Posts Tagged ‘military’

Good call

Thirty-two years ago today, one guy decided not to start a nuclear war.

He was a Soviet military man named Stanislav Petrov, whose job at the time involved checking whether America had launched at nuclear missiles at Russia lately. If they had, he was to escalate this up the chain of command, where the standard strategy that would presumably be enacted would be for Russia to launch some of its nuclear missiles back at America.

On 26 September 1983, due to some technical glitch, it looked like America had launched a nuclear missile at Russia.

Stanislav Petrov decided not to report this to his superiors, and so Russia did not launch any of its nuclear missiles at America. No superpowers killed millions of each others’ citizens that day.

Let’s spare a moment today to appreciate the line of reasoning which led to this decision.

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Here are some things Peter Hitchens has talked about:

TSA-style security theatre.

The stupidity of Western military policy. In particular, our government’s more recent tendency for military intervention overseas.

Nebulous laws against extremism which stifle free speech.

The purpose and attitude of the police.

The fucking Tories, as well as the ludicrous state of contemporary UK party politics.


He’s basically right about all of these things, as you might have guessed was my point. Certainly more so than many commentators who are still taken seriously by people with politics close to my own.

His concerns about new legislation enacted by the “thought police” may not precisely parallel mine, but the quashing of alternative ideas is a dangerous one, even if those ideas are icky and homophobic etc. And on our continued involvement in global warfare, he seems to be far more reliable than his late brother was.

Just don’t get him started on atheists or cannabis, and the guy actually has a lot to say.

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I haven’t written at length about the ultrasound probes that legislators in certain states are requiring that women be forcibly penetrated with before they’re permitted certain medical procedures. But given the implicit rationale behind the law (that those shameful sluts must be made to understand the full consequences of their actions), I like this as a complementary idea:

I have a modest proposal that would resolve the issue. In Virginia, Texas, and the six other states that now mandate this procedure, let Army and other military recruiters be veterans who have lost an arm or a leg or been otherwise traumatized in combat. Let every recruiting station show continuous images of innocent noncombatants who died, including under attacks by American drones. Let the recruiting centers display that Russian proverb, “Every bullet finds its target in a mother’s heart.” And above all, let each prospective recruit and his or her mother be advised that he or she is not at all unlikely to commit suicide after undergoing the dehumanization of basic training (“basic” to all violent systems) and coming to realize the horrible hypocrisy of what they have been brought to do by a heartless state.

And especially in Texas, the execution capital of the country, let every warden who’s about to order the execution of a death-row inmate talk the matter over with the inmate’s mother. Let the executioners themselves listen to the heartbeat of the prisoner and hear his (or her) own story of how they were led by a violence-prone society, with its mass-media culture, to commit the crime.

Also, Viagra prescriptions to require a urethral sounding.

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Holy shit America, how much defending do you need?

– You know, men can (and should) be something other than knights or beasts.

– If you’re going to insist that people earn at least slightly less than a living wage, why not give everyone a hundred bucks an hour? Huh? Satirez!!

– Sometimes skeptics just ought to knock it off when someone has faith. It can be a beautiful thing in their lives. Who are we to say it’s wrong, with our “facts” and “reason”? Follow what you know to be true in your heart, Ezra.

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Here’s an article about targeted drone strikes.

Here are a few choice phrases from the article, presented largely without comment, which make my head hurt.

In this new age of drone warfare, probing the constitutional legitimacy of targeted killings has never been more vital

There are contested legal issues surrounding drone strikes

Awlaki’s killing and others like it have solid legal support and are embedded in an unprecedentedly robust system of legal and political accountability

Whatever else the term “force” may mean, it clearly includes authorization from Congress to kill enemy soldiers

Congress as a whole is well aware of the president’s targeted killing program

The Supreme Court has ruled in many contexts that due process does not always demand judicial scrutiny

There is simply no way to wring all potential error from the system and still carry on a war

While the Obama administration can improve its public explanations for targeted killing, its critics have wildly overstated the legal concerns about the practice

There is every reason to think that the government was super careful

Super careful, you guys.

