Friday, December 31, 2010

The Ivory Coast: Are the ghosts of Rwanda about to strike back?


  There might be a new war brewing in West Africa. 

  But don't hold your breath for the 24/7 live TV coverage. At best expect some images of machete wielding crazy black people (African-Africans?) threatening to go medieval on each other, and, since Ivory Coast is the world's largest cocoa producer, expect maybe some Ron Burgundy reporter interviewing a corporate shill chocolate spokesman as he laments how impending genocide in Africa might cause a ten cent rise in the price of Hershey Bars. Probably you'll hear nothing in the media unless you go looking. There are just too many real wars going on right now for anybody to give a shit about what's going down in West Africa.
   This war has the potential to get ugly though. And when we talk about ugly in African terms, we're talking really fucking ugly. People in the Ivory Coast have already started painting tribal insignias on their doors and front gates which means the country is gearing itself up to go Rwanda on itself in the near future. You don't want to get massacred by the wrong tribal death squad after all. There's only one thing worse than getting hacked up with machetes and that's getting hacked up accidentally by 'friendly machetes'.

   You'd think the world would care. The Rwandan genocide in 1994 resulted in 800,000 dead, most of them stabbed or carved up on the cheap because hey... bullets cost money. I remember Clinton making some speech when he was doing his elder statesmen book tour or something and dropping in on old Rwanda to say sorry he hadn't done anything to stop the massacre. It was pretty funny. I was thinking that what he was really saying was that it was a pity the Rwandans had no oil or diamonds to make it worthwhile for the US to intervene and keep the old colonial power structure in place. That's usually the one that's best for business. And this was a while back when the US still had a shot glass of moral authority left in the world. But of course, it's not like the Russians or Chinese or whoever else are waving some awesome flag of freedom. The world is closing down. The US still alludes to the idea of 'freedom' which is better than nothing I suppose. But lets face it, we're living in Blade Runner. Corporations run this shit now. There are no nation states anymore.

   The history of Ivory Coast follows the typical colonial West African model. The Europeans started the usual coastal rape in the late 15th century. Ivory Coast dodged the worst of the slave trade in the 17th century partly due to easier pickings further along the coast and also due to a lack of natural harbors. It got its name from a time before plastics when everything from piano keys to billiard balls were made from elephant tusks. Chances are that Mozart bashed together Don Giovanni and the Turkish Rondo on ivory lifted from that coast. However, by the time the 19th century rolled around there was a mysterious shortage of elephants there. Go figure. It was around this time some French Admiral signed a few pieces of paper with some native kings in the interior and the Côte d'Ivoire became a "French Protectorate" which basically gave the natives the right to be ass raped by the French for the next century.

   In 1960, the Ivorians finally gained their independence though not following the typical post colonial African script, you know, the one where the departing European power scribbles "congratulations you're independent" on a piece of paper and then fucks off home with the embassy furniture. Usually this scenario devolves into civil war. That's the thing about Africa that never worked. Dividing that vast continent up by drawing lines on European drawn maps and thinking those borders were anything but arbitrary and bore any relation to tribal, ethnic or religious division. Most times it took a war to settle those old scores after the Euros bailed.

   But Côte d'Ivoire didn't follow that script.

   That was largely due to one man, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the first president of the newly independent Ivory Coast in 1960. This guy wasn't some general who muscled his way to power thanks to a few container loads of AKs and RPGs from whatever country had an interest in watching Africa burn. It's hard to believe, but under this guy's leadership we're looking at an African 'success story'. Maybe. We're not talking bullet trains and universal healthcare or anything but still, most of the population of your capital city was not using the local beach  as an open air toilet like in neighboring Liberia. That's some measure of success by African standards right? The Ivory Coast prospered more than any other West African nation that wasn't sitting on top of tanker loads of oil. In fact, it was so prosperous that its cocoa, pineapple, banana and palm oil plantations started attracting labor from neighboring countries and led to an influx of people from Ghana, Liberia and Burkina Faso.

   By 1990 and after 30 years of rule, wily old Félix had pocketed 10 billion for himself and become the longest serving leader in African history that you've probably never heard of. No seriously, only Castro and Kim Jong Il's daddy have served longer in modern history. Peace and prosperity tends to have a negative effect on fame though. You need to chalk up some deaths before anyone remembers you these days. Félix died in 1993 but not before he was flown back from some French hospital on life support to die in his native land and have his lifeless hand sign some papers that made sure the acting Prime Minister at the time, Alassane Ouattara didn't stay in power. Bear with me here because shit's about to get interesting. Turns out Ouattara is central to what's going down today. He's the guy the UN and 'independent observers' are saying 'fairly' won last month's election. He's also a bankster who acted as Deputy Managing Director at the IMF from '94-'99 and if that doesn't make alarm bells ring than what does? Still, nobody in this seedy mess is going to have clean hands. Ouaterra is famous for causing the Ivorian parliament to come up with a new law in 1994 to keep him out of domestic politics by decreeing that only people whose parents were born in Ivory Coast could become el presidente. The measure passed. Turns out all that cheap labor that flooded into the country to work the plantations in the 60s and 70s weren't full citizens. Not even their children. Faultline number one created right there.

   But we're jumping ahead.

   What happened after solid old Félix Houphouët-Boigny died? After a massive state funeral he was succeeded by some guy who got overthrown in 1999 by a typical power hungry general in Ivory Coast's first military coup. The whole clean Ivorian record on the military takeover front was just too good to last. The new guy allowed free elections a year later after the economy took a nosedive and foreigners panicked and started pulling their money out of the country. Still, free elections are a pretty bad idea if you're an African dictator because another general is always likely to come along and fuck you up, in this case Laurent Gbagbo, and he has been the General enjoying Côte d'Ivoire power, coke and hookers from 2000 to this day. Of course, I'm leaving out a civil war he fought between 2000-2004 but it was pretty low grade shit compared to what's about to go down now.

   So where are the fault lines in all of this today?

   One is Gbagbo himself. He's liked by the army which is pretty much a win in electoral politics when you happen to be the general in charge of that army. You can divert some of those cocoa profits to army pensions and guarantee your legions a retirement Caesar style. Despite losing this election (if you believe the UN and IMF) he's refusing to step down and waving his dick around and saying 'fuck you' to the rest of the world. The United States, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) have all recognised electoral commission results showing Ouattara as the winner of the election and have called on Gbagbo to step down. That's pretty much when you know you're not wanted. But is a dick waving guy subject to the ordinary rules of pencil pushers? Right now, he wants the UN out and things could get ugly if his forces decide to mount an attack on the limited UN forces there. There's the possibility of losing some troops, Belgian Rwandan style and causing an 'incident' that might make the UN's pussy dry up.

   Basically the blowback right now is that those ECOWAS states might be prepared to get their shit together for the first time in history and actually mount an attack on the Ivorian capital to remove Gbagbo. That would certainly have me grabbing the popcorn. ECOWAS would field a hodge podge of 70s Soviet equipment like T-55 and T-72 tanks combined with British Scorpion light tanks bought in the '80s. They could also field some NATO equipment. Ivory Coast has pretty much nothing vehicle wise against this potential force except infantry, jungles and IEDs. I'm so big on heavy infantry right now that I'm down on military vehicles at the moment considering the amount of ways there are to take them out and score economic damage for the cost of ten bags of fertilizer buried under a manhole. Of course, no matter how dirty Gbagbo chooses to fight, ECOWAS would still win.

   The other fault line in all this is Ouaterra. He's liked by the UN, IMF and international community because he's going to be their stability guy where they get to make some nice inroads into that cocoa supply. If you know anything about the history of chocolate you'll know that it was pretty much the crack of 18th century Europe. Not that anyone cares today since it's a convenience store item. But still, the IMF has always had a hard on for anything they can pick up cheap in Africa. Currently Ouaterra is holed up in a hotel surrounded by Gbagbo's troops. That's a pretty shitty situation to be in considering you've got the weight of the world's financial institutions on your side. But loaded guns pointed at you always beat sentiments or speeches.

