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February 02, 2007

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Dr. George Hunsinger

the classified parts of the NIE might not necessarily be more dispiriting, revealing them would probably compromise sources in the Saudi government etc., that type of thing.

look on the bright side. National Intelligence was completely wrong about Iraq in 2002, so maybe it's completely wrong now.

i also suspect the full document refers to sensitive (i.e. embarrassing) initiatives to talk to the Syrians, Iranians, and various factions/militias.

as though all it took to justify something as serious as this war, something with potentially catastrophic consequences for the whole region and for our own interests, was to show that Iraq had missiles that could travel more than 93 miles, or that he let aging ex-terrorists live within his borders

it all reduces to Ledeen/Goldberg's “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

sure, it's the war-cry of an insecure and frightened bully, but that's what the US was, after 9/11. it's at the heart of all the reasons we went there - "we mean business (now)". it's definitely behind the enormous support the war initially received - we mean business and we'll put a boot in your ass (doesn't matter who's ass - one house on Sand street is as good as the next; and if we get the wrong house, the neighbors will be watching anyway).

and now it's the reason we can't leave - the Ledeen-Goldbergs don't want the world to know that we're not omnipotent and that we can't just go kicking little countries on a whim, without completely destroying them in the process.

or whatever

I'm sure some of the sections of the full NIE that will never see the light of day involve Saudi support for Sunni insurgents.

As to the Ezra point about Dem politicians and the distinction between accurate intelligence and wisdom about invasion and overthrow of governments: What Paul Krugman said about Molly Ivins is very much on point. Paraphrasing -- Was she smarter than all the supposed policy experts who got it so wrong? No, she was braver.

My observations of the last fifty years of American history lead to the conclusion that in practice this will not shake out as an argument against wars in general, but as creating the intial conditions for how wars will be fought.

If the premise is that occupation, control, nation and government building are impossible, or that we are unwilling to adapt to the kind of force structure that such projects entail, then we will choose and use a force structure that will achieve certain aims without any attempt at inserting ground troops.

That may often involve using proxies plus air power, as recently in Somalia. Those proxies will not wage the war in line with American or int'l standards.

Or the shift to the extended use of air/sea power. With an American goal of a peaceful democratic unified Iraq, we could still be sending B-52s agains Sadr City, Ramadi, Anbar province four years after the war began. There would be relatively few American casualties, and the war would be much cheaper. American public opinion would be easier to handle. We would not be occupying, so much int'l law will not apply. Iraq would be responsible for its internal politics. This describes much of the 90s, with several bombing campaigns. Yes, Iraq was marginally better off under sanctions etc, but Saddam was still in power, and little progress toward goals was achieved.

You think you are advocating peace, but you actually are enabling unspeakable atrocity.

Example:If the strategic goal is to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power, we can do it.

We don't have the troops to occupy and change regimes, but we can start carpet bombing Iran and not stop until a couple brigades can protect inspectors after the ten percent of the population left urrenders.

Another chopper shot down.

I was struck recently by the spate of choppers going down. If the eyewitness account of this most recent hit is to be believed, there is definitely an effective new anti-chopper tactic in play in Iraq. Very interesting...

"but that's what the US was, after 9/11."

9/11 is not particularly relevant. Bush/Cheney were going to make Saddam "toast" as Bush said. and they were planning to do it even before they were elected. They had to do it with Clinton's force structure. It still took seven months, even with shock & awe and occupation. As an exercise, imagine what Bush/Cheney would have done under the "no nation-building"
strategy.

They would not have said, "Aw shucks".

Which is the general problem with the MY's , Ezra, and hilzoy's strategic policy making. You don't get to choose, by yourselves, the Presidents that use them.

"I'm sure some of the sections of the full NIE that will never see the light of day...."

If I'm not mistaken, NIEs come under the automatic declassification-after-25-years rule of the Information Security Oversight Office; 25 years from now, the government can make an exemption, but I believe that's what it would take. (I might be wrong.)

I don't think there are any existing NIEs of that age (although the law is Clinton-era) that aren't now declassified, though it's entirely possible I'm wrong about that.

But I'd be willing to bet that you're wrong about "never." That's a long time. And even if for some reason a government in 25 years would find something in it embarrassing -- and that's unlikely, though not, of course, impossible -- it's just one of those "who the hell knows what the government will be like in 25 years?" things -- it's really unlikely that people will still be fussy in fifty years, or sixty.

"If the eyewitness account of this most recent hit is to be believed, there is definitely an effective new anti-chopper tactic in play in Iraq."

