The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, March 31, 2003

Meanwhile in Turkey...

You turn your back for five minutes and - find the Turks have stepped back from the brink.

When we left the story last Wednesday (March 26), it was with Richard Boucher and his free will gift of $1bn for the Turks.

By a spooky coincidence, on that self-same Wednesday, it seems, friend of the blog Gen Hilmi Ozkok, made a statement pledging
to coordinate with the United States before sending troops into northern Iraq and [saying] there would be no deployment unless a refugee crisis erupted or Turkey's security was threatened.

Why this dramatic change in Turkish government policy should be made by the head of the military rather than - to pick a name at random - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, added to the 'mystery' of the timing of the statement, inspire less than total confidence in the present government - or system of government [1].

Ozkok showed a decent bad grace about the US strongarm stuff:
I find it hard to understand that those beyond the oceans, who say they are threatened, do not believe Turkey when it says it faces the same threat from right across its border.

Bearing in mind the translation loss, that is a pretty damned fine zinger from a brass hat.

Oktay Eksi, a columnist from Hurriyet had a piece on March 27 abridged into English thus:
We agreed with Ozkok's observations and evaluations to a great extent but his words sometimes contained certain political opinions, a habit which soldiers should generally steer clear of.

I'm rather afraid that Mr Eksi's comments may have been noted for future, post-coup reference!

A scan of the Google News results on the (highly searchable) Ozkok shows (apart from the deluge of duplicate agency pieces) not much editorial from the senior rags in the US or UK. Nothing in the Post, that I could see (the NY Times search engine is down - but the rag doesn't appear in the Google listing that I could see).

Not that I'm looking for an excuse for not having picked up Ozkok's volte-face sooner; it just makes one wonder whether
  • the anglophone news agenda is warped; or

  • there's less to the statement than meets the eye.

Much as I'm loathe to infer sophisticated thinking from the actions of our media, I wonder whether the second possibility isn't right; whether this isn't rather more truce than capitulation on the Turkish side.

Even (no, particularly) a stand-by military dictator needs legitimacy for his actions. Ozkok has seen what trouble the US have made for themselves by their bone-headed diplomacy and bully-boy tactics in failing to get the vital fig-leaf of a second UN resolution. (I suspect he views Blair's position - the sanctimonious sidekick with the chalk-line already drawn around him - with particular relish.)

He needs a pretext to invade - and who more likely to give him one than the Kurds? Who, more likely than not, will be fighting each other within a few months of celebrating victory over Saddam. And (a little insurance here) for Turcoman, read Sudetendeutsche [2].

Besides, Ozkok needs to manage USG - Turkey's position in NATO tends to buttress the military's standing in Turkish politics; and playing Mutt to Erdogan's Jeff [3] has a piquancy that, one suspects, a man of his evident sense of humour would relish.

And, when it comes to the coup, it's essential that it's the AKP who come off as the bad guys, screwing up the economy and relations with the US and whatever, and the military are seen as stepping in more in sorrow than in anger. A little bending to the wind right now costs Ozkok little, and shows the military as the reasonable party on the Turkish side.

That's the theory, at least...

From the civilian side of the government, there's a long, jumbled and dreadfully translated [4] piece on an interview Erdogan gave on March 28. If I understand it right, he's saying that the $1bn in aid has been in the air since the March 1 rejection of the US deployment authorisation resolution.

And more generally on Iraq, he's supposed to have said the
Presidency, General Staff and the government were carrying on studies to put forth a single and coordinated view.

Shouldn't they have done those studies before Ozkok made his big speech?

  1. It also followed the establishment of the Military Coordination and Liaison Command in Northern Iraq - the WaPo piece datelined March 25.

  2. In the very narrow sense of their being a handily placed ethnic group whose woes (actual or fictitious) stand ready to provide a pretext for military action.

  3. Or is the other way round?

  4. Don't they have access to English mother-tongue speakers to at least polish the work? The iron rule of translation is: except in emergencies, use a mother-tongue speaker of the target language.


Could UK forces breach land mines treaty by working with US colleagues?

Not an original point, but one I was reminded of by a radio discussion on the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation (as the joke used to go) earlier today.

The UK has signed and ratified the Ottawa Convention on antipersonnel land mines, the US has done neither.

What, therefore, of the situation of UK forces operating with their US brothers-in-arms?

Now, so far as I can see, there's a currently an effective system of military Jim Crow in operation, the British taking the low road to Basra, whilst Uncle Sam's boys head north. On the other hand, the war's less than two weeks' old - who knows what military exigencies will force a commingling of nationalities?

The Ottawa text is (as treaties go) fairly clear: Article 1(1) says that
Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances:

a) To use anti-personnel mines;

b) To develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, anti-personnel mines;

c) To assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.

Most of the rest of the treaty deals with destruction of existing stocks and administrative and procedural matters.

The activists speaking on the radio seemed quite convinced that joint operations could be - I give in - a minefield for UK forces. I'm not so sure.

I reckon that, in order for the UK to contravene the Treaty, its forces need to do something more than merely use an existing US minefield laid by US personnel off their own bat. Even a UK commander in such a joint op inviting his US opposite number to consider the use of landmines might not constitute a breach.

Now, if I were a UK commander, operating with US forces or on my own, I reckon I'd be more than happy if a US unit happened along and laid a minefield just in the right place to protect my boys. And, if things get really rough, one foresees that the landmine, rather jesuitically singled-out for opprobrium by Saint Tony and his chums, may well become a popular item of 'trade' between US and UK forces.

But - well, mark the Convention down as a stick with which to beat the aforementioned Crusader if and when the facts allow.


Iraqi oil bonanza? I'm having trouble with the numbers

Just how great a deal is available in the short term?

Some ballpark numbers (just to get orders of magnitude - these obviously aren't exact production figures or spot prices!): world consumption is something a bit under 80 million barrels per day. Taking 80mbpd, at $30/barrel, that's a gross revenue of $2.4bn/day or nearly $900bn/year.

Iraq in the year or two before the war started was producing roughly 2.5mbpd (at $30pb, a gross revenue of a bit under $30bn/year).

My first problem with the numbers: this CFR study (PDF) says (p28) that if
no facilities were damaged, Iraq's total oil revenues would still only likely average around $10 billion to $12 billion annually.
I can't get anywhere near that number using the basic information of 2.5mbpd production and a $30pb price.

The report suggests (p25) that
Iraq's current sustainable oil production capacity is no higher than 2.6 to 2.8 million bpd and could slip further if hostilities result in a sudden or prolonged cessation of oil will take Iraq between eighteen months and three years to return to its pre-1990 production level of 3.5 million bpd. It will cost an estimated $5 billion to repair and restore previously used facilities, in addition to an estimated $3 billion in annual operating expenses.

Just pause there: let's use my basis of estimating gross revenues; and let's assume that this is right that the production cost of Iraqi crude is about $2pb; currently, assuming production at the middle of the CFR range (2.7mbpd), that gives a net production revenue of $27.6bn/year [1]; an investment of $5bn to bring production up to 3.5mbpd would yield an increase in net production revenue (on the same basis ) of $5.8bn [2].

Now, even taking account of the suggested delays before the oil (and cash) starts flowing, that doesn't seem too bad a deal on the face of it. But I'd like to see a lot more analysis of the numbers than my back-on-the-envelope sums before starting to decide quite what the short-term prospects for Iraqi oil are. (Not to mention a final tally of war damage.) And I'm somewhat concerned that my numbers for current revenue (based on the simple sum of production multiplied by market price) seem to differ from the CFR estimates by a factor of 3!

In longer term, of course, things should be rosy - Iraq has oil (p25) and gas (p32) reserves out the wazoo. But the number of risk factors (including, of course, USG's GWACS plans for a Middle East of US economic satrapies) would seem to make the day when those assets can be realised in significant quantity an even more far-off prospect than the oil industry generally offers!

Of course, at the level of the individual with sticky fingers, a cash flow of even $10bn a year leaves ample scope for substantial rake-offs. But at the level of either investor companies, or of the US protectorate we assume will be responsible for post-war Iraqi affairs, or the Iraqi people themselves, I'd need some persuading that an oil bonanza is on the horizon [3].

This New Republic piece from January 9 2003 (which draws - in an unhelpfully confused fashion! - on the CFR study) suggests that hiking Iraqi oil production is a USG ploy to cripple OPEC and destabilise the Middle East in general, and the hated Saudis in particular.

If true, what I've seen does not suggest that the equipment will accommodate their wish anytime soon; not within Rummy's planning horizon, at least.

  1. (30-2) x 2.7m x 365.

  2. (30 x (3.5m-2.7m) x 365) - 3bn - if the suggested $3bn annual expenses number does not include the $2pb production cost I've factored in, that reduces the increase in net revenue from $5.8bn to $5.2bn - still not a bad return, though.

