Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Libya: Did Gaddafi school NATO in the power of professional infantry?

   Gaddafi is quickly turning into my favorite international 'bad guy'.

   It's not like I'm a big fan or anything but his power to piss off the western corporatocracy makes me smile. When you get cast as the lead villain in a fictional war movie called "Odyssey Dawn", it's always good if you can bring a little something extra to the role that makes you stand out. Villains are always more memorable if they wear distinctive clothing (Gadaffi dresses in flamboyant carpets and curtains from '70s porno), have odd habits and strange quirks (Gadaffi brings his tent with him when travelling abroad and pitches it in the gardens of rented multi million dollar mansions while leaving the mansion itself empty) and, as everyone knows, every decent movie villain should have a trademark look; for Gaddafi it's his monster sunglasses fashionable nowhere outside a Florida retirement home. Your authenticity as media hyped evil dude is considerably enhanced if you also happen to have a hot Ukrainian nurse that "monitors your blood pressure" on a constant basis while you shell your own cities to eliminate a  pesky 'rebel alliance', dodge incoming Tomahawks and, most painful of all to the pathological foreign corporatocracy trying to bump you off for your sweet Libyan crude, you also find time to school NATO war planners in the timeless value of professional infantry over a bunch of green part timers in pick up trucks. And pull all this off despite the 'best' air strikes foreign money can throw at you.

   Seriously, you couldn't make this shit up if you had to write your own war movie from scratch.

   Odyssey Dawn was a sketchy piece of fiction from the start. The trailers were crap and any savvy viewer could tell the ending was going to be shitty. It started half way into the story when Gaddafi was a day away from over running the final rebel stronghold of Benghazi. It was the threat of the villain's revenge play that forced the Euros to act with or without US cover and not because the Euros gave a shit about the 'humanitarian crisis' that might ensue after the war. Lets face it, war itself is a humanitarian crisis. Casualties are always fine so long as they are in Africa. Sure, some French liberal crybaby's might wail into their coffee on the Left Bank. But the call to action for Sarkozy, the French Right and his own re election campaign was really the nightmare scenario of boatloads of Muslim refugees flooding into France and adding foot soldiers to those that rioted and torched cars in Paris in 2005. This week, refugee crisis averted, the French passed a law banning women from wearing the suicide bomber suit burqa, a full body black garbage bag that stops horny Frogs eying up chaste Muslim women.

   The French were going to waste Gaddafi's armor and arty and save Benghazi with or without US approval. The fact that Libya stands on 2% of world oil reserves – and supplies 10% of the EU’s oil was another deal sweetener. Not only that, but Libyan oil is exceptionally sweet and pure. It only costs ~$1 to refine a barrel, currently trading at ~$110. The Euros need those fields back online ASAP. When I think about it, the British had the right idea from the start when they Tomahawked Gaddafi's compound on day one. That was probably the only 'easy win' scenario on the table and had to be tried despite Obama's bullshit that Gaddafi was never a target.

   You know things are screwed on NATO's end and they've run out of ideas when they shrugged their shoulders this week and signed off on a prospective peace deal the African Union tried to make for a ceasefire and talks... talks that leave Gaddafi and his sons in power. It's pretty funny that the rebels themselves are against this deal. Those bunch of idiots still think they have a say in this mess. And with the US quietly skulking out of the theater like the guy who just shat his pants and is trying to get to the exit before the smell hits, that leaves the Euros in charge. There are signs now of a rift growing within NATO with Britain and France wanting to double down on air strike intensity and others getting jittery about the whole thing. But unless they are prepared to land troops, there won't be much chance of a military victory by either side.

   Gaddafi must be laughing his ass off.

