AVAILABLE now FROM iUniverse, Amazon and Barnes and Noble in hard cover, soft cover, and digital.

The Portable Pat Lang

Essential Writings on History, War, Religion and Strategy

From the Introduction:

“In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Col. Lang created his own blog which to this day still serves as a committee of correspondence for a large network of former military and intelligence officers, diplomats, and scholars of international affairs.

Since its launch in 2005, the Turcopolier website has had over 40 million unique visits.

Since leaving the government, he has also authored five books, including a Civil War espionage trilogy, a memoir of his years in government service, and a primer on human intelligence.

This present volume—his sixth book—is an anthology of some of his most important writings. The content speaks for itself.  So have at it.”

Posted in My books | 4 Comments

Open Thread – 28 January 2023

This is what I think of when I hear open thread. DIE. DIE. DIE.


Posted in Open Thread, TTG | 15 Comments

A good yarn by Electra Rhodes – TTG

Wayland’s Smithy is an atmospheric historic site about a mile’s walk along the Ridgeway from the Uffington White Horse. A Neolithic chambered long barrow, it was once believed to have been the home of Wayland, the Saxon god of metal working.

It was six years ago, and my mate, Pink, had just been told he was going to die. He accepted the news with a grace I can only marvel at, but he said he’d a list of things he’d still like to do. We sat in a pub one night and read it over. Eight things? Four months? Ok. Deal.

Don’t get me wrong, he’d been pissed when he found out. Routine check up. Bit of a cough. Shadow on an X-ray. Bad. His wife had just had an all clear and it seemed particularly cruel. He told us when we were on a dig, heads in a trench, bums in the air. Dignified? Not. At that point he’d had a few weeks to get used to the news. And what he wanted to do. Never mind us wailing & gnashing our teeth. (Yeah, yeah. Very dramatic. Over it? Good.) He had a plan. A great plan. Mind that bit of pot and that jawbone. He said. I’ll tell you, over a pint.

Most of his list was easy – just things he’d never got round to – steer a boat on the Thames, visit a particular collection, see a fancy show – a few seemed harder – publish an essay, trespass, do a gig – and 2 seemed impossible – rough camp at a longbarrow, hide out in a museum. He set his scrappy list on the table and did the whole puppy eyes thing – pleeease. I’d never known a grown man could wheedle so hard.

We split the list four ways – Pink would sort two, the easy ones, duh, he said. With a snort. Jan would do two. I’d a museum pal I thought I could bribe and a boating pal in a basin on the Thames, and Tony, with a frown, took what was left and promised he’d drive.

We saw a show and ate too much ice cream during the interval. Jan’s printer mate did a fancy chap-book of Pink’s whacky landscape theory. Tony’s brother-in-law owned a pub & was willing to let Pink sing. We went on the Thames on a narrow boat and Pink lost his lunch. Six weeks in and we stayed overnight in a museum. Don’t ask which one, we pinky (get it?) swore we’d never tell. Not one I used to work in and no artifacts were harmed. We went for a rainy illegal walk, Pink mooned the CCTV. We went to a nice collection and had a nice tea.

Pink wasn’t doing so well. But he was still determined. Longbarrow. Camp. Just one night. Pleeeease. Tony and I did a spot of reconnaissance and schlepped between different sites in Wiltshire and Berks. Private land. Private land. Ancient monument. Shit. Pink’s wife phoned. Maybe just an afternoon trip, pals? I think a night might be too much. Pink though? Such a stubborn git. What do you do when your friend says one thing, his wife says another, and you can hear death knocking at the outside door? I dunno about you. We went to Wayland’s Smithy. We’d all been there plenty of times before. And walked the Ridgeway, and argued about the White Horse, cut in the hill. And discussed why hill forts are called hill forts at all. It was a good afternoon. We ate our sandwiches, drank a huge flask of tea. Walked back to the car. It wouldn’t start.