     Whats going to happen? I have no idea. But expect some kind of genocide if ECOWAS decides to invade in the name of 'democracy'. The rebels in the north (those Burkina Fasa residents denied citizenship because their parents working those plantations weren't citizens) have already stated they would join up with any pan African force if it were to invade and undo the power structure of those Christian coastal elites that have been running shit since the French left. The funniest story so far is thousands already fleeing Ivory Coast and heading for Liberia. That made me laugh. You know things are bad when civilians feel the need to flee to the worse shithole nextdoor.

   Right now, Gbagbo has been offered asylum and safe passage to wherever. After running a country for ten years he's probably stashed away a decent amount of bank, enough at least that he could live comfortably in the South of France for the rest of his life. But that's the problem with leaders and dictators and men in power. They become victims of "target fixation". It's something that used to happen to dive-bomber pilots in WWII. So much so that German Stuka dive bombers were fitted with an automatic air brake that pulled the plane out of a dive when the pilot became obsessed with landing his bomb on target to the point where he would crash his plane into the target. Sometimes, leaders get like that. When you own the kingdom so much that you can't let go of the control stick except when it's too late. It's because you can never imagine living a life anymore like a mere citizen.

    It's another classic war in Africa that nobody will give a shit about.

    Except maybe when Hershey Bars cost ten cents more.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The MG 42. An "evil" gun?

 Why do I like the German MG 42?

 Many will say liking any gun in military history is a pretty sick enterprise. It makes me a real bad person right? How many people died as a result of a trigger pull on that particular weapon? Truth is though, humans are going to kill each other no matter what. Go ahead and pick up a rock and, if you follow the same logic, chances are you are admiring a stone item that is culturally insignificant but responsible for more bashed in skulls in human history than anything delivered from the barrel of a gun.

  I've come to accept human nature. Guns are just the latest expression of that 'big rock'.

  But it is also worth mentioning, considering the MG 42's origin, that I am not a Nazi or any kind of follower of that particular ideology. I'm just a student of human history who notices that war is pretty much our favourite activity as a species. I just happen to find it entertaining to notice the ways we devise to kill each other. Now, let's move on to the fun stuff.

  The MG42 is my favourite 'evil' gun.

  First off, it looks like a real bitch, like that ex wife who bailed with Bob from marketing but had a certain femme fatale quality to her nonetheless. Risky, but good looking. A whore (in hindsight), but a good fuck at the time. Standing there laughing at you on her stilted legs, knowing she could blow you away at any time, she's the bitch that could wreck your life when you stare her down. That's an MG 42. That's a serious gun.

  And, for some reason I can't explain, I'm referring to the MG 42 as female.

   She was made of stamped steel, mass produced at the time, when the Germans in '38 were anticipating annexing some pretty serious amounts of real estate and were in need of a replacement for the heavier, more sturdy but less reliable MG34. The Wehrmacht needed something they could mass produce fast while still maintaining high quality and lethality. There's something about the way Germans engineer stuff that I can appreciate, like BMWs and Porsches, high quality stuff that's over engineered, looks great, but is a little too pricey.

   The MG42 was a lot like that.

   The order requirement from the Wehrmacht on a dream gun was a paradoxical checklist. They needed something they could produce cheaply and also something that could spit out terrifying amounts of ammo. The contract, like all seedy government contracts, was hard to fulfill. The Wehrmacht ended up accepting a bid from a guy who had never even built a gun before, Johannes Großfuß, a guy who ran a stamped parts steel factory who had no experience in gun manufacture but saw a niche he could fill when profitable Nazi government contracts started floating around 1930s Germany. One of his engineers came up with the "roller locked mechanism" an innovation in gun manufacture that improved firing rate and heat efficiency and won him the design. The Nazi's liked it so much they had three factories mass producing the design by 1940. Großfuß won the contract not because he owned enough politicians to see it through but because his was the best actual design as voted on by hardcore military people. (This was in a narrow period in military history when the government officials dictating military policy weren't owned by the private corporations producing the guns.)

   The Nazis were working off Guderian's as yet unproven 'Blitzkrieg' doctrine, the idea that some future 'lightening strike' would undo the ass rape of Versailles through speed and firepower and blow into France in a way that nobody had seen before. The German Army was gaming a new West Front offensive but this time without any 'hypothetical' rerun of WWI that involved Verdun, trenches or the Maginot Line.

   That was pretty much the MG 42's future function in a nutshell. To be the support weapon of every infantry platoon. To spit out 1200 rounds per minute. It's an amount of spray that the human ear can't even properly register, the interval between each report being so slight that it ends up sounding like ripping cloth, a continuous roar those GIs who faced it nicknamed "Hitler's Buzzsaw". The Russians on the Eastern Front had a similar nickname.

   The idea, from the German point of view, was that your TOT (time on target) was low when aiming so the interval between bullets mattered. The MG 42 was designed to put ten bullets on a target in a single second. That makes it harder to miss than similar machine guns available at the time like the British Vickers or American Brownings (both 600rpm ish guns). All forces who faced it hated it and agreed on one thing when facing an emplaced German machine gun position...

   It was a shit brix weapon.

   Of course, like every cool thing the Germans produced in WWII, the gun had its drawbacks. The thing was so lethal and spat out so much ammo that you had to be careful how you used it. You could run out of ammo pretty fast if you had a gunner who liked waving his dick around. Wehrmacht regulations warned against holding the trigger down for more than five seconds. 7.92mm ammo is heavy if you've got to carry it around. Belt fed machine gun defensive emplacements proved the gun's home. Also, it could turn red hot in minutes. Barrel changes were critical when laying down suppressive. And after '42, when the best days of Barbarossa were dying at Stalingrad and the whole Lebensraum fantasy started going to shit, defensive MG guns started coming into their own for the Wehrmacht.

   It's a brilliant gun. It looks evil. The design has been so successful that modern versions have transpired like the current MG3 in use in the modern German Army and in other Armys worldwide.

  You should hate it as a civilian. And you do. Because you don't have to face it.

  Still, it's my favourite 'evil' gun!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christmas Truce 1914: All quiet on the Western Front?

   One of my favourite Yuletide war stories is the unofficial truce on the Western front in 1914.

   Sure, it's a clichéd story today and everybody uses it as the feel good wartime Christmas story but so what, I'm sipping eggnog by a roaring log fire in a Swiss chateaux overlooking the holiday lights of an alpine ski resort. Actually, I'm telling you outrageous lies. I'm really knocking back cheap CVS pharmacy vodka next to a crusty electric heater in Los Angeles suburbia overlooking my douchebag neighbor's dog shit stained lawn. But that's why I love military history. You get to realize how worse off you could be. You could be in the trenches on the Western Front but for a simple accident of chronology. If you were born male in Britain, Germany, France or Russia in the years 1885-95 it was pretty much guaranteed you'd wind up spending a Christmas knee deep in mud, rats and lice while waiting for your turn to play dodgeball with machine gun bullets.

  That's why there's something really heart warming about a football match in No Man's Land.

   It was Christmas 1914 in a war that was supposed to be over by Christmas 1914. The soldiers on the field had no real beef with each other. This whole war was triggered because some rich guy the average infantry man had never heard of ate a bullet in Sarajevo. And no mustard gas had melted off anyone's skin yet and the meat stacking operations of the Somme or Passchendaele hadn't even happened. There was still room in 1914 for an outbreak of human camaraderie, spontaneously between men who realized, in a shared holiday season, that they were all human, ordinary joes, flung into the wrong place and time as enemies and destined to be mere pawns chewed up in the global games of fat cat financiers, politicians, generals and old aristocracies.

