Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Damage Control

Finally got around to reading Monday's WaPo piece on PFC Jessica Lynch. Phrase that came to mind was "Damage Control City!" The Post has gotten a lot of mileage out of the Lynch story, starting with a really lurid story of Lynch's capture and rescue. Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way. So now the Post has to explain themselves.

Basically, the story now is that the 507th had a truck break down and got 'way behind the rest of its unit. It never got the message that the route they were supposed to follow had changed. They ended up going through the middle of downtown Nasiriyah and got creamed. PFC Lynch was injured when the Humvee she was riding in hit a jackknifed truck at about 50 mph.

An interesting thing about this article is that it points out a number of problems with our military operations. Hey, that's why we have these little exercises in kitten-drowning. Lets us test our our procedures and gear.

  • The radio that they used to communicate with the rest of their unit only had a range of 10 miles. This is a Known Problem -- the troops have to futz with a pile of different radios, depending on who they want to talk to.
  • The original plan had them going through downtown Nasiriyah. Now, Nasiriyah isn't some random collection of mud huts -- it's a city with a population of over half a million. That's the size of Denver or Seattle (without suburbs, of course). Whoever came up with the idea of going through it needs to have a letter of repremand in his personnel folder.
  • While trying to get out of town, they got lost. I've heard elsewhere that the GPS units that are supposed to tell you where you are had trouble in Iraq due to a lack of maps. It'll still give you your coordinates, but you don't want to have to futz with a paper map (or even a laptop computer) while you're running like hell from an army of Bad Guys.
  • At the time of the ambush, some of the troops had been awake for 60 hours straight. Note to brass -- don't let this happen. It kills people. I don't believe the 60 hours number. It's 'way too close to the limit of human endurance. Besides, one of the main talents that a soldier has to learn is the the ability to catnap, anytime, anyplace. But there's no doubt that they were crtitically short of sleep.
  • Her weapon jammed. Hey, I've heard that one before. Like, Vietnam? I thought they fixed that. Note to U. S. military -- look up a guy named Mikhail Kalashnikov. License his design. It doesn't jam. Ever.

The article is also interesting for some spin on the whole thing. There are still coy references to the possibility of her being beaten by Iraqis. No evidence, of course, and no overt claims. But it's there. Propaganda 101. Always keep the idea in front of the audience.

Meanwhile, PFC Lynch herself is still being kept incommunicado. I suspect that the military is trying to "protect" her from the Press (not necessarily a bad idea), and is being clumsy about it. When she is allowed out, I'm sure she will say whatever the military wants her to say.

So everybody involved is trying to cover their butt. Big surprise, right?

Monday, June 16, 2003

More on David Nelson

In the LA Daily News. I wrote about this a while back, and it wasn't new even then.

Frankly, this kind of crap is easy to fix. Just be more definite about who you're looking for, and why. Put in a simple appeals process. The only reason not to do it is either 1) nobody cares or 2) the Powers that Be are doing it deliberately to emphasize their power over us. Neither is encouraging.

I still think it sounds 'way too much like The Lottery.

(Link from Hesoid)

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Iraqi Sitcom

(I suspect that this routine actually predates sitcoms. Plautus?)

You've seen it a million times. Lucy does something really, really stupid, like answering an ad to Make Big Bucks by raising alligators. She wants to keep Ricky from finding out about the three dozen baby alligators in the kitchen, so she concocts all sorts of elaborate schemes to keep him out of the kitchen. She enlists Fred and Ethel to help with the deception, even though they don't approve of (or even understand) what she is doing. The thing that makes it comedy is that Lucy is an utterly incompetent liar. She stutters, rolls her eyes, and yells "AAAAAAAAAA" a lot. Fred and Ethel can't agree on the story, even from sentence to sentence. Ricky, of course, doesn't notice a thing until the whole thing falls apart. Everything gets fixed. Ricky forgives Lucy. Fred and Ethel go home to bandage their alligator bites and fix the hole in their roof where the bowling ball went through.

This is the basic story line of every sitcom ever made. Unfortunately, it is also turning out to be the story line for the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

Georgie Bush (Lucy) wants to invade Iraq and kill the guy that tried to assassinate his father. He comes up with a cock-and-bull story to convince the American public and Congress (Ricky) that Saddam Hussein (the alligators) has <echo_chamber> Weapons of Mass Destruction</echo_chamber>. He gets Tony Blair (Ethel) and the US Press (Fred) to go along, although they don't realize what they're getting into. Lucy counts on the fact that Ricky will always love her no matter what crazy stunts she pulls; Georgie counts on the fact that the American public and Congress will still listen to what the Rove political machine says, rather than look at what is actually happening. Is this true? I'm very much afraid that it is. Tony Blair and the press are extras; any problems they have as a result of this are of no interest to Georgie & company. And the bowling ball hasn't shown up yet. There's always a bowling ball in there somewhere ...

With Ronald Reagan, we had a Western. (Hey, I liked Death Valley Days.) With Georgie Bush, we have a sitcom. Tells ya something.

(A tip of the hat to Billmon, who came up with a whole script for a more modern comedy ...)

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