Maybe, but I'm trying to spot what in the "eyewitness account" leads you to say this. Both a rag-tag militia, and us, found out for sure in Somalia in 1991 that the "effective new anti-chooper tactic" then was to fire a bunch of RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades, if anyone doesn't know) at chopper tails, and unsurprisingly, if one hits -- and if you fire enough, one will -- it blows up a good chunk of the tail real good. Down goes chopper.

Is there something you read in that piece that indicates something newer or more complicated than that? (I'm not aware that there have been any developments on miraculous anti-RPG defenses that have yet been installed on our helicopters, although several possibilities are said to be on-the-verge -- and I certainly could be unaware of such developments, naturally.)

Via Josh Marshall, this AP story from early December:

Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash.

Saudi government officials deny that any money from their country is being sent to Iraqis fighting the government and the U.S.-led coalition.

But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.

In one recent case, an Iraqi official said $25 million in Saudi money went to a top Iraqi Sunni cleric and was used to buy weapons, including Strela, a Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. The missiles were purchased from someone in Romania, apparently through the black market, he said.

Bob: My observations of the last fifty years of American history lead to the conclusion that in practice this will not shake out as an argument against wars in general, but as creating the intial conditions for how wars will be fought.

I find myself in rare agreement with you. Now that we have seen how this occupation thing worked out politically, and how our efforts to spare civilians mostly ended in the death of more Americans, I think sadly that you are correct.

The next time the focus will be on destroying what we need to with little regard for civilian deaths. If we need to take out a regime we will, but we won’t wait around to see what fills the vacuum.

In reality – this is what playing this thing for all its worth politically (both parties) has led us to.

To clarify, we won’t do anything anytime soon, including Iran. But when something happens again, if you think our response to 9/11 has been bad, you haven’t seen anything yet.

NIE: Having read through this thing twice now – I really don’t see anything significantly new. This same analysis has been done here over the last few months, and for the most part the same conclusions reached. (I got most of this from ObWi before the NIE was published.)

From what I can see, Hilzoy, Andrew, Von, etc., as fine tuned by the commentariot here, could publish the next NIE with no intelligence assets at all. And at about .000001% of the cost.

This really read like stale news to me. Can someone point out anything significant we did not know or suspect or surmise?

This really read like stale news to me. Can someone point out anything significant we did not know or suspect or surmise?

The intelligence services of the United States didn't completely role over this time.

Is there something you read in that piece that indicates something newer or more complicated than that?

I think the point is that we've had an apparent spike (at least that's my impression, but I've not been focussing intently on this) in the numbers of choppers taken down, with a recent one having a high value target (the highest ranking medical officer in Iraq?), so something must be changing. I suspect it is that the speed at which things are happening is much faster, necessitating faster intervention, and IEDs and the general ability to resist, as well as the US forces drawing back to fortified bunkers, is preventing forces from going in on the ground, giving the insurgents more opportunities to engage helicopters. There is also the seeming hesitancy to attribute chopper crashes to combat causes, so one wonders.

"I think the point is that we've had an apparent spike [...]"

Yes, that's a fair statement.

"...in the numbers of choppers taken down, with a recent one having a high value target (the highest ranking medical officer in Iraq?), so something must be changing."

And I'm asking if there's any reason to think that the change is anything more than more people shooting at them. Ockham's razor.

Basically, it's not news that guns will kill people, even Americans, and that RPGs will shoot down helicopters. It doesn't require some "new technique" any more than than Iraqis require elaborate newness in tactics or techniques to point guns at our guys and shoot them in the head.

But if there is news, I'm curious to hear it, which is why I'm asking if there's any actual evidence of such. It doesn't seem to me that more helicopters being shot down is evidence one can deduce anything at all from -- per se -- any more than when American sniper casualties rise, it means anything more than that more snipers are shooting, more or less.

didn't completely role over

Interesting (but apt) typo there.

"any more than when American sniper casualties rise, it means anything more than that more snipers are shooting,"

There should have been a "necessarily" before "means." Sorry.

Oh and I see that Spartikus quotes Josh Marshall on Saudi funding of Sunnis, and in the post, he makes a link between that and helicopters going down. It would be interesting to know if the helicopter crashes are related to Sunni areas or Shia areas, but that would require a lot more info than I would be able to dig up.

If I'm not mistaken, NIEs come under the automatic declassification-after-25-years rule

stuff still stays excised, but even when you do a FOIA you find that the excised stuff isn't all that scintillating. NIEs, in my experience, actually are not very exciting because they are big, slow-moving, safe, committee productions. The findings are always leaked anyway.

