Friday, February 23, 2007

Anniversary of the Decisive Gulf War Tank Battles

Take a look at this image, from Google Earth. I found it while dinking around this afternoon. It's the location of the Gulf War Battle of 73 Easting, almost sixteen years ago to the day, on the night of February 25-26 1991, when the US VII Corps caught up with one of the three Iraqi Republican Guard armored divisions, the Tawakalna Division and literally kicked their butts in a few hours. Click on the image to see it larger, and use the coordinates to help you zoom in with Google Earth if you want to check out the battlefield. This particular image is, I believe, the graveyard of the Iraqi 12th Armored Division, left behind to guard the rear of the Tawakalna Division while the Republican Guard units tried to retreat back into Iraq. I believe this division was destroyed mostly by Apache helicopter, with some assists from M1A1 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

I've looked further to the north, where the three Tawakalna battalions got theirs, but the density of destroyed vehicles is very low although there are hastily prepared fighting positions where they're suppsed to be. Perhaps the Iraqis salvaged the destroyed tanks after the war, starting at the north and working their way southward.

Despite the impression that we have of Iraqis being most militarily adept at surrendering, the Guards divisions were actually pretty tough customers who tried to slug it out with the American forces. Remember, these are the same tank units that defeated the Iranians for a decade. Their biggest handicap was lack of intelligence; looking at the most-southern fighting positions shows that they were expecting the attack from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to the south and east, and were completely surprised by our forces to the left. Coalition forces also had the advantage of superior equipment, training, and communications. Our tanks could detect and destroy their tanks beyond the range that they could even see us through their gunsights. In these battles, the first indication the Iraqis had that US armored forces were nearby was having one of their tanks blow up spectacularly.

One of the tactics used by the Iraqis as the battle raged on was to not power up their tank, instead letting it remain at the ambient temperature and thus be mostly invisible to our thermal sights. One of the US units reported coming over a small ridge and seeing 'basketballs' appearing and disappearing... and realizing these were the heads of Iraqi tank commanders coming in and out of their turrets quickly spread the word to shoot below the basketballs... ouch!

The smarter Iraqis kept their tanks cold and their heads down. After US vehicles would roll past these dormant tanks in the night, the Iraqis would crank their turrets around by hand and shoot us from behind. It was an effective tactic, but once a shot was fired the tank's temperature changed enough to become clearly visible on our thermal sights and most of these tanks only got off one shot before they were destroyed. Unfortunately, US tanks adjacent to those hit turned their turrets around to engage the bypassed Iraqis, leading to several incidents of fratricide, or "friendly fire" deaths when their gun flashes firing westward were mistakenly identified as enemy fire and engaged by oncoming US tanks to the westward.

After the destruction of the Tawakalna Division, the next Guard unit encountered was the Medina, leading to the Battle of Medina Ridge, the largest tank-on-tank battle in the history of the US Army. I think that only the WWII Battle of Kursk between the Soviets and the Germans was larger.

I think a case can be made that the Soviet Union collapsed as a result of the Gulf War and the lopsided US victory. Why? Because the Soviets were in Iraq supporting their client state with technical advisors and the latest and greatest Warsaw Pact armament. The Soviets always outnumbered the US in Europe, just as the Iraqis outnumbered us in Iraq, however US military strategy was predicated on the fact that large conventional battles would always be against numerically superior enemies like the Soviets and the Chinese. And yet, we defeated the fourth largest army in the world in less than 100 hours, while suffering more casualties in traffic accidents at home than we did on the battlefield. I think the Soviet leadership saw that all of their military spending, the decades of deprivation of their people, the lack of progress in their country's standard of living... it was all a waste. They'd never be able to conquer us militarily, they lost 40,000 troops and wrecked their army in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and they were getting left further and further behind, while their earstwhile junior partner China was making great economic strides. Despite the Soviets' best efforts, the US was less than 100 kilometers from downtown Baghdad with nothing in the way but sand. And so we saw the coup attempt fail shortly thereafter, and the Soviet Union was no more.

