a whole suit, but offers to pay for the cleaning of Austria’s trousers.

Russia and Serbia look at Austria.

Austria asks Serbia who it’s looking at.

Russia suggests that Austria should leave its little brother alone.

Austria inquires as to whose army will assist Russia in compelling it to do so.

Germany appeals to Britain that France has been looking at it, and that this is sufficiently out of order that Britain should not intervene.

Britain replies that France can look at who it wants to, that Britain is looking at Germany too, and what’s Germany going to do about it?

Germany tells Russia to stop looking at Austria, or Germany will render Russia incapable of such action.

Britain and France ask Germany whether it’s looking at Belgium.

Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper. When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.

Germany rolls up its sleeves, looks at France, and punches Belgium.

France and Britain punch Germany. Austria punches Russia. Germany punches Britain and France with one hand and Russia with the other.

Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over. Japan calls over from the other side of the room that it’s on Britain’s side, but stays there.

Turkey punches Russia in the back of the head when Russia isn’t looking. Britain and France tell Turkey that’s not on and once they’ve sorted Germany out Turkey’s next.

Italy surprises everyone by punching Austria.

Australia, New Zealand, and Britain punch Turkey, and get punched back. There are no hard feelings though because Britain made Australia and New Zealand do it.

France gets thrown through a plate glass window, but gets back up and carries on fighting. Russia gets thrown through another one, gets knocked out, suffers brain damage, and wakes up with a complete personality change.

Italy throws a punch at Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway. Italy raises both fists in the air and runs round the room chanting.

America waits till Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a barstool, then pretends it won the fight all by itself.

By now all the chairs are broken and the big mirror over the bar is shattered. Britain, France and America agree that Germany threw the first punch, so the whole thing is Germany’s fault. While Germany is still unconscious, they go through its pockets, steal its wallet, and buy drinks for all their friends.

The last Russian reference always cracks me up.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 16, 2021 at 6:30 am

Well, this is depressing

No need for this level of complexity

Specifically the news that the race is on to build killer robot armies.

They won’t look anything like James Cameron’s famous images from his dystopian hell of The Terminator movies.

(By the way, watch only the first two of the series. After the 1991 sequel they’re totally derivative crap designed only to pull money from your wallet, a warning from friends that I had already guessed at as I avoided them.)

Blonde and here to kill you.

Still less is it going to look like the Cylons in Battlestar Gallactica (BSG) such as “Six”, more’s the pity.

No, as is often the way of reality vs fantasy they’ll look a lot more mundane, probably not too different to the sort of drones you can buy off-the shelf nowadays.

And that’s what really frightening about them. Unlike nuclear weapons it doesn’t take a lot of infrastructure or resources to build large numbers of these things.

Also, don’t imagine that an “AI killer robot” is going to have some sort of human-level intelligence, or need to.

That’s not what Artificial Intelligence is really about, despite decades of SF stories like BSG.

The “AI” in this case will amount to little more than the ability to do the following:

  • Recognise a human target, which could be just any human or perhaps using facial or body recognition (or your cellphone)
  • Control flight and/or other movements towards the target.
  • Trigger a lethal munition to kill the target. Lethal meaning something as small as a single bullet.

It should be noted that all these capabilities are here now.

The temptation to open Pandora’s Box is irresistible. In early March, the U.S. National Security Commission (NSC) on Artificial Intelligence completed its two-year inquiry, publishing its findings in a dense 750-page report. Its members unanimously concluded that the United States has a “moral imperative” to pursue the use of lethal autonomous weapons, a.k.a. “killer robots.” Otherwise, we risk bringing a rusty knife to a superhuman gunfight.

Citing the threat of China or Russia leading the global artificial intelligence (AI) arms race, the commission’s chairman, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, urged President Biden to reject a proposed international ban on AI-controlled weapons. Schmidt rightly suspects our major rivals won’t abide by such a treaty, warning U.S. leaders, “This is the tough reality we must face.”

If other superpowers are going to unleash demonic drone swarms on the world, the logic goes, the United States should be the first to open the gates of Hell.

Of course we already have things like the General Atomic Predator drones (“General Atomic”, how 1950’s is that?) and others which have been launching missiles at people for over a decade now. But they have humans in the decision loop and they’re still big and relatively expensive, although much cheaper than a human-piloted fighter bomber.