Having read through this thing twice now – I really don’t see anything significantly new.

Yup, they only tell you something new if you're the president.


an Iraqi official said $25 million in Saudi money went to a top Iraqi Sunni cleric and was used to buy weapons, including Strela, a Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile.

Well Strelia would make sense. And don't believe it comes from a Romanian arms dealer. Well it kinda does, but you can be damn sure there's a lot of old soldiers in Moscow who have been waiting a long time for payback over Afghanistan and the Stingers.


Basically, it's not news that guns will kill people, even Americans, and that RPGs will shoot down helicopters. It doesn't require some "new technique"

I'd like to see you shoot down a modern combat chopper with an RPG. 4 in 2 weeks. This is new.

Well, it doesn't necessarily mean that more people are shooting at them, it means that some factor or factors have changed. Could be the number of chopper interventions, could be improved tactics, could be improved ways to let insurgents know when and where choppers are going so as to let them concentrate and prepare or it could be that insurgents have improved their aim. More advanced gear is another possibility as TPM seems to suggest. But a bland 'well that is what happens when you have people shooting you' is a bit too sanguine for my tastes.

coverage of the chopper story

Seems like they're concerned to me. Could be a statistical fluke...but seems suspicious.

Oh, I tend to lean towards byrningman on this, but it should be noted it was 3 military and 1 civilian helicopters.

Well it kinda does, but you can be damn sure there's a lot of old soldiers in Moscow who have been waiting a long time for payback over Afghanistan and the Stingers.

Which sets up the next stage in the Circle of Blowback as Strela's sold in Iraq eventually make their way north to Chechnya and are used against Russian helicopters.

wow, from the NPR link above

But that helicopter was also struck by ground fire, exploded in a ball of fire and crashed, the witnesses said. The other helicopter flew away, they said.

That sure seems different.

Which sets up the next stage in the Circle of Blowback as Strela's sold in Iraq eventually make their way north to Chechnya and are used against Russian helicopters.

sadly, the route doesn't need to be so circuitous. enterprising russian officers often sell military material to chechen rebels, or at least it used to be a major problem in the past at any rate. it's a cynical world.

"...but even when you do a FOIA you find that the excised stuff isn't all that scintillating. NIEs, in my experience, actually are not very exciting because they are big, slow-moving, safe, committee productions. The findings are always leaked anyway."

Absolutely, to all of that. (Gosh, isn't it exciting that this time they reportedly changed the font of the footnotes/dissents?)

But that helicopter was also struck by ground fire, exploded in a ball of fire and crashed, the witnesses said. The other helicopter flew away, they said.

That sure seems different.

[with absolutely puzzlement] In what way? Usually, when aircraft explode in a ball of fire, they crash, which is what happens when they're hit by sufficient fire. And as a rule, a nearby helicopter will fly away, being piloted by folks uninterested in seeing the same thing happen to them.

"Well, it doesn't necessarily mean that more people are shooting at them,"

Yes, that's why I asked. One thing to note about "Strelas" is that the term is semi-useful, at best, as it applies to a variety of Russian anti-aircraft missiles. (It's a bit like the useless way "MiGs" are sometimes referred to, as if there were a single aircraft that went by that name, though not quite that bad.) Ya gotcha Grails, Gremlins (NATO designations, of course), and so on. And to quote from that NPR story:

Iraqi insurgents have used heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and shouldered-fired SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles throughout the Iraq conflict.
Aka the "Strela 2," and a pretty piss-poor weapon, incidentally.

And:

But Pace said it was unclear whether "this is some kind of new tactics or techniques that we need to adjust to."
So, basically, the amount of actual informational content here is more or less zero. Is something new going on? Are Strela-3, aka SA-14 Gremlins, coming in now? Good questions. Answers will be interesting, whenever they show up.

But if there is news, I'm curious to hear it, which is why I'm asking if there's any actual evidence of such."

Gary, what I have heard is that the difference is that the helicopters are flying lower in support of urban counter-insurgency operations.

IOW, the insurgents haven't changed, the helicopters have become easier targets.

well eyewitness accounts of these kinds of shootings are notoriously unreliable. but what i think japonicus was highlighting, or at least what i found notable, was that both choppers were hit. two choppers, both get hit? either those pilots were pretty dozy or the badguys are getting very good at what they do.

so the only concrete information we have is that a lot of choppers are taking serious damage all of a sudden.

so the only concrete information we have is that a lot of choppers are taking serious damage all of a sudden

So … Is Iran the elephant in the romm?