  3. Of course, oil companies may be happy to invest in Iraq without immediate hope of great returns just to get their foot in the door for a chance at a slice of those reserves in 10, 20 or 30 years time. But that's not the same deal as a short-term slash-and-burn operation to extract cash now.
Further details on the pre-war Iraqi industry, reserves, investors, and the like in this RIIA paper (PDF) from December 2002.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Some thoughts on US strategy: (2) Civilian casualties

Relative to the amount of ordnance that's been flying about, the level of civilian casualties seems to date to be pretty low [1].

But the new strategy, according to this WaPo piece from today, may involve taking more risks.

A retired colonel is quoted as saying that
No country and no military force in recorded history has ever attempted to simultaneously fight and win a war, preserve the resources and infrastructure of the country, reduce noncombatant deaths to the absolute minimum within their capability and conduct a major humanitarian effort

During his March 28 press conference, Rumsfeld said
We do not need to kill thousands of innocent Iraqis to remove Saddam Hussein from power. At least that's our belief.
A study of Rummy's tone of voice and body language would clearly be essential to interpreting this!

The Post says that
Other officials in Washington were discussing reinterpreting the rules of engagement to place less emphasis on minimizing civilian casualties and more on destroying the enemy, even if Iraqi tanks and other heavy weapons are interspersed with civilians.

And, when it comes to a siege, they're clearly not ruling much out:
"We're not going to catapult diseased cattle into the city or anything like that," said one planner. "But there's a question of what you can do and what you should do."
The But there speaks volumes - I suspect the guy had a Rummy smile on his lips when he mentioned the cattle. If it ever came to poisoning the plebs, they'd be a whole lot subtler about it!

The same is quoted as citing
...the example of knocking out electrical power, which the military can do. But, he added, "Do you want to see pictures on CNN of the baby who died because power to the incubator was cut off?"

You get the feeling that the guy was looking right into the hack's eyes, making him a one-man focus group for the latest idea they were kicking around in the office! I mean to say, one baby [2]... Incubators are particularly sensitive, of course, after the Hill & Knowlton scam from 1990/1 involving the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador!

Of course, one shouldn't rule out the possibility that the slow progress in winning the war (contrasted with the speed of covering the ground) has been a deliberate ploy on the part of (some sections of) the US military: to demonstrate that the omelette can't be made without breaking a few eggs. To rachet down the expectations of some in USG of a quick, easy, politically pain-free war. They're saying, We tried it the Errol Flynn way - and Olivia de Havilland's still in Nottingham Castle. Now we do it the Army way.

This piece from the San Jose Mercury of March 27 on the subject mentions a piece (PDF) by Michael O'Hanlon from last year suggesting (p10) that a full-scale fight with the RG and SRG might yield 10,000 military and 10,000 civilian deaths [3]. They're suspiciously round numbers - and no workings shown; and he says they're
not predictions but a sober reminders of what can happen.

But, clearly, civilian deaths of anything like this level would imply a vastly difficult exercise for USG in managing upwards casualty expectations all round the world which USG have deliberately tried to keep at rock-bottom as it struggles with the problem of the dubious legitimacy of the war as a whole.

No doubt the WaPo piece is part of that management exercise.

[There's a quote in the piece that deserves noting for future reference:
One Army general in Iraq drew an analogy to the Union's initial "on to Richmond" strategy in the Civil War, which evolved into a strategy of "kill the enemy army first." The Civil War lasted four years -- during which President Abraham Lincoln searched among his commanders for one who would take the fight to the enemy.

The unnamed general was either politically naive to a degree or deliberately putting a spoke in the politico-military wheel: I'm no Civil War buff. But I've watched the Ken Burns series a few times on tape, and I'm pretty damned sure that one fundamental matter arising was the utter incompetence of virtually every general put in charge of the Union's key fighting force, viz, the Army of the Potomac.

Perhaps he thought Bush would be flattered by the comparison with Lincoln. Less flattering (both to Bush and the men concerned) is the implication that Bush is trying to win a difficult war with senior officers comparable to the deadbeats and no-hopers that Lincoln struggled for long and bloody years to inculcate with the need which even a country lawyer could appreciate - to destroy Lee's army wherever it might be.

On the other hand, Lt Gen William S Wallace wasn't exactly being politic with his crack about
The enemy we're fighting against is different from the one we'd wargamed against.

Surely, there's not a pattern emerging here?]

  1. This site is apparently keeping count.

  2. It's the sort of reverse of the scene in The Third Man - probably the greatest movie ever on America's view of itself (and others' views of America), vitriolically anti-American (and anti-Everyone Else!) (and one of the laugh-out-loud funniest pics you'll ever see) - where Trevor Howard takes Joseph Cotten round the hospital ward full of kids afflicted with the sequelae of Harry Lime's duff penicillin (sez Howard). That scene combined with the Prater Wheel scene with Orson Welles:
    If I offered you 20,000 pounds for every dot that stopped moving, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money?...Free of income tax, old man.

  3. Again, the possibility of guerilla warfare is not contemplated.


Some thoughts on the change in US strategy: (1) Decapitation

The idea of me commenting on strategy in the way a teacher grades an assignment is so laughable I'll assume no one even gives a thought to the possibility that that's what's going on.

As ever, it's just kibbitzing, pulling on what look like loose threads to see if anything interesting comes out.

This WaPo piece on the strategy from March 21 you wouldn't exactly call gung-ho. It recalls failures (ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II was an attempt I'd never heard of!) as well as successes (eg Noriega); it has ex CIA head James Woolsey- the guy responsible for the hunt for Aidid in Somalia - being circumlocutorily downbeat about the possibilities of a successful assassination attempt on Saddam.

However, what the article does seem to assume is that killing Saddam would bring the regime, and opposition to a US-imposed settlement of the Iraq question, to a grinding halt. That all that is holding back the (to date mythical) rebellion in Basra from rising to the level of reality is fear of retribution on orders issuing from the top. That the command structure of the military - in particular the Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard is built with Saddam as a keystone - knock that away, and the entire edifice crumbles.

The more I read (which, to date, is nowhere near enough to form a conclusion), the less sure I am of that assumption. Two key factors in the mix are motivation and organisation.

As to motivation, hatred of Saddam (which I'm prepared, for the sake of argument, to grant is widespread to almost universal) does not equate to love of Uncle Sam. That old nationalist impulse that the US failed to see as the driving force behind Ho Chi Minh [1] is likely to be as strong in the ordinary Iraqi. Going back no further than World War 1, there was the revolt in 1920 against the British mandate (under the League of Nations) [2]. It's unlikely that rule by the Great Satan would be more warmly welcomed.

As to organisation, I've mentioned before the tribes of Iraq. Not only do these apparently have large forces - whose number and fighting quality is open to doubt - but they are, according to their own statements, actively contemplating an autonomous role in the conflict. In fact, one wonders whether some tribes - estranged from positions of influence under Saddam - might not actually welcome his elimination as a chance to take up the fight against the Infidel, and win themselves legitimacy for having so done.

To date, we've seen highlighted the role of irregulars in harassing the notorious long US supply-line from the Baghdad region down to the Kuwaiti border; and the use of suicide bombers, of course. But it seems to me that the key role for the tribes may be that of denying the US a chance to declare victory; beyond the cost in the losses of men and matériel that a guerilla campaign might cause, it's the potential political cost to Bush of not being able to draw a line under the conflict, of the Vietnam spectre haunting his campaign [3]. And don't forget what the Iran hostages did for poor old Jimmy Carter - with the day-counter over the shoulder of every news anchor in the country!

The old Mao Tse Tung crack about the guerillas being the fish swimming in the sea of the peasantry seems, on the face of it, pretty apt for Iraq; and - unlike in Afghanistan (or South Vietnam) - there's no force of local guys on our side who can take the brunt, do the rough stuff, take the pressure off the US+ men. The Iraqis that Uncle Sam are associated with are mostly worse than Ngo Dinh Diem [4] - they're a bunch of Emperor Bao Dais! They have zero legitimacy, political or military - except for the Kurds and the Iranian-backed Shi'ites in SCIRI [5]! (With friends like those...)

When it comes to decapitation, one could do worse than think Hydra...

  1. That doesn't mean he wasn't a convinced Communist - the alternative Vietnamese fallacy. So far as I can see, his desire was sole control of Vietnam; Communism was the only remaining political system to offer that chance; so he embraced Communism. It was a means to an end, but he was in no way shamming. (That's my hypothesis, at any rate.)

  2. Costly though it was to the British, it only succeeded in getting a quasi-puppet king, Faisal, placed in nominal charge. But the nationalist expression was genuine enough. (The piece linked throws doubt on the supposed secular decline of the tribes' power up till Saddam's time:
    As a counterforce to the nationalistic inclinations of the monarchy and as a means of insuring the king's dependence, the British cultivated the tribal shaykhs, whose power had been waning since the end of the nineteenth century.)
  3. It's 43 weeks to the New Hampshire Primary on January 27 2004!

  4. Sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem in Homer Bigart's line - the only son-of-a-bitch we got according to Lyndon Johnson, returning from his visit to SVN in 1961.