The attack drones currently on the market are plenty dangerous as is. A good example is the KARGU Loitering Munitions System, currently deployed by Turkish forces. This lightweight quadcopter “can be effectively used against static or moving targets through its … real-time image processing capabilities and machine learning algorithms.”

KARGU’s mode of attack is full-on kamikaze. It hovers high in the air as the operator searches for victims. When one is located, the drone dive-bombs its target and explodes. If the concussion doesn’t kill them, the shrapnel will. Just imagine what a thousand could do.

That last is the future. What we’re talking about here is a swarm of such machines and again – not like SF – these don’t need any centrally organised intelligence, human or AI, to operate. For twenty years now computer simulations have mimicked the swarming movements of schools of fish and flocks of birds with just three rules.

Once you get into such swarms we’re no longer talking about just picking off a few selected targets:


To raise awareness of this imminent threat, the Future of Life Institute produced the alarming, if poorly acted film Slaughterbots. The finale shows dissident college students having their brains blown out by bird-sized quadcopters.

In a 2018 study conducted for the US Air Force, drone specialist Zachary Kallenborn correctly argued that lethal drone swarms should be declared weapons of mass destruction.

Cheap weapons of mass destruction, too.

Even without that miserable conclusion from the USNSC I would have found it hard to believe that various nations could be held back from pursuing development of these things.

In the future how tempted would some future POTUS be by the idea that the entire North Korean nuclear team, military and scientists, could be taken out in one hit by such a swarm, leaving nobody to launch a nuclear counter-strike? Or imagine an Israeli leader looking at the Iranian nuclear group? And that’s in democratic nations. What brakes might there be on the likes of Xi Jinping, Putin and Erdogan?

Of course every weapon system has been countered sooner or later. In this case it may be that in future we’ll each be guarded by a small swarm of counter-drones, starting with the wealthy members of society like Eric Schmidt:

In 2019, PAX published a list of the global corporations most likely to develop lethal autonomous weapon systems. Among the U.S. companies ranked as “high risk” are Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle, as well as Intel, Palantir, Neurala, Corenova, and Heron Systems. It’s worth noting that the top members of the National Security Commission on AI—all of whom support using these murder machines—include chiefs from Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 15, 2021 at 8:13 am

It will whisper your name.

One of the greatest TV series I’ve ever watched is the 1990 PBS documentary by Ken Burns, The Civil War, which covered the American Civil War fought between 1861 and 1865.

One of the most poignant moments comes near the end of the first episode, in a section entitled “Honorable Manhood”, where a letter from a Union soldier to his wife is read out over the usual B&W photos that Burns used to such great effect.

That letter was written 160 years ago today but it stands for all time.

Here is the TV version, which included some editing for concision.

And here is a link to the complete, original letter, with my edited version below that matches the TV version:

July the 14th, 1861
Washington D.C.

Dear Sarah

The Indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days, perhaps to-morrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write a few lines, that may fall under your eye when I’m no more.

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how American civilization now leans upon the triumph of this government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution, and I am willing, perfectly willing to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with mighty cables, that nothing but Omnipotence can break; and yet, my love of country comes over me like a strong wind, and bears me irresistibly with all those chains, to the battlefield. The memories of all the blissful moments I have spent with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up, and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our boys grown up to honorable manhood around us.

If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that, when my last breath escapes me on the battle-field, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been! 

But, O Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth, and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be with you in the brightest day, and the darkest night…. always, always, and, when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air at your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.


Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone, and wait for me, for we shall meet again.

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the First Battle of Bull Run.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 14, 2021 at 6:00 am

NZ Military once more follows the Pentagon’s lead

Except in this case it is a lead that the Left will fully approve of.

A few weeks ago there was a hideous series of Q&A sessions between senior members of the US military and Republican members of Congress.

The hideousness was the revelation that Critical Race Theory and the general theory of Woke have made it into the training sessions of America’s soldiers, and that the Generals and Admirals saw no problem with that, or were denying such teaching despite evidence from whistleblowers in places like West Point.

I’ve read Mao Tse-tung. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation’s highest ranking military officer, said.

 “So, what is wrong with understanding … having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?”