Err, room.

I think we're not likely to hear too much about this until much later. The more of a serious thing this is in terms of weapons and tactics, the less likely we're (read: the military) going to be talking about it until long after we've figured out how to counter.

Only tangentially related, there are still things related to GWI weapons that are classified, even though they probably don't need to be anymore. It's not as if I get to decide, though.

Oh, cmon I don't know the actual urban details, but I presume the difference in the way an Apache is as support in Ramadi and Samarra, and how it is used one mile from the Green Zone or other parts of Baghdad is huge.

I remember the picture last week from Halfa(?) street showed the Apache hovering outside the high rise at about the 12th floor level. Hovering.

OCSteve: According to the LATimes, al Qaeda in Iraq has claimed responsibility. In any case, I think the area in question is Sunni. It's conceivable that Iran has decided to fund people who are now in a sectarian war against their fellow Shi'a, many of whom they also support, train, and fund, but until some very convincing evidence shows up, I'll stick with the simpler assumption that it's Saudi/other Gulf State money.

"Gary, what I have heard is that the difference is that the helicopters are flying lower in support of urban counter-insurgency operations."

That has a sort of surface plausibility, but, respectfully, I'm not sure it really makes sense (I'm perfectly open to arguments that it does). If these attack helicopters aren't flown at relatively low altitude, they're pretty much useless and pointless, and why would they be in the air at all? What would their mission be?

Basically, though they of course have gravity in their favor when fighting against ground forces, they have no other mission other than fighting against ground forces (we have other observation choppers, like Kiowas), and they're pretty much forced by physics to be in range of non-lightweight small arms in an urban setting (in an empty desert, or certain other circumstances, is another matter). So I'm having trouble seeing how this could be a new thing, although I'm certainly prepared to believe I'm missing something.

I would note that the NPR story says:

Iraqi police and witnesses said the latest crash occurred about 7:30 a.m. as two Apaches were flying along a well-established air route near Taji, a major U.S. base about 12 miles north of Baghdad.
The obvious observation is that a "well-established air route" means "we know this is where to put our forces to attack the American helicopters!"

The other quote I should have noted from that story:

Helicopters are always vulnerable to ground fire, said Stephen Trimble, Americas bureau chief for Jane's Defence Weekly. "A well-placed bullet can pretty much take down any helicopter," he said.
byrningman asserts: "I'd like to see you shoot down a modern combat chopper with an RPG. 4 in 2 weeks. This is new."

I didn't say an RPG: I specified that the tactic learned in Somalia was to fire a whole bunch at once. And as I'm sure we both know, as that story notes:

However, the Apaches, which were designed to fight the Soviet Union on the plains of central Europe, have proven vulnerable to intense ground fire.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, more than 30 Apaches had to break off an attack after suffering heavy damage in fighting with the Iraqi Republican Guard.

As I recall, that was mostly using the same exact tactic: ordinary infantry firing a whole bunch of RPGs.

Incidentally, List of Coalition aircraft crashes in Iraq. And this.

The U.S. military helicopter that crashed outside Baghdad, killing all 12 on board, was shot down by a shoulder-fired missile, CNN reported on Monday.

The Black Hawk was most likely brought down on Saturday by hostile fire, according to unidentified U.S. officials cited by CNN. The crash was still under investigation but debris recovered on the ground indicate a missile was involved, CNN said.

There's no attribution as to cause for pretty much any of the chopper crashes in 2006, though.

Also, from 04/03/06 :

U.S. Cuts Role Of Apache for Deep Attack
By GREG GRANT


Battlefield experience in Iraq has shown that the U.S. Army’s premier attack helicopter, the AH-64 Apache, is highly vulnerable to small-arms fire. Therefore, it will no longer play a prominent role in the service’s deep attack mission, said the Army’s head of doctrine.

Gen. William Wallace, who commanded ground forces in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and now heads the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, said he would shake up the way the Army conducts deep attack operations.

“Less integration of Apache helicopters,” more Air Force ground-attack aircraft, and “more use of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, perhaps even with unitary rounds that are long-range precision,” Wallace said Feb. 16 at the Association of the United States Army’s winter symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Questions about helicopter survivability arose early in the Iraq war when 34 AH-64 Apaches undertook a deep attack mission against a Republican Guard division positioned south of Baghdad. Every airframe was hit by ground fire, one Apache was downed, and 27 of the 33 that returned to base were so heavily damaged they couldn’t fly until repaired. Since 2001, the Army has lost 85 helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan to ground fire and combat-related accidents.