   As far as the fighting goes, you've got to respect Gadaffi's forces. After the initial retreat from Benghazi, they regrouped and wisely adjusted their tactics. Tanks were obviously major targets of NATO air power so it was best to park them in urban areas where they're harder to spot and target (due to NATO's RoE which involve not wasting civilians although you'd have to be a pretty retarded civilian to stay in your house watching TV with a T-72 parked in you backyard). Gadaffi is using his tanks in Misurata quite wisely it seems because they're proving difficult for air strikes to kill. And urban areas are not somewhere you'd usually deploy tanks but the Libyan army seems pretty shrewd and is adapting to NATO on the fly. Of course this means Misurata is a pretty ugly mess, with thousands of civilians trapped inside and no discernable front line. I see the New York Times wailing that the bad guys are using 'illegal cluster bombs' which is rich considering Gaddafi bought them somewhere and there aren't many munition manufacturers in Africa last time I checked. Footage of the fighting in Misurata seems to reveal a mini Stalingrad with opposing forces occupying random buildings and snipers having a field day.  One clever tactic by Gaddafi's forces that made me spew beer on my keyboard was their use of pick up trucks, pretty much the one thing NATO can't bomb since everyone and their mother in the rebel army uses one.  When the rebels had a similar idea to adopt the enemy's tactics they booted up a tank of their own which NATO promptly bombed killing five. They admitted to a 'targeting error' but refused to say 'sorry' which was pretty funny.

   Gaddafi must have laughed his ass off.

   Speaking of pickup trucks, I see the rebels operating two types, the ones with the DShk 12.7mm Russian machine guns or the ones with the homemade multiple rocket launchers, both weapons mounted on the truck bed. Either way, I always see them firing determinedly off camera but it pisses me off that I never get to see what they are firing at. The enemy? It's pretty risky engaging professional soldiers from the exposed position of an elevated truck bed with a loud banger like the 12.7mm. Seems to me, unless it's some kind of co ordinated attack by the rebels (which I seriously doubt) then that gunner is a sniper magnet advertising his position to every Libyan with a scoped rifle. Or it's all just posturing for the cameras.

Can't hit shit? No worries, ask the skygod to improve your aim.

   The more the world gets to watch the rebels in action, the more chimpanzee shit gets flung at the NATO pencil pushers who got involved in this zoo. It's getting embarrassing at this stage. After Gaddafi booted their asses out of the key oil town of Brega last week, there were reports of groups of rebels firing on each other in a dispute over whose fault it was that they are all a bunch of useless idiots. This whole thing was advertised as a war movie but it's quickly turning into an '80s frat house comedy.

   Gaddafi, in true evil villain style, called it when he characterized the rebels over a month ago as a bunch of malcontents and drug addicts... maybe he was really talking about their fighting style. For further hilarity, NATO and Western media were considering last week whether it would be a good idea to arm and train the rebels with some proper anti tank and anti air shoulder mounted weaponry. This is something I thought they might have done a month ago but the CIA guys that have been on the ground since before this shit started probably reported back that that was about as good an idea as placing an Afghan in the cockpit of a stealth bomber. Again, you gotta love Gadaffi's response when he got wind of this plan. He quickly floated the idea that the rebel 'army' included Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah elements which sent Western media into a shit fit. Funny thing is, it's probably true at least to the point where it's possible to be a card carrying member of an organization invented in the media. As far as Hezbollah goes, what self respecting young Arab doesn't have a serious beef with Israel?

   Gadaffi again must have laughed his ass off.

   Eastern Libya and its capital Benghazi have always been redneck country and the part sophisticates in Tripoli like to look down on while sipping their fancy coffees in upscale cafes. Benghazi is the city where the supporters of the former king that Gaddafi deposed in the '60s got to lay low while watching as Gaddafi funneled the oil wealth out from under their feet. They've been itching for a shot at revenge for decades. It's also home to the Islamists and the wilder desert tribes and proved fervent recruiting ground for volunteers for Iraq and Afghanistan to fight the Yankee imperialists. Those are the rebels best fighters and also the last guys you'd expect NATO to be assisting but such is the complex web of forces that guide geopolitics these days. In truth, oil makes everyone a bitch, loyalties cheap and alliances tend to shift like desert sands all so long as the proles get to fill up their SUVs on the cheap to make that commute from surburbia to their cubicle in Wageslavistan affordable.

   All this does point out though, in case anyone didn't already know, the serious value of professional infantry.  Guys in uniform are a good thing. Some ancient general in antiquity came up with the idea that having all the guys on your team wear the same outfit was a pretty cool idea. And not just to prevent accidental bludgeoning and friendly stabbing but more so to instill an Esprit de Corps amongst the troops. Part of the cost of raising an army has always been the uniform and having a uniform gave the average soldier confidence that his general had enough bank to pay up when the fighting was done. Gadaffi's hold on his army has a similar dimension. With sanctions beginning to take hold Gaddafi has doubled public sector and army pay and increased interest rates to try to coax money out from under mattresses, where millions have gone since fighting started and coax it back to the Libyan central bank.