That begs the question of whether CRT actually does provide any situational understanding of the USA. Somebody should have nailed General Milley on that and also pointed out that while past US military officers have studied Marxism in its various shades that was done in order to understand the primary enemy of the USA in order to better defend against them. It was not done with an eye to learning how Marx and Lenin’s ideas provided such a great insight into how shitty the capitalism and Republican democracy of the USA was or how it could be improved by taking onboard and applying Marxist theory.

But that is exactly what CRT does. Its condemnation of America as being packed with institutions of “systemic racism”, including the US military, plus the goal of enforcing an “anti-racism” that would set people at eachother’s throats, makes them no less an enemy of the nation than the old Marxists.

Yet rather than treating its proponents as enemies of the USA against which a fight should be made, this twit and others like him, think they’ll actually learn something about the USA and improve it:

It is important that we train and we understand … and I want to understand white rage. And I’m white,”

“White rage”.

That, right there is the sign that he’s not only read the likes of Ibram X. Kendi’s nasty, hate-filled little racist polemic, How to Be an Antiracist, and other such CRT pieces but that he has absorbed them into his everyday thinking as if they’re correct. Kendi and company must be over the moon at none other than the Chairman of the JCS having swallowed a piece of their agit-prop boilerplate language to such an extent that he just blurted it out in front of the Congress. And if he’s gone that far then the “solutions” proposed by Kendi and company cannot be far behind in being implemented at places like West Point.

Put it this way. The West Point graduate below had certainly studied Marx and company, but as an advocate of them within the US Army. That’s General Milley’s approach to CRT.

Incidently, the prick in that photo got booted from the US Army after the photos became public, notably because:

he tweeted them in solidarity with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was taking heat for kneeling for the national anthem to raise awareness of racism.

“While in uniform, Spenser Rapone advocated for communism and political violence, and expressed support and sympathy for enemies of the United States,”

Of course he did and in so doing he demonstrated the oft-denied connection between Marxist theory and Critical Race Theory. He made a mistake pushing pure Marxism though. Had he kept quiet and hung on, he would have been able to push the equally destructive CRT with the approval of the likes of General Milley.

I have long argued that more attention should be paid to the USA than Kiwis are wont to do – dismissing most US ideas as “silly”, “OTT” and typically “crazy” American stuff – because sooner or later they turn up here. And so they have (H/T Homepaddock):

Can the Army Afford to go Woke, Benign Social Progress or National Security Threat?

That is the title of an essay written by a serving New Zealand Army soldier and it was submitted as part of an essay competition – which it won.

New Zealand Chief of Army Writing Competition Winner of the New Zealand Defence Force Private Writing Category May 2021.

It won despite the writer knowing what waters he was getting into, with this opening paragraph…

I write this essay fully aware of the backlash and, at times, real world consequences afforded to the authors of similar documents in the current socio-political climate. Nevertheless, I would invoke the NZ Army ethos ‘3CI’ – particularly ‘Courage’ and ‘Integrity’ – in defence of the opinion I will express herein. The open discussion of any issue must be possible without fear of repercussions on both sides of the debate if the best outcome is ever to be reached. That is the fundamental value of free speech that permits the free enquiry, self-reflection, self-criticism and peer review that underpin our scientific and academic edifices and, in fact, our entire civilisation.

… and the ending:

I appreciate that if this piece were to win the writing competition, the optics may not be as desirable as one expressing the opposing viewpoint. 

To allow itself to become embroiled in these ‘culture wars’ would be an embarrassment, especially to the older generation of veterans and to the memory of those who paid the ultimate price. The Army should stick to fighting real wars.

As he suspected, the shit hit the fan when he won, but Elle has got the full letter on her blog, just in case it vanishes from the Army’s online archives:

It was removed on Tuesday, five days after it was published following an internal backlash and replaced with a statement from Army Chief Major General John Boswell, who apologised and accepted the decision to award the piece first place was an error.

He said out of the two entries, the essay won because it was “well-written”, but the views were not compatible with the army’s values.

Looks like our Generals are right on to it. General Milley would be proud. Didn’t save them from the wrath of their political masters though:

After questioning from Newstalk ZB, Defence Minister Peeni Henare said he delivered a blunt message to Defence Force chief Air Marshal Kevin Short yesterday.

He told Short his expectations were that “we’re better than that, and have values that don’t align with the essay.”

My advice to Private Dell is that he get the fuck out of the NZ Army quick smart before he finds himself digging latrines for the rest of his career. His thinking is not welcome.