  5. Whose Badr forces Rumsfeld warned off in his press conference on March 28 - of which more later.


The racial element in underestimating the enemy - the Japanese example

Further enlightenment from the book by John Dower I mentioned in my piece yesterday .

Having read the first 150 pages or so, it's a book I can thoroughly recommend: in particular for evidencing the fact that the War in the Pacific was essentially a race war, fought (generally) with no quarter given on either side, and marked reluctance to take prisoners, and a vigorous use of derogatory imagery in both the US and Japan. Talk of the Good War and the Best Generation should be taken, evidently, with more than a pinch of salt [1].

The point, for my purposes, is that it highlights the direly smug and complacent attitudes of the British military tasked with defending Singapore.

Not an area I've ever looked at in any detail; but the Cliff Notes version goes something like this: once upon a time, when Queen Victoria became Empress of India (1877), there were no external threats to the eastern portion of the British Empire. Then, Japan rose as a maritime power, defeating first China (1894-5) and then Russia (1904-5), essentially in sea battles. This was a clear threat to the Empire; but was dealt with by the Anglo-Japanese Alliance (treaties of 1902 and 1905).

Following World War 1, a resurgent US wished to gain security in its back yard - and the 1922 Washington Conference established a regime of naval limitations to contain Japanese naval strength and a Nine Power Treaty designed to regulate the affairs of Uncle Sam's Darling, China [2].

In that system, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance had no place; and the US prevailed on the British to ditch it [3].

The Washington naval regime proved to be a crock; in the absence of its UK alliance [4], the military rose to power in Japan, and everyone on both sides must have known that the Empire east of Calcutta was effectively at the mercy of the Japanese. In the sense that it was always like the US-Canadian border: effectively undefended and undefendable.

Britain had nearly two decades to prepare to kiss its eastern empire goodbye: against a background of economic depression and reluctance to rearm, it only completed works to fortify Singapore in 1938 [5].

Yet, it seems, its mental preparation of its commanders was even more behindhand. Starting on p99 of the Dower are some pretty cringemaking quotes: as from Gen Sir Robert Brooke-Popham (CiC Far East), who apparently observed Jap troops in China from across the border in Hong Kong:
If these represent the average of the Japanese army...I cannot believe they would form an intelligent fighting force.

At the same time, he received a message from the British Chiefs of Staff saying that the Japanese
should not be over-estimated.

There's plenty more in the same vein.

Why this impression should have survived the evidence of nearly five decades of Japanese military activity (on and off) is indeed a puzzle.

It can't be based on any simple notion that the Asiatic soldier was militarily ineffective, given the regular use made of Indian troops, not only on the Subcontinent but (in World War 1) in the war against the Ottoman Turks and on the Western Front. Indeed, the recruiting of sepoys was limited to certain populations - the so called martial races (Sikhs, Gurkhas and so on) - within the Subcontinent, identified as having particular characteristics of temperament which suited them to soldiering.

In fact, the suggestion is that the Japanese had been rated as being the opposite of a martial race, on psycho-sociological grounds. The book quotes an American, Fletcher Pratt (!) from 1939, giving four theories why the Japanese made bad pilots (p102): defects of the inner ear, Bushido teaching that life is worthless, they work only in teams, and they got fewer mechanical toys to play with as kids!

The book goes on to look at how Western popular theories on the Japanese evolved during the course of the war - the oscillations between the Jap soldier as subhuman and superhuman. The one thing that actual evidence of his fighting abilities failed to provide was anything like a fact-based appreciation of those abilities. The more evidence that came in, the wilder the fantasies became.

More to come on this, I suspect.

  1. This review (picked more or less randomly) of Saving Private Ryan hits at the false sentimentality which gets into some modern portrayals of WW2.

  2. Got from this, apparently interesting, listing.

  3. What looks like an interesting piece on the matter from a Japanese perspective here.

  4. Beware post hoc, propter hoc here, of course.

  5. The indispensable guide to British perceptions of their pre-war strategic situation is Political and Strategic Interests of the United Kingdom by members of the RIIA (the senior UK foreign affairs think-tank) and published in March 1939. As an aficionado of the secondhand bookshop, I'd rate the book as very rare. One to pick up whatever the condition.

    It's an extraordinarily hard read - but it has not only some good facts, but also (impossible to reproduce now) the perspective of pre-war untainted by hindsight. (The Singapore reference is on p213.)

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Olive-branch offered in that other war of Uncle Sam's

A certain sector of warbloggerdom will be appalled - that sector for which only Randy Newman has a sufficiently radical foreign policy [1] - but Madison, WI, has offered an olive branch [2] to the cheese-eating surrender monkeys (aka weasels).

Now, I'm struggling to find any historical perspective here: Wisconsin was insurgent and Progressive (under the LaFollette family), but isolationist on account of the German element [3] (went to Dewey in 1944); but I'm not clear how far Madison was then (or is now) representative of the state as a whole in its political beliefs. In any case, I doubt that foreign policy towards France in particular (as contrasted with the European opposition as a whole to Nazi Germany - what there was of it) ever had any resonance in the state's politics.

I'm sure all that's ancient history by now. In fact, I wonder if you could even find a genuine German county in the state, after so much opportunity for population movement and inter-ethnic marriages.

In the absence (I'm supposing) of sharply defined ethnic divides, does Wisconsin give good politics these days? After a run of five decades and more of political stardom, perhaps its citizens are happy with anonymity in its leading pols these days. Feingold and Kohl, the rest of the Congressional delegation - Jim Doyle? Of these, only Feingold even gets as far as ringing a bell. (Perhaps getting in the pork while drawing minimum attention to oneself is what a state should look for in a pol...)

  1. It's willing to suspend the Boom goes London part so long as Saint Tony keeps writing Bush those blank cheques on the Blair Bank of Credibility (what price an It's A Wonderful Life rerun there? And, Tony, do us all a favour and jump!)

  2. Olive leaf (Gen 8:11), actually. I'm only saying...

  3. And the Irish element? As represented from 1947 by Sen Joseph McCarthy, of course.


US assumptions about Iraqi fighting strengths - a racial element?

This is very much in the realm of the hypothetical - but, I think, worth a little attempt at exploration.

One big difference between the US and UK (from, let's say, 1789) was their experience in dealing with non-European enemies.

Whilst in some parts of the Empire (Australia, for instance) resistance to British territorial advances proved on the whole pretty feeble, in many areas the natives gave nothing away. The illusion that men of duskier hue were inferior as fighters to the British Tommy was never one seriously entertained by those directly concerned. Disasters such as the First Afghan War (1839-42) and the Siege of Khartoum (1884) in which General Gordon famously perished were ever-present reminders, even at the height of imperial power, that the native was not to be underestimated [1].

Whereas, pretty much, the first solid military resistance faced by US forces from the less than lily-white was in World War 2. A war which, in the Pacific (quite unlike that waged in Europe), was an out-and-out race war on both sides. Ever since (and perhaps before) Chinese coolies were brought in to work on the Central Pacific Railroad, the Yellow Peril had been a more or less virulent companion in the West of the US to what passed for race relations down South. And Pearl Harbor didn't exactly help [2]. The internments, the propaganda posters - the clear message from USG to its people was these apes were at least a genus apart from Uncle Sam's boys.

And then there was Korea - where the performance of the gooks was variable; and Vietnam (where the gooks on the other side seemed, perhaps, rather better fighters on the average that ours). But, all the while, the innate inferiority of the little brown brother seems to have been more or less accepted subconsciously. And, in the 1991 war, the Iraqis didn't exactly break the mould.

All of this is pretty sketchy - most hypotheses are, I fear. But there at least seems to be a case worth proper investigation that the US is not culturally attuned to accepting evidence that non-white forces have either the technical capability or strength of will to resist US forces.

What might the elements be? Unalloyed feelings of white superiority may have something to do with it. More, perhaps, the idea of an American race superior to its decadent and decrepit European forefathers which I discussed (in the context of Frog-bashing) on January 29. Also, perhaps, an unwillingness to engage intellectually with the non-white world.

By contrast, in the century or so following the initial irruption of the British onto the Indian scene (via Robert Clive), a great deal of effort was put by European scholars into researching the language, literature and history of the Subcontinent. Intermarriage was not uncommon. Racial feeling was nowhere near as virulent as contemporary caste feeling amongst Hindus; or, one suspects, between Hindu and Moslem (at particular times and places, at least). What killed it? The arrival in strength of European women!

Whereas the Know Nothing clowning of the US in and around Indo-China in the immediate post-war era - the activities of Archimedes Patti, General Chennault giving Ho Chi Minh a signed portrait - almost seemed to invite the attention of the fickle finger of fate. And would have got it in 1954 had it not been for Anthony Eden removing Eisenhower's tackle from the Dien Bien Phu blender just before Giap switched it on.

The complication of colour on the US side can't be ignored. The unwillingness to recruit Negro troops for combat duties in the Union armies seems to us mighty strange. Stroking the border states was initially politic, no doubt; and, rightly, Lincoln went deep into the conflict (going the extra thousand miles) before finally giving up hope of some kind of settlement with the Confederacy - and use of Negro troops in the Union army would not exactly have helped negotiations along!

