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War

The Terrible Cost of Obama’s Failure in Syria

Tuesday, 10 April, 2018 0 Comments

That’s the title of Kathy Gilsinan’s excoriating article in The Atlantic, which was, and is, an Obama-friendly publication. But there comes a time when the most loyal subjects and supporters have to face the truth, even when it is painful, and this is very, very painful, indeed. Snippet:

Four years ago, it almost looked as if chemical attacks on Syrian civilians would stop. “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out,” declared then-Secretary of State John Kerry on Meet the Press in 2014. Kerry was referring to Bashar al-Assad’s declared stockpiles of chemical weapons which, under a 2013 deal struck by the Obama administration following a sarin nerve gas attack that brought the U.S. to the brink of striking Syrian government forces, were dismantled and shipped out of the country.

But there were two important and deadly loopholes. The first was that Assad did not declare everything—a reality that Kerry acknowledged in a farewell memo to staff, in which he wrote that “unfortunately other undeclared chemical weapons continue to be used ruthlessly against the Syrian people.” The second was that chlorine gas, which has legitimate civilian uses, was not part of the deal. The Syrian American Medical Society and the White Helmets civil-defense group have documented 200 chemical attacks in Syria since 2012, many involving chlorine.

At the time, those familiar with the ways of the Syrian tyrant knew that this was a rotten deal. Yes, Damascus gave up some material to make it look like it was complying and the Washington spin-doctors were able to sell the story that Obama and Kerry had done something heroic, but Assad was left with an intact chemical arsenal. Terrible.


Abbreviate before reading

Sunday, 18 February, 2018 0 Comments

Those intrepid enough to work through “Building a Safe, Secure, and Credible NATO Nuclear Posture” published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, must get to grips with two dozen key abbreviations before undertaking the journey. Favourites include, MUNSS, RAP and SNOWCAT. Here’s the list:

CMX: Crisis Management Exercise
DCA: dual-capable aircraft
DDPR: Deterrence and Defense Posture Review
DOD: US Department of Defense
ERI: European Reassurance Initiative
GAO: US Government Accountability Office
GPS: global positioning system
HLG: High Level Group
INF: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (Treaty)
MUNSS: Munitions Support Squadrons
NAC: North Atlantic Council
NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NNSA: National Nuclear Security Administration
NPG: Nuclear Planning Group
NPR: Nuclear Posture Review
NSNWs: non-strategic nuclear weapons
RAP: Readiness Action Plan
SACEUR: Supreme Allied Commander Europe
SIOP: Single Integrated Operational Plan
SNOWCAT: Support of Nuclear Operations with Conventional Air Tactics
STMS: Security Transportable Maintenance System
STRATCOM: US Strategic Command
TNWs: tactical nuclear weapons
WS3: Weapons Storage and Security System

Afterburners away


The Fogh of war and peace

Saturday, 17 February, 2018 0 Comments

The annual Munich Security Conference is one of those events where you’ll hear interesting words being used. Take “revanchist”, for example. It’s defined as “seeking revenge or otherwise advocating retaliation against a nation that has previously defeated and humiliated the other side in war.” The word comes from the French revanche (“revenge”) and it originally referred to French indignation over losing Alsace-Lorraine to Germany in the Franco-Prussian War.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark and Secretary General of NATO from 2009 to 2014, regularly uses “revanchist” when referring to Russia and China and his candour is most refreshing.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen


In Flanders Fields

Friday, 11 November, 2016 0 Comments

During the Second Battle of Ypres, a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2 May 1915 by a German artillery shell that landed near his position. The Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae conducted the burial service and it is believed that he began to write the poem In Flanders Fields later that evening.

poppy Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November in many countries to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. Fighting formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”. Inspired by Major McCrae’s poem, the custom of wearing a remembrance poppy at the “eleventh hour” to commemorate military personnel who have died in all wars began. It continues to this day.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Major John McCrae (1872 – 1918)

Losses during the Second Battle of Ypres are estimated at 69,000 Allied troops, against 35,000 German, the difference in numbers being explained by the Germans’ innovative use of chlorine gas.