There was a bit of tarp in the car, plus a couple of picnic blankets & the portable wood stove Jan’s dad had just fixed for me. (There’d been a small accident on a field trip, best not to ask.) Tony had got half the weekly shop in the boot – it was just meant to be a quick trip. Back at Wayland’s Smithy we set up camp in the corner, far away from the stones. The sun slowly sank, the blue sky faded to dusk & then dark, the temperature cooled.

It was just the four of us, eating Tony’s bacon and eggs, feeding cardboard and bits of punk and debris into the rocket stove to keep us warm. We drank more tea and shared a packet of biscuits. (Chocolate hobnobs. The best of the best.) In the quiet dark Pink said he could hear singing. It was a single voice, singing a folk song, full of mighty deeds & beer (they’re always full of mighty deeds & beer, or dragons & beer) & eventually, its owner arrived at the site. Big bloke, big voice, big pack he dropped beside us. He was thrilled to see us. Or maybe the grub. At some point we all fell asleep. Or woke. Or slept again. I heard singing and thought it might be the moon or the stars, crooning a lullaby.

In the morning the stranger had gone, with his big pack. He’d left us each a gift, wrapped in a burdock leaf, done up with a bit of string. Mine was a hook made of bone, Tony had a skail knife made of flint, Jan had a scarf made of nettle yarn. Pink had four tiny iron horseshoes. One for each of us. Pink said. Grinning.

On the way to the car I found someone had covered a ‘strictly no camping’ sign with a bin bag. I glared, but Pink swore it wasn’t him. Back at the car, he produced a spark plug. Ahh, he said, patting the bonnet. This one was me.

A few weeks later, Pink’s wife, Tess, phoned. And even though I knew it was coming, I still wept. His funeral was full of people who laughed as they cried. Angry tears and sorrow, all mixed together. For us, as well as Pink. Tess had put the shoes on his coffin. Pink was sure you’d met Wayland himself that night, and that they meant he and the horse would come, to take him home, when the time came. Pink had died holding them. One for each of us. I thought of him, then. A man with a plan. To say goodbye.

The Uffington White Horse is a prehistoric monument that’s been around since the late Bronze Age, some 3000 years ago. 

Comment: I read this last night and it brought a smile to my face. It is the work of Electra Rhodes who published the story as a twitter thread. I don’t know why so many good writers use twitter threads for some of their work other than it being an easy and free way to self-publish. It’s certainly not the only venue open to Rhodes (@electra_rhodes).

“Electra Rhodes is an archaeolgist who lives in Wales and Wiltshire. Her work has been widely anthologised in both prose and poetry anthologies and has placed in more than sixty competitions. She’s the Prose Editor at Twin Pies Literary and teaches CNF for The Crow Collective.”

 The story reminded me of a good friend from college. We were both anthropology students. He was from Peabody, Massachusetts and went on to become the state’s chief maritime archeologist. We would sometimes fence bare chested in the dorm hallways or courtyard. Even being liquored up, we had the good sense to wear our chem lab goggles.

Posted in TTG, Whatever | 8 Comments

Tanks are on the way… finally – TTG

Der Speigel is reporting that Scholz has decided to sent “at least” a company (14 tanks) of Leopard 2s to Ukraine. It’s still not official official … but that seems official.

On Tuesday morning, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the United States is “leaning” toward sending M1A2 main battle tanks Abrams tanks to Ukraine, with an announcement expected this week.

The announcement would reportedly come as part of a deal in which Germany would also send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and would include Germany approving the release of Leopard tanks to be sent by other nations. The deal would break the deadlock created when Germany refused to release the Leopard tanks even after the U.K. announced that it was providing a company of its Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.

The U.S. has previously been resistant to the idea of sending the Abrams, for a long series of reasons, including the difficulties in supporting the tank and its impact of Ukraine’s already burdened logistics. Pentagon officials have repeatedly stated that they feel the M1A2 isn’t well suited to Ukraine, for reasons ranging from the fuel to the long time needed to train on the vehicles to the lack of any nearby facilities to deal with major repairs. 

