Category Archives: War Commentary

Curiouser and Curiouser

My theory that this was sabotage was complicated (but not necessarily invalidated) by the most recent findings.

According to the story in the New York Times,

The tail was torn off, leaving the attachment points, which are made of the same composite, still bolted to the plane’s metal frame, investigators said. They have not found any evidence that an explosion or contact with another object in flight caused the damage.

So much for the loose fastener theory…

Looking More Like Sabotage To Me

Well, let’s see now–the data is accumulating. Both engines are intact (no internal failure), so that eliminates the bird ingestion theory. The aircraft lost both engines and the vertical stabilizer. The latter was reportedly taken off as cleanly as if someone had simply…loosened the fasteners. And the investigators say “they cannot rule out sabotage.”

Well, from what I understand about the situation now, being a glass-half-full-of-sabotage kind of guy, I’d put it differently–we cannot rule out random mechanical failure, but it’s starting to look very unlikely. The chances of a single engine falling off are very low. The chances of both engines just falling off are very low squared. The chances of both engines falling off, and the vertical stabilizer cleanly falling off are infinitesimal, absent active (sub)human intervention.

And the reporting on this is atrocious (as though that would distinguish it from any other subject). I’ve read things like “no intruders’ voices were heard on the cockpit voice recorder, ruling out sabotage.” As though it’s necessary, or even desirable, to be on an airplane that you’re sabotaging. Do these people even know what the word sabotage means?

OK, let’s forget about nail clippers and cleaning crew for the moment. How tight is the security in the maintenance hangars? What kind of background checks do the mechanics get? Have they checked the maintenance records for the plane, and checked to see who worked on it most recently, and who had access to it? It could have been done the night before, by simply loosening a few bolts on the pylons and empennage. Or it could have been done weeks before, planting shaped charges with a radio-controlled detonator, to blow off the engines and tail right after takeoff, almost ensuring a crash in…Queens. I hope that American (and the other airlines) have done an inspection of their entire fleet before flying them again.

At this point, if it turns out to not be sabotage, I’ll be very interested to hear the NTSB explanation for this one. It may be almost as entertaining (and sad) as the video that they cobbled together for TWA 800 to explain how flames falling from an aircraft could somehow magically appear to be a fire trail heading up toward it, to hundreds of eyewitnesses.

Kabul Liberated

Apparently dead Taliban soldiers are left lying in the dust, or hanging from trees like ornaments in an early Christmas (or more likely, Ramadan) celebration. For the first time in years, women are walking with each other, and by themselves, without the accompaniment of men, and some are even unburdening themselves of their burqas. The local barbers are doing a land-office business shaving the beards of the men, many of whom claim that they shave not because they dislike beards, but as a final one-finger salute to the recently departed, but not lamented, Taliban. Music is playing, and TVs are being dug up from gardens, and are once again showing such devout Islamic fare as “Titanic.”

Shades of Paris in 1944.

But Mary Robinson is still whining and wringing her hands about potential human rights abuses…

New Attack?

Not necessarily–airplanes crashed on takeoff before 911, and they will in the future. That’s just statistics, and a risk that we’ve learned to live with, and will again. But apparently an American Airbus 300 just went down in Queens after takeoff from La Guardia, and the authorities have closed all New York area airports and locked down Manhattan. Not clear yet whether this is just precautionary, or if they know something that we don’t. But accidents do happen, even in the wake of the attacks.

More information should be available later this afternoon, when I get back from the XCOR rollout.

2 PM Update:

Most of y’all are certainly aware of this now, but I should correct the above–it was out of Kennedy, not La Guardia. And it looks as though my initial reaction was correct, this was an accident, albeit a disconcerting one in the current environment as to timing (Veterans’ Day), and location (New York–in fact in a neighborhood in which many police officers and firefighters reside, including Mike “kiss my royal Irish ass” Moran). I still think, though, that this is just a very unfortunate coincidence, but if it was deliberate, it will have no effect except to further steel our resolve against the cave dweller and like-minded monsters.

Treason Watch

“I’m willing to kill the Americans. I will kill every American that I see in Afghanistan. And I’ll kill every American soldier that I see in Pakistan,” Junaid boasted to British television correspondent, Jon Gilbert, in an interview for the ITN Channel 5 network.

“I do have an American passport. But at the end of the day, I’m a Muslim,” Junaid said last week.