"I find myself in rare agreement with you."
...OCSteve

Probably not. My solution has been a shift to massive amounts of ground troops with an overt acceptance of the goals of nation-building, but pre-emptively creating the force structure necessary to accomplish it.

If Bush had had 1 million troops ready to go to Iraq, there is no way he could tell the Generals not to use them.

As far as what is going to happen, the left and right with whatever different motivations will decide against nation-building, and yes, we will end up killing nations.

"...even though they probably don't need to be anymore...."

Probably what "GWI" stands for doesn't need to be. But, of course, everyone knows what that it means.

Or maybe not.

The whole Trophy controversy has gotten a ton of press, of course. (Video!)

Of course, that's a FCLAS, if we're going to throw out acronymns; I haven't seen anything about a helicopter-sized version being available any time in the next year or so, though, of course, it's certainly entirely possible I wouldn't.

(Okay: Full Spectrum Close-In Layered Shield; who makes up this s---?)

Oh, and in the small world department, I was just reading about this only an hour ago.

Probably what "GWI" stands for doesn't need to be. But, of course, everyone knows what that it means.

Or maybe not.

You're pulling my leg, Gary. Next thing you'll be telling me that there are still people who don't know who Grover Norquist is.

"Oh, cmon I don't know the actual urban details, but I presume the difference in the way an Apache is as support in Ramadi and Samarra, and how it is used one mile from the Green Zone or other parts of Baghdad is huge."

What do you presume, in non-detailed fashion, that huge difference to be?

I have the vague -- and likely totally wrong -- idea you are perhaps suggesting that somehow there's some more ruthless fashion in which to use attack helicopters at 12th floor level than a few hundred feet higher, but I have no idea what that fashion might be. Neither is it unsurprising for an attack helicopter to hover at the 12th floor level in an urban combat setting, though it's apt to be imprudent if there are more than a handful of well-armed opposition.

"Halfa(?) street"

Haifa street. Like the Israeli port town.

Hilzoy:

It's conceivable that Iran has decided to fund people who are now in a sectarian war against their fellow Shi'a, many of whom they also support, train, and fund, but until some very convincing evidence shows up, I'll stick with the simpler assumption that it's Saudi/other Gulf State money.
Clearly we should be declaring Saudis in Iraq as legitimate targets, and threatening to bomb Saudi Arabia. That could only help. I expect a Weekly Standard article any minute, though it's probably already been published.

Baghdad's Haifa Street ...AP

Jan 24:"Apache attack helicopters buzzed past the tall buildings and radio towers, with several Humvees on the tree-lined street below. Gunfire rang in the background as shells fell, according to AP Television News footage"

I don't really trust much of anything about what Jim Henley calls the "Whatever" event north of Najaf last week, but most reposts included helipcopter gunships.

Jeez, this what makes dialogue so difficult sometimes:

"Prove we are using Apaches, dude.I got this cite from last March." ...imaginary commenter

"What do you presume, in non-detailed fashion, that huge difference to be?"

Less high-rise buildings, which besides flight characteristics would mean more difficult for the insurgents to shoot, a need for a little less precision in targeting, a ability to fly faster in the less developed towns, perhaps even to target from the edge of the city or target area

In general, I would not like to fly my copter down an urban canyon, with insurgents above me shooting down.

Slart: "You're pulling my leg, Gary."

Who, me?

Bob: "I don't really trust much of anything about what Jim Henley calls the 'Whatever' event north of Najaf last week, but most reposts included helipcopter gunships."

Sure. That we've been using attack helicopters (Apaches and Blackhawks), is not news -- I'm unaware of anyone arguing that we've not been using them in Iraq, and that proof of use is required, or relevant -- and this is not at all new. And there's no high altitude use for such helicopters.

You've got a 'copter, bob?

You're pulling my leg, Gary. Next thing you'll be telling me that there are still people who don't know who Grover Norquist is.

There no deprecation like self deprecation.

I wish this scanned better, but consider this a small thank-you, Slart, for the laugh. Great stuff.

"You've got a 'copter, bob?"

"Would" provides sufficient hypotheticalness, I should think. Hypotheticality? "If I were a etc..."

Saudis Reportedly Funding Sunni Insurgents ...USA Today,12/8

What can be said? Not news.

"In general, I would not like to fly my copter down an urban canyon, with insurgents above me shooting down."

Neither would I (hypothetically, Slarti).