However, Biden reportedly shifted his position following a Jan. 17 call to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. If sending the Abrams is the only way to break through the current roadblock, Biden appears ready to take that step.


Comment: So Scholz finally caved to the pressure, both external and internal. Reuters is saying that Germany will send 14 Leopard 2A6 models as a start. The most likely model the Poles, Finns and others will send are the A4 model. Between the two or more models of Leopards, a company of Challenger 2s and most likely a company of Abrams, Ukraine is going to have a rough time integrating all that into a unified armored force. They will also be getting several different IFVs besides the Bradleys. Yup. This is going to take a while. My guess is that Ukraine will not field a fully integrated, corps sized, combined arms force with all this NATO equipment until after the spring mud season. But I’m also pretty sure some of this new stuff will be on the front line well before the spring thaw.


Posted in TTG, Ukraine Crisis | 82 Comments

A retired FBI agent is charged with crimes along with a former Soviet diplomat, and separately after getting mixed up with men from Albania and Bosnia

Charles McGonigal

By Robert Willmann

Before retiring from the FBI in September 2018, Charles McGonigal was the Special Agent in Charge of the Counterintelligence Division of the New York Field Office, after being appointed by former Director James Comey on 4 October 2016 [1]. He is charged with crimes in separate federal courts. One indictment with five counts, plus a request for the forfeiture of property, was filed on 12 January 2023 in the Southern District of New York (Manhattan), and the other one with nine counts was filed on 18 January in Washington DC.

McGonigal is a co-defendant with a “former Soviet and Russian diplomat”, Sergey Shestakov, in the New York indictment. They are accused of violating sanctions and money laundering laws while trying to help a known Russian “oligarch”, Oleg Deripaska.

Shestakov is described as “having served as a translator and diplomat for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation from 1979 until his retirement in 1993, often in New York, New York”. And further: “After his retirement … Shestakov worked as an interpreter for the federal courts and United States attorneys’ offices in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York”.

Who the hell is in charge of hiring translators at the Department of Justice? They hire an obvious Russian intelligence operative to translate for them!

The second indictment is based on alleged false statements on financial and contact reporting forms, and is against McGonigal only. One of the accusations involves receiving more than $225,000 from “Person A”, an Albanian, and not disclosing it.

Both McGonigal and Shestakov made an initial court appearance in New York City this afternoon, 23 January, and pled not guilty. Terms for release on bail were ordered.

There are reports that McGonigal was involved in some way with the discredited Russia-Trump 2016 election investigation. Whether more information on that issue will be developed remains to be seen.

[1] http://www.fbi.gov/news/press-releases/charles-mcgonigal-named-special-agent-in-charge-of-the-counterintelligence-division-for-the-new-york-field-office

Posted in Current Affairs, Justice, Russiagate | Tagged , , | 27 Comments

“Civil War general’s remains come back to his hometown” – TTG

Several attendees came forward to place their hands on the coffin containing the remains of Confederate General A.P. Hill. The crowd was gathered for a reinterment service Saturday at Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper. PETER CIHELKA Photos, THE FREE LANCE STAR

The final resting place of Civil War Gen. A.P. Hill has been anything but that, as his remains were put in the ground, dug up and moved, three times in the 19th century. Then, when the city of Richmond decided to do away with its Confederate monuments in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and amid the Black Lives Matter movement, the general’s remains were moved once more. A statue of Hill with his bones in the base was taken down last month from the intersection of Laburnum Avenue and Hermitage Road in the state capital.

Neither the first burial or the reinterment services that followed came with military honors, said Patrick Falci, a New York actor and historian who’s portrayed Hill for 30 years. Those who gathered at a cemetery in Hill’s hometown of Culpeper made up for all that on Saturday with a ceremony for the ages.