   Some things in history never change right?

   It's hard to imagine Christmas in the trenches in 1914. It's not the type of war that happens anymore.  Siege warfare in open mud. WWI came at an interesting period where, for the first time in military history, there was no battlefield mobility. Cavalry were obsolete and armored maneuver warfare hadn't arrived yet. Modern small arms were pretty much perfected though. The British Lee Enfield and German Mauser rifles were both accurate up to 600 meters in the hands of a good shooter. That the Enfield was in use all the way up to 1957 was testimony to the effectiveness of those simple bolt action rifle designs. Of course, trench warfare was also the stage where the machine gun finally came into its own. The British water cooled Maxim gun could spit out a flesh ripping 600 rounds per minute. Artillery too had developed to the point of precision accuracy, timed fuses, multiple shell trajectories, howitzers, air bursts, rolling barrages, all of that steel rain was pretty much perfected by this time.

   This made for the worst kind of stalemate in military history.

   Hell, you can go all the way back to Themistocles and a general would still have multiple unit types at his disposal; heavy infantry, ranged units and cavalry, giving a commander at least three unique elements to play around with when trying to defeat the enemy. But in 1914, you lost that fast moving cavalry unit (the first tanks would not come until Delville Wood in 1916) so all you had as a commander to play war with on your carnage planning desk was artillery and sad meat sacks called men.

   1914 was still early in the war. The British army was composed, at this stage, of elite non conscripted men. Real soldiers. Volunteers. (They hadn't all been wiped out yet). The German Schlieffen Plan had been attempted through Belgium and had failed spectacularly at the last minute. Yet it was still a 'fair war' at this stage. Even with the trenches being laid all the way to the Channel, the barbed wire, the artillery strikes, it was still a war all soldiers could 'relate to' on some 'working class' level. With 'workers of the world unite' brewing in the East, there was a definite sense amongst the officer corps on both sides that they could lose control of their forces ideologically if fraternization were ever allowed to occur.

   And then Christmas Eve 1914 rolled up.

   And the war was still on like the newspapers had said it wouldn't be. I think this was the point where the average soldier on both sides realized they'd been duped. The situation in the trenches was taking on a permanency in winter that was starting to look like a really shitty long term deal for a soldier who was far from home with no personal grievance against the 'enemy'; except the one manufactured by hysterical propagandist newspaper headlines.

   And then it happened...

   The Germans in the trenches along the Western Front in Flanders received an influx of mini Christmas trees in wartime care packages from home (German supply lines being shorter than British ones). They lit their trees with candles and began singing traditional Christmas hymns (Tannenbaum) from the trenches on the other side of No Man's Land.

   The British were confused.

   Let's not get all fuzzy nostalgic here. The British had lost 94 men that day to German snipers all along the front. The Germans had lost similar numbers. This wasn't some outbreak of peace and love '60s style. This was a spontaneous Christmas celebration by the enemy in a trench across the way.

   But the British got curious. Like any enemy would.
   They popped their heads up over trench parapets to watch the lighted spectacle the Germans were putting on. Suddenly, signs began to appear from the opposing trenches in broken English.

   "You no fight, we no fight! Tommy!"

    That must have been a weird moment as the sun came up on the frost hardened mud of Christmas Day Flanders. The first man stood up and offered himself up to the snipers. But nobody fired. He was not shot. More men stood up, testing life itself at the hands of an easy bullet, for Christmas' sake. And then they began to march, from both sides, toward each other.

   I'm getting misty now. Someone has begun chopping onions in my immediate vicinity. It's Christmas right?

   Both sides met in the middle of no man's land

   Smokes were swapped. Hands were shaken. Alcohol was shared. Helmets were sampled. A game of football was played on shell pocked land where, the story goes, the Germans won 3-2. This fabled match is recorded as hearsay in regimental histories, something that was witnessed but never actually recorded by the players. God, I hope it happened. I would like it to have happened in the same way that I would like that some Jewish baby born two thousand years ago can make me survive my own death. Both stories are equally unlikely but it doesn't spoil Christmas by wanting to believe in them.

  The generals on both sides had a shit fit of course. How could it happen? How could ordinary men be friends with each other in the absence of state sponsored propaganda? It was never to happen again. The war got increasingly ugly and left everybody with scars. People wondered where had all the 'good' wars gone?

   To No Man's Land?

   Just the way the politicians, generals and old aristocracies always intended.

    Merry Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Don't ask, don't tell... Can gays fight?

    Don't ask, don't tell just got repealed in the Senate!

   The whole issue got me thinking about gayness in world military history.

   Most of the 'don't ask, don't tell' argument stems from some right wing existential fear that your ability to pull the trigger gets compromised by what you like to do with other people when you're naked. That's the crux of the issue right there. In the US, conservatives run with the idea that gays in the military weaken it based on two assumptions:

    A) Gays can't fight.

    B) Gays weaken a unit by spreading their gayness amongst otherwise non gay troops (the communicable disease theory of gayness).

   I always find argument B particularly funny.  You'd have to be borderline bent already to think that too much exposure to the gay might tip you over the edge into fully fledged homo. That's not exactly something that's going to happen to the average soldier who loves female tits and ass. Sorry, but seeing penis in 'Sexy Harlots 15' didn't ever make me want to fuck the guy in that movie. The stunt dick was only ever there so I could pretend it was mine as I watched it going into the girl.

    Anyway, both arguments are run of the mill homophobia but they got me thinking about gayness in armies of the past. And when I say gayness, I'm not talking about a platoon of  flaming Elton Johns waving pink AKs. That kind of effeminate gayness is not the kind of gay that wants to be a soldier. To want to be a soldier in any age and seek out combat you've got to be hard as fuck and I'm not talking in your dick. I'm talking in your head. What you do for fun naked has got nothing to do with it.

   Any history of warrior gayness must start with the Greeks I suppose.

   Most especially the Thebans and their 'Sacred Band of Thebes'. They were an elite force of 300 warriors who just happened to like boning each other. These guys were as queer as anything you'd see in a San Franciscan assless leather pants bar today and yet were total badass fighters. They fought in pairs, side by side with their lovers on the idea that if one of them died in battle, the other guy is going to be seriously pissed off and rage more on the enemy. It worked and the sacred band played a crucial role in winning at Leuctra. (Not the most famous Greek city state battle I admit, but their skeletons were found in 1890 and some stone monument to them does exist today). Funnily enough, the sacred band were finally defeated by Alexander, perhaps the greatest gay warrior in history.

   The Spartans too had a culture of militarized homosexuality. You know those badass few that stayed behind to die at Thermopylae? All of them would have set your gaydar meter blaring. But they conveniently left that bit out of the Greek history movies and standard history books, omitting the scene in the second act where the warriors all go back to a tent after a hard days fighting for a sausage party. Fucking Hollywood and their historical details right? The Spartans were so gay that Herodotus mentions a Spartan wedding night, where the new bride has to dress up like a man so as to make the transition to pussy easier for her husband.

   That's pretty fucking gay.

   Good fighters though!

   The Spartan's whole culture was a military industrial complex much like the US today. And they proved that there's nothing about what you do with your dick that limits your ability to kill people.

   The Romans didn't have a problem with gayness either. But they did believe in a type of manliness where pleasure seeking began to be seen as weakness. That's where the whole idea of gayness being bad in armies probably originates. The idea that sexual pleasure and killing should be kept separate. They are, after all, two diametrically opposed poles on a single magnet. The idea that they repel seems reasonable. But it's hard to reconcile with ancient historical fact.  Caesar himself may have banged his adopted son Octavian who was later to become Rome's first emperor, Augustus. Historians will argue but the point is, two of the greatest military leaders of the ancient world, Alexander and Caesar, were both benders.