But -- and I apologize for whatever degree I'm just being slow -- are you suggesting that the recent helicopter crashes are due to an increased use of them in urban areas? Because that's not where any of them happened (assuming, of course, that the U.S. government isn't lying about the locations). The only one that was reported to have gone down in Baghdad was the only chopper that wasn't an attack craft, but was a high altitude (for a helicopter) light observation copter flown in this case by Blackwater.

The downed Apache today was reported "near Taji"; the one on January 28th "near Najaf"; and the one on the 20th "north-east of Baghdad."

So if the idea is that these choppers went down is because of increased counter-insurgency in Baghdad, I'm not sure how the reporting supports that; if that's not the idea, I'm still not following what you're suggesting, I'm afraid. (I am, in fact, feeling fairly foggy this evening.)

The single Blackwater copter incident, I should note, might support the "increased copters in Baghdad" theory, if it weren't the only such incident in recent months.

This story reported that:

The helicopter was shot down after responding to assist a U.S. Embassy ground convoy that came under fire in a Sunni neighborhood in central Baghdad, said a U.S. diplomatic official in Washington.
Which does make me wonder if Blackwater armed the MD 530F, which is not armed out of the factory; I'd be inclined to guess that they had, but that's all I'd be doing. (It's a pretty light craft, FWIW -- "Useful load: 684 kg" -- and also very un-armored; you could probably bring one down with a high-powered rifle shot to the pilot.)

"What can be said? Not news."

Not since spartikus posted the link at 07:04 PM, two hours and twenty-odd minutes earlier, anyway.

"Not since spartikus posted the link at 07:04 PM, two hours and twenty-odd minutes earlier, anyway."

Ah well. Sorry. I just haven't been able to wrap my mind around the Saudi-US relationship since 9/11, really. Not advocating war, but if we were allies I should think we would have a different plan for Iraq.

As far as the copters, I have been workin off a prediction that the "surge" would involve increased helicopter losses, expressed on several blogs. One of the reasons the surge is unlikely to improve long-term prospects in Iraq.

Not since spartikus posted the link at 07:04 PM, two hours and twenty-odd minutes earlier, anyway.

Shucks, I was simply being indispensable ;)

Again via JMM: 3 (of 4 now?) helicopters downed recently, downed by heavy machine gun fire.

Bush/Cheney were going to make Saddam "toast" as Bush said. and they were planning to do it even before they were elected.

i'd be very surprised if they could've got the backing of Congress to topple Saddam without 9/11 - no matter how much they wanted to do it. as i remember it, the country wasn't in an invading mood, back in the day.

The Next Act ...Sic Semper Tyrannis reports that Bush has assigned StratCom to draw up the plans for the attack on Iran.

StratCom.

"the country wasn't in an invading mood, back in the day."

That was exactly my point. We were intermittently bombing Iraq under Clinton, and my guess is that Bush would simply have found a justification, and bombed Iraq until Saddam was gone. Took 7 months with groundtroops, so maybe 2 years of carpet bombing.

Clarifying: Didn't say or mean that it's news or some great revelation that Saudi support is going to Sunni fighters in Iraq --only that if there is evidence of it in the NIE, it's not going to come out before we've bombed Iran.

Until then the pernicious penumbras of Persianity will be held responsible for any and all threats or hostile activities.

Thanks for the info about the 25-year declassification law, Gary. I'll be impressed and pleasantly surprised when the material for 1982-3 is released with no fuss.

There no deprecation like self deprecation.

I wish this scanned better, but consider this a small thank-you, Slart, for the laugh. Great stuff.

There's so much material there; it'd be a crying shame to waste it all.

I could take it completely seriously and be forced to live the rest of my life in solitude, or I could laugh at myself and move on. And, possibly, have some company laughing at myself.

You're welcome.

There's a whole recent thread on Making Light, nominally on the recent unpleasantness on Haifa Street. In the comments, it turned into "more than most people want to know about helicopters, how they're used, and how they go down."

"I'll be impressed and pleasantly surprised when the material for 1982-3 is released with no fuss."

Actually, it was a huge surprise to most folks who follow this sort of thing when the Bush Administration recently followed the law and declassified a huge ton of 25-year-old security-related stuff, as called for, on December 31st. (Particularly surprising in light of the absurd reclassification effort.) It's one of those eight billion things I would have blogged if I'd been blogging. See here, for instance.

At the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, something profound happened in the government secrecy system. With little fanfare, the paradigm of secrecy shifted.

The days when secrets would be secret forever officially ended that night. Some 700 million pages of secret documents became unsecret. No longer were they classified. They became . . . public. Imagine it: Some 400 million formerly classified pages at the National Archives, another 270 million at the FBI, 30 million elsewhere, all emerging into the sunshine of open government, squinting and pale, like naked mole rats.

