Tuesday, February 27, 2007
But I've just heard the programme describe Steven Segal as a "great actor", and for that there is really no excuse.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Brighton makes an interesting comparison between the "sanctimonious violence" of al Qaeda (building upon the work of Faisal Devji), and particularly of the unconnected, or only marginally connected, London bombers and the interventionism of British foreign policy under Blair. His point is not one moral equivalence at all, but rather how the two parallel in seeing action as a way of producing community.
For the terrorist the action is not just the destruction they cause, but their own "martyrdom" in the process. This ultimate demonstration of faith is to will the global community of believers, the Ummah, into being: their action will serve as a catalyst for this community. All very Nietzschean. This understanding comes from Devji's attempt to comprehend Jihadi violence that at times seems de-politicized (i.e. the US troops are out of Saudi Arabia but bin Laden doesn't appear to be giving up) and nihilistic. The acts of terror are not solely, or perhaps not at all, instrumental; so when a suicide bomber in Iraq fails to inflict serious casualties, this is not necessarily a "failure" in his eyes (wherever they landed) or in those of his masters, because they see the act of sacrifice as a political act of community building in itself, regardless of the reaction of the targeted. It might be sick and wrong, but it definitely isn't illogical.
On liberal interventionism, Blair outlined this long before 9/11 in his 'Chicago Speech' of 1999 made as NATO continued to bomb Serbia. He argued for an international community of values based on universal human rights and that this community would be evidenced by a willingness to intervene. Liberal interventionism is of course not a new idea, going back to arguably to Kant, but despite the first President Bush's optimism for a new world order of internationally guaranteed (enforced?) peace after the defeat of Saddam Hussein, much of the the 1990s saw a flight from the idea of intervention. Europe and the US stood aside to watch the Bosnian massacres, all haunted by different ghosts: for the British it was the ghosts of Northern Ireland, for the Americans its was the memory of dead soldiers dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, for the Germans its was WWII. The actors watched Bosnia writhe in agony for five years, only pausing briefly to consider how to resolutely do nothing about a shorter and even worse slaughter in a small African country that previously no one had heard of. At the same time only human rights and womens groups had much to say about the imposition of a medieval and externally funded theocracy on the people of Afghanistan.
It was against this background that Labour's foreign policy in waiting was formed ready for when they came power to in 1997. Did interventionism work in creating a community? Perhaps it did, and Britain was central to that. The Blair government rescued a failing UN mission and country in Sierra Leone by sending the Paras; Blair kept pushing Clinton to do more on Kosovo and this dragged the rest of the NATO allies along with them, a process that continues to this day with the NATO mission in Afghanistan; with the St. Malo accords Britain and France were central to creating some EU ability to exert military force as we have seen since in the Congo. Brighton discusses in the domestic setting the recreation of "secular liberalism as a 'fighting creed'" but it is in some ways also applicable to the international: the international support for Afghanistan, demonstrated most clearly in all the NATO allies except the USA trying to invoke Article V on mutual defence on September 12th, showed that this forward motion, the action of intervention, could promote a community. It carries on even today, post-Iraq, in ideas like the Canadian sponsored "the responsibility to protect".
But like all communities, the community of interventionism was not invulnerable. Indeed it was rather brittle and the war in Iraq has broken it. Of the many tragedies of Iraq, this is one of the greatest: that many will take away the lessen that to intervene is inherently misguided, and people in future wars or civil breakdowns will die because of this.
Is there really any similarity in these two seemingly diametrically opposed ideas of community? If there is, it isn't in that they both require action to come about; it is the specific form of that action - violence. Having been politicized in the 1990s - watching Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechnya, Kosovo, Zaire/Congo unfold - I remain sympathetic to concept of liberal interventionism in a way those just a few years younger than me politicized in this decade, basically post-9/11, tend not to be. But we shouldn't shy away from what interventionism means: it means the use of force - violence - one hopes in an effort to minimise a potentially worse wrong. There is an inherent brittleness in the support for that willingness to use force that comes from the danger that Kant saw, of the eternal liberal war for a better world. There is likewise, and fortunately, the same brittleness in the support that the Jihadis have in Muslim communities worldwide: when they are seen as a resistance fighting the oppressor all is well and good, but when violence steps over a certain line - Zarqawi's bombings of the hotels in Amman, the village massacres of the Algerian Civil War, the slaughter of foreign tourists in Luxor by al-Gamaa Islamyyia , sectarian car bombings in Baghdad - then their support also falls away. Perhaps there is a hopeful sign in there somewhere.