   That alone should wipe out the "don't ask, don't tell' argument, right?

   Conservatives will most likely argue that 'the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there', that ancient history has no bearing on today. So I'll be forced to come up with more recent examples of warrior gayness to prove my point. Okay, no problem. There's plenty of gay to go around.

   Let's break out the Revolutionary War.

   One of my favourite people from that period was Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben who was totally queer. And  also a damn fine military leader and tactician. Without him, Washington's army would have been a useless band of peasants taking pot shots at the British from barn roofs. He was a Prussian, probably my favourite militarized society in post Renaissance Europe. Those guys were the solid, spit and polish, shine your musket, help me up after the cannon ball blew my leg off badass military of the 18th century. Any country that can produce a Clauswitz is serious business. But Von Steuben got kicked out of the Prussian army because he liked the cock. So he went to America in search of freedom. Don't you miss that, when America and freedom went together in the same sentence without any cognitive dissonance?

   Perhaps my favourite gay military leader is T E Lawrence who led the Arab revolt against the Turks in 1916.  Of course, Lawrence kept his sexual preference on the down low, him being an officer in the post Victorian British Army tasked with holding together a disintegrating empire (any parallel with today's US is purely coincidental) and even the movie they made about Lawrence only passingly alludes to his gayness. And that's just fine by me. Nothing about a man is truly revealed by how he has sex. Especially a soldier. Anyone with the balls enough to risk their life in a combat zone has already gained my respect and what they do with their genitals is surely nobody's business but their own.

    It's just a pity there are no honest to goodness wars for them to fight in anymore.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The London Student Riots were a masterclass in ancient warfare!

   I was watching the London Student riots yesterday, absently at first, the TV flickering in the background while I surfed naked chicks when something about the mayhem caught my attention. It was an aerial shot where the front line of the demonstration battle was distinct because the cops were wearing bright lime green jackets as opposed to the motley blue grey mass of students. Something triggered. Holy shit, that looks like the front line of a battle like Pharsalus or better yet (given the closed terrain) Thermopylae. I unmuted the TV and ran to the kitchen for popcorn.

   There was, after all, a war on.

   Soon after I found myself glued to the TV, witnessing simulated ancient warfare complete with motherfucking cavalry. I shall repeat that... motherfucking cavalry! Obviously they were nerfed but still, it's a battle in 2010 that includes charging horses! It was like paintball for people like me who never go outside. You get to see ancient battle play out like it would have, kind of, (I know it's a stretch but stay with me here for a sec) and nobody gets seriously hurt. Just like paintball.

   The cop troops were well equipped, well disciplined, like the Macedonian phalanx or one of Caesars legions, using the Roman formation of tight adjoining shields and slashing with batons, which were like nerfed versions of the Roman Gladius short sword. You'll notice in the clip coming up how a disciplined line of shields combined with stabbing actions can cause mass casualties to the enemy, especially when they're unruly and undisciplined (I'm thinking Gauls) and pressing forward from the rear.

   The cop force were outfitted with helmets with transparent face guards (a modern innovation I bet the Romans would have sold their sisters into slavery for) and had some pitched defensive fences which were soon converted to artillery by the beserking student force.

   The student army was composed almost entirely of light infantry which had the advantage of high mobility but offered little in the way of armor protection. I did notice a few veteran troops students who'd been at the previous riot and had brought along some homemade shields which they put to good use in some of the YouTube skirmishes we'll see in a few moments. The Student Force reminded me of Gauls or maybe one of the Germanic Tribes  of the first century AD, fighting with enthusiasm but little cohesion. They did deploy to good effect a lot of missile skirmishers equipped with paint bombs, bottles, and bits of smashed up fence.

   Okay, I'll pull out the hand lotion. It's time for the fun stuff.

   In this first vid notice the cop line and the steady efforts of the lightly armed student forces trying to poke holes in the cop line. You can see here how effective a row of massed shields is against a bunch of angry people with no command structure. Other things to notice, paint bomb skirmishers, the weakness of cavalry when not charging forward en masse but surrounded by hostile infantry and under missile fire. Notice too the panicking horse that chucked his cop. Ouch, I felt that.

   Fun no? Next up is the clip that makes me jizz. The cop infantry line splits open to allow the cavalry to charge through the middle. Not a tactic the ancients would have employed since cavalry is most useful when it flanks the main enemy body and pincers around from the rear. Obviously not possible in this terrain. Instead, the cop cavalry decides to go all Crécy on those bitches, charging pell mell through the middle and right into the student archers  stick and bottle throwers. Watch also how the students (accidently) pull that old trick the Macedonians used against Darius' chariots at Issus, allowing the cavalry to bubble into the main line and then pinching off the salient from the main body of cop infantry in a pincer movement. They then proceed to engulf it in missile fire, totally routing it. So much battlefield tactics on display here they should add it to the curriculum at West Point. 

   Another fun thing about this clip are the voices of the establishment commentators as they describe the battle as if the police are winning, their voices dying a little inside as the student army closes the cauldron and hammers the fuck out of the cop cavalry. Priceless.

   Awesome stuff.

   They say in ancient warfare if you could capture the enemy king the main body of enemy troops  rout on seeing their leader vanquished. Alexander pulled this move at Issus and made Darius flee the battlefield. Well, fuck me sideways, I nearly keeled over when the student army nearly pulled off the same ballsy move and captured Prince Charles.

   I love the guy screaming 'roll the window up' at the end. Top comment on YouTube is, "Window up? Pull it down and let the shit fly in their faces. Up the Student Revolution!" Makes me giggle. Because if the real revolution were ever to come, the weapons won't be nerfed and just like in all of history, the kings will have all the big guns.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Did Julian Assange give himself up as part of a greater plan?


    I have this secret fantasy that Julian Assange is a fucking genius.

   This fantasy says he gave himself up to the authorities in the UK for a deeper reason then just confronting the bullshit condom malfunction rape charge in Sweden. He knew the British would take him into custody. He knew he would refuse extradition to Sweden and the court battle for this would be long.

    He knows all major media in the US are acting in concert, denouncing him as a terrorist, as a traitor and at the very least a criminal who should be tried in court. Most US politicians want him arrested some even killed. Also, major US corporations are on his ass. Paypal cancelled Wikileak's accounts, "hackers" shut down Wikileaks, now Mastercard and Visa have blocked donations and payment transfers to Wikileaks. It's like the whole corporate-government-media-military nexus are out to 'get' him, and Assange, knowing this, gave himself up like a sacrificial lamb with a wider plan in mind.

   Is the next move the US issuing a warrant for his arrest and his extradition to the US by the British?

   I can't see the British doing it, despite the 'special relationship', there'd be too much blowback. Still, if the US wants him, leaning on the Brits is their best chance. Funnily enough Wikileaks revelation that US diplomats consider Cameron "weak" may work against them as Cameron gets to issue a stern 'fuck you' to the yanks.

   But for my fantasy's sake, let's dream that Assange wants to become a martyr for truth, the Nelson Mandela of his time, an Aung San Suu Kyi for America, a Tiananmen tankman for democracy; because you know if the Americans ever get their hands on him he'll languish in some shit hole military prison smashing rocks into smaller rocks for the rest of his life. He'll be the postcard for resistance to the imperial machines of many countries. But he'll only be as guilty as the New York Times for publishing the embassy cables. Yet he'll be the one in jail. In my fantasy world, that's his whole plan!

   Assange knows that world public opinion is on his side, at least amongst free thinkers and those not hopelessly delusional. Is Assange martyring himself to drive a wedge between the world presented to us by the corporate media and government lies and the world most people actually live in and see with their own eyes?

