Open Thread – 3 August 2013



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37 Responses to Open Thread – 3 August 2013

  1. The Pelican says:

    Colin Powell?
    Now, what did the Russians call this kind of operation again…?

  2. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Does anyone know what the status of US Citizens who went to Canada to fight Germany was under the Geneva Conventions?
    Where they illegal combatants since the country of their citizenship was not at war with Germany?
    Likewise, the members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade; were they subject to Geneva Conventions?

  3. turcopolier says:

    People who join the armed forces of an acknowledged state are not different if they are not citizens of thst state. pl

  4. mbrenner says:

    Does this apply to Hezbullah in Syria if they attack Lebanese targets from Syrian soil?

  5. turcopolier says:

    Their legal status under the Geneva Convention if they are taken prisoner? A strange somewhat sophistic question. Hizbullah combatants are not members of the armed forces of any state. I doubt that any state whether the Lebanese or the Syrian is legally required to treat them as prisoners of war. The US was not legally obligated to treat insurgents in Iraq or Taliban/AQ in Afghanistan as PWs but would have been wise to declare them to be such in order to avoid the inevitable intervention of the federal civilian courts. pl

  6. Eakans says:

    I think this administration has established that the law doesn’t matter

  7. joe brand says:

    Would be most interested to hear opinions from people here about Gian Gentile’s new book.

  8. Fred says:

    It looks like someone is trying to bring the Zeppelin back.

  9. John Minnerath says:

    Double amputee Dana Bowman, formerly of the US Army Golden Knights coming in at an annual Green Beret Foundation fund raising event held at the Grizzly Rock Ranch a couple miles from my place.
    I don’t know if photographs will show here.

  10. MS2 says:

    Can anyone here vouch for the book “British Security Coordination: The Secret History of British Intelligence in the Americas 1940-1945?” It is supposed to be a reprint of a once-secret official history.

  11. YT says:

    The anomalous ones (a.k.a. the “freaks”)…
    Gentlemen, I can’t name ANY of ’em.
    Can you?

  12. YT says:

    Game Review of Chess
    The latest offering in the rapidly overflowing strategy genre is hard evidence that strategy games need a real overhaul, and fast. Chess, a small-scale tactical turn-based strategy game, attempts to adopt the age-old “easy to learn, difficult to master” parameter made popular by Tetris. But the game’s cumbersome play mechanics and superficial depth and detail all add up to a game that won’t keep you busy for long.
    Chess casts you as king of a small country at war with a rival country of equivalent military power. There is little background story to speak of, and by and large the units in the game are utterly lacking any character whatsoever. The faceless, nondescript units are dubbed arbitrarily such labels as “Knight” and “Bishop” while their appearance reveals nothing to suggest these roles. To make matters worse, the units on both playable sides are entirely identical aside from a simple color palette swap.
    The setting of the conflict is equally uninspiring and consists merely of a two-color grid so as to represent the two warring factions. Adding insult to injury, there is only one available map – and it’s pathetically small, an 8×8 matrix (Red Alert maps are up to 128×128 in size). The lack of more expansive battlefields makes Chess feel like little more than an over-glorified Minesweeper.
    In a definite nod to Tetris, Chess eschews any kind of personality and styling in order to emphasize its supposedly addictive gameplay. Unfortunately, that gameplay is severely lacking. For one thing, there are only six units in the game. Of those six, two are practically worthless while one is an overpowered “god” unit, the Queen. She’s your typical Lara Croft-esque 1990s “me, too” attempt to attract the fabled gaming girl audience from out of the woodwork to help solidify a customer base for a game that simply cannot sell itself on its own merits. The Queen can attack in any direction and she is balanced solely by the fact that both sides are equally equipped with only one. Otherwise, the functions of the six Chess units feel entirely arbitrary. For instance, Rooks can only move in horizontal lines, unable to attack enemies at diagonal angles; yet Bishops can move diagonally, but not horizontally.
    The result is a frustratingly unrealistic effort at creating balance and strategy where there is, in fact, very little of either element to be found. Inexplicable pathing problems also plague Chess – the irritating Pawns can only move straight ahead, but for some reason or other they attack diagonally. Worst of all, your units are always deployed in exactly the same fashion. While there might have been some strategic element involved in cleverly deploying one’s troops around the undeniably constricted map, the designers saw fit to enforce a “rule” about how the game should be set up. In the end, Chess matches may often go on for a great length of time because your Pawns always begin in front of your more useful forces, thereby blocking them off.
    Only two players can compete simultaneously, thus severely limiting any play life to be found. There is only one gameplay mode – no capture the flag or team play – and that involves the two players taking turns moving their units one by one. The moment a player’s King is threatened, that player is placed in a state of “check.” At this point, the player must defend his King with whatever means are available. If he cannot defend his King, he is defeated. Yawn. All units are killed by a single hit, so even a lowly Pawn can be instrumental in defeating an opponent if you plan accordingly. While the artificial balance of forcing equivalent deployment for both sides turns Chess into something of a battle of wits, the turn-based play is poorly paced and never really picks up speed until halfway through a game, if then. And half the time, because of the limited troops available (and no resources with which to purchase more), matches end in disappointing stalemates.
    This game attempts to accredit itself by virtue of its tactical play mechanics. Yet those mechanics are tedious and difficult to grasp and exacerbate Chess’s other numerous failings. In fact, should you actually memorize all the infuriating little rules governing how the game is played, you’ll find yourself growing weary of it all in short order. There’s just no payoff to a properly executed game, because the restrictions on the units mean there’s a “right” way to play. Thus no real variety can exist between competent players. The sluggish turn-based nature of Chess bogs the package still further and renders this strategy game an irreverent exercise in wasted time for all but the most die-hard turn-based strategy enthusiasts. It’s more than likely that Chess, due to its self-conscious though not entirely elegant simplicity, will garner a small handful of fans. But in light of this game’s boundless oversights and limitations, there is no chance it could ever enjoy the sort of success that makes games like Westwood’s C&C: Red Alert and Blizzard’s Warcraft II the classics they are to this day.