Friday, February 23, 2007
The "filming" was done on the lake outside my office during a fire alarm earlier in the week had us all standing around outside at -20.
This makes the announced pull-out of most British (and Danish) troops this week all the more noteworthy. Listening to the comments from US administration figures earlier this week on this, and how it was echoed in the US press, I was really quite surprised how polite they were. Of course it would be very churlish to criticize your number one ally in public - and we don't know what they are saying in private - but it seems to be putting a brave face on a rather desperate situation. Paul Rogers makes the case that the UK has, in effect, been pushed and pulled out of Basra (pushed by continuing attacks, pulled by a conglomeration of UK voices that has forced Blair to move now). Handing over Basra to what passes for the Iraqi government there - the various Shi'a militias and parties - seems a really bad idea if for example we are to take the claims of Iranian provision of weapons to Iraqi groups seriously (incidentally, and very ironically, here is claimed evidence of Iranian military support - but not from the US govt. but rather a Sunni insurgent group). The removal of UK troops from the south will just mean US forces will have be stretched even further, or that the Surge is just going to be more balloon-wrestling - where by squeezing the problem in one place, it just pops out somewhere else.
On a more lighthearted note - now we know that Prince Harry is off to Basra to be the last man in - what on earth is Chris Eubanks up to?
Oh well, at least the squid know not to mess with the Kiwis.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
"I know people who barely read a paper and who think most broadcast news is mindless nonsense. I think, however, the are wrong. They might go through their weekly round, taking the kids to school, shopping, praying, doing some voluntary work, phoning elderly relatives, and do more good than harm as they go. But they have disconnected themselves from the wider world; rather like secular monks, they have cloistered themselves in the local. And this is not good enough. We are either players in open, democratic societies, all playing a tiny part in their ultimate direction, or we are deserters." (p.63)
More from Andrew in coming days and weeks I think.
There is really very little to it. You might want to mark it with a permanent marker (see pic below) to give you a rough idea what shape you are filing for, but as long as the top of the tooth is sharp it doesn't really matter if the "vertical" side of the tooth is merely vertical or slightly more than that - as they are when new. If you want that shop-new look of a sharks tooth you just have to file more!I use a very normal bastard file - get one with a plastic handle that will protect your hand - and just hold the screw in my other hand. Do it over paper or the bin as its surprising how many filings you'll produce.
That's it really. Just go for it. Hacking into your thirty quid/forty five Euro screw might seem a bit desperate at first, but I'm using BD Expresses that I bought a decade ago and with DIY sharpening when I ever I blunt one, they are almost indistinguishable from brand new ones.
Alternatively... if you are loaded and can go weeks without your screws, you can get them done by the clever Grivel machine here amongst various other places. If you want play with power tools, which to me looks like way too much hassle, instructions are here or here - but don't come running to me when you destroy your screw or chop your fingers off.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Regardless of whether Mr. Libby is guilty or not, sobbing whilst pleading for your client, formerly one of the most powerful men in the world and who's friends have stumped up $3 million for his defence, is simply vomit-worthy.
"He's a good a man, he's be under my protection for the past month - I give him to you now" said Wells [Libby's lawyer], his face contorting in tears "give him back to me, give him back".Pass the sick bag. Can anyone hear the L.A. Law theme in the background?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
If they do go black and fall off, I promise to post photos for your amusement.
Wednesday morning update: toes appear to be in good condition although slightly tingly still. They feel a bit like they have been bruised. I would like to welcome the reader who arrived after Googling "how can you avoid frostbite?" I'm not sure what I can suggest besides don't ride a bike home when it's -20 oC.
It was -24 this morning when I got up, so I got the bus!