But part of the reason, I suspect [3], was the fear that they would not fight as well as their white comrades-in-arms [4], and would let them down when push came to shove.

Following the great reconciliation of 1877, there was no longer any call to ruffle Southern sensibilities on the Negro question - the more so since a disproportionate number of army facilities seem to have been located in Jim Crow territory. And, despite Truman's big civil rights push in Executive Order 9981 (1948) to desegregate the US armed forces - actually, it looks to me like pie-in-the-sky plus a committee - they were still, it appears, not even completely desegregated by the end of the Korean War in 1953!

Given the extraordinary way current US political life fetishises race - as in the system of affirmative action shortly to come under the scrutiny of SCOTUS in the University of Michigan cases (Grutter and Gratz - this blog passim) - it seems bizarre that attitudes of racial superiority should still infect US military thinking. The more so given the fact that the US military - so far as I'm aware - is itself disproportionately composed these days of the less than lily-white.

But that's what I'm hypothesising. The entire US military may recently have been under the command of a man with brown skin (who's now doing such a great job on the diplomatic front. Not); but, beneath several yards thickness of equal-opportunity boilerplate, its attitudes, I'm positing, continue to reek of magnolia.

  1. The defeat at Isandhlwana in 1879 by the Zulus (barely redeemed by the successful Alamo of Rorke's Drift) was followed, in a curiously multiracial one-two, by a hideous campaign in the Anglo-Boer War of 1880-81.

  2. I've a book, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War by John Dower (1986), which deals with the issue. (One of the many I've skimmed without reading - but it looks promising.)

  3. This is a site which looks interesting on the employment of Negro troops by Union and Confederacy.

  4. Mentioned here.


Iraq: US takes care of business - as it were....

The business of America is business - as one great Republican once said; and, before any key military objectives have been achieved (so far as this, most unmilitary, mind can see) the contracts have started to be let.

Now, bearing in mind that 10% of bugger-all is not exactly worth wetting one's pants for, the action to date has, so far as I can tell, been symbolic. Stevedoring Services of America (a name so Man from UNCLE-phoney that it might actually be genuine) has been granted a contract to run Umm Qasr port.

Several points arise. First, the area was liberated by UK forces; the contract was let by USAID - under what authority? What agreement has HMG made with USG covering commercial operations in its area of control? Surely - and here I fear the answer is yes - it hasn't just opened its legs, lain back and - well, thought of England?

Second, the choice of SSA is rather like getting Bull Connor to organise policing for the Million Man March; company policy, it seems, would be to have them by the balls and not give a flying one about their hearts and minds. As, for instance, in Chittagong Harbour.

Third, the UK was rather keen on the management of Umm Qasr being given back to the Iraqis - since this seems to be the only area of Iraq comprehensively under US+ control, and given Blair's sensitivities about being seen to be the Angel of Peace, and not another Robert Clive (as if!). Bush doesn't care - whether it's screwing British companies or screwing with Blair's relations with the hand of history, he's not interested. He has the measure of Blair: hessian. (The doormat fabric, rather than the military sort, of course....)

On the one hand, I want to know, who are SSA? What contributions have they made (in the myriad of different ways available) to further the interests (direct and indirect) of the Republican Party in general, and George W Bush in particular?

On the other hand, I say - what's the point? How much rake-off for George and boys from a contract with a gross value of less than $5m?

The point, I think, is to establish a pattern of conduct. SSA's expression of gratitude (whatever form that takes) may only be a few grand. For all I know, SSA may even be taking the Umm Qasr deal as a loss-leader, as an actual contribution in itself to grub itself some USG work back in the US. (We need, in trying to attack USG machinations, to be as flexible in our thinking as they seem not to be when it comes to military matters.)

The USAID program (I can't find it on their site) apparently mentions a figure of around $1bn for the reconstruction of Iraq. More scope for rake-offs - but scarcely Eldorado.

Of course, to ensure maximum rake-off potential, only US firms are invited to tender. Which makes Tony Blair come off all kinds of sucker. But then, from the UNSC farce, I think we all knew George (or one of his brighter boys) saw Blair coming a mile off. Good to see Phineas T Barnum still the touchstone of America.

The real bunce will come with oil. Oil is fungible, the costs of production (unlike poor old SSA, with those ghastly natives to manage!) will, I suspect, be minimal, and Iraq has got the world's second largest reserves. Come to Poppa! And, when it comes to oil, the rake-off playbook is, I'm sure, a well-thumbed tome on George's bookshelf.

And what with Brown and Root (Lyndon Johnson's great backer) getting stuck into Iraq - it's quite like old Texan times (alarming news, though, for Cheney's Halliburton, B&R's owners - according to Reuters they're out of the running for a big chunk of Iraq reconstruction money. How did that happen? Is it a case of reculer, pour mieux sauter? Or, in this case, forgoing a good contract to set up the PR climate for receiving a better one?)

Obviously, much more on this to come.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt: a Ripley's connection

As loyal readers will be aware, I have a certain yen for the more obscure detail of American political history. And, whilst my associated war blog is temporarily off the air, thoughts naturally turn to frivolous political coincidence.

The connection I have in mind? Both Wilson and FDR, as insurgents, thwarted the ambitions of a machine politician for a seat in the US Senate (in the years shortly before the 17th Amendment came into force).

In Wilson's case, it was ex-Senator James Smith Jr [1]; Smith, boss (in a way I'm not clear about) of New Jersey under a grave misapprehension as to Wilson's regularity, got him the Democratic candidacy for 1910 race for Governor - and then had to listen to Wilson's acceptance speech which soon disabused him of the candidate's true inclinations.

Apparently, Wilson had only agreed to let his name go forward on the strength of a pledge from Smith that he would not run that year for US Senator. No doubt feeling he had been duped, and that bad faith on Wilson's part dissolved any obligations he might have had, Smith decided to stand against the nonentity the Convention had nominated.

In that great year of insurgency, Wilson mounted his high horse, and denounced Smith's welshing. When the (Dem-controlled) legislature voted on the Senate seat, Smith was defeated [2].

Wilson went on to higher things, while Smith - who never again got to run for the US Senate [3], continued as boss of New Jersey. This piece provides a (tenuous) link between the Smith era and that of Frank Hague [4]; the man who ran the state in between was apparently James R Nugent [5] of Essex County. (Hague had already made his mark in politics during Wilson's second term in the White House.)

FDR's target was William F Sheehan ('Blue-Eyed Billy' Sheehan to his friends), who was Tammany's choice; FDR had also been elected (to the New York Senate for his home 26th District) in 1910, and the election for US Senator was early on the agenda of the new legislature [6]. Squire Roosevelt got stuck in and Sheehan lost out; the bad news was that the guy who won was no lesser Tammany stalwart than James Aloysius O'Gorman [6]. FDR got the politics bug, was eventually persuaded of the necessity for regularity to stay in the biz, and the rest is history. (O'Gorman lasted a single term in the Senate - and was defeated by a Republican, to boot!)

My information on both cases comes initially from books in the Teach Yourself History series, published in the couple of decades after the end of World War 2 by English Universities Press. The idea (which still seems an excellent one to me) is to take a historical figure, and explain his era through his biography [7]. The Wilson I rate higher than the Roosevelt - mainly as it strikes me as rather better written. But some others I remember as pretty good - the volume on Georges Clemenceau opens up 60 odd years of pretty racy French history (I'm thinking of the politics there, of course...) Whether they travelled across the pond, I doubt. But well worth looking out for in secondhand bookshops.

  1. Congressional and Political Graveyard bios.

  2. There seems nothing much online about this: snippets in longer pieces like this.

  3. Bosses tended not to hold high office, is my impression. Sen David Walsh of Massachusetts is an exception, I believe.

  4. Of I Am the Law fame.

  5. No record in the Graveyard of his holding office.

  6. Sharing that middle name, of course, with Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock (qv).

  7. Woodrow Wilson and American Liberalism by EM Hugh-Jones (p105ff) and Roosevelt and Modern America by John A Woods (p 15ff).


Existential threat and legal latitude - the nuclear case

In my piece from March 22 on NSA Rice's notions of US strategy, I mentioned her critical claim in the article I commented on that
...after 9/11, there is no longer any doubt that today America faces an existential threat to our security....

These words were not, I believe, selected at random: they were intended to support a claim that US action should be free of shackles otherwise imposed by international law.

An illustration of the importance of the concept is given in the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in the Nuclear Weapons Case [1].

The question asked of the ICJ was
Is the threat or use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance permitted under international law?

Having gone through a number of potential stymies for the use of such weapons, the final question (discussion starts at para 74) was whether humanitarian law - the Geneva Conventions and similar rules - made their use unlawful in all circumstances.

The opinion identifies (para 78) two cardinal principles in these texts: States
must never make civilians the object of attack and must consequently never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets;
and must not
cause unnecessary suffering to combatants: it is accordingly prohibited to use weapons causing them such harm or uselessly aggravating their suffering.