  13. elkern says:

    I thought Bush-Cheney established that. Obama coulda/shoulda fixed that, but he didn’t.

  14. The Twisted Genius says:

    I know the Special Forces Foundation, but I was unaware of the Green Beret Foundation. Looks like it was quite the event. Saw your other photos, too. Wheel guns and wooden stocks… I appreciate the artistry of the older weaponry. What’s the background on that tomahawk? The “Minnerath Observatory” is also pretty impressive.

  15. The Twisted Genius says:

    Recognized a few. That big wheeled landing craft is a BARC or LARC. I saw some of those behemoths at Fort Story in the 70’s. The Ontos is a tracked vehicle armed with six 106mm recoiless rifles. The Marines used them in Viet Nam. I also saw an eight wheeled Panhard armored car. The French used it in the 50s and60s.

  16. John Minnerath says:

    🙂 I thought I was making links to just 2 photos, I suppose I hit the wrong keys, again.
    The “tomahawk” was a mystery for several years. My Dad found it at some flea market and used it in his silver smithing for years. Then a friend who collects pre-revolutionary war militaria got interested in it. He made the handle, saying if it was a real “hawk” that was the sort of handle it would have had. It was finally identified as an ancient “lathing” hatchet by some unknown maker.
    The GB Foundation is fairly new, a non-profit geared towards support for wounded and injured Special Forces people who are having trouble getting aid through the more established organizations. They have a web site. This was the 3rd year Brian has held this event on his place. Pistol and long range rifle competitions are going on today, but my eyes haven’t recovered enough yet for any serious shooting.
    Anyway, glad you enjoyed that hodge podge of photos I have on that thing.

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The interesting thing is that the number of board games that seemed to have been able to engage human beings is so small over the last 5000 years:
    – The Ancient Egyptian Game Senet (no one knows how to play it)
    – Chess
    – Chinese Chess
    – Backgammon
    – Go
    – Checkers
    – Mancala
    No board game with global appeal has been created for 2000 years – I think.
    And there is not theory of constructing games – their construction is an art with no discernible rules, it seems.