I popped out for a couple hours around Sunday lunchtime for some ice with Big Toni, Samu and Nikko. We've been going a bit to what optimistically we've been calling "Airport Crag" this winter. In reality it's a long 25 mtr high road cutting at the south end of Helsinki airport runway. Although the road isn't too busy you do have rather low altitude Airbuses and Boeings passing over heard regularly making it not the most peaceful of spots. We've been climbing there figuring it's not doing anyone any harm but not really knowing what the legal situation was likely to be, particularly as we have been belaying of the airport fence posts! Now I'm pretty certain that no one really cares as cops have cruised past a few times, once even stopping to watch awhile, but haven't even got out to come and chat so they really don't seem bothered.
Big Toni had got (he never seems to 'buy', but rather swaps labour for ice gear) some of the new Simond Tornado ice screws. Having left half my own screws unsharpened since some punters screwed them into rock last weekend (you know who you are!), I borrowed some of them to try. I've only placed a couple, and taken out another three or four whilst seconding, but these are my brief first impressions. So first the good bits. The teeth are excellent, mega sharp so getting the screw to bite with the first couple of turns felt easy. For over a decade Black Diamond screws have been the gold standard for screw design and it seems that all the other manufacturers have just decided that they need to make screw bodies that equal those of BD, and these Simond ones seems to be. The hanger is good for holding, turning and clipping. It looks very much like the hangers on the old Charlet Moser Lasers, but with the addition of the a flip out handle not dissimilar to those on Grivel 360s. The hanger will take two krabs if you are using them for belays. The flip out wire handle makes cranking them in fast and easy - although as with the 360s the wire has a certain amount of give in it that always makes you think you might bend it when giving it that last turn. I think I managed to bend the wire handle on one of Toni's 360s a few years back, trying to get it out seconding after it has frozen in, so it is possible even for relative weeds like myself.
Now the not so good bit - racking them. Superficially the hanger design looks neat and conventional in comparison to the famously hard to rack Grivel 360s. But the circular insert (see photo above) that the wire flip-out handle revolves around makes the hanger of the screw really quite wide. As you can see in the picture above, Toni uses one of Simond double krab ice screw racks and could fit about three screws on each of the krabs, but with my DIY version of the same I could only manage two without it becoming a real fight to get the screws of the rack. By way of comparison, I can easily carry eight BD scews on the same rack - i.e. four on each krab. For the little routes we were climbing on Sunday having four screws is just fine, but a full multipitch rack of say, 12 Tornado screws would be tricky to carry on those type of ice screw racks.
So overall - great screws for placing, possibly better than the current design of BD ones (although I've seen pictures of the up-dated BD hanger design for next season!) due to the flip out handle, but tricky to rack particularly if you have a lot of them.
Monday, February 19, 2007
I was just eating lunch and listening to the podcast of Simon Mayo's FiveLive book panel from last Thursday. They were interviewing the author Sujit Saraf about his book the Peacock Throne, when the other guest author mentioned an excellent article of Mr. Saraf's website with Saraf's take on the Big Brother racism controversy. The point can be summed up in his own words: "I find it extremely funny and amusing that 'our' [meaning an Indian] white woman is being treated like a black woman by a 'real' white woman". The article is in a word document format and hopefully if you click this link you should be able to download it, or alternatively follow the link on the front page of Mr. Saraf's website. Saraf argues that where Jade (for anyone from Mars, click here) sees a "Paki", the vast majority of Indian's see a white woman. Shetty is a Bollywood actress in part because of her fair skin.
Over the last week I have been listening to the "India Rising" series from the BBC World Service, and like the Foreign Policy article I noted in an earlier post, it is an education in the complexities and paradoxes of modern India. Sujit Saraf does an excellent job on spotlighting the bluntness of Indian racism in this article, but if you listen to the BBC documentary series you start getting a feeling for all the other often more complex tensions - socio-economic, rural/urban, caste, religious - in modern India.
On a less India-specific note, Jade Goody has become famous for being thick, but she can serve as a reminder for us all that seeing people defined by race, or some other singular and preeminent identity, smudges out all the complexities of human nature, both good and bad.