One wonders about the lost opportunities of the 1990s, starting with our running from Somalia to our ineffective responses to Al Qaeda. What would the world have looked like with Bush had won instead of Clinton? Would 9/11 or something similar have happened?

In A Post-9/11 World...

...Americans are refusing to be victims. We saw it when the airline passengers beat the snot out of the Sneaker Bomber, and we see it again when a group of American senior citizens, including at least one retired military, were confronted by three Honduran bad boys with knives and a gun during a cruise ship port visit. When the dust settled, two of the pendejos were running and the third bandito was permanently hors de combat, having suffered a broken collarbone and then death via lack of blood to the brain from what was probably a rear naked choke, a ju-jitsu hold taught in military combatives training.

My favorite part of the article:
The tourists left on their Carnival cruise after the incident and Hernandez said authorities do not plan to press any charges against them, saying they acted in self defense.

"They were in their right to defend themselves after being held up," Hernandez said.

Honduras is a pretty cool country.

Lesson #1: When your life is threatened, fight back with an overwhelming amount of force and definitively eradicate the threat. Mercy can wait until you identify the perp in the ER or the morgue.

Lesson #2: Picking on Americans can be hazardous to your health.

On The Morality of Clubbing Baby Seals

Don't ask me how I wandered on to this, but I thought it was powerful enough to share.

I've never heard of Craig Ferguson before, but he seems like someone worth watching.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Perils of Shooting Your Mouth Off

Jim Zumbo
c/o Outdoor Life

Dear Jim:

I've met you at sportsmen's shows and at the SHOT Show. I've read your work for a couple of decades now. I'm really pretty disappointed in you, because I don't think you get why people are so upset.

I've hunted for almost 40 years, and owned guns for the same amount of time. I've been in the military. I've shot competitively. And, I've owned a gun shop and shooting range.

People could care less if you do, or don't, hunt with an AR-15, or Mini-14, or AK-47, or SKS, or whatever. That's your business. When you start denigrating people over their choice of hunting firearms, then it becomes a problem. When you call them "terrorists" and call for banning their weapon of choice, then it really becomes a problem. And, in today's political climate, where those who work to ban all firearms look for any and every opportunity to divide the gun owner community on the basis of cosmetics so they can gradually ban all guns by banning this type and then that type, you just handed anti-gunners some potent information. "Why not ban AR-15s from hunting?" they'll say. "After all, noted hunting authority Jim Zumbo says that they are unsporting and don't belong in the woods!"

Jim, the problem isn't that you didn't realize people hunt with AR-15s. It's that both your original post and your apology demonstrate you truly do not believe in the right to keep and bear arms, and that it extends to beyond what type of firearms may be suitable for a week-long elk hunt in the Rockies.

So, going on a hunt with Ted Nugent and using AR-15s isn't going to fix the problem. How about writing an article on how people who don't hunt also have a right to own firearms, including AR-15s, and maybe then following up with another article specifically for non-hunters who own semiautomatic rifles derived from military weapons, directed at how to get them to start hunting with those weapons. After all, we need more hunters!

Hunting as an activity is decreasing in popularity. I'd venture to say that, unlike when I was a boy, the majority of gun owners are not hunters. If you, as a recognized authority on hunting (certainly not guns), dismiss these people for their taste in firearms, then in a few years don't be surprised when hunting as a legitimate sporting activity is ended. After all, we don't need to hunt to feed ourselves, and we can farm elk and deer if we like the taste of venison. It's just a cruel blood sport, isn't it, and no one needs to kill a poor cute defenseless prairie dog or a clever and handsome coyote.

Gun owners and Americans in general are pretty forgiving, if they think you're sincere and if they see that you've changed. But the burden is on you, and not on them. If your apology really is sincere and you really don't think these guns should be banned from hunting, then you need to start writing... and soon.


John Clifford

ht: Instapundit

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Perfect Birthday

I ran across a photo on an Internet site that reminded me of my eighth birthday, my best birthday ever, and my first true love.