   In fact, with neither side looking like it'll be able to pull off a decisive military victory, this war seems (as Gaddafi predicted) to be entering the post season and the long war phase. Here, economics comes into play and it's harder to see how Gadaffi can win this phase. He's already burning through his cash stash and one wonders how many dollars he has buried in the desert. The rebels too are running low on cash but they managed to fill a tanker over the weekend that made off with $100 million worth of sweet crude that sure helped rebel coffers. That's probably why Gaddafi wanted Brega and its oil refinery so bad, denying it to the enemy is at least as good as owning it yourself, broken though it is. 

   The problem with the inevitable economic victory for NATO is that it is liable to take time and not look very convincing. Waiting for Gadaffi to run out of money or for sanctions to cause food shortages in Tripoli is liable to create the type of 'humanitarian crisis'  Operation Odyssey Dawn was designed to prevent. That kind of messy victory is going to leave more chimpanzee shit on NATO's doorstep.

   Still, the situation is not by any means good for our villain. A bunch of his cabinet ministers abandoned ship last week which didn't look good for Gadaffi and the morale in his camp. The most high profile defector, former foreign minister Moussa Koussa seems to be trying to play the role of 'honest broker' on the international stage and seems to think a deal can be made. Anything he can do to make himself useful is a good idea because he's facing questioning for the Lockerbie bombing and needs a favorable phone call from the MoD to get the dogs called off.

   One idea that I saw floated was the partition of the country which seems pretty ugly but would probably suit sleazy western oil companies since all the oil fields are in the east and the rebels hold most of them. They've already proved they can play ball and be compliant on the oil front, having filled three tankers over the past month and that's something Western governments need to know. With oil prices hovering around the $110 mark and jittery news in America of $5 a gallon gas by summer, that's the kind of shit that crashed the economy two years ago and makes the corporatocracy shudder. And with the US consumer already broke, pricey oil will cause all kinds of commodity and food price spikes that's going to eat up every disposable dollar in circulation, leaving a whole bunch of iPhones and plastic pumpkins gathering dust on store shelves.

   This is still Gaddafi's best play right now. Keep the uncertainty flowing for as long as possible and see if you  can parlay that into a sweet deal for yourself and the in-laws. Something involving stepping down in favor of a son and getting to keep the money in your offshore bank accounts. Meanwhile, churn out brutal urban warfare in Misurata while conducting hit and run raids in pickup trucks against the rebels who are sure to run like fuck and scream at the sky, demanding the magical appearance of A-10s. Oh wait, the US has scaled down air operations. Guess they'll have to rely on French Mirages or British Tornados, neither aircraft being ideal for loitering over the battlefield providing close air support to idiots who wouldn't know to take advantage of it anyway.

   What a mess.

   One thing is for sure, no matter how this ends, there won't be many Libyans smiling or laughing.

   Not even the 'arch villain' himself.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ivory Coast: Gbagbo's army goes AWOL.

   In the vintage year for war that 2011 is turning out to be, Ivory Coast's is turning out to be a minor dust up. Like I've been saying for a while now, it was just a matter of time before this shit went live. With news today that 800 civilian bodies were found in the western town of Duekoue, shot and hacked up with machetes, seems this war has finally got its shit together. Of course, both sides are blaming each other for the body count. But that's pretty much par for the course when genocide is in play in Africa; both sides are willing to play the game but no side wants to be caught standing with blood on their hands when any particular round of media musical chairs ends.

   You can't really call this a proper war though. Not when one side, in this case that of former president Laurent Gbagbo, the president who refuses to step down after losing last November's election, doesn't seem like he has the stomach for a proper fight. Gbagbo's army put up almost no resistance to the UN and IMF's man, Alassane Ouattara, whose forces seem to have marched right in over the last few days and taken 80% of the country with almost no resistance.

   That sure had me scratching my head. 

   Seems a lot of them saw the writing on the wall and stayed at home. Even Gbagbo's chief general and head of the army, Phillippe Mangou, took refuge in the South African embassy with his five children. By mid afternoon on Friday 50,000 soldiers and cops had abandoned Gbagbo. Although there has been constant gunfire in the capital Abidjan and fierce fighting, Ouattarra's men have already taken the presidential palace and a bunch of them slept in Gbagbos bed. When you lose your bed, you know the war is pretty much over for you. Still, there's no sign of Gbagbo.