You can get Mr. Saraf's book at this link:
According to the FiveLive book panel it's meant to be jolly good.
Friday, February 16, 2007
The pic above is of a container ship in the Suez Canal, seemingly at rest (no wake) in one of the "Bitter Lakes". Google Earth is a mind expanding phenomenon, I always get lost in it whilst using it. You start looking for one specific place and end up half an hour later roaming around zooming in and out on unlikely parts of the world. Today I decided to follow the Suez Canal from one end to the other. This led me to think about the of non-food stuff things that I have bought in the last few weeks: my new computer, the €5 t-shirt I'm currently wearing (as you can guess I only shop at the finest establishments), a Lego set for my nephew's birthday; they have probably all been through the Suez on a ship like the one above. Is globalization when your €5 t-shirt is better traveled than you are?
I haven't found a way to put a Google Earth .kmz file into blogger, so if you want to see the ship through Google Earth you'll have to just go and find it yourself. If any geeks out there can tell me how I could do this, I'd be very grateful.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
As a former English teacher I would just like to point out to all the Finns who write and speak otherwise impeccable English, that there is no such thing as “a flu”. There is only “the flu”. This is correct English although not correct microbiology because, of course, any virologist would point out that the influenza virus is permanently mutating. If any Yanks, Aussies or other dubious colonial-types try to take issue with this, they’re simply wrong. The language is “English” after all…
What Finns mean when they say “I have a flu”, is “I have a cold”. “The flu” is muscle aches, high fever, shivering: the real miserable bed-ridden deal. “A cold” is snot running out of your nose or a slightly annoying cough. The fact that many Finns I have worked with over the years conflate the two lead me to suspect that you are a nation of work-shy fops, and coming from an Englishman that’s an insult indeed.
I’ve never understood the 'stickyness' of the “a flu” mistake. Many friends with wonderful English who would snobbishly laugh at the juntti-ness (or scroll down for a good explanation of a juntti here) of a fellow countryman saying in English that they “eat medicine” or will “open the television”, still insist that their minor sniffle is “a flu”.
It’s a bit like the stickyness of describing alpine skiing as “slalom”. It’s not slalom unless you are dressed in lycra, have hand guards on your ski poles and are racing against the clock smacking into large numbers of blue and red spring-loaded gates. That is Slalom. The rest is just “skiing”, or “downhill skiing” if you really suspect that the person you are talking to might think you mean cross country skiing, which 99% of native English speakers won’t when you say “skiing”.
Here endeth the day’s rant.
Monday, February 12, 2007
An aside to any fellow UKC-ers reading this: once an illustrious former UKC regular dropped innocently into a thread that he had been to school with Boris. Could there be a UKC registered user in this photo!? If you recognize any of your climbing partners here, do tell...
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Walking back to the car after a brief climbing session at Nuuksio. Lovely day, not a cloud in the sky. Damn cold though.
Friday, February 09, 2007
This is only a 'first impressions' style of review - I've used them for four days of climbing so far, so I can't say that they hard wearing or not. I'm not a particularly hard ice climber, nor a particularly brave one, so the tools have mainly been used on ice from about 65 degrees to vertical, and when its vertical it's never for very far as I'm simply too weak to climb vert ice for more than a few body lengths. The routes in my local area tend to be pure water ice, and I haven't tried them on any mixed routes yet. But if you are a mid-grade punter thinking of getting a second set of tools for ice cragging, this review is perfectly aimed at you!
The tools are new for this winter but show a lot of Black Diamond's ice tool heritage. The laser pick is the same as is used on various other tools and the headset design is basically the same as they have been using since at least the early 90s when I first saw BD tools like the X-15s. Everyone says it works well, but I had never tried it before. Changing the blades is a breeze - really a two minute job. In comparison when I tried to change the blades on my Quarks last winter for a day's mixed climbing, after fighting with them for half and hour with ever increasing amounts of leverage, I ended up just stripping the allen bolts, which it now looks like I'll need to drill out when I really need to change the blades. Why Petzl-Charlet make their head bolts out of an alloy with the strength of butter I don't know. Other picks are available for the Reactors so if you were going to redpoint an M8+ in the morning before tapping your way up a delicate WI5 pillar in the afternoon - changing blades at the crag would really be a possibility with these tools.