Lynne Duke pointed out the catch:
[...] There is a dirty little secret about these secrets: They remain secreted away. You still can't rush down to the National Archives to check them out. In fact, it could be years before these public documents can be viewed by the public.

Fifty archivists can process 40 million pages in a year, but now they are facing 400 million. The backlog, inside the National Archives II facility in College Park, measures 160,000 cubic feet inside a massive classified vault with special lighting and climate controls to preserve old paper.

The story outlines some of the other complications, such as the fact that every almost every damn Federal agency uses a different method and set of classification codes, and the "equity" issue.

Still, Bush in 2003 affirming Clinton's Executive Order 12958 of 1995, creating the 25-year-rule, is something few would have intuitively assumed would happen.

Helos can be used effectively in other conditions than low-altitude attack; they can stand off at a distance and watch. The Apache has a rather decent FLIR that doubles as a gunsight. This kind of mission is much better performed by an AC-130, which sits up quite a bit higher i altitude than an Apache, for example, and is correspondingly harder to shoot down with shoulder-launched SAMs or machine-gun fire.

Airborne observation platforms seem to be needed more over there, but helos aren't the way to go.

"Helos can be used effectively in other conditions than low-altitude attack; they can stand off at a distance and watch."

Assuming you mean, of course, "attack helicopters," specifically, since obviously other sorts of helicopters in particular have other uses, yes, of course. But the Apache was designed to be a tank-killer, using stand-off fire from their Hellfire missiles, as I'm sure you know.

Since insurgents tend to have a shortage of tanks, the Apache's primary weapon is largely useless, aside from taking out an occasional building, leaving it only the secondary machine guns to be used at relatively close range.

"This kind of mission is much better performed by an AC-130, which sits up quite a bit higher i altitude than an Apache, for example, and is correspondingly harder to shoot down with shoulder-launched SAMs or machine-gun fire."

Definitely, although there are a heck of a lot fewer AC-130s than Apaches, as you know, and there's a lot more involved in using one, as well as a tremendously vaster amount of firepower.

FLIR, for the uninitiated, is a form of infrared targeting mechanism (really, Slart, most folks do not, in fact, know what these acronyms mean, so I gently suggest considering explaining them to folks when you first use them -- me, I was playing Harpoon thirty years ago...).

"Airborne observation platforms seem to be needed more over there, but helos aren't the way to go."

Drones are better things to lose than people, among various choices.

The assumption you quoted from the NIE, that if the Iraq security forces achieve a certain level of stability they can jump-start economic recovery, may make sense. I hope, for the sake of Iraq, that it does. But one very grim statistic concerns the ongoing flow of refugees out of Iraq. If patterns from the past hold, the very people Iraq needs most (the teachers, doctors, and engineers) have the greatest resources available to leave, and the most hope of acceptance in some other country. Once that happens (and it has already started), Iraq may lose essential professionals permanently. And the effects of that may prove essentially irreversible.

Peace-Loving Iran just developing long distance transport to drop anti-Holocaust brochures on Israel???

from Janes Information Group

Iran eyes long-range air strike capability

Robin Hughes JDW Deputy Editor

additional reporting by Michael J Gething Jane's International Defence Review Upgrades Editor

Iran is pursuing a longer-range strike capability for its air assets to support the delivery of more powerful strategic weapon systems, western defence sources have told Jane's.

To this end, the sources noted, Tehran is "investing considerable resources in generating enhanced operational aerial refuelling capabilities to support strike assets capable of delivering such systems, most notably the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force's (IRIAF's) Sukhoi Su-24MK strike aircraft.

According to the sources, "aerial refuelling exercises, often originating out of Tactical Air Base 7 in Shiraz, southwest Iran, are carried out over Iran at night and at very low altitude (1,000 ft) using, in general, the 747 tanker aircraft". These simulate operational scenarios that would entail night-time refuelling of an Iranian attack aircraft, at low altitude over the Mediterranean, outward bound en route to the target, said the sources.

IRIAF pilots have, the sources added, learned to make use of advanced radar tactics, terrain masking, manoeuvre and electronic counter-countermeasures in order to surprise opponents, minimise their warning time and limit enemy intercept opportunities.

"Once that happens (and it has already started),"

It "already started" back in 2003; it seems not unfair to say that it seems somewhere closer to "almost finished" by now than it is anywhere in the neighborhood any more of the word "started."

"Iraq may lose essential professionals permanently."

Also, sectarian violence may break out. "May"?