  18. The Twisted Genius says:

    joe brand,
    I was thinking this whole “chatter” thing looks more like a well crafted deception operation. We keep saying that al Qaeda is morphing and learning, but we can’t fathom the idea of our enemy targeting our reliance on SIGINT to make us flinch globally. The chatter was conveniently loud enough for us to react, but ambiguous enough to indicate a potential attack over the next week in 15 or more countries. With our national security apparatus on the defensive due to the Snowden revelations, it was eager to hype a credible terrorist threat to prove its continued relevance to a skeptical public. “Smiley’s People” we are not.

  19. turcopolier says:

    TTG and Joe Brand
    I doubt that this is a deliberate deception operation on the part of the jihadis. I think it more likely the Susan Rice et all have created a fire storm of hysteria at the possibility that there could be another attack that might make her look bad in her new job. The congressional war party (Peter King, Graham, Rogers at the HPSCI, etc) have fanned the flames based on opportunities presented by briefers who know what they must convey in order to survive in their jobs. Given that “bait” the 24/7 media have an issue with which to pursue rating for a few days. In other words I think the whole thing is BS. Is the IC complicit? Certainly but I don’t think they started this. The leadership of the agencies remains weak and dominated by personal interest and ambition. pl

  20. The Twisted Genius says:

    More like a deliberate deception operation executed by our own politicians then. I’m sure there’s enough chatter out there to hype a threat whenever it’s convenient. It is more likely, more disheartening and more to be expected from our politicians. I do notice that the usual congressional critics of the administration’s foreign policy are cheering these actions.

  21. turcopolier says:

    We should put up a post on “Embassygate.” Want to have a shot at it? pl

  22. John Minnerath says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one here who thinks there is just too much hype to all this.

  23. The Twisted Genius says:

    I’ll give it a shot tonight. Have to mow the lawn first.

  24. optimax says:

    NSA says Snowden destroyed its intelligence gathering capabilities by exposing how the technology operates, driving the terrorists to avoid using cellphones and the internet to communicate. But then they say they have picked up chatter indicating the terrorists plan to attack our ME and African embassies. Either the terrorists are dumb enough to continue using telephony, or the terrorists are screwing with NSA’s mind by creating a fictional narrative to show how easy it is to scare America, or NSA is putting on a show to scare Americans into accepting whatever intrusions into our private lives they feel like exploiting.
    One thing is for certain, (Col Lang has brought this up before) we depend too much on technology and not enough on Human Intelligence to spy on the bad guys.

  25. YT says:

    Thanks, TTG.

  26. YT says:

    Oui, Monsieur.
    The workings of the Human Mind is a mystery to date.

  27. confusedponderer says:

    Hezbollah IMO qualifies as an irregular fighting force and does as such enjoy combatant status. Of course the Israelis claim otherwise, but they always do.
    In response to the horrors of WW-II the Geneva Protocols (relevant here are III and IV) were formulated. From then on there were only TWO categories: The combatant who becomes a POW when captured, and the civilian. The two categories, POW and civilian, are mutually complementary and all encompassing – either you’re one or the other. Somebody caught fighting, while not qualifying for combatant status, is a civilian criminal. There is no mention whatsoever of an ‘enemy combatant’, and indeed, the very idea of a third category to which all the aforesaid doesn’t apply is utterly nonsensical.
    Article 4 Geneva III:
    “A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:
    (1) Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.
    (2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even of this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:
    (a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates ;
    (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
    (c) that of carrying arms openly;
    (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
    (3) Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a govern-ment or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.
    The ICRC commentary (representing international consensus) on Article 4 Geneva III is quite illuminating:
    “The opening years of the Second World War witnessed immense changes in the political system of Europe. Many countries were occupied, armistices were concluded and alliances reversed. Some Governments ceased to be, others went into exile and yet others were brought to birth. Hence arose an abnormal and chaotic situation in which relations under international law became inextricably confused. In consequence, national groups continued to take an effective part in hostilities although not recognized as belligerents by their enemies, and members of such groups, fighting in more or less disciplined formations in occupied territory or outside their own country, were denied the status of combatant, regarded as “francs-tireurs” and subjected to repressive measures. The International Committee of the Red Cross always made every effort to secure for “partisans” captured by their adversaries the benefit of treatment as prisoners of war, provided of course that they themselves had conformed to the conditions laid down in Article 1 of the Regulations annexed to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907.