The Court concludes (para 86) that these rules apply to nuclear weapons.

But on the question posed by the UNGA, it follows Mr Dooley's expression of Theodore Roosevelt's views on Trusts [2]. It states (not, one feels without a degree of sympathy) the views of states wanting a No answer to the question that (para 92)
In the event of their use, nuclear weapons would in all circumstances be unable to draw any distinction between the civilian population and combatants, or between civilian objects and military objectives, and their effects, largely uncontrollable, could not be restricted, either in time or in space, to lawful military targets.

And the court's sympathies also come out in the truly regretful expression of no can do here (para 95):
In view of the unique characteristics of nuclear weapons, to which the Court has referred above, the use of such weapons in fact seems scarcely reconcilable with respect for such requirements. Nevertheless, the Court considers that it does not have sufficient elements to enable it to conclude with certainty that the use of nuclear weapons would necessarily be at variance with the principles and rules of law applicable in armed conflict in any circumstance.

The reason (para 96 - emphasis mine)?
the Court cannot lose sight of the fundamental right of every State to survival, and thus its right to resort to self-defence, in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter, when its survival is at stake.

And the nail in the coffin (para 97 - ditto):
Accordingly, in view of the present state of international law viewed as a whole, as examined above by the Court, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court is led to observe that it cannot reach a definitive conclusion as to the legality or illegality of the use of nuclear weapons by a State in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which its very survival would be at stake.

This is, I believe, what is known in the trade as a non liquet. Or, in the London argot, delivered with palms upwards and head cocked quizzically, Search me, guv.

(Not, I suspect, a stunt that SCOTUS or the House of Lords would pull (or they'd be a lot subtler about it!). But, then, they don't have even-numbered panels with (as on this issue) the chairman having a casting vote, either.)

The critical thing was that, however clearly the texts of the humanitarian law treaties might be, the ICJ could not bring itself to say that a nation which was suffering (in Condi's phrase) an existential threat should be deprived of any means at its disposal, however inhumane, to deter the threat or defeat it if put into effect.

All other uses of nuclear weapons are clearly illegal (from the ICJ judgement) - the wrappings can only be taken off its nukes by a country whose survival is at stake.

We have there, it seems to me, the start of a sort of safe haven rule: not that all uses of nuclear weapons within the safe haven would be legal - but that all uses outside would be illegal. And if the safe haven works for nuclear, who knows what else it might work for?

The Bush crew would clearly like to find out. Just in case the Wyatt Earp approach to international law (as in his March 6 press conference
when it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission)
doesn't work out.

  1. The opinion requested by the UN General Assembly. A request from the WHO covering similar territory was ruled inadmissible by the ICJ.

  2. Briefly
    'Th' thrusts,' says he to himsilf, ' are heejous monsthers built up be th' inlightened intherprise iv th' men that have done so much to advance pro-gress in our beloved counthry,' he says. 'On wan hand I wud stamp thim undher fut; on th' other hand not so fast.'


Blair sleaze plumbs new depths

For Blair, as for any totalitarian, his ends are so transcendently clear, clean and good as to justify any means necessary to their fulfillment.

Yesterday, at his joint press conference with Bush, knowing this appearance would secure the largest worldwide audience of any since the start of the war, he said
Day by day, we have seen the reality of Saddam's regime -- his thugs prepared to kill their own people; the parading of prisoners of war; and now, the release of those pictures of executed British soldiers. If anyone needed any further evidence of the depravity of Saddam's regime, this atrocity provides it. It is yet one more flagrant breach of all the proper conventions of war. More than that, to the families of the soldiers involved, it is an act of cruelty beyond comprehension. Indeed, it is beyond the comprehension of anyone with an ounce of humanity in their souls.

On behalf of the British government, I would like to offer my condolences particularly to the family and the friends of those two brave young men who died in the service of their country, and to the ordinary Iraqi people, to whom we are determined to bring a better future.

I've only seen a brief clip on TV - but, in what I saw, sanctimony oozed from every word like the liquor from a dung pile.

And the truth? Blair has, it seems, been doing what he does best - or, at least, most frequently: lying. Because the families of the men, Sapper Luke Allsopp and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, who Blair says were executed, were told by the Army that they died in an ambush of the Land Rover they were travelling in. Allsop's sister said
The Colonel from his barracks came around to our house to tell us he was not executed. Luke's Land Rover was ambushed and he died instantly. The Colonel told us he was doing what he could to set the record straight.

The cynic in me tries to come up with some reason why the families would be lying. And fails miserably.

Having made such an allegation, the least one would expect would be for Blair's gofers to back it up. But his Official Spokesman is quoted (March 28 untimed) that
there was no "absolute evidence" that two British soldiers who were killed after being separated from their unit in southern Iraq were executed.

Very unusual. When a true story is circulating against the government, the usual response to the hacks from Tony's toadies is a non-denial denial. Such expressions as Bollocks! delivered in suitably dismissive tones serve as a reply.

In comparison, the no absolute evidence reply is as good as a confession.

How hard, one wonders, did Blair try to verify the story, before he spoke to the world? How hard did he push the MoD to say that the soldiers had been executed, and thus give him cover for his claim? What communications were there between the levels of command in the Gulf and the MoD in London.

My feeling is that this another Tonkin Gulf Incident, only worse: in the sense that Lyndon Johnson only had a few hours to decide the second incident had occurred (and not to look very hard to check); whereas, it seems, the soldiers in question were killed on Sunday [1].

Is there any long-term mileage in the story, in the sense of helping to get rid of Blair? Not on its own, I think. But, clearly, he now thinks he can walk on water. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to find a way of getting him to try.

  1. I can't find online confirmation of the first time that Al Jazeera broadcast their pictures - surely, though, the Army had identified them and the way they died well before the first broadcast. We need a timeline here. This from Reuters (March 28 0826 EST) merely talks about
    earlier this week.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Has this got old?

My war stuff, that is. Because, having gone with the general spike in traffic for anything war-related as the shooting started, my numbers have just completely collapsed. About which I do not complain: the customer is king.

But here's the thing - the one group of customers whose traffic I have no idea about are those who take the RSS feed. I'm told that there is no counter that can count the number of times that feed is used. And these, almost by definition, are my regular customers. The kind, in any ordinary business, one would be most keen to pay attention to.

I may have a thousand taking the RSS every day; it may be zero.

But, for the countable rest, as I say, the numbers are 90% off in the space of 24 hours.

And, as it would be with any regular business, that's the sort of stat that gets my attention! I'd love to know why. I've concentrated on the war because there's been stuff I've been interested in writing; and, frankly it's been hunting where the ducks are. Perhaps they flew off when my attention was engaged elsewhere.

Is this whinging? I prefer to think of it as market research....


What legal regime for post-Saddam Iraq?

No doubt the esteemed US Defense Secretary would say Legal, shmlegal: we're in charge; they obey or they get it. And perhaps that's how it'll be. If USG has a good, quick war - and it's still far from too late for that - they can politically get away with depositing the entire system of international legal regulation of war and peace into the dumpster, and make their own rules for the future governance of those parts of the world they might happen to covet from time to time.

But I'm all about looking on the bright side, as loyal readers will know. Not. In any case, it bugs the hell out of the completist in me not to know the laws that Bush is ignoring. So...

To take it from the top, before the first incursion of US+ forces, the law in force throughout the territory of Iraq was that of the state of Iraq. (In theory; Saddam's writ didn't run in Kurdistan, thanks to the northern NFZ; the fact that (apparently) it did/does in the southern NFZ is presumably testament to the extent of the pasting he gave the Shi'ites who rebelled in 1991.)

Since the arrival of US+ forces, they have passed through a lot of territory (eg, on the way to Baghdad); and some territory (quite how much, I'm not clear) they will have been occupied (Umm Kasr, for instance). Occupied in the sense that Iraqi forces have been driven out of the area, and the forces which drove them out are responsible for its administration.

Under what law is that territory held? There are, of course, the provisions of the Geneva Convention, Geneva IV, on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. But, so far as I can see, this operates merely as a regime of control (like the US Constitution controls what laws can be passed or government actions taken). It's not a substitute for a whole legal system.

Think of the ordinary incidence of government on everyday life. Criminal law, say - will the regular Iraqi courts continue operation? And what law will they enforce? As to taxation, this says there isn't any to speak of. But it wouldn't be unreasonable, as the economy gets going again (in particular, as the oil starts flowing more freely) that taxes should be raised to cover the cost of services (such as education and health) which will continue under the occupation regime.

The last occupation I can think of of any size involving Western troops is that of Kosovo; there UNSCR 1244 provided that there should be an international security presence and an international civil presence - the latter tasked (OP11) with specified tasks. So far as I can see, it does not establish in the ICP any legislative power, or indicate any regime the ICP might apply apart from the law in Kosovo as it existed prior to occupation.

