Friday, July 14, 2023

Seriously, What is Wrong With Him?

FBI = Funding Backlash Immiserates (Virginia and Maryland Pols)

So there will be no $$$ billions coming out of Congress this fiscal year to pay for a new FBI HQ, or so it seems today.

That causes me no grief at all, since it is perfectly clear - to me, anyway - that the current downtown DC location is exactly where the FBI should remain, albeit in a new building to be built on the site of the current disastrous Hoover Building. 

As for "petty politics" and "political interference," the esteemed Representatives who are wailing about that today are the first ones to use the power of government without a second thought when they are in the majority. Today it's the other side that has the whip hand, and they are using it.

If the FBI wants the Republican majority to fund their relocation, they might try not pissing that majority off, as their Director did yesterday, and see if that helps.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Have We Ever Asked for the Return of Howitzer Shells? Would We Know How?

I have read in the news media that the U.S. has already supplied Ukraine with over two million howitzer rounds, but they continue to need more at the rate of seven, or eight, or nine thousand rounds a day (numbers vary depending upon the particular source you read). 

Are they really firing that many? Are some being diverted elsewhere?  

The Ukraine howitzer business has put me in mind of a scene in a very good although overlooked movie about the early years of our involvement in Vietnam. See the whole thing here: Go Tell the Spartans

The particular scene starts at 1:12:22 and runs to 1:15:45. In it, an American Major played by Burt Lancaster makes a subtle offer to oversupply a Vietnamese Colonel with howitzer shells in return for his artillery support to an American outpost under siege. 

He pitches an immediate air supply of 500 rounds from an American depot, followed by 1,000 more to be delivered later by truck convoy. 

[Vietnamese official seeing an opportunity]
It would take four or five days for the truck convoy to bring the shells from the American depot. That could conceivably be too late for their use could it not, major?
[Burt Lancaster]
Could be.
In such a case, the American depot would desire the return of the shells, would it not?
[Lancaster, astonished]
In the whole history of the United States they've never asked for the return of anything, be it guns, money, boats, or howitzer shells. They wouldn't know how to ask for the return of anything. If they did, it would screw up the bookkeeping and everybody in Washington would have a goddamn nervous breakdown.
You tell the colonel if he gets his hands on the ammo, it's his forever.
Has anything really changed other than the sheer numbers of rounds involved?

For Your Use and Enjoyment: Howitzers 101

Not for nothing is field artillery known as the King of Battle.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

U.S. Transfer of Cluster Munitions Undermines "International Opprobrium of Their Use" - Human Rights Watch

That gets to the heart of the matter. Both Ukraine and Russia have used cluster munitions over the eight-plus years the conflict has gone on, but that doesn't make much difference to international law on the subject. What nation that has them has not used them at some time or other? We certainly have

The U.S. has not signed on to the ban treaty, but about all of our coalition partners supplying Ukraine with weapons have, The UK, for instance, is a prime supplier of 155mm howitzers, the artillery piece that can fire those cluster shells we will now send. 

If an American cluster round is fired in a UK howitzer, does that constitute a treaty violation of the UK's part? I don't know, but at the very least that situation seems certain to raise a political argument. 

Saturday, July 8, 2023

A Brief Primer on Cluster Munitions

"The devastation and destruction of [155mm cluster rounds fired by howitzer] is almost beyond belief ... That is the munition of choice on the battlefield."

So yesterday President Biden pulled the lanyard on supplying Ukraine with cluster munitions from our war reserve stocks of 155mm howitzer rounds, and much political posturing ensued. (Lanyard? That's a little arty jargon I threw in there for the dwindling number of Americans who have served in ground combat forces.)

Cluster munitions were his choice for the Ukrainian battlefield, but by no means do all Democratic politicians or Progressive voters agree with bringing quite that much devastation and destruction. Objections based on international law are the least of it, really, compared to the threats posed by dissident Representatives on, say, the House Defense Appropriations and House Armed Services Committee.  

You can read about those disagreements here: Top Dems break with Biden over sending cluster bombs to Ukraine.

Much more to come on this before the dust and shrapnel settles over there.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

You Can Double Your Money

In our latest national game of Clue, should you guess that it was Col. Hunter in the Library with the Glass Pipe that did it, and if it turns out you were right, odds-makers are offering some sweet deals.