An estimated 600 people, including Confederate reenactors wearing gray and butternut uniforms, gathered to pay their respects to the general at what they hope will be his permanent resting place at Fairview Cemetery. A mule-drawn wagon brought the coffin, draped in an old Virginia flag, into the cemetery as hundreds of soldiers stood at attention. Next came a rider-less horse as a drummer provided a steady beat. After Falci’s eulogy, songs and prayers, Longstreet’s Corps loaded muskets and fired a 21-gun salute while those with Knibb’s Battery let off three rounds from a spit-polished shine cannon named “Jeb.” The VA Scots Guards played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes; Susan and Scott Carraway played a mandolin and acoustic guitar and led the crowd in “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny;’ and a solitary bugler played “Taps.”

“Gen. Hill has been known as Lee’s forgotten general,” said a theatrical Falci, as he took microphone in hand and walked among the gravesites. “But not today. Not here in Culpeper. Not here in Virginia.”


Comment: Yup, another Civil War story. This one, by Cathy Dyson, was the lead story in today’s Free Lance-Star. The online article has a series of photos and a video of the reburial.

AP Hill’s monument and burial site was in an odd spot in Richmond. He was first reinterred in Richmond’s Hollywood cemetery a few years after his death at Petersburg. I don’t know why he was much later moved to a street intersection in northern Richmond. Someone please enlighten me if you know the answer. Clearly the third time is the charm. He is now back home in a Culpeper cemetery that he would have known in his youth. When his monument was removed and his remains exhumed, they were covered not with a Confederate flag but with a Virginia state flag. At his reburial, the same state flag covered his new coffin. At the December exhumation there was no demonstration. One argument erupted, but it ended in an embrace of tolerance and understanding. There were no demonstrators or protestors at this weekend’s reburial. That’s as it should be.


Posted in Current Affairs, TTG, WBS | 14 Comments

Mick Ryan on Ukrainian tanks – TTG

A Norwegian Leopard 2A4 main battle tank during Iron Wolf II in Lithuania. It involves 2,300 troops from 12 NATO Allies. The Lithuanian-led exercise is helping to train the NATO Battlegroup which consists of soldiers from Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway. Shot in Rukla, Lithuania.

From the beginning of the Russian invasion, arguments over provision of different weapons & technologies to Ukraine have been waged in Europe and the US. Perhaps the most long-standing, and important, is provision of American or European tanks. My aim in this thread is not to argue whether they should be provided. I think it is obvious they should. If Russia can deploy T90s or even its new T-14s (according to British Intelligence), why are we denying similar capabilities to Ukraine? The objective here is to explore the considerations for the introduction of western tanks into the Ukrainian armed forces. The need is well established. Tanks are a valuable part of the modern combined arms team. Tanks save lives!

The first consideration is availability. The Ukrainians need tanks now, so waiting to set up production lines to build new tanks for 2023 is not viable. Which tanks are available now? A part of availability is quantity. The Ukrainians are likely to need hundreds of new tanks (300-500) for the offensives to come. A dozen won’t cut it. This requirement alone restricts the types of tanks that might be provided.

A second consideration is how western tanks will fit into the current Ukrainian military. These are doctrinal and organization issues. However, given Ukraine has long operated a large tank fleet, this is a minor concern. They know how to do this & can do so better than most.

A third consideration is strategic sustainability. What are the depot maintenance capabilities in Ukraine? Depot level maintenance of tanks and their power packs – as well as the electronic subsystems – will be a key part of introducing western tanks. Ukraine has already been fulfilling these functions for its current large fleet of tanks. A new system isn’t required, but some modifications might be needed. But given the demonstrated capacity of Ukraine to adapt in this war, it is very possible.

A fourth consideration is training. New systems always require evolved training systems whether it is the introduction of different technologies and techniques, new simulators, and training aids (engines, driver training, guns, subsystems, ammo, ranges, etc). Once again, as an existing tank operator, many of these systems already exist in Ukraine. But they will require modification. And potentially, training supplementation in other countries will be needed to speed up absorption of the tanks into Ukraine’s army and its schools.