“The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”

Friday, 14 August, 2015 0 Comments

Reporting from Tokyo for the Financial Times, Robin Harding writes: “On the night of August 14 1945, as Japan prepared to surrender to the Allies, a group of rebel officers launched a coup d’état and seized control of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.” Seventy years on, Harding tells this dramatic story in “Japan’s longest day: plot that nearly prevented war from ending“. Here’s a thriller-like scene: “Determined to fight on, even if it meant the annihilation of their country, the plotters ransacked the palace looking for the prepared recording of Emperor Hirohito’s surrender message and very nearly prevented the end of the second world war.”

For all those who continue to peddle the notion that Japan would have somehow surrendered in a moment of rationality, Harding’s article should be recommended reading. With its fascist leadership and genocidal agenda, Japan was intent on turning Asia into a colony that would be ruled by the Shin guntō, barbarically. In the end, however, the plotters didn’t find the recording of Emperor Hirohito’s surrender message. It was successfully smuggled out of the palace in a laundry basket of women’s underwear and broadcast to a nation that had never heard their “God” speak.

In his speech, Hirohito noted, with historic understatement, that “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”. Finally, he said: “However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.” No word of remorse, though, for the horrific crimes that were committed in his name and with his sanction.

From the FT comments on Robin Harding’s article:

Harold Godwinson: “Surely the message is that in fact the use of nuclear weapons saved many millions of lives. Japan then is comparable to Daesh now. Fanatics who believe their cause is beyond value in human life must always be opposed.”


Why Paul Fussell thanked God for the Atom Bomb

Thursday, 6 August, 2015 1 Comment

The great American cultural and literary historian, author and academic Paul Fussell landed in France in 1944 as a 20-year-old second lieutenant with the 103rd Infantry Division and was wounded while fighting the Germans in Alsace. When his Thank God for the Atom Bomb (PDF) essay appeared in The New Republic in August 1981 it was received with howls of rage by leftist revisionists who accused Fussell of justifying a “war crime”. Unlike his detractors, however, Fussell knew whereof he wrote.

During the storm, Fussell remained firm in his conviction that the two bombs ended World War II. Along with saving the hundreds of thousands of American lives that would have been lost in a protracted invasion, they also saved millions of Japanese lives that would have been sacrificed in defending Nippon. Snippet:

“John Kenneth Galbraith is persuaded that the Japanese would have surrendered surely by November without an invasion. He thinks the A-bombs were unnecessary and unjustified because the war was ending anyway. The A-bombs meant, he says, ‘a difference, at most, of two or three weeks.’ But at the time, with no indication that surrender was on the way, the kamikazes were sinking American vessels, the Indianapolis was sunk (880 men killed), and Allied casualties were running to over 7,000 per week. ‘Two or three weeks,’ says Galbraith.

Two weeks more means 14,000 more killed and wounded, three weeks more, 21,000. Those weeks mean the world if you’re one of those thousands or related to one of them. During the time between the dropping of the Nagasaki bomb on August 9 and the actual surrender on the fifteenth, the war pursued its accustomed course: on the twelfth of August eight captured American fliers were executed (heads chopped off); the fifty-first United States submarine, Bonefish, was sunk (all aboard drowned); the destroyer Callaghan went down, the seventieth to be sunk, and the Destroyer Escort Underhill was lost. That’s a bit of what happened in six days of the two or three weeks posited by Galbraith. What did he do in the war? He worked in the Office of Price Administration in Washington. I don’t demand that he experience having his ass shot off. I merely note that he didn’t.”

The atom bomb was a a terrible weapon, but it was used to prevent a more terrible slaughter.


The fog of war

Monday, 15 June, 2015 0 Comments

“Hope!” is the motto of the the Ukraine pavilion at la Biennale di Venezia. And hope is needed when one reads about what’s happening on the front lines of this brutal war being waged by Russia on its neighbour. In the midst of the destruction and despair, photographer Yevgenia Belorusets portrays the miners of Krasnoarmeysk, who live and work within the war zone. They haven’t been paid since October but they carry on, hoping that the nightmare will end.