   I mean it's quite clear now. There is a disconnect between the world as presented on TV and what 90% of people are actually living. The only conflict is who the masses blame for it. But most people sense it. The Gulf oil spill, enviro rape, fucking wars, resource depletion, economic collapse, taxpayers paying for bank failures while the rich who own everything laugh like motherfuckers.

   The US is floating the idea of indictments against Assange for publishing documents about US diplomats spying on the UN without indicting the actual diplomats who did the illegal fucking spying? Are we approaching a tipping point here, and is Assange trying to lead us to it? Does Assange's martyrdom to the authorities provide that final straw that breaks large sections of society out of the Matrix and makes them go all Neo on the powers that be?

  Fuck, could this be the beginning of a new low grade war between citizens and corpo governments?

  Is it too much of a fantasy to believe the powers that be will overplay their hand while persecuting him, and turn Assange into a symbol for the hypocrisy of the Western 'democracies'?


    Someone tell the corpo-government that 1984 was a work of fiction, not an instruction manual!


The Mexican Drug War: Disneyland for psychotic warrior freaks!

  What is the nastiest, meanest, most lowdown, bloodthirsty, going medieval on your ass war happening in the world right now that nobody really gives a shit about and isn't in Africa, the home of wars nobody gives a shit about? What major war has racked up 45,000 dead since 2006 and has all kinds of torture deaths and indiscriminate killings of non combatants perpetrated just for the hell of it and for pure media attention designed to make regular people shit bricks? Need a hint? One of the battlefields is a mile south of San Diego.

   Yeah, it's the Mexican Drug War.

   Ranking wars in terms of human brutality in military history never works for me. I mean, you can never out do brutality by harking back to an earlier period in human brutality. That ocean is too deep. Sure, the Greek brazen bull or the Middle Ages breaking wheel offer up hellish death from the past, but seriously, Mexican drug cartels are offering up all new kinds of horrible today like slow decapitation, death by burning tire necklace and plain old live burial in the desert; so it's hard for the American Idol voting public north of the border to process the whole thing without flipping channels. There is a vague existential unease knowing that shit like that is going down just next door but nothing more TV watching can't fix. What's most disturbing is that the Mexicans south of many a gated air conditioned community in the US, are going medieval on each other in a struggle to provide Americans with sufficient nose candy, vein tar and weed to fill out their weekends with a proper mind altering drug arsenal.

   US politicians can never say this because it requires honesty to admit that it is America's appetite for drugs that is the cause of the war south of their border.

   The city of Ciudad Juarez was recently designated the second most dangerous city in the world after Mogadishu. Yeah, that's in Somalia, where the US lost two Blackhawks and the crews got hacked up with machetes. Juarez, second best death hole on the planet today, beats out Baghdad and Kabul and adjoins the US city of El Paso. The politicians are too busy in Iraq and Afghanistan, air dumping trillions of dollars for our 'freedom', while here at home Ciudad Juarez is inches south of sovereign US territory and is a war zone? Yeah, go figure that shit.

   The Mexican Drug War is asymmetrical warfare at its finest and the combatants are multiple. It's the kind of warfare that the media gets confused reporting on because it's impossible to package into simple soundbites. The narrative, if the 'mainstream media' were ever to honestly risk reporting on shit, would prove too unsettling to report, with a headline like "Americas appetite for certain drugs deemed 'illegal' by their government fuels mega death in a bordering country".  Instead, American media reports on specific incidents in the war, like twelve teens getting gunned down at a party in Tijuana or a mass grave of untraceable headless and handless corpses getting found in the desert somewhere but without much context other than drug cartels are 'bad' and they make a lot of cash and isn't it all fucking terrible. US media coverage is like some dumb Ron Burgundy local news reporter showing up at Pickett's Charge after the fact and pointing to all the dead bodies and wondering why; while leaving out Gettysburg and the fact that there's a fucking Civil War going on. That kind of shitty journalism is par for the course these days.

Money! Humans will kill for it.

   In a nutshell, it goes like this. Drugs and brown people flow north and money and weapons flow south. And we are talking serious weaponry too. AKs, Ar-15s, G3s, Light machine guns like Russian PKMs, American M 60s and M249s, hell, in one arms seizure pic I even spotted a good old German MG 42. That's a lot of spray. A fair amount of this comes from the US but not as much as the media likes to whine about. You can get a lot of it far cheaper from other South American nations or imported from Russia, China or Africa. Hell, an AK in Somalia is cheaper than a Happy Meal, that's if you can find a quality eatery like McDonalds in that desert shithole.

  You know when American politicians passed NAFTA in the 90s it was basically every corporation's wet dream come true. Now they could send every blue collar factory job south of the border where they could pay them a buck fiddy an hour and increase profits from lower labor costs. This was somehow sold to the US population as good for everyone. Yeah, people actually believed that shit. Every sneaker, jeans and widgit factory went south and left American workers wondering what the fuck? Supposedly, it was to raise 'Mexican living standards' and somehow be good for American businesses by providing a new market for those goods produced in whatever factories that didn't abandon the US, tech jobs and the like, stuff the powers that be figured the Mexican workforce were too stupid to manufacture.

   Turns out, thanks to globalization, those tech jobs got sent to India instead.

   So now nobody up here in the US has a job anymore and we need moar drugs to cope! Lots of drugs. One thing is for sure. Americans may love their country but they sure as hell love their drugs even more because for many, it's only by being wasted that makes it possible for them to live here. Cocaine and heroin are popular enough that Big Pharma came up with some neat analogues like Adderall and Oxycontin to try to muscle in on a piece of that action.

   Who are the real players here?

   The Cartels. 

   But who are they?

   Basically, they're the bastard children of Pablo Escobar.

   Escobar was a legend in the South American drug business. A true fucking badass if ever there was one. In 1989 he was ranked by Forbes as the seventh richest man in the world. That's a serious amount of blow profits. Seriously, by that metric it puts cocaine as the most prized commodity on the world market after oil. Fuck, the eighties were fun! Escobar even attempted to buy himself a seat in the Colombian government by paying off the country's entire national debt from his petty cash jar. I shit you not! Obviously, you don't get to that position without murdering shitloads of people but hey, that's how this fucked up world rolls right? Of course, this painted a pretty big target on Escobar's head especially in the US. The CIA wanted a piece of that black ops untracable drug money for themselves and him dead.  They triangulated his position for Colombian cops and Escobar went down fighting Tony Montana style, getting shot to shit on the roof of a house in his home village of Medellin.

   So that should have been the end of the whole thing, right? The boss man is dead. Actually that's when the whole thing went even more out of control like they'd just cut off one of the proverbial Hydra's heads and watched two new ones grow back in their place. Only, in this case, it wasn't heads but today's drug cartels. This factioning of the trade into numerous groups vying for a piece of the action soon turned into a war for more money, and, in 2006, against the Mexican authorities themselves when President Calderon followed the Americans 'advice' and declared a 'war' on drugs and the cartels.

   That's been working out fucking awesome, right?

  The Americans think they can solve everything by declaring 'war' on it, like the dumb bully who's been held back a year and finds himself the only big guy left on the playground because everyone else his age has moved on to high school. The bully's now pissed and declaring war on every little guy with a bag of Cheetos. But every little guy knows what happens to the bully long term.  He ends up on  meth  in a trailer park. That's America in 20 years if it doesn't get its shit together

Cartel Territory and where not to plan your Mexican vacation!

   But the Mexican Drug War is just really fucking nasty all around. When the Cartels declared war on the Mexican authorities they didn't join up together and fight. There's no honor among thieves here, they're quite adept at bribing cops to go after rival gangs, ratting each other up to the DEA, or going head to head with each other. They'll mow down a birthday party full of teenagers cos one guy in there owes them a few bucks  for an eight ball. They'll start a battle in a suburb using an SUV mounted grenade launcher and kill 12 and wound 100. All civilians.