The tools swing perfectly. Someone called them a leashless version of the BD Vipers, and when I used my mate's Vipers the first time I actually thought they felt as good as, or possibly even better, than Quarks. So praise indeed. The Laser pick is brilliant - you can use it straight away without filing. It's teeth aren't too big and are bevelled which makes extraction fine. Compare that to the nightmare of new Grivel picks for example, with teeth that make extraction next to impossible.
The handle looks very fat in BD picture (see top) but as you can see a bit better in my picture above it is actually shaped - so it is narrower at the front. Although I have reasonably large hands, my fingers are short - bunch of bananas etc. etc. I've heard it all before! - and even with my stubby digits I have no problem gripping them. I wouldn't imagine that anyone except perhaps the smallest-handed women would find the grip too big. It doesn't feel dissimilar to the grips on my Quarks. The rubber of the grips is sticky. Only if I got lots of snow on my palm did it feel in the slightest bit slippy, and obviously climbing leashless you just need to make sure your gloves aren't snowy before you try hanging on. The small spike at the bottom makes them usable in more classic mountaineering settings and provides a hole for connecting a spring leash if you wish. The bottom 'hook' of handle isn't nearly as big as on some leashless tools but seems to work perfectly well. It looks similar to the Quark ergo handle and they seemed to work very well in the hands of the talented.
The upper hand position has no grip, you are just holding the aluminium of the shaft, and I have noted in some pictures that climbers have added some kind of grip tape here. Even without tape though its surprisingly 'gripable', although I'm sure this would be much less the case in a full on blizzard when everything is covered in sticky snow. I haven't actually hammered anything with the hammers yet, but using the upper hand position seems like the more controllable position to hammer from.
To leash or not to leash, that is the question
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous pumpage,
Or to leash arms against a sea of troubles,
And by hanging on them end them? To die...
Well, hopefully not.
Overall the Reactors seem like an excellently designed leashless tool for ice climbing. The major question everyone wants to ask themselves is do they want to climb leashless? As regular readers know, I have good reasons to ask this question to myself - but it's a question worthy of some more thought so I think I'll leave it for another post. But if you think leashless is for you, and you are climbing mainly ice, not hard mixed, the Reactors may well be the tool for you.
And just in case anyone accuse me of getting freebies from BD in return for saying nice things about them, all I can say is - I wish. I bought my tools from Camu in Helsinki and the guys there deserve a mention as after some negotiation they gave me a good discount on the pair. But if any BD employees do stumble across this review, I am completely open to offers of bribery; your new little Camalots look just splendid...
Normally I use OTM to distract me from horror of having to actually do physical exercise. Running bores me to tears within 20 minutes, but with OTM carrying me away to the White House briefing room or the control centre of al-Jazeera, suddenly 45 minutes of pounding the pavement doesn't seem so bad. Last week I tried out our local cross country skiing track for the first time and with a bright moon shining down through the 15 degrees of frost, I desperately tried to stay upright on the track's many steep downhills whilst listening to an explanation of the how the media in Venezuela that Chavez is trying to muzzle is just as dubious - just from another angle - as his own pet press. And as my pulse climbed toward 200 bpm as I desperately tried to keep some sort of skiing-style going as I slogged back uphill again I listened to Emily Bazelon (another media voice I've fallen in love with through the Slate Political Gabfest) try to dig herself out of the minor hole that she and her colleague David Plotz found themselves in after gabbing from Israel whilst on an AIPAC junket. From time to time OTM repeats an old story and instantly they transport me back to where I was when I first heard them: there are hills on the Helsinki cycle-path system that will be forever linked in my brain to some minutiae of the Plame affair, or views out across the city that remind me of mil-bloggers blogging from Baghdad - all because of OTM happily whiles away the 20 km cycle-ride home from work.