Ouattara's forces preparing to enjoy Gbagbo's bed in his palace.

   This Gbagbo guy sucks majorly.

   Seriously, he should win some prize for the worst defence of a country ever. Was he really that clueless that he didn't realise a large chunk of his army would surrender at the first sign of trouble? Actually, probably yes. That was why he was running a little mini Hitler Youth recruiting drive over the past few weeks and handing out AKs to angry teenagers with tribal grievances and calling them the 'Young Patriots'. Nothing like tapping into the old colonial divisions and ethnic fault lines when you need a fog of ultra violence to hide behind. He also has about 2,500 troops of the 'Republican Guard' (think hometown tribe who you've been funnelling chocolate profits to for the last ten years, much like Saddam's Ba'ath buddies in Tikrit) and it looks like they are putting up decent resistance in the capital Abidjan; prolonging shit to at least save some face. Gbagbo's forces have also managed, after conflicting reports, to retain control of state broadcaster RTI where they've been playing tape on a loop of last November's election 'victory'. There are also reports of a dishevelled Gbagbo news guy showing up impromptu and claiming the station had been attacked by the UN "assisted by Guinean, Malian, Senegalese, Beninese and Burkinabe mercenaries", which seems to me to be an attempt to stir up tribal tensions and get the wider genocide ball rolling.

   The problem right now for the international community is they are not giving Gbagbo a way out. With resistance in the capital proving more stubborn then they expected (understandable after you've captured 80% of the country so easily in a matter of days), the longer this goes on the more destabilizing it can get. Just like in Libya, you need to float a decent escape plan for the designated 'bad guy'. But with the International Community floating the idea of indicting Gbagbo for 'crimes against humanity', that pretty much rules out the villa in the south of France and access to his inevitable offshore bank account.

   What I don't get is if Gbagbo had some inkling that his guys were going to surrender so miserably? If so, then why not make a deal while he still had a decent amount of chips left on the table? My guess is the guy's a retard surrounded by yes men who were trolling the fuck out of him. Did Gbagbo really know his chief general, Mangou, was such a pussy or was he just that clueless? Of course, I have no idea but it makes for a comedy sketch that goes something like this:

                   INT - President Gbagbo's HQ - Evening, a week prior to Ouattarra's attack.

     President Gbagbo is reclining in his armchair, smoking a cigar while a hooker smokes his 'other cigar' under his sprawling mahogany desk. He has requested an audience with his chief general, Phillippe Mangou, in order to assess the readiness of his army for the upcoming war.

       Gbagbo: So how are the troops, General Mangou?
       Mangou: They are fabulous el presidente.
       Gbagbo: And how do they feel about that $20 a month raise I gave them.
       Mangou: They are really pleased with it sir. Most of them bought another six pack with it.
       Gbagbo: SIX PACK!?
       Mangou: Yes's an erm... extension for the magazine cartridge on their AKs.
       Gbagbo:  Ah that's the spirit! I like dedication like that. For a second there I thought you meant the men were drinking!
       (Nervous laughter)
       Mangou:  Drinking? Why would they do that? Granted, with the UN, the IMF, the African Union, ECOWAS, the World Bank and the International Community breathing down their necks, the men might need to steady their nerves a little.
       Gbagbo: True. That's true. (Gbagbo begins signing papers on his desk)
       Mangou: What are you doing el presidente?
       Gbagbo: I'm increasing the army's chocolate ration. Nothing makes men want to fight like Hershey and Snickers bars!
       Mangou: Good plan... good plan! (muttering to himself) That'll work retard!

Laurent Gbagbo: Not the sharpest tool in the shed.

   This war is pretty much over already. Gbagbo has failed to get the genocide ball rolling and his forces will soon be running out of ammo. Still, Ouaterra has a lot to lose here if he doesn't play his hand carefully. He's been offering Gbagbo multiple chances to surrender. This is presumably to try to avoid a high body count which tends to put a dampner on your swearing in ceremony. It also makes all that foreign money that's bankrolling you nervous. These foreign interests just want business to settle down nicely and the economic rape of Africa to continue on the down low as it has done for centuries. Ouattara knows the game since he was an inside man at the IMF for much of the '90s.

   So everything should work out better than expected for the economic hitmen.