   And nobody gives a shit.

   You see that's another problem with this war. For instance, in 2008 there were 1600 murders in Mexican border towns and 34 arrests. So basically the message sent out by that statistic is, you kill someone, you walk. There are no consequences. And in the drug business good old ultra violence is the only means of settling disputes. It's not like you can go to the cops, they are as likely to sell you out to the guy trying to kill you for cash then help you. Court system? He-he, just kidding.

   That's when you hear two words floating around that makes US politicians shit bricks... failed state.

   This is especially true in the border towns like Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nogales and Nuevo Laredo because this is the bottleneck, the crossing point into the main market for the cocaine flowing up from Colombia, black tar heroin from southern Mexico, meth from factories in Mexico city and weed from just about everywhere in Mexico with access to sunlight. For the cartels, controlling the border crossing points is key and why they're such clusterfucks.

   There are quite a few Cartels controlling different areas but by far my favourite group are Los Zetas. These motherfuckers scare the shit out of me. These guys started out as a legit group of elite Mexican military officers trained in counter insurgency ops, small group and aerial assault, advanced comms, fuck, you name it, these guys have gotten training in it at Bragg and at the euphemistically named "School of the Americas" which is basically a South American assassin training school in Georgia that makes Amnesty International want to rage quit the whole game.

   They went rogue in the late 80s after witnessing the huge profits they were missing out on by staying legit. These guys are even better equipped then the Mexican army, wearing body armor, fielding AKs, ARs, 50cals, Stinger missiles and RPGs. They also operate helos and have shitloads of up armored SUVs and are experts in demo and advanced comms. These guys wiretap the Mexican government to make sure any bribes made get delivered on. They also employ armies of teen look out kids and hordes of prostitutes who suck cock for intel from unsuspecting targeted customers. Los Zetas are not only involved in drug smuggling, but extortion rackets, kidnapping, jail breakouts and human trafficking.

    Mexico is like Disneyland for psychotic warrior freaks.

   So what's the solution here? The Mexicans got heavy heat from the US when they decriminalized the possession of small amounts of coke, heroin and ecstasy last year but this isn't likely to affect much since the primary market for all drugs is in the US. Legalization in the US so as to kill demand and bring the trade out of the hands of criminals and hand if over legally to big pharma corporations? Sure, the CEOs of Pfizer and Glaxo Smith Kline would jizz their pants if they could sell coke legally but the public are too dumb, distracted and misinformed for this to happen in the foreseeable future. Hell, California couldn't even pass a marijuana legalization ballot measure in November, lobbied against heavily by the cop unions, the prison unions, the DEA and the Mexican drug cartels. Nice to see  all of the people making money off the drug war all on the same side for once. 

   And so like all miserable, shitty South American wars, the atrocities are bound to continue without respite until maybe the cartels start shooting up government buildings inside the US and even then the US will just declare more hysterical war and throw more tanks and bombers at it, hell anything but some common sense.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks and the death of American badassery.

    You know the one thing that blew my mind about Julian Assange and the Wikileaks document dump? The way the US reacted to it. The fact that people read those cables and were shocked, shocked, that the world runs this way! It's as if everyone acted suddenly surprised and found themselves shocked to discover that they were tricked into believing that diplomats were somehow supposed to be different from the rest of us. The leaks made clear that world diplomatic relations between countries are no different from our own shitty relations with each other in regular society, like that contractor who disappeared with the deposit I gave him for my sink repair or the dodgy mechanic who swapped out my tires when he changed my brake pads.

   The world is full of shit. And the world is at war, humans are at war, constantly and on every level. Between nations, between citizens and their rulers, between citizens and other citizens, between you and your own friends. War is the base level of human reality, war for resources, war for status, war for success, war for money, pussy and land. War to prove I'm better than you. Like Clausewitz said, "War is the continuation of diplomacy by other means". It's the point where hate gets physical.

   That's reality.

   Contrary to the world presented on TV by those trying to sell you shit.

   News media presents an image of reality that people sense is bullshit but would like to live up to anyway. As an example, Wikileaks revealed that American diplomats think England's Prince Andrew is a rude asshole, but suddenly that's controversial when it's leaked. Why? Because Prince Andrew probably is an asshole but that isn't allowed to be known, voicing that experience off the record by those who've met him is a non allowable media experience, instead, the media consensus (and so the manufactured one) is that Prince Andrew is automatically good because he's a prince. No reporter ever ran the story of Prince Andrew being a prick as it doesn't make for a good story because the rich don't like the idea of it and the plebs don't need to know anyway. When Wikileaks document dumps the truth that American diplomats who've met him think that way, everyone ends up shocked.

   Wikileaks here reveals a fundamental disconnect between how the world is portrayed as a 'feel good wish fulfillment consumer phantasmagoria' in the media and the actual world you meet everyday when the alarm clock blares and rushes you to your cubicle as a wage slave; all so you can keep the lights on and food in your gut.

   Life is war and you're the civilian.

   My favourite leak is that US and UK diplomats are shitting bricks about the current state of Pakistan and the fate of its ever growing nuclear arsenal. Oh really? I've been shitting about that since 2003. It's only a shocking revelation because the media never reports it. So when we find out that diplomats have no idea who controls the nukes there, that 100,000 Pakistani personnel are involved in the nuclear program there and the Taliban captured the Swat valley with collusion from Islamists in the Pakastani military and government, you know that smuggled chunk of highly enriched uranium is gonna go on the market in some scumbag Albanian dive bar very soon.

   That should make you shit bricks.

   A US city getting glassed by a nuke in an uninspected ship container freely rolled into a US harbor while the TSA searches your granny's tits for a silicon implant bomb. Talk about security theater... It's a story that should be on the front page of every US newspaper everyday. But it isn't. It took a document dump to the world's media to even be elevated to the point of a news story. If that isn't a total failure of popular journalism then I don't know what is.

   Oh, and Bill O' Reilly and Hannity called for Assange's assassination on national TV. I mean here are 'journalists' (LOL) openly calling for the murder of other journalists for doing their jobs and daring not to be spokesmen for the complex.  This is fucking surreal. The death of real balls in America. Truth is now deemed the enemy. In the land of free speech, they want to arrest or kill the only man prepared to hand it to them. Yet we're fighting for 'freedom' in Iraq and Afghanistan.

   These right wing 'badass' appealers to American badassary in war miss the point by so wide a mark that it makes me rage. You know what American badassery is? It's Patton driving through France in '44. It's McAuliffe holding out at Bastogne and writing "nuts" on a piece of paper when asked to surrender. It's MacArthur pulling off that amphibious assault at Inchon in 1950. Hell, it's Custer going down with all hands at Little Big Horn.

   The only badass left in America today is the TSA laughing at your saggy 'bad' ass in your naked irradiated scan at the airport.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How would an actual shooting war on the Korean Peninsula play out?


   This month's arty exchanges on the Korean peninsula had me loading up the microwave with popcorn. Sure I've said before that this war will never happen but what do I know? Military history is steeped in examples of shit getting way out of hand for no good reason. I'm thinking Franz Ferdinand eating a bullet in Sarajevo and 37 million people dying because of it. War is never supposed to make sense. If it did, there would be no fighting in the first place.

   So the North Koreans whipped out their dicks again. Instead of sinking a ship, this time they laid down some indirect on a South Korean island. Interestingly, 20 of those shells were duds and gave SK investigators a chance to examine them. Turns out they're a new type of shell (new for the North Koreans anyway), a thermobaric type warhead, you know, a fuel-air bomb, the type the US were going to use to blow Bin Laden out of his non existent mountain fortress. Turns out they're pretty good against concrete too and they also come in quite handy when you'd like to start a lot of fires and watch the world burn.

   That got me thinking.

   Where could North Korean ordinance like that really act as a clusterfuck multiplier?