And finally:

President Harry Truman, for example, received a great deal of advice about whether and how to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it didn’t come from lawyers advising him on the laws of war.

Thank Christ we’ve come so far from those horrible days, when world leaders didn’t have the reassuring presence of legal experts there to assure them that killing millions of foreigners was technically fine as far as the paperwork was concerned.

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When six British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan earlier this month, I heard a number of people expressing exasperation with just how much of a fuss the media was making over it.

In particular, a common objection was that the numerous other people being killed in the conflict don’t tend to receive anything like such devoted press coverage, particularly if they’re foreigners, and particularly if they’re innocent citizens. The tally of war-related civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the past decade is into the tens, or even hundreds of thousands.

While the loss of these few soldiers was no doubt personally devastating to their own friends and families, it perhaps shouldn’t be shocking to the rest of us to learn than a half-dozen military professionals in a war zone lost their lives.

But when a white person dies, it’s a tragedy; when a village in the Middle East gets carpet-bombed, it’s four seconds of an inch-wide rolling news ticker.

I’m trying to select my words so as to make my point clear, but I worry that I’m not doing a good enough job. Which would be a shame, as somebody else “didn’t make his point very well” while discussing this very subject a couple of weeks ago, and he got himself arrested and charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.

Seems a bit harsh for a moment of inarticulacy.

Actually, what it seems like is tyrannical bullshit. He posted something on his own Facebook wall, the bulk of which calls attention to the plight of innocent Afghani people, and doesn’t mention race or anything race related. Which I suppose was tacitly admitted when the police dropped the racial aggravation charges.

Compare and contrast the backlash he received, from some of the most spitefully point-missing zealots since the Jessica Ahlquist affair:

Fucking sick twat burn his eyes out smelly fukka

Cheeky smelly pakki cunt wants tying to a tree n shooting …Smelly fukker..Lock him up n throw the key away ..Grrrhhhh…SKUM…!!

Dirty smelly greasy bastard needs fuking torturing the dirty paki bastard!!

Remember: these are things being said about the guy charged with a racially aggravated public order defense.

For his part, Azhar Ahmed is still being charged. This time with “sending a message that was grossly offensive”.

Well, maybe it was grossly offensive. I wasn’t grossly offended by it myself, on any personal level, but nobody I love has recently been needlessly killed. I can understand those who have suffered such a tragedy would feel differently. For the most part, I found Ahmed’s message not inexplicably frustrated, with an unnecessary smattering of frothing bile toward the end. He’s an angry 19-year-old. He’s not threatening anyone. He’s not attacking anyone. Even if he was being an insensitive dick, you don’t get to arrest people for being insensitive dicks.

If you think Azhar Ahmed is responsible for criminally damaging soldiers’ morale, get back to me once every member of the armed forces is fully equipped with safety gear and all those in a combat zone have a complete exit timetable. Then we’ll discuss what some teenager scribbled on his own corner of the internet.

People bothered to take to the streets with placards about this. “Jail those who insult our troops“. Is that really who we want to be? Start locking up anyone who pisses us off, even when the ability to shut them out and return to blissful silence is a mere “unfriend” click away?

I accidentally watched the first few minutes of one of the Starship Troopers sequels a few weeks ago, and thought the scene – in which a group of “traitors” were convicted and executed for failing to support the troops and damaging morale – was heavy-handed and lacked nuance. I don’t want to start thinking I ought to be taking crappy dystopian sci-fi more seriously.

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– America’s spending nearly a trillion dollars on Defence this year. And next year. And the next year. And the next…

– If the Bible is so full of divine knowledge, provided by an omnipotent God who knew many things of which his desert nomad scribes couldn’t possibly have been aware, why doesn’t it contain any superior medical advice?

– I agree with just about everything in this Cracked article on interpersonal conflict, except the presumption that such problems are insuperable. If we learn more about ourselves, we can beat all of this.

“We cannot excuse this as a cultural tradition.” Hillary Clinton talking sense on female genital mutilation. Nice to see that particular excuse being prominently dismissed so unambiguously. Would be nicer still if male circumcision / genital mutilation were included also.

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