That presumably meant that the laws of Yugoslavia and of Serbia (of which Kosovo was previously a part) still applied. Except, perhaps, for a dispensing power [1] exercised by the ICP in aid of fulfilling its specified tasks.

What about earlier occupations? The AMGOTs that ran Belgium and the Netherlands after World War 2, for instance. Can I find the documents establishing these fine institutions? Can I buggery! Presumably there is a US/UK/USSR agreement somewhere covering it, but it's nowhere to be found online [2].

My feeling is that these matters, if they've been considered at all, have been consigned definitively to the backburner. (The question of who should govern being of all-consuming interest.) There is, of course, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance within the DOD (the Office for some reason does not seem to have its own page on the DOD site or elsewhere). Under Secretary Douglas Feith (speaking on February 11), said of the ORHA
we describe it as an "expeditionary" office.
He went on to say that it was
charged with establishing links with the United Nations specialized agencies and with non-governmental organizations that will play a role in post-war Iraq.

The UN, one suspects, has subsequently been scratched from the invitation list.

For the moment
The immediate responsibility for administering post-war Iraq will fall upon the Commander of the U.S. Central Command, as the commander of the U.S. and coalition forces in the field.

So it'll be martial law that'll be imposed?

All this is, of course, confused by the role of the infamous Iraqi opposition. This piece from yesterday has the DOD
planning to give a major role in a future Iraqi government to controversial exile opposition figure Ahmed Chalabi and members of his Iraqi National Congress.

The piece says that this
has sparked a new round of bitter feuding within the U.S. government over the shape of any post-Saddam authority in Baghdad

Déjà vu all over again. Also in the mix is
retired Iraqi Gen. Nizar al Khazraji, believed to be the highest ranking military figure to defect under Saddam....[The General] who had been charged in Denmark with war crimes relating to Iraq's use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in the 1980s, disappeared last week
and, according to USG sources, was working with US forces in the Gulf.

Glad to see all that pussyfooting about the USG agencies working with doubtful types has gone by the board...

Meanwhile the International Crisis Group has issued a report (PDF 1MB) standing Canute-like [3] against the waves of USG anti-UNism (rather like poor old Tony at Camp David right now).

The question remains: if, once the glorious victory has reached throughout Iraq, a guy is caught stealing from a shop in Baghdad, by whom will he be arrested? Under what law will he be charged? In what tribunal will he be tried? The genius of the English common law (to which the US is some kind of heir) is the heavy bias of inductive reasoning - we use the concrete case to test the validity of the legal principle. And, so far, I can't see that any proposed scheme of administration for post-Saddam Iraq has been thought through enough to survive a test like that.

  1. Something like that exercised by Charles I of England.

  2. This on medical conditions during WW2 touches on AMGOTs - it seems that they were organised from within the armed forces commands (rather than at the Three Power level). But it's all pretty sketchy and unreliable, I'd say.

  3. Yeah, I know Canute was making a point...

UPDATE (March 27 1640 GMT)
The Open Sesame in this neck of the international legal woods is apparently belligerent occupation. The main provisions are in the Annex (the Hague Regulations) to the 1907 Hague Convention known as Hague IV (in Articles 42-56); in Articles 47-78 of Geneva IV (as supplemented by Protocol 1).

One also has the USA's Law of Land Warfare - the Contents page and Chapter on Occupations seem now only to be available cached. (This is the 1976 replacement of the 1940 version I mentioned yesterday. Whether the 1976 version has in turn been replaced is something I'm not clear on.)

Once I've digested that lot, hopefully I shall be able to make more sense of the post-Saddam problem.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

War humour corner

Nothing the least amusing about events in the Gulf; but a little light relief may be welcome.

This Powerpoint version of the Gettysburg Address has been knocking around for some time, I suspect - but is still good value.

And this piece in which Donald Rumsfeld is surprisingly frank on sexual matters also struck me as amusing.


Iraqi tribesman: Unlawful combatant or Geneva Convention POW?

A correspondent raised this issue with me a couple of days ago; and the piece yesterday on Iraqi tribes stirred the subconscious to thought. (This is pretty much all hypothesis. But one has to start somewhere.)

The suggestion is that the tribes have organised large numbers (perhaps not as large as claimed, though) of armed men (presumably just small arms, but even so); are led in such a way as to be capable of operation without direction from Baghdad; and would be able to mount guerilla operations against the US+ forces both before and after the assumed victory over Saddam.

If some of these men were captured during such operations by men of a USA unit, what, I wonder, would be their status
  1. under the Geneva Conventions and international law generally; and

  2. under US military law?

From an initial scan of the Conventions [1], the provisions dealing with guerillas and other non-conventional fighters are in Article 43-47 of Protocol 1. The upshot seems to be irregular forces (something like Tito's Partisans in World War 2, I'm reckoning) get treated, if caught, as POWs under Geneva III (Art 44 - combatants is the term used) [2]; and even a member of a rabble or DIY guerilla unit, who does not fall into the Art 44 definition of combatant, is (by Art 45) to be presumed to qualify as a POW until his status is
determined by a competent tribunal..

I suspect some tribal fighters would, and some would not, fall within the definition of combatant, depending on the particular circumstances of each case.

Approaching the matter from the perspective of US law, one starts with the 1942 case of Ex parte Quirin - where SCOTUS decided that had a bunch of hapless German would-be saboteurs had no reason to complain of being tried by a military tribunal.

The gang were tried for offences against Arts 81 and 82 of the Articles of War (a document whose legal status I'm unclear [3]). The Articles gave jurisdiction to the tribunal, and I'm not, from a first read (in a while), quite clear on what precise grounds they were expecting habeas to issue. But the court does make the notorious distinction between lawful and unlawful combatants (at p31); traces the source in General Order 100 April 24 1863 to the 1940 Rules of Law Warfare [4]; and mentions that
definition of lawful belligerents by Paragraph 9 is that adopted by Article 1, Annex to Hague Convention No. IV of October 18, 1907, to which the United States was a signatory and which was ratified by the Senate in 1909. 36 Stat. 2279, 2295.

A translation of the 1907 Convention is here. The definition of lawful belligerents has been carried forward into Art 4 of Geneva III.

So, there, it seems, is the (missing?) link between the universes of US and of international law.

But, which law will apply to the hypothetical Iraqi tribesmen? Presumably, their treatment by US forces will be subject to US military law - whatever that is (eg, is there any longer a Rules of Land Warfare?). But also, obviously, subject to international law (including the Geneva Conventions).

In due course, an AMGOT is to be set up; presumably, its status derives from international law, rather than US law. But how? Is there an interregnum or hiatus between systems of law over a given part of Iraq, depending on whether that part is under full US+ control at the time? What about areas controlled by UK forces? Are those areas subject to UK military law?

Where conflicts arises between international and domestic law (and how might that happen?), what body would settle the matter?

I'm pretty much totally in the dark about this stuff, as you will gather. All the easier to make an impression with the slightest amount of daylight. In theory...

  1. Geneva III and Protocol 1 are the relevant ones, I think.

  2. Art 44(3) says that combatants are obliged to wearing distinguishing emblems during battle. Art 44(4) says that, if caught while not so doing, he forfeits POW status - but is still entitled to be treated as if he were a POW! However, it leaves open the possibility of trying him for his actions.

  3. Quirin places the Articles at 10 USC 1471-1593 - they're not there any longer!

  4. How this was coordinated with the Articles of War is on the list of things to look at.


Turkey: Bush's $1bn handout explained....

Well, just a little.

The new information I have is really limited to Richard Boucher's State Department of yesterday which is now up.

He confirms that the aid (called ESF money in the briefing) is subject to continuing compliance with economic reform requirements (as those of the IMF). But is not tied to any deal on Turkish deployments into Northern Iraq.

One question on which I'm still hazy (personal ignorance playing a large part!) is the question of leveraging the aid into loans. In my piece last night I queried how this should work for a sovereign borrower.

Apparently, from cursory searching, I find the concept of collateral is certainly a part of the sovereign lending business[1]. But that seems to be a case where dollar assets or streams of export receipts are pledged to the lenders, who pony up a percentage by way of loan (like a standard house loan). The loan is smaller than the value of the asset pledged.

Whereas here, USG is saying that pledging $1bn in cash to a lender will get a loan eight times as much as the value of the asset pledged!

Getting Turkish economic stats is like drawing teeth. This summary of 2002 stats shows, as far as balance of payments is concerned, a trade deficit [2] of $8bn, offset by tourism income and remittances. Not a complete disaster, to my untutored eye.

But the USG scheme is based on lending not based on the strength of the Turkish economy (whatever that is) - but simply on the collateral of the $1bn. And not seeing how its done bugs the hell out of me!

However... Boucher's view is this
...the general rule of thumb is that you can do eight to 10 billion in loans for a billion dollars with friends........if -- yeah, actually, the estimate here is -- the legislative language that we have provided would authorize up to $8.5 billion in loan guarantees through this fund.

He reveals that he's not sure whether USG informed Turkey of its impending good fortune in advance of the announcement - clearly, the kid-glove diplomacy continues, as discussed yesterday.