A fifth consideration is battlefield combat support for the tanks. By this I mean the engineering and command vehicles that are integral to heavy armour operations. While Ukraine has some capacity here, bridging, ploughs and other vehicles might also be needed.

A 6th consideration is battlefield logistic support. Fuel trucks (tanks need lots), low loaders, recovery vehicles like the Hercules will probably all need to be part of any tank fleet provided to Ukraine. And, ammunition of several types will be needed in large quantities. Once again, as an existing user of tanks, Ukraine understands these requirements and the battlefield systems and organisations needed to ensure tanks are supported and maintained on the battlefield. It is about modification, not establishing new organisations for Ukraine.

A 7th consideration is a digital battle command support system. Tanks play a vital role as a protected hub for digital information management and command on the battlefield. It is a force multiplier on the modern battlefield. So this will be an important consideration for which tanks go to Ukraine. And, we will need to ensure that this digital system can be linked to other parts of the combined arms team.

While there will be other challenges, the provision of a tank fleet will involve all of these considerations. They each interact – ticking them off individually is almost never possible. But, the Ukrainians have demonstrated throughout this war that they are very capable of integrating very complex hardware and weapons quickly. They are an adaptive, learning institution with a strong imperative for constant improvement. We need to stop looking for excuses like ‘this is a complex system’. I don’t recall these arguments when M1 tanks went to Iraq, or Egypt. And as someone who commanded a brigade with M1 tanks, if the Australian Army with its very light logistic footprint (and lack of tank strategic sustainment for the first decade in service) can do it, the Ukrainians definitely can!

Final point – as I have written almost since the start of the war, at some point we need to start providing common fleets to Ukraine. The provision of tanks is the opportunity to provide Ukraine with a single type to simplify maintenance, training, ammunition, digital comms. Given need for commonality, and the considerations in this thread, there are only 2 solutions: the M1 tank and the Leo 2. Both are huge fleets, which could be made available. Providing them is not escalatory. It just takes political courage. End.

Comment: This is retired Australian Army Major General Mick Ryan’s take on this great debate which he published as a twitter thread (@WarintheFuture).  There are no shortage of opinions on this matter. Retired US LTG Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) is adamant that the Leopard 2 is a much better fit for the Ukrainians than the M1 Abrams. His position is based on logistics. Being that he spent his whole career as a tanker, I don’t think he’s talking out his ass. Others are just as adamant that the M1 presents no logistical challenges that the Ukrainians cannot master. I tend to agree that the Ukrainians can handle the logistical challenge and would be giddy getting large numbers of either tank.

I think the Leopard 2 would be a better fit, but I was never a tanker. My only combat experience with armor was with M-48s and AMX-13s. Poland is getting 250 M1A2 Sepv3 tanks, but delivery is not scheduled to begin until 2025. Why not give them what we have in Germany now so the Poles can transfer their Leopard 2s to Ukraine? They’re in the best position to transfer, train and maintain immediately. The Germans may squawk, but I doubt they’ll switch sides over the decision.


Posted in TTG, Ukraine Crisis, weapons | 32 Comments

VA hospital to drop Confederate name – TTG

Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center is located on a 26-acre parcel of land in South Richmond. It will now be called Richmond VA Medical Center.  RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH

The Department of Veterans Affairs has changed the name of the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veteran Affairs Medical Center in south Richmond, dropping the name of a Confederate surgeon. The facility’s new name: Richmond VA Medical Center. It’s the latest instance of a Richmond-area institution scrapping a reference to the Confederacy. “VA will continue to serve all veterans with dignity and respect at this facility and every facility,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement.

During the Civil War, McGuire was a surgeon under Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. He was later president of the American Medical Association, and he helped found part of what is now the medical college of Virginia Commonwealth University. But he saw Black people as inferior to whites. He wrote that African Americans were “deteriorating morally and physically” and would eventually “disappear from this continent.”