Again I ask, what is the legal situation here? Are we or are we not at war? Is this or is this not treason? If by some miracle, he doesn’t get his sorry butt killed over there, and tries to come back, is there any reason that we shouldn’t simply confiscate his “American passport” (on which he apparently places so little value anyway) upon attempted return, and be told to go somewhere else (if not actually arrested and tried)? If, that is, at the end of the war, there is anyone else who would take him…

Taliban Emigration Halloween Update

Downing Street said that anti-terror laws would be used to punish Britons who fought for Osama bin Laden, but pointedly added that most would die in action.

[Emphasis mine…]

Apparently, the UK doesn’t require a formal declaration of war to allow trials for treason. I believe that we do, but I am still awaiting word from the lawyers.

[Update update]

Jim Bennett, UPI columnist, informs me via email that

“here’s the short answer — you can prosecute for treason in the UK in peacetime, but to hang ’em, you need to declare war.

Another good reason for declaring war. Actually, there are so many international treaties and war crimes whatnots these days that we really ought to think about a declaration of war to keep our armed forces and policy-makers from being legally harrassed for the rest of their lives. Case in point: the survivers of the Argentine cruiser Belgrano are trying to sue the Brits for sinking them.”

Of course, this doesn’t resolve the issue of the American ability to try for treason. Do we need a declaration of war? My understanding is that we do.

Just what are the pros and cons of a declaration of war?


  • It will concentrate our minds even more fully on the task at hand, and make clear in a way unseen in sixty years, just what we are up against.
  • It will allow us to exert marginally more propaganda pressure on Taliban/Al Qaeda when they inevitably fail to follow Geneva.
  • It will allow us to arrest and try people for treason who express sympathy for Taliban/Al Qaeda.
  • It will put more pressure on wavering “allies,” forcing them to either commit to being with us, or take an official neutral position, but not allow them to fence straddle any longer.


  • We may have less freedom of action, being more firmly bound by the Geneva Convention (though this is probably only a theoretical disadvantage, as we’ll be much more constrained by politically-correct handwringers on the home front than by Geneva, in any event.)

I can’t think of any other cons, and still have not heard a good explanation of why Congress has not declared war. Is it because they fear giving Bush too much power? Is it because they don’t want to be in the position of being able to prosecute Taliban sympathizers for treason? Or have we simply gotten out of the habit, having sent troops into battle on so many occasions since 1945 without such a declaration, that it is now viewed, like much else in the Constitution, as a quaint old unnecessary procedure, irrelevant to the modern world?

I’ll welcome any corrections or additions to the above listing.


Even if you use the Taliban’s inflated numbers and the Taliban sticks around until next spring, we’ll still have plenty left on the balance sheet for when we move beyond Afghanistan.

I would go beyond that. There should be some discount factor to account for deliberate murder of civilians vs accidental casualties in waging legitimate war. Such a factor would also account for the unknowable numbers of future civilians saved by rooting out the infection as soon as possible. I’m not sure what the discount rate should be, but even if tens of thousands of civilians die collaterally (though I think that unlikely and unnecessary, unless it’s because the scum choose to hide behind the skirts of their women and children, as Saddam did), it might be acceptable to prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands, both in the West and in the Mideast, in the absence of such necessary action.

Anyway, as Professor Reynolds noted yesterday, Mary Robinson’s definition of proportionality (no civilian casualties) truly is a prescription for no war at all, which is tantamount to utter defeat for civilization.

Web Slander/Libel

I’m not sure to just what “ravings” Mr. Dog is referring, since he provides no actual quotes, but anyone can do a deja and see that I for one, have never proposed nuclear carpetbombing of Afghanistan, or even using nukes, though I may have said that it was conceivable that this might be required at some point as the war progresses (though I seriously doubt that they would ever have any utility in Afghanistan, other than possibly some small tactical nukes to flush out caves, but even this would be unlikely). I have also never proposed murdering survivors of such an attack, or sterilizing anyone.

I should also add, in response to what was to me the greatest insult, that I almost never watch CNN, and I certainly don’t consider it a source of useful knowledge. It is true that I have proposed that we may have to do what we did in Japan and Germany (not nuke, but subjugate, install a decent government, and reeducate) to have a true long-term solution to the Current Unpleasantness. Perhaps this is what upset him.

I am genuinely curious as to just what it was that I wrote that got his canine panties sufficiently in knots that he felt compelled to slander me on his web site, but whatever it was, I hope that this sets the record straight until he chooses to elaborate.