And he's similarly unbothered on Congressional approval:
QUESTION: And have you also told them that, of the problems that you anticipate facing up on the Hill because of their reluctance to participate fully?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that they as well as we do understand the needs of Congress to understand the needs of Turkey and we will help them in that regard.

QUESTION: Well, I guess what I'm getting at is, have you warned the Turks that they shouldn't expect to get all of this money, that it is in fact a request and it's not -

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're all quite clear on what this is. This is a request for money from the Congress and we will work, all of us, to support the President's request. We think it's been carefully studied, that it's necessary and I'm sure we'll all go up to the Hill to try to support the President on this one.

QUESTION: That means when you go up to the Hill, you are going to be definitely asking them, the lawmakers, to give Turkey this --

MR. BOUCHER: We're going to ask them to fund the President's supplemental funding request, yes.

The Turks could truly sing loud What a friend we have in Boucher - I can see the elastic on that billion from 3.000 miles away.

Clearly, the hour of the Armenian Caucus has come - Boucher seemed practically to give them a gold-edged invitation to kick the Turk's billion into the Potomac.

  1. The online material I've found so far is technical and specific - nothing useful for reference, merely the odd suggestion.

  2. On what in the UK (when the number mattered) was called visible trade.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Turkey: war funding request includes $1bn consolation prize

The Armenian caucus won't like this!

Last word was that the aid package on offer as quid pro quo for US ground deployments had been snatched back, never to reappear. US policy was all about Plan B.

And Congress, with the House in the role of Little Sir Echo, had already stricken a Turkish aid provision from HR 1047, so as to facilitate Powell's negotiations on the deployment agreement. Supposedly.

Now, we find the President's additional funding request for the war includes $1bn by way of cash grant to the Turks, according to this AP piece reporting Richard Boucher. The accompanying USG document is at pains, this Reuters piece says, to quantify the amount of loan that this cash could generate as
not to exceed $8.5bn
- exactly how the Turks are supposed to leverage the loan (a sovereign lender is not like an ordinary Joe, providing collateral to a bank), why this rather specific amount (which smacks of spurious accuracy), and why the loan isn't to exceed $8.5bn even if the Turks could screw a better deal - all that, I'd like more particulars on.

No doubt, the hacks are working on it as I type. More tomorrow.


The very unlinked web

Another topic I might well have majored on absent the war - this short burst triggered by looking at the Frist story.

I find my cheese grated yet again by news sources online failing to link to the subjects of their stories, despite the pages being available at the time. (In this case, the Senate roll call votes.) Since the journo obviously has to get the vote details up to do the story, why not include a link in his piece?

In fact, though AP sometimes supplies links to sources at the bottom on the page, other sources almost uniformly don't. The most you get is a random selection of vaguely relevant links to the home pages of organisations having something to do with the topic of the piece.

But a link to the government report, or press briefing transcript, or court opinion that the article is actually discussing? No chance!. Apparently, there's some sort of unwritten rule that the online stuff of newspapers should be as un-interactive as the dead-tree equivalent....


What's up with Senator Doctor Frist?

Not a rhetorical question!

I've only been keeping a good deal less than half an eye on Trent Lott's successor, thanks to the war. But it seems to me that the record isn't good.

Not only do have we the continuing filibuster lite [1] on Miguel Estrada; but now the astonishing turnaround on the Budget cuts. Astonishing to my untutored eye, at least: no fewer than 14 senators who supported the Administration on rejecting a reduction in the Bush tax cuts on March 21 supported a reduction today [2]!

Now, I recall that the voting last week of some senators (Chafee for instance) was deemed eccentric (also here). But to lose 14 in less than a week strikes me as a tad above careless.

No doubt I'll wise up eventually...

  1. No time to research this yet - but, isn't this like being slightly pregnant? I've skimmed Rule 22 and can't see how this filibuster with toilet breaks works. Why would anyone have wanted to make it easier to have a filibuster, surely the Senate's badge of shame through the decades?)

  2. Roll Call Votes 76 and 93, for those wishing to do the analysis.


Turkish troops in Northern Iraq - didn't they settle that already?

No apologies for returning to one of the most difficult problems for USG. And, no, they didn't.

The latest from the wires (not that I do breaking news...) seems to be more denials from the Turks that the troops are over the border; and more reassurance on their being limited to a narrow strip along the border; and assigned to humanitarian duties only.

This AP piece (March 25 1046 EST) has an interview with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, saying that
Turkey was looking to create a 12-mile zone on the border.
and that Turkish troops
will only move if a crisis develops.

Zalmay Khalilzad was in Ankara talking to the Turkish government today on the deployments. His words of diplomatic wisdom:
These are difficult and complicated issues.
The talks seem to have gone nowhere.

Meanwhile, UPI has a piece (March 25 1155 EST) out of EU HQ in Brussels on Turkish deployments, saying that the Turks had told European Commission President Romano Prodi
Whatever the size or nature of their possible military presence on the Iraq side of the border, they are only for humanitarian purposes to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe..

In Ankara they're talking 12 miles, in Brussels, it's Whatever the size or nature! And there are the other stated aims of the deployments: stymieing possible Kurdish UDI and protecting the Turcomans. For which the 12 mile zone is as much use as a ham sandwich at a barmitzvah. A point underlined by the last par of the AP piece, which sticks out like a sore thumb:
In addition to a flow of refugees, Turkey also fears that the fall of Saddam Hussein could lead to the creation of an independent Kurdish state in Iraq. That could boost the aspirations of Turkey's Kurdish rebels, who fought a 15-year war for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Meanwhile RFE are reporting (March 25 untimed) that, yesterday, friend of the blog
General Hilmi Ozkok, the Turkish Army's chief of staff, began a two-day inspection tour of units garrisoned in the country's southeast.
Not a social call, one surmises.

The piece also mentions that the Turkish deployment motion approved by the Parliament on March 20
said, in part, that it was necessary for Ankara to send troops into the region in order to stem a potentially massive inflow of Kurdish refugees and any fallout from Iraq's disintegration during or after the U.S.-led conflict.

(Again, the second of the purposes incompatible with a mere buffer-zone.)

And that both Powell and Blair have been sounding off against the deployments.

In yesterday's State Department briefing, Richard Boucher was pressed on the issue.

In particular, he says that NATO chief Lord Robertson
had received from Mr. Gul assurances to NATO that the media reports have been incorrect and that no forces have entered Iraq.
The next question is
You have assurances they haven't actually entered Iraq, but do you yet have an assurance that they will not enter Iraq?

But, in the circumstances, I would be curious whether Gul was implying that the Turkish troops had no need to enter, since they were already there! (And had moved - according to this VOA report (March 21 2328 EST) - as late as last Friday.)

Boucher also mentions a point - that I confess I missed in my March 23 piece - from Erdogan's WaPo interview, where he says USG approved a Turkish deployment plan during the abortive discussions on overflight rights. Why Erdogan should have thought so, he leaves in the air. It puzzles me a bit.

He sums up USG's position on the deployments thus:
First of all, the Turkish Government itself is saying Turkish forces have not entered into Northern Iraq. No Turkish incursion. They have said that. They have told NATO that. That is what we understand.

Second of all, we have talked -- the Turks are quite clear on our view that no uncoordinated military action should occur by any party in Northern Iraq.

Third of all, we are in discussions with them to try to make sure that -- excuse me -- to try to make sure that the situation in Northern Iraq is handled in such a way that the need doesn't arise for Turkish forces to be there for either in a coordinated or an uncoordinated fashion, so that under any conditions they wouldn't feel the need to go there.

And, when it was put to him that
the U.S. can't prevent Turkey from coming in
he replied
That is what I would call a hypothetical or theoretical question at this point....I don't think the kind of situation you are forecasting is arising, certainly not at this point.

It was indeed a rather silly question.

Conclusions? The Turkish-US deadlock sounds genuine enough; I can't imagine that there haven't at all times been substantial numbers of Turkish forces inside Northern Iraq (though many fewer that the 30,000 mentioned in my piece of March 23); the buffer-zone notion is so unsuited to Turkish aims as to imply a lack of good faith in proposing it.

One day, all will be clear. In this millennium would be nice, though....


Where's the killer image?

One thing's that's puzzling me: with a vast array of artistic types of all nations ranged squarely against - some of whom were at the Oscars, of course - why has no one managed to produce the image to nail the war?

Of course, there have been passionate written pieces, speeches, rallies - but the iconic image skewering this for a war of aggression I find lacking.

Now, I'm sure an icon shouldn't be important - we're pretty well all literate, and sane (most of us!); surely the most effective way to sway opinion should be the sustained application of reason?

But no. Icons matter. The famous LBJ campaign ad with the mushroom cloud and the little girl with the flower - that's what we want. Photojournalism might help (though the embeds are no doubt self-censoring what the military are not): an iconic photo may come along - but it took seven years from the decision to go all out in Vietnam until the napalmed body of Kim Phuc hit the TV screens.