Construction on the hospital began in 1943 — when it opened, it bore McGuire’s name. The Department of Veterans Affairs received numerous requests to change the name, McDonough said. Veterans, employees and even the hospital’s administration were in favor of a switch. Among those asking the VA to change the hospital’s name was Rep. Donald McEachin, D-4th, who died Nov. 28.

There’s a reason the new name lacks creativity. The Department of Veterans Affairs has limited authority to change the names of its facilities, the department said in a statement. But federal law does allow it to change a hospital name to match its geographic area as long as the previous name isn’t codified in law. Richmond VA Medical Center was the department’s only choice, a spokesperson for the department said. The department can’t name a building for an individual without an act of Congress. The VA isn’t the first entity to drop McGuire’s name. In 2020, VCU renamed McGuire Hall and removed a bust of him from the building. The facility is now called the VCU Health Sciences Research Building and Annex.

But at least one Richmond memorial to McGuire remains – a statue depicting him is in Capitol Square. McGuire’s descendants supported the name change. In a 2020 Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed, they acknowledged the pain caused by statues and buildings honoring Confederate leaders. They asked that McGuire be judged on his complete life and contributions. According to the op-ed, McGuire suggested a radical idea to Jackson during the Civil War – that the Confederacy set free Union surgeons who chose to stay behind and administer care to the sick and dying. The Confederacy adopted this approach, and others followed. It eventually became international law under the Geneva Convention that medical workers be treated as noncombatants and be allowed to continue their work.


Comment: This article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch was republished in my local Fredericksburg paper. I use this VA medical center regularly so the news obviously caught my eye. But it is also a great example of local journalism. The reporter, Eric Kolenich, does an excellent job in explaining the facts surrounding this news without resorting to either outraged support for Hunter Holmes McGuire or his demonization. This is one of the reasons I crow incessantly about the joys and value of local newspapers and why I quoted it in its entirety.

But back to McGuire. It was Colonel Lang who told me of McGuire’s service as General Jackson’s surgeon. After that I learned of his role in establishing the AMA and what was to become the medical schools and hospitals of the Virginia Commonwealth University. Thanks to Eric Kolenich, I also learned how Doctor McQuire established protocols and procedures allowing captured medical personnel serving with both the Union and Confederate armies to continue as medical professionals in captivity. This concept was later incorporated into the Geneva Conventions.

Sure he remained an ardent white supremacist, segregationist and believed slavery was critical to the South’s economy and culture, but those were common societal beliefs at the time. At some point we have to start looking at people in the context of their times. I won’t begrudge him his remaining statue behind the Virginia State Capitol. It does not glorify the Confederacy in any way, but there’s no telling how much time that statue has remaining. 


Posted in Current Affairs, TTG, WBS | 18 Comments

In for maintenance – TTG

I talked with Colonel Lang a short while ago. He is in hospital for what I would call depot level maintenance. He is in good spirits and will return. His instructions are to carry on with this committee of correspondence.

In this spirit I call upon my fellow guest writers to step into the breach with me. As I said, Colonel Lang will be back, but in the meantime “we shall continue in style.”


Posted in Administration, TTG | 16 Comments

The Santa Fe, New Mexico District Attorney will say on 19 January whether a criminal case will be brought against Alec Baldwin for the shooting death on a movie set

By Robert Willmann

At 9:00 a.m. Mountain Standard Time tomorrow in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the local District Attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies, will announce whether a criminal case will be brought against actor Alec Baldwin, who fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a movie set on 21 October 2021. Quite a bit of activity has gone on in civil lawsuits and in other discussions since the event, but a possible criminal charge is the most significant, because all the other court action and maneuvering has been about money.

From a criminal law standpoint, the case has fascinating issues. It also poses more practical problems than usual for the investigation of what happened and for analyzing a possible prosecution. The glitz of Hollywood masks snake-like behavior.