Ukraine miner

“I suppose I live in a country that has stepped on its own toes. But now it is going through a war. The neighbouring state punishes it for its essence, for its uncertainty, which is so valuable to me. Hope? Ukraine has always had more of it than you would expect. It is rationality lurking around every corner and maybe that will save us once again.” Yevgenia Belorusets


Benedict Cumberbatch reads the news from D-Day

Friday, 6 June, 2014 0 Comments

Seventy years ago today, 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. D-Day was one of the most superbly planned and conducted invasions in military history and Europe owes a huge debt to the unique generation of British, Canadians and Americans who gave so much for the freedom that we enjoy today. Listen now to Benedict Cumberbatch reading the 8am BBC news from D-Day.


The war horse

Sunday, 26 January, 2014 0 Comments

Some one million horses, mules and donkeys were sent to the Western Front to assist the British Army in World War I and served in squadrons such as the Northumberland Hussars and the Warwickshire Horse Artillery, where they pulled heavy guns, transported supplies, carried the wounded and dying to hospital and took part in cavalry […]

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What if Britain had stayed out?

Friday, 24 January, 2014 0 Comments

That’s the question posed by R.J.W. Evans in “The Greatest Catastrophe the World Has Seen.” His engaging tour d’horizon of the latest World War I books includes belated recognition for Le origini della guerra del 1914 (“The Origins of the War of 1914”) by the Italian politician and journalist Luigi Albertini, which was published in 1942–1943. As Evans notes: “Silenced by the Fascist regime, Albertini immersed himself in all the sources, and added more of his own by arranging interviews with survivors. That lent an immediacy to his wonderfully nuanced presentation of the individuals who actually made (or ducked) the fateful decisions.”

The fateful decisions taken in London were “entrusted to the tentative grasp of the country squire Sir Edward Grey”, who “wobbled both before and after Berlin’s foolhardy démarche, and was determined at least as much by parliamentary frictions and civil disturbance at home.” This “disturbance” included “the ferocious clashes over Ireland’s home-rule legislation.” Grey, does not emerge well from the books reviewed by Evans, but like many of the other players in this drama he was unprepared for what was coming in July 1914. “Communing with nature on his country estate, for he passionately preferred live birds (he was an acknowledged expert in their observation) to the feathers on an archduke’s hat, he had already reached the conclusion that ‘if war breaks out, it will be the greatest catastrophe the world has ever seen.'” And it was.

The Survivors

No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’ —
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died, —
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride…
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

Siegfried Sassoon

1914 — 2014: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, compared the leadership of China to the German monarchy of Wilhelm II ahead of the First World War. Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang responded by calling the Japanese World War II criminals commemorated at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo “Nazis in the East.”


Sorrow and bliss in Italy

Wednesday, 16 October, 2013 0 Comments

The recent spate of migrant deaths in the waters off the coast of Italy has highlighted the tragedy of Africa and its failed states. But the heartrending fate of Africans in Italy is not new, as Iris Origo noted in her diary 70 years ago:

16 October 1943: “Antonia goes down to Chianciano and returns with the news that at Magione a German captain, as he was driving through a wood, was shot and killed; he was buried yesterday at Chianciano.

In the evening a Moroccan soldier turns up here, an escaped prisoner from Laterina. He can speak only a few words of English and Italian and is very completely lost — travelling north, although he says he wants to get to Rome. We give him food and shelter for the night and point out the road to the south. ‘Me ship,’ he says, ‘Me not swim’. Very slight are his chances of getting home again.” Iris Origo

Iris Origo was an Anglo-Irish writer best known for works such as War in Val d’Orcia, The Merchant of Prato and The Vagabond Path. Following her birth in 1902, her parents travelled widely, particularly in Italy, where her father contracted tuberculosis and died in 1910. Her mother, Lady Sybil Cutting, then bought one of Florence’s most spectacular residences, the Villa Medici in Fiesole, which was built between 1451 and 1457. Iris Cutting married Antonio Origo, the illegitimate son of Marchese Clemente Origo, in 1924 and the couple devoted much of their lives to the improvement of their estate at La Foce, near Montepulciano. The Marchesa of Val d’Orcia, as Iris Origo was titled, died in her beloved Tuscany, with its cultivated hills, picturesque towns and magnificent Brunello di Montalcino in June 1988, aged 85.

Tuscany