So this morning, I was standing at my bus stop waiting for the perennially late bus to work, listening to them discuss with Vali Nasr why virtually no Washington decision makers can explain the difference between Sunni and Sh'ia thinking - "I should blog about that". Then as the bus got toward downtown Helsinki there was the fascinating discussion on the history and mythology of spitting on returning soldiers. Or how about how the voracious appetite of 24 hr news turns a silly publicity stunt into yet more background noise promoting a fear of terrorism? By the time I was making the coffee in the office, they were explaining how - counter-intuitively - 9/11 has actually made the representation of Arabs in Hollywood films slightly better (see here for why only 'slightly').
So basically, just listen to the whole thing. You know you want to.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Someone on UKC had asked about monopoints vs. dual points. I've used monos for basically all my ice climbing over the last 6 years or so and think that in 90% of situations they are better on water ice. But one situation where they can be problematic is on relatively new ice that is still made up of a series of flutings. Monos can go between the flutings and fail to grip, and actually hiting the front of the fluting takes more accuracy than most of us punters can manage whilst pumped and scared. I've tried to illustrate this in the photo above. In this situation the increased damage that dual points do to the ice is actually an advantage as you in effect kick a foot hold. With mono points you need to rely on the secondary points to do that damage and its one of the very few times where I feel I actually stub my toes when kicking in crampons. Something for people to consider who are thinking of using monos and haven't tried it yet, but it's a pretty water-ice specific issue.
The pilots clearly saw the orange panels, used by NATO to mark "friendlies" and described them as exactly that at 1336.57. The pilot Popov36 calls them orange panels again at 1338.49 - so they've been discussing it for two minutes - they discuss it a load more, decide that the panels have become rocket launchers (have you ever heard of orange rockets? Maybe there are some but it seems a very odd colour to paint rockets deployed on a battlefield) and then "roll in" and attack at 1342.09. It's taken them over five minutes to convince themselves that what they correctly identified first as friendly markers weren't that. About halfway through that time period POPOV36 screws himself by saying "I think killing these damn rocket launchers, it would be great." After hearing they have made mistake, they realise that its their fault because as they leave the area at 1351.33 POPOV36 says "Yeah, I know that thing with the orange panels is going to screw us" and the now famous "We’re in jail dude".
Shit happens in war, everyone knows this, but the American military keep doing it and A10 pilots in particular have a history of not being able to identify British armoured vehicles. In the first Gulf War the US managed to kill as many British servicemen as the Iraqis did, mainly from one strike by an A10. When I was a kid we regularly used to see USAF A10s flying over our house, so I would imagine that at least some of the older pilots have been based in the UK - you would imagine this would have given them opportunity to study British tank shapes!
But the way the Pentagon refuses to allow its servicemen to be involved in the inquest is what is really upsetting and leads to angry responses in the UK. All the fine words and "Thank you Tony" seem rather hollow when the US won't even send two men to answer questions at a coroners inquest. And the classifying of the tape looks simply political; as one defence analyst puts it: "I can see no reason for classifying it, other than it is deeply embarrassing to the US military." So although the pilots thought they were going to jail the Pentagon clearly isn't going to see that happen.
For those who need the education, this is heavyweight hip hop:
And even the coolest shorties know it:
Monday, February 05, 2007
Anyways... so the US has refused to sell Finland a certain weapon and the Finnish press suggests that it's the result of poor bi-lateral relations as opposed to dozens of other perfectly possible reasons. There's an old joke about a Frenchman, an American and Finn meeting a elephant. The Frenchman looks at the elephant and thinks "look at zat fine leg! Wiz a lil' butter et garlic it will taste magnificent!" The American looks at the elephant and think "wow - an unclaimed elephant! What business opportunity. I'll do elephant shows and make a fast buck!" And the Finn looks at the elephant and thinks "I wonder what he thinks about me?"
Having said that I was told by a Finnish diplomat in Washington once what tactics they use to keep the Finnish foreign minister's more... ummm... expansive comments on the US off the top of the in-tray at the Finland desk at the State Department. But of course telling you that would just be scurrilous gossip and self-respecting bloggers never do that sort of thing!
Update: I just checked out JASSMs on FAS. For those of you who dig weapons-porn, knock yourselves out. ;-) Here's a pic of a Hornet carrying one:Unfortunately for Finland, that's not a Finnish air force Hornet!