    The Conference of Government Experts had generally agreed that the first condition preliminary to granting prisoner-of-war status to partisans was their forming a body having a military organization. The implication was that such an organization must have the principal characteristics generally found in armed forces throughout the world, particularly in regard to discipline, hierarchy, responsibility and honour. In the view of the experts, this stipulation should provide an additional guarantee that the conflict between partisans and occupying forces was an open and loyal one. One may wounder whether the expression “organized resistance movements” is specific enough. One may also feel that the term “resistance” covers not only open conflict against the Occupying Power, but also other forms of opposition to the latter (28). No amendment was made to this wording, however, which constitutes a clear reference to the events of the Second World War and to the resistance movements which were active during that conflict.

    Such militias and volunteer corps are protected by the Convention when operating “in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied”. They can thus operate over the whole of the enemy territory including the corresponding air space and the territorial waters and, of course, on the high seas; some authors even consider that their activity may extend over the whole territory under enemy control. With regard to the territory in which resistance organizations are set up, the provision is very flexible (“their own territory, even if this territory is occupied”). This latter phrase is of very great importance and provides an explicit guarantee to resistance movements such as those which grew up during the Second World War.

    As we have said already, if resistance movements are to benefit by the Convention, they must respect the four special conditions contained in sub-paragraphs (a) to (d) which are identical to those stated in Article 1 of the Hague Regulations.
    ‘(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates’:
    ‘(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance’ (30): for partisans a distinctive sign replaces a uniform;
    ‘(c) that of carrying arms openly: ‘ although the difference may seem slight, there must be no confusion between carrying arms “openly” and carrying them “visibly” or “ostensibly”.
    ‘(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war: ‘ this is, of course, an essential provision which embraces those just listed above. It is obvious, however, that the concept of the laws and customs of war is rather vague and subject to variation as the forms of war evolve …”
    The ‘enemy combatant’ is a US invention that came to life post 9/11, and it exists in irreconcilable contradiction to the Geneva Conventions. It is nominally plausible to the ignorant, and enjoys acceptance in the US. Legally, it is a ridiculous claim that this special class even exists, but alas, as Mr. Borchgrave said so well a few threads ago – “You’d be surprised what people will accept once you insist two or three times running that they have seen what you tell them they have seen”. The enemy combatant is a case in point, and amply illustrates how a bold faced in your face lie can gain acceptance. In the US, the ‘enemy combatant’ is a reality, simply because the US holds people they have chosen to designate as such. The stark legal problems the US run into trying to prosecute such people are a result of the irreconcileability of this third category with existing and accepted humatitarian law.
    IMO the ‘enemy combatant’ was invented for s single purpose, and that is precisely to be able to circumvent the restrictions Genava put on treating prisoners – i.e. the idea was to find an excuse justify violating the Jeneva standards. The exceptional character of the concept betrays the inventors intent quite clearly.
    The Israeli claim that Hezbollah are terrorists is similarly motivated.

  28. Fred says:

    It’s now reported that the DEA is using NSA files to search after-the-fact for additional evidence of crimes. Just the thing that was discussed here:
    Why don’t we just repeal the 4th Amendment since Obama’s just ignoring it anyway?

  29. turcopolier says:

    I am quite aware of the applicability of the Geneva Conventions on PWs to partisans. As a Special Forces officer I was schooled in this international law. Our original and continuing mission was to train and lead partisans behind Soviet lines in the event of an invasion of western Europe. There are several things that partisans must do to so qualify. These were extensively discusses early in the recent wars. Nevertheless, there is some question in my mind as to whether Hizbullah qualifies during its operations in Syria, Syria is not the Homeland of the Lebanese Shia who make up Hizbullah”s forces. When they are in Lebanon and in the business of defending Lebanon from the Israelis I think there is little doubt about the GC status, but in Syria they are a non-government sponsored private military force. with regard to the “enemy combatant” chicanery, it is clear that the Cheney/Bush administration simply wanted its prisoners tortured and they knew that they would have problems with the US armed forces if PWs covered by the GC were tortured. pl