I have difficulty drawing convincing stick-men, so I'm not exactly the guy to advise on detail. But the evidence - from World War 2, say, of the iconography built up around Winston Churchill (cigar, bulldog, siren-suit, bowler-hat) - seems to be that, in some inexplicable (to me) way, it works. It establishes a mindset (of resistance or opposition); it makes people receptive to arguments they might not otherwise take in; it invokes that great political asset, prejudice, for or against (as directed) the object represented.

The great example in (relatively) recent UK domestic political history is Michael Foot, Labour Party leader in the early 1980s; in November 1981, Foot, already struggling under the burdens of facing a combative and motivated Thatcher, leading a thoroughly divided party and having the personal electoral appeal (and something of the appearance) of Grandma Clampett, decided to turn up at the Armistice Ceremony at the Cenotaph in some sort of car-coat (rather than a respectable Republican cloth coat, as worn by everyone else).

The newspapers (virulently hostile to Foot and Labour, most of them, at the time) called the coat a donkey-jacket (a coat worn by labourers on the job) - with the implication of disrespect to the honoured dead. His image, already poor, never recovered.

Somewhere, the donkey-jacket that fits George Bush is out there. I respectfully suggest it's past time we started looking.


Iraqi tribes - a pretty damned wild card...

Evidently, I don't get out much. Because the notion that the tribes of Iraq played now, or might in play in the future, some important politico-military role had somehow passed me by.

While I catch up - there's this piece, datelined yesterday, from the FT. The Cliff Notes version seems to be that, from even before the end of Ottoman rule, the political power of the tribes was in decline [1]: a trend which survived British rule, the monarchy, the coup, down to the takeover of the Ba'athists [2]. Saddam chose to promote the tribes politically (his own in particular, of course!) as a medium to control and govern the country.

Newsweek had a piece (March 17 issue) focussing on Sheik Kadhim Al-Menshab Al-Habib, head of one of Iraq's biggest tribes (strangely unnamed), who, it says, helped put down the revolt of the marsh Arabs near ancient Ur in southern Iraq; and now
controls 267,000 armed fighters
(Note the lack of qualification to this number that reeks of spurious accuracy - not to mention wishful thinking!)

The guy can clearly talk a good game. But, functionally, the problem for USG is this (another tribal leader's aide talking):
We follow the central government. But of course if communications are cut between us and the center, all authority will revert to our sheik.

One is rather more disposed to believe that, perhaps, than telephone number head-counts. And one would need nothing like 267,000 men to put a severe crimp in USG's post-Saddam strategy for managing Iraq; leaving aside what the tribals might do during the war proper.

Clearly, more investigation required [3]. At least, now I know there's something to investigate!

  1. This piece, apparently reprinted from the NY Times of January 7 2003, says the complete opposite. Caveat lector: I go with the FT for now, I think: the writer is an academic, rather than a hack.

    The tribal leader the Times spoke to -

    Sheik Talal Salim al-Khalidi, the portly chieftain of the Bani Khalid tribe -
    says he has 100,000 men under arms.

  2. Timeline here.

  3. I've done a pretty cursory search: this is short but might be useful. I'd surmise, on the basis of past experience, that there's a fair amount online. We'll see.


US gives Turkey tough love - Cartman style...

A fondly-remembered (by me) episode of South Park has that noted diplomat Eric Cartman [1] let loose in the Costa Rican rain forest - where, in one of his more fruitful interactions, he repeatedly clubs a harmless sloth dangling from a tree branch. He tells the sloth it's tough love. Uncle Sam's technique much the same in Turkey, by the look of it...

Not that USG can dole out the punishment on its own: the heavy artillery is supplied by investors in the various financial markets, who, in a sort of communal mutual ramp, bid up the markets on barely founded hopes of the US quid pro quo aid package (the $6bn or $15bn or whatever it was at the time), and let them collapse in a heap once Powell in his famous phone call nixed the deal, and moved on to Plan B.

Today's NY Times has the story:
During a three-week span in November, foreign investors injected over $2 billion into the Turkish markets on the assumption that the newly elected Justice and Development Party would be in a strong position to negotiate aid from the United States as part of a deal on Iraq.

And, of course, the way the markets work (especially volatile, thin, speculative markets [2] like those of Turkey), the leverage effect of emotion is pretty damned huge - positive feedback, a lack of dampeners.

Of course, by offering the moolah in the first place, USG knew that this was exactly what was going to happen. In making his hard landing phone call, Powell must be presumed to have intended its natural consequences.

But, one might ask, what's the point? Evidently, this is supposedly to have an educative value - for Turkey, and for other economically weak allies tempted to thwarted USG's will. How, exactly?

Right now, Turkey has just $3.5bn of credits to draw down at the IMF, and that's it. Without further IMF support, Turkish debt will be downgraded by the rating agencies - with knock-on effects in all Turkish markets, not just that in government debt.

The FT, in a rather calmer piece today, says, if a government austerity package (more taxes, curbs on spending) is implemented, a further $1.6bn credit is likely to be authorised in April. But quotes a guy from Merrill Lynch thus:
In the absence of capital flight, and assuming the war is not prolonged, and there is no conflict between Kurds and Turks in northern Iraq, you can see the government muddling through with the measures announced today.

Big if.

A collapse in the Turkish markets (not imminent, apparently, but, because of the leverage effect, liable to happen much more quickly than in a country with more broadly based markets) would not, it seems, result in the sort of crisis across the emerging markets sector as triggered by Thailand in 1997. For one thing, the level of foreign investment in Turkey is generally lower than elsewhere in the sector, it seems: the effect of the recent, US aid-induced surge of cash being all the more intoxicating for a market unused to needing to hold its liquor.

And suffering the consequences of economic mismanagement isn't exactly a novelty for the Turkish people: their expectations come ready-managed, as it were.

But it risks damaging Turkey's ability to fulfil its strategic role (the role which is the only reason why it was let into NATO in the first place): in destabilising a weak government, in requiring the military to take a greater hand than otherwise in politics, in souring relations with the main driving force of NATO, and so on.

And, as for other allies, the impression is not toughness and resolution but ignorance and bullheadedness. A reputation USG needed no new demonstration to convince world opinion about.

A companion FT piece today blames failures in US diplomacy, in particular, for the Turkish problem.

Because, negotiating ploys aside, the Turks had a genuine case for compensation (not in bribes - or reverse punitives, one might call them) but for losses actually likely to be suffered; and the fact that their losses in the 1991 war went uncompensated gave them a reason to be sceptical in negotiations with USG.

US diplomats appeared to have taking this as a straight souk haggle - tourist to trader, who are never going to see each other again. And who therefore have no relationship to cherish, no long-term mutual benefits at stake, no knock-on effects to consider.

In his BBC interview on March 14, former Foreign Minister Yasir Yakis may have come off an idiot in suggesting that the carpet salesman cartoons caused the March 1 vote on the US deployment resolution to be lost.

But the truth lay, not in the fact that the Turks hated the stereotype (the interpretation someone from race-obsessed US might have put on it) but because it amply characterised the process. All those years of containing the Soviet threat, and these Yanks are acting as if they don't know us!

Which is all the more surprising, since a prime mover in the GWACS venture and a forward USG policy in the Middle East generally, Paul Wolfowitz, has been something of a cheerleader for Turkey in the past.

The quality of US diplomacy was being widely lamented as the UN processed collapsed (this piece of mine from March 15). Another example right here.

Quite what the results will be is obviously far too early to tell. I am still none the wiser as the reasons for the March 1 rebellion by AKP MPs - whether it was a one-off, or a sign of an unmanageable party; and the game the Turkish military are playing is far from obvious either.

But the US handling of Turkey shouldn't have been this crass in the first place. Rule #1 of diplomacy is, make sure the other guy can save face; the US technique seemed to have been to come into town flashing its wad [3] and daring the Turks to turn it down. Nothing in advance; no recognition of 1991 losses. Just take it or leave it. Presumably, they thought Erdogan was able to work his Parliament with his foot.

And Powell's idea of a Plan B was to ditch Turkey altogether.

Amazing, giving the key apparent role of Bush's Asiatic Mr Fixit Zalmay Khalilzad (March archives passim) - who is not exactly the Old European idea of an American who doesn't travel well. Couldn't he have managed a subtler diplomatic campaign?

All rather reminiscent of US failures in the post-War period to understand the true motivations of Ho Chi Minh; the limitations of Sino-Soviet plans to spread revolution across the Third World; the obsession with those damned dominoes - not the new-style variety, of course.

  1. Well, Rummy evidently took lessons...

  2. I'm no expert - but these emerging markets are there for exactly this reason: as a thrill-ride to goose up otherwise boring mutual fund portfolios. The total value of the markets is small (relative to the NYSE, say) but, then, like chilli powder, a little goes a long way. But a tiny investment for a large US mutual may be huge in a market like Turkey. More leverage. Remember 1929 - stocks sold on margin, plunging brokers: same idea.

  3. London argot - ostentatiously displaying one's cash.

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