Regarding helicopters… All the discussion about Somalia lately prompted me to dig “Blackhawk Down” out of the stacks for another read. If you have never read it – I highly recommend it.

Let’s not forget – it was a single RPG round that ended up driving us from Somalia.

Let’s not forget – it was a single RPG round that ended up driving us from Somalia.

The book is a great read, but this argument is up there with a buttefly flap causing a hurricane.

Americans woke up one day to find out that the humanitarian mission suddenly resulted in 18 dead, for what? That is why we left. That includes Republicans who led the charge in demadning a withdrawal.

If one doesn't feel like picking up a copy of Mark Bowden's book, what's essentially the first draft is here and here; those who have read the (excellent) book will find additional material there, as well.

"Americans woke up one day to find out that the humanitarian mission suddenly resulted in 18 dead, for what?"

I know you know this, but I feel a need to murmur that, in fact, it resulted in thousands of deaths over just a few days, not 18 dead.

However, those were Somali dead (and a smattering of Pakistanis from the UN force). Naturally, those deaths aren't real enough to be mentioned often compared to the American deaths. Though I'm inclined to suspect that Somalis recall it with a different emphasis.

Still, Bush in 2003 affirming Clinton's Executive Order 12958 of 1995, creating the 25-year-rule, is something few would have intuitively assumed would happen.

Got that right. Gary, thanks very much for this news, and it is completely news to me. The gem that makes comment-reading worthwhile!

My paranoid side wonders if the overload on archivists might mean the current regime will be gone before anyone notices whether the release is complete... but presumably the CIA and others will still be around to hound, even if it turns out there is more to turn over.

"My paranoid side wonders if the overload on archivists might mean the current regime will be gone before anyone notices whether the release is complete..."

I'm not quite sure what you mean; the current regime will certainly be gone long before the folks at the National Archives will be able to complete the processing of the documents now released, let alone those released next year, and the next, but the progress at the NARA is no secret.

As the Lynne Duke story mentioned:

Some 400 million were declassified even before the Dec. 31, 2006, deadline. Add that backlog to the most recent 700 million declassified pages, and the mountain of paper surpasses a billion pages.
And, of course, Dec. 31, 2007, will bring more hundreds of millions of freshly declassified documents from 1982, etc.

I assume you're familiar with the National Security Archive (a private/academic, non-governmental, project at George Washington University), which does a good, if non-comprehensive, job of working on/following the relevant issues. (So also does FAS, and Globalsecurity.org, and lots of academics and others.)

"...but presumably the CIA and others will still be around to hound, even if it turns out there is more to turn over."

The CIA might be abolished/reformed out of existence, at some point, but their documents will still exist (unless, of course, some future government decides to destroy them all; there's little safe predicting of the future).

Personally, I'd be happy to have Congress throw some more money at the National Archives to hire more archivists/historians, but even I couldn't argue that this should be a top priority of the government. I do tend to have the prejudice that anything that makes for more jobs for historians is a good thing, though. :-)

Ah, another unfunded mandate... Well, I have a proposal that could result in a weekly savings of about $5 billion. It would only take a tiny slice of that to speed things up considerably at NARA.

Much of the rest should go to reparations.

But won't, if history is any guide.

Sorry, that's monthly savings of $5 bil. An extremely conservative figure, allowing about $3 bil/month to go on being turned into death or the potential to bring death.

More on the helicopters:

[...] Saying he has looked closely at the issue, General Pace said he did not know if the recent strikes were the result of a new strategy, improved skills or simply a natural result of the military’s heavy dependence on helicopters in the fight here.

[...]

The military would only say it was investigating the Friday crash, but witnesses indicated that the militants were clearly waiting to ambush passing helicopters.

A man who identified himself only as Abu Ahmed, who lives near the crash site, said gunmen were hiding near a manufacturing plant in Sheik Amir village, near the town of Taji, waiting for the helicopters.

As I said:
The obvious observation is that a "well-established air route" means "we know this is where to put our forces to attack the American helicopters!"

"I'd like to see you shoot down a modern combat chopper with an RPG. 4 in 2 weeks. This is new."

Posted by: byrningman

Please recall that for Apaches, a large volume of rifle and machinegun fire was sufficient, a while back. A whole unit was temporarily disabled.

Gary Farber: I wrote that Iraq may lose essential professionals, because I recognize Iraqi professionals as sentient beings, capable of moral choices, including the choice of making an extreme sacrifice for their country. Would I go back into a country in the same shape as Iraq? Probably not, but then I did not grow up in the cradle of civilization.

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