Rather than face the music herself, the DA has hired a communications consultant, Heather Brewer, who describes her business this way: “HB Strategies is a full-service public affairs firm, specializing in crisis communications, that can work with your campaign, business or nonprofit organization to get your message into the media and  in front of thought-leaders and policy makers”.


The announcement apparently is not going to be a press conference, but instead will be presented as a written statement to the media. It is kind of odd that a DA will say in advance that an announcement will be made about whether there will be a prosecution, because usually you will not say that criminal charges will be filed in the future (if you are going to file them), but that they have already been filed.

Posted in Current Affairs, Film, Justice | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

“Ukraine credits local beavers for unwittingly bolstering its defenses” – TTG

Ukrainian servicemen from the Volyn Territorial Defence brigade are seen on their positions near the border with Belarus, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Volyn region, Ukraine, on January 12, 2023. Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images/Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Local beavers are helping Ukraine defend itself from a potential new front in Russia’s invasion, Reuters reported on Thursday. The animals are unwittingly helping Kyiv by building dams that keep the ground marshy and impassable, a military spokesman told the agency. This helps Ukraine by making it less likely that an attack could come via Belarus, which borders Ukraine not far north of the capital Kyiv.

Ukrainian officials had warned that Russia may wage an offensive through its ally Belarus into a region of Ukraine called Volyn. Defense forces there, however, have been reassured by conditions on the ground, left impassable by miles of burst river banks, thick mud, and waterlogged fields. The swampy conditions have given Ukrainians an advantage, and time to prepare: a local military unit called the Volyn territorial defense has been conducting daily training exercises in the area, according to Reuters.

Its spokesman, Serhiy Khominskyi, praised the beavers, which he told Reuters were more working unimpeded, unlike in other years. “When [the beavers] build their dams normally people destroy them, but they didn’t this year because of the war, so now there is water everywhere,” he said. Viktor Rokun, one of the brigade’s deputy commanders, told Reuters: “On your own land, everything will help you to defend it — the landscape, lots of rivers, which have burst their banks this year.” 

The unusually mild winter has created ideal conditions for Ukrainians to defend their country. Analyst Konrad Muzyka, who runs the defense consultancy Rochan Consulting, told Reuters that Volyn would be a “horrible place to conduct an offensive operation. There are many watercourses there, very few roads,” he said. “This makes it easy for Ukrainian forces to channel the movement of Russian forces into specific areas where they would be shelled by artillery.”


Comment: Sure this is more a human interest or moment of nature story than a war update, but it caught my eye because I just discovered the beavers are back in the small stream behind my house. We had an established family of beavers when I moved here in the mid-90s. They were a source of enjoyment and never bothered anybody. The first winter here, I watched them glide under the ice from their lodge to the far side of their small pond. They are graceful creatures in the water. I would often sit by a tree and quietly wait for them to appear at dusk and start to work. The quiet sitting and watching in the company of wild creatures is great medicine for body and soul. 

Several years later the juveniles started building dams further down the stream, but still lived with the one remaining parent in the old lodge. One family in the neighborhood complained that the dams were flooding their basement. It was bullshit. The water was never anywhere near the level of their basement. The problem was a faultily installed basement window that leaked in the rain. I learned that our proto-HOA at the time had the beavers removed. I threatened to burn the whole goddamned development to the ground. I didn’t, of course, but I left them with a final epithet, “And the Karela, the bitter karela, shall cover you all!”

The last I saw those beavers was one night when one juvenile was tenderly caring for the remaining parent streamside while the other juvenile was tending to the dam. Animal instinct? Sure, but I saw God’s divine mercy and sacred love that night.

So finally the beavers are back. Their dam and pond seem situated well enough to avoid arousing the fear of other surrounding home owners. Let’s hope it stays that way.


Posted in fauna, TTG, Ukraine Crisis | 16 Comments