   Obviously, it's Seoul. Everyone with even a passing interest in war knows the North Koreans have thousands of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, a mere 35 miles from the DMZ. So supposing this shit were to go live, how would it play out? For fun, lets suppose some doc tells Kim Jong he's got two months to live and he decides to take the world down with him just for lulz. How would he go about it?

   First off, what's he got?

   Interestingly, the North is only ranked 20th in world military strength, that's eight places behind the South. This is mainly due to the glut of Soviet era equipment in the North's arsenal all of it inherited from the 'glory days' of the Cold War. Shitty Warsaw Pact tanks (T-62s, T- 54s, would you believe they even have 200 T-34s, you know, those legendary beauties that routed the Wehrmacht at Kursk in '43). All of this equipment was proven obsolete when Saddam fielded it in Gulf War I when it made nice missile fodder for US Apaches and A10s. None of it is equipped with night vision or infra red, stabilization of the main gun for firing on the move and all of it wields old school steel armor that you could cut open these days with a shaped charge fart.

    The North's air force is equally laughable, consisting of Vietnam era fighters like MIG-17s, 19s and 23s. All that would be like fielding a bunch of World War I Sopwith Camels versus a squadron of P-51 Mustangs. As a SK or US pilot, you wouldn't be able to pull the trigger fast enough while laughing manically in your cockpit and jizzing profusely into your G pants. The South Koreans and US Navy would have a wankfest engaging that force if the North Koreans ever attempted to fly it.

    So the only thing Kim Jong and his Hennessy bottle have left to throw realistically at the South is their million man infantry (4 million in reserve) and their arty which they've got a decent amount of. Oh, and a possible nuke. Probably not because their recent attempts fizzled and got laughed off the Richter scale when detonated underground and measured by the Americans. Still, I have this fantasy that they've got a viable warhead they could air burst 10 miles up over Seoul which would act as an EMP device and knock out all the electronics in the capital. That's a lot of angry Starcraft players rioting on your streets.

   So it all comes down to the arty.

   The North launches everything they've got at Seoul and causes mega casualties. That's the threat, their ace in the hole. That is the reason why nobody in the South or the US wants this shit to go live. How many people will die in that initial barrage? That's the awful question that makes the South Koreans swallow a ship sinking and an artillery barrage on their own territory. A rich modern industrial nation can do without a war with a sick neighbor throwing a tantrum.

   Despite the mega casualties, South Korea will win. The US and SK will lay waste the North in a month. And that's where China comes in. That's why they don't want this war to happen either. North Korea is their buffer zone against capitalism. LOL seriously! China still has this hard on for the memory of Chairman Mao and any reminder on their border of the fact that they are actually a 'police-state-centrally-controlled-capitalistic-mega zone' pisses them off majorly. It offends their ideological image of themselves as 'communists'. They're a lot like the US in that respect... where the reality of themselves today fails to live up to the dream of themselves written in their founding books long ago.

   After the initial flurry of steel rain on Seoul, refugees heading South, fires burning, possibly street battles in Seoul between SK troops and the North's special forces who could possibly infiltrate the capital through tunnel networks that may or may not be viable. Still, without armor this force will mostly be a futile dick waving exercise so Kim Jong can feel good about being the mighty victor to his brainwashed zombie population in Pyongyang.

   The US and South Koreans will probably begin a co ordinated air campaign next, targeting North Korean radar sites initially and also going after as much of that arty North of Seoul as they can. I can see that being a turkey shoot of epic proportions for the US and South Korean pilots. That along with counter battery fire from the South should quieten the North's artillery to a manageable level (mobile potshots from self propelled arty hiding under bridges and in tunnels excepted). Interestingly, this might be the time Kim decides to break out the chemical or biological weaponry and lay down a plague on Seoul. Holy shit things would get interesting then.

    Next up for the South, Pyongyang. I can't see any scenario where regime change in the North doesn't become the primary objective. That'll involve a shock and awe bombing campaign going after Kim and his government administration. Pyongyang has a hornet's nest of AA but again a lot of that is going to be Soviet era shit. There'll be a lot of spray and pray and triple A rounds lighting up the sky like Baghdad in 1990.

   The interesting part here is the land war. It's going to take time for the South to break through the DMZ. If the North have any brains they've probably got every square metre mined to fuck. Plus they'll have hundreds of hardened bunkers with AT weapons of all kinds. I wonder will we see another cool Inchon type amphibious landing like MacArthur pulled in 1950. Such a strategy skirting the DMZ would have its merits.

   I'll have run out of popcorn by this stage.

   When the North starts getting the shit kicked out of it it'll be interesting to see what China's next move will be. That's really where this thing has the chance to go global and shit starts getting real scary real fast. Obviously no one wants this and if the US/SK can kill Kim Jong fast and get some rational actor in there who agrees to a surrender in return for some Marshall type rebuilding plan, I can see things ending nicely for all parties.

   Of course that's the optimistic scenario. And I'm never optimistic when it comes to war. Us bi pedal apes always manage to break out the crazy when the dogs of war are let loose so I can see all kinds of escalation events triggering. That's why I still say that this shit is never going to happen. It's just too risky for the US and China and the world...

   So I say that popcorn is safe in my pantry.

   For now.

Caesar at Alesia: The ultimate victory. (Part II)

   Okay, so the Gallic tribes have realized they are being conquered through their own internecine bullshit. Caesar is riding their differences in captured gold all the way to high office. (He'd get JFK'd years later but he's riding high for now). The Gauls suddenly get their shit together and unite under a single leader. Vercingatorix, a man the French still cry onions over. He has mustered an army of 80,000 men with 15,000 auxiliary cavalry and forced Caesar to hurry back from Rome to Gaul to prevent his men (who are holed up in towns for winter) from being over run by this upstart. Vercingatorix has wisely cut off all means of forage and Caesar is naturally pissed off at this organized and effective resistance.
   Caesar meets up with his army. After a talk with his commanders he comes to the conclusion that it's time to rid the Roman world of the dangerous threat of Vercingatorix and his weapons of mass destruction ideological opposition to Rome owning all your shit. Caesar waits for summer, slowly consolidating an army of 40,000 Roman legionnaires, 5,000 Germanic cavalry, and another 15,000 auxiliary troops of one type or another cobbled from the surrounding countryside with promises of plundered shiny trinkets for all.

   It's time to march.

   Caesar's legions set out for Alesia, the hill fort town where Vercingatorix is known to be holed up.

   Roman armies marched. They did it well. That was their thing. It's one of the reasons they built so many roads. But we're still talking blisters and torn feet. True infantry. 50,000 men walking 20 miles a day carrying 90 pounds of kit. Still think your office job in a cubicle is shit? Yeah, it probably is, but marching 20 miles a day is no fun either. Baggage trains followed in the main army's wake, rolling up the siege equipment, provisions and the shitloads of minutiae it takes to keep a Yankee stadium amount of men alive in hostile territory in a time before Halliburton could overcharge you for it.

   To top this march off, each night the army would set up camp. That might sound like the time when you as a soldier get to crash out blissfully after your 20 mile march but no, there was still more work to be done. The Romans were pretty meticulous when it came to setting up camp in hostile territory. They had a system of fortifications they hauled around with them. Before crashing, the soldiers would first have to dig a 3 ft deep ditch all around the campsite and form a raised bank from the ditch outcast with a row of staves implanted on the top of the bank. This temporary fortification rectangled around the tents that were set up within a grid like pattern so everybody knew where everybody was in case of a night assault by the enemy. You gotta love the Roman military machine. That kind of hardcore war craft from two thousand years ago still brings a tear to the eye.
   Caesar marched on, capturing a few towns along the way, towns that Vercingtorix had taken from him in his popular revolt.