  30. confusedponderer says:

    There is no mention whatsoever of an ‘enemy combatant’, and indeed, the very idea of a third category to which all the aforesaid doesn’t apply is utterly nonsensical … because that would be a throwback to the very legal uncertainty that the Geneva Conventions aimed on ending and aims of preventing for the future.
    When Alberto ‘I do not recall’ Gonzales and his colleagues pulled the ‘enemy combatant’ out of their collective legal behinds they reintroduced that legal uncertainty – in a showcase of brazen, unprofessional and unethical creative lawyering.
    To this day the US have not been able to fix the legal mess they so created with international law, let alone their domestic criminal law, and I wager they won’t in the future.
    And naturally, none of the perpetrators has been held accountable. Alberto ‘I do not recall’ Gonzales is currently a professor at Belmont University. John ‘enhanced interrogation’ Yoo, is currently a professor at Berkeley. Jay ‘enhanced interrogation’ Bybee was rewarded with a federal judgeship.

  31. Thanks CP and others! During the 1st Reagan Administration the various components of the National Security State which unfortunately included FEMA where I was employed were asked by OLC of DoJ if they believed that “terrorists” were encompassed by then current version of Article III and if not should they be, and if they were how so!
    FEMA stated no opinion but leaned to exemption from Article III and need for it or other amendment to address non-state actor terrorists.
    It is my opinion that OLC took a formal position on these questions in writing to the REAGAN WH but these opinions if written have never been made public.
    But hey the leading redaction of all time IMO is the redaction of the 9/11 Commission Report which should have been made public long ago.

  32. confusedponderer says:

    Mr. Lang,
    I focused on Lebanon and didn’t so much think of Syria. Now that you speak of it:
    I think Hezbollah can claim to have been invited by Assad’s government. Assad so far is still the head of government of Syria, or what’s left of it. That would IMO pretty much suggest itself.
    To see that as a no starter would probably mean to discount Syria’s sovereignty, and since I don’t buy that R2P legitimacy thing, Assad still has a better claim to that than, to bee hyperbolic, the throat cutting, hand chopping savages from across the world that are opposing him.
    My private doubts as to Hezbollah’s combatant status were about “(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.” I don’t know enough about Hezbollah to say anything about that with certainty. They check items (a) to (c) easily. However, the commentary quite clearly calls for all criteria to be met.
    An IMO very interesting topic that also suggests itself as a follow up question to the status of Hezbollah in Lebanon would be the status of the Al Qaeda formations in Syria (and in general). I have not made my mind up about that yet.
    As for the enemy combatant, it is a topic that never fails to annoy me, in no small part because I consider the US argument as brought forth under Bush 43 to be so implausible as to constitute a particularly brazen insult to any informed readers intelligence. Insofar, my rant was very much undirected.

  33. turcopolier says:

    Yes. The claim could be made that these are foreign volunteers invited in by the Syrian government. pl

  34. SAC Brat says:

    I compete in my first Bullseye competition today and wanted to blame you for being an influence in heading in that direction. I’ve had a few people stop while practicing and shake their heads at seeing me stand funny and toss stuff at 50 yards. My quip is that I’m getting old and I have to stick the front sight far enough out there so it is in focus.
    A downside to the Federal budget sequester is that the Army Marksmanship Unit isn’t having clinics around here and Fort Benning is closed to civilians during competitions.

  35. John Minnerath says:

    Why would they close Benning during competitions?
    We had some shoots last weekend, the young kids womped us old farts on the pistol range.
    But, we got even on the 500 yard rifle.
    We were going to have a 1000 yard shoot, but not enough guys wanted to get in.

  36. SAC Brat says:

    More accurately shooting competitions at Benning don’t allow a civilian audience as far as I could tell when I wanted to watch the ISSF World Competition a few months ago.
    Age won today’s 2700, particularly age with an iron grip. I was just happy to stay on the paper. I did turn out to have a knack for timed and rapid fire, where you don’t have time to think. Fun fun fun, and great folks.

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