Update 07 February: This is an interesting bit of news suggesting that bad bi-lateral relations are unlikely to be the reason for the refusal to sell Finland the missiles. Who knows really, but there are so many other possible reasons, and the Helsingin Sanomat story seems more like some good grist for the election time mill, as Finland approaches its general election. Thanks very much to the anonymous commenter who left the link.
Basically whilst I'm quite happy to accept Iran is playing a major role in Iraq - if Russia occupied France, you don't think UK intelligence would be all over the shop from Calais to Marseilles? - but it seems that there isn't so much hard evidence of Iranian arms being used by Iraqis. KGS left this link in the comments, quoting an unnamed US officer saying that it was Iranian surface-to-air missiles (SAM) bringing down US aircraft. But read it carefully - that's not quite what the unnamed officer actually says is it? The direct quote is: "where else would they be coming from?" Well, out of the defeated Iraqi army's huge arsenal would be one logical possibility. And pushing this a bit further, KGS's link is quoting from another US mil-blogger - who simply wants an attack on Iran and he openly argues that the evidence to justify this isn't really important:
The affairs of state, of National Security, aren’t the purview of some twisted OJ Simpson celebrity trial, where “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit!”Let's leave aside all discussion on the morality of attacking Iran - perhaps a solid case could be made although it doesn't spring to mind at the moment - and consider the practical implications of this policy prescription. If the Iraqi insurgents of all stripes aren't relying on Iran for some, or any, of their weaponry - then the US isn't actually going to stop its helicopters from being shot down or APCs blown up by taking this drastic line of action. They will however make sure that Iran will do everything it can in the future to help arm anybody who wants to take shots at US's interests or those of its friends.
I think that a lot of the discussion amongst Democratic senators and congressmen (and increasing numbers of Republicans as well) in the US over bringing the troops home is more led by their political sensibilities to the domestic zeitgeist, rather than to any deeply thought out military and foreign policy strategy for Iraq. But I'm not sure if this sudden "get tough on Iraq" policy coming out of the White House isn't any different. Things are pretty terrible in Iraq and if you don't want to go with the 'Ricksian' Fiasco argument - that simply immensely bad planning and strategy within both the upper echelons of the US civilian and military leadership are to blame for where we are now - then it's really handy to have someone else to blame. And the Iranians fit the bill perfectly because the current Iranian government is so odious.
There is though a certain irony that US helicopters are only getting shot down over Iraq at all, because in 2003 we went with an evidential glove that didn't quite fit.
A quick update: KGS has just left some links in the comments of the previous helicopter post discussing Iranian weapons - I'll put them here so everyone can read them and draw their own conclusions. They are from the Guardian, the Telegraph, ABC and the Crisis Group. Thanks to KGS for digging them all out. The ABC is perhaps the most interesting one, but it still relies on unnamed officials promising that there is evidence. The Telegraph story notes that "there is no concrete evidence", and likewise the Guardian story points out they don't really know who the smugglers were. The Crisis Group write:
Even as accusations have proliferated, hard evidence has remained sparse. Typical statements, culled from Crisis Group interviews with government officials and political leaders in Iraq, include the following: "We received reports that [fill in the blank]"; "We have proof that [fill in the blank]"; "Everybody knows that [fill in the blank]"; "They spoke Persian"; "We have heard that Etelaat [Iranian intelligence] set up an office in Basra"; "Money is coming into the country"; "We have proof that Iranians are supplying Moqtada al-Sadr with money and weapons"; "We received a report a couple of weeks ago that Moqtada visited Falluja. This is clear proof of his cooperation with the insurgency there". And, in response to a direct request for evidence that the violent Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam has a presence in Diyala governorate and is supported by Iran: "You know, crossing the border is very easy". (p.3)These links are all very similar to how the LA Times story linked above notes that the evidence of Iranian military support is discussed by coalition spokespeople but no direct evidence or photography is released. I'll say it again, I'm sure that the Iranians are busy in Iraq and may well be supplying weapons, but that doesn't mean that they hold the key to peace in Iraq or are responsible for all the US setbacks.