  By July, the hill fort of Alesia came into view of Caesar's legions. Finally it's time to settle this shit once and for all. Alesia is pretty much immune from direct assault. Sitting on top of a steep hill, it has decent wooden fortifications with parapets for archers and slingers. And, considering there are 80,000 angry Gauls inside, Caesar decides after a quick scan, that it's probably best to siege the town and starve Vercingatorix out. He wisely surmises that assaulting Alesia in a misguided dick waving attempt is probably not going to be Caesar's soundest policy at this juncture.

    Sieges have happened many times in military history. Medieval castle warfare and the Crusades have some fun examples of slow starvation and death by disease but nothing like Alesia. This was a war before its time. Before history books were written if you omit Thucydides and other Greeks. This is the stuff history is made of. Centuries later, around 800 AD, there were Saxons and Vikings and Franks digging up the remains of long buried Roman towns constructed after Alesia fell.
  What were they finding?
  Advanced technology like lead pipes, baths, hot running water, sanitation, aqueducts, stuff they didn't have in their own time or even understand the workings of. It'd be like us today digging up anti-grav technology in the Mohave desert and being told the Aztecs built it. That's how advanced the Romans were. The only example in human history where an archaeological dig can turn up artifacts more technologically advanced than those known to the diggers.
   So when Caesar decided to siege Alesia, it wasn't going to be just any siege, it was going to be the siege. No quarter would be given. Nobody would be allowed to cross those lines. And to ensure that nobody escaped his grip, Caesar pulled off one of the most amazing feats in military history and it all came down to a single word.

    Google it and notice how Alesia shows up.

   Caesar ordered his men to build fortifications around Alesia. But not just any fortifications. We're talking eleven fucking miles of fortifications. We're talking not just 15 ft high tree stump walls but also 15ft deep trenches dug out of the earth in front of these walls. We're talking watch towers built at regular intervals complete with Roman siege equipment. We're talking man traps in the trenches, pot holes with jutting sharpened stakes the ancient equivalent of barbed wire. Some of these trenches were even flooded with water diverted from the dual rivers on either side of Alesia. We're talking a feat of human engineering that people living today can't even comprefuckinghend.
   All this was done in a Roman three week building orgy.


   You jelly modern world? Truth is, we're so fucking soft in the industrialized world today that we've lost all touch with true human effort.

A recent reconstruction of Caesars defense works. A difficult pole vault at best.

   So three weeks pass. Alesia is surrounded now by Caesar's 11 mile long rampart and wall. Sometimes I wonder why Vercingetorix didn't just make a break for it with his entire force while he still had the chance. He did send out cavalry forays to disrupt the Roman wall building but met with only intermittent success. He probably convinced himself that Caesar's wall around his town was part of his own greater plan. He had Caesar where he wanted him Monty Python style. He could be forgiven for thinking Caesar was digging his own grave for what was to come later. Who wouldn't think they could handle a siege for long enough until the Gallic relief army arrived?

   Caesar writes in his Conquest of Gaul of how a few weeks into the siege the women and children were chucked out of Alesia so food could be saved for the warriors. In search of food they approached the Roman fortifications looking for mercy and safe passage to the outside. Caesar ordered his men to reject any claim no matter how tragic. He was seriously pissed off now. Alesia was to be the example to all future enemies that everyone gets to die without mercy when you don't do what Rome says. This was pretty hardcore because soon the ground outside Alesia and within Caesar's circumvallation started filling up with starving people and the child corpses began stacking, smelling like death and getting picked apart by birds. None of this can have been very good for Gallic morale.

   Caesar was feeling pretty good though and liking his chances of victory by this stage.
   During construction however, a few detachments of Vercingatorix's cavalry did manage to break through unfinished sections of the wall and make an escape to the hills. Something in Caesar noted these otherwise minor escapes. And I suppose that's what makes Caesar the military genius of the first century BC.  He knew those guys were off to tell all their friends that major shit was going down. Sure it was obvious. But in the heat of battle and the boredom of a siege sometimes it takes insight of a great commander to act on what you know. You err on the side of caution even if it's a major pain in the ass.
   So Caesar came up with a new idea sure to piss off any of his men who were hoping to chill for a while.

   "Contravallation". Google that too and you'll find Alesia all over again.
   Basically, it means building a whole new fucking wall, this time 15 miles long around the siege wall you just built that was 11 miles long. Caesar shits you not! He's so wary of that escaped cavalry and knowing the size of the potential army the Gauls could muster if they got their shit together, he decides it's the best plan. If that isn't one of the most daring actions in military history then I don't know what is. If shit is to go down, no matter how it pans out, Caesars army is safe in the middle. Right?

   Do the siegers become the sieged?

   Yes they do. Caesars hunch was spot on. A few weeks after that initial Gallic cavalry escape, just as Caesar's legions completed the second wall, a relief army of 250,000 angry Gauls appeared on the horizon. You read that right, two fifty not twenty five. From any rational point of view 60 thousand Romans are trapped between 80,000 Gauls in Alesia on one side and a 250,000 Gallic relief force on the other. Sure the numbers are probably skewed to hell by the time they make their way through the history books but one thing is for sure; Caesar was outnumbered big time!
   The first thing the relief army did was set up camp a mile or so away and assess the situation. Obviously, an attack was called for. Preferably a dual pronged attack, one emanating from Alesia itself and attacking the inner wall while a simultaneous attack on the outer wall was initiated by the relief force thus splitting the Roman Army. In early September this was tried with a cousin of Vercingetorix leading the relief army attack.
   The Gauls must have been a pretty fearsome sight charging the outer wall. They came equipped with ladders and sandbags, the latter to attempt to fill the trenches before the contravallation. However they were unsuccessful and after a day of fighting neither wall was breached by sundown. Still, Roman morale wasn't exactly high either. Food was being rationed by now among the legions and there were definite concerns as to how long this could go on. Personally, I'd be shitting myself and wishing I'd been born 2000 years in the future and reading about the siege on the Internet.

   The Gauls had another go the following day but this time at night. That would make the Roman artillery less of a factor since it's that much harder to accurately pick off men you can't see. The Romans were pressed hard. Caesar was forced to abandon some sections of the outer wall and it was only the quick action of the auxiliary cavalry that prevented shitloads of angry Gauls wreaking havoc inside the Roman camp. Meanwhile, Vercingetorix's men were held up trying to fill in the trenches before the inner wall, allowing Caesar to divert men to the more serious areas.

   The following day the relief force tried again, this time attacking a section of the wall that was particularly weak. This proved to be the Gauls last and best chance. Even Caesar's own writings convey the fact that he nearly shat himself. With Gauls poring through and pushing the Romans back, Caesar himself had to get his hands dirty. Seeing his men wavering he donned his bright red cloak and dived into the battle slashing like a lunatic (by his own account). Patton idolized him for this, a general who was willing to hack and slash alongside his own men.

   It must have been inspiring because Caesars men fought harder. Again though it was a rearguard cavalry action that saved the day for the Romans. After this most of the Gallic relief army said fuck this and went off home. Vercingetorix surrendered a few days later and was captured by the Romans. Caesar sent him to Rome in a cage, intending to parade him through the street at his triumph. This happened six years later. Must have been a rough stint in jail for those six years for Vercingetorix.
   Casualty figures are sketchy but the fact that the Gauls gave up means they were high. It is said that every Roman soldier got one Gallic slave as part of his booty. Centurions and commanders got more. So that's an impressive collection of prisoners to help you on that farm you get when you retire from the legion.

   After Vercingetorix's ignominious display as a trophy in Caesars triumphal parade in Rome he was executed in the customary way of captured leaders... tied to a pole and garroted by a twisting rope in front of a cheering crowd. One thing that's still true two thousand years later...

    Losing sucks.

    But it's how Caesar managed the win that blows my mind.