I learned to ride a bike when I was five, on my own. My parents had bought my oldest sister a red Schwinn on her sixth birthday, and my other sister Sue and I spent the afternoon running behind my father as he attempted to mentor Amie in the art of cycling by holding the bike with her on it, running with it for a few steps and then launching her to wobble across the drive. She never really took to it and the bike ended up in the garage, unused. Sue never expressed any interest in the bicycle and so it languished for over a year until one day, after watching some of the older boys in the neighborhood ride and pondering on the subject I decided that I was going to learn.

I spent a few days on the sidewalk besides our house, starting at the top of the block and coasting down, dragging my feet at first until I finally figured out what to do in order to keep from falling... turn in the direction that the bike starts to lean. Shortly thereafter I was up and running, or cycling. I spent the rest of the summer cycling on my own without anyone being the wiser... and as the youngest child and the only boy that is just how I wanted it.

A week or two after school began, I made an offhand comment as we passed a bicyclist on the way home in the car with my mother and sisters. "What do you know about bicycles?!" Sue challenged. "Why, I'm a year older than you and I can't ride and I know more about bicycles than you do!" "I can too ride a bike!" I responded. "No, you can't!" And so on, until my mother told us both to stop arguing.

I slumped back in my seat and challenged her, "I bet you a quarter I can ride!" Now, a quarter was a lot of money in the mid-1960s. It was two week's allowance, and would buy five Cokes in those little glass bottles, or five candy bars, or any combination of the two. We're talking serious money for a five year-old... or a six year-old, for that matter. Sue had to put up, or shut up... and, really she had no choice; I had called her bluff. She could hardly wait to get home to take my quarter.

The car had barely stopped before we all piled out. I ran across the yard to the door under the porch and pulled the bike out, and then proudly rode it across the yard and up to the car. My mother was speechless with astonishment, and both of my sisters were calling, "Teach me! Teach me!" (I tried for a few minutes, but they wouldn't listen, and I eventually realized that they would have to learn on their own the same way I did, although being outdone by their younger brother was powerful motivation. I don't remember getting the quarter.)

A couple of days later, my father pulled up while I was sitting on the back steps. He stepped out of the driver's seat and pulled a brand-new 24" boy's bike out of the back. I was totally surprised; I guess my mother must have mentioned that we would need at least one more bike. This was a typical Sear's cruiser with lots of chrome plating, the taillight behind the seatpost, a swooping gas tank on the main tube, a headlight and a big spring shock absorber on top of the front fender. I immediately tried to ride it and ran into a problem. Either Dad overlooked my height, or lack of it, at five years of age, or more likely he bought a little bigger bike figuring I would grow into it. My father showed me how to start by stepping on the left pedal with my left foot, scooting a few steps, and then swinging my foot over the main tube, and I was able to ride it, but even at its lowest I couldn't pedal while sitting. I quickly learned how to stop the bike and get off without falling; ride into our hedge and then climb off as the bike was held up by the front wheel!

As you can imagine, with very little clearance between the top tube and sensitive portions of my anatomy, not being able to sit, and having to find a hedge in order to get off, I quickly parked the new bike under the porch and returned to riding my sister's 20" candy apple red Schwinn mixte (girl's bike). It didn't help that a few weeks later some cretin opened the door under our porch while we were out and made off with the bike. I was upset, but more with the idea that it was stolen than with the fact that I couldn't ride it anymore.

A while later, my father came home with a decades-old mixte with 20" balloon tires, painted pea green with a brush. I hopped on and rode it and fell in love. Everything fit, it was comfortable, no bar to crunch myself on, and it was mine. I don't think the manufacturers even considered using anything besides the same stuff you'd find beneath your bathroom sink for frame tubing, and the bike had to weigh at least 50 lbs. It was ugly, but it never let me down. I rode that bike for three years, until my eighth birthday... the best birthday of my life.

All that fall I had been entranced, dreaming of a bike in the Sears catalog. As you may remember, Sears had a good marketing habit of having at least two items in any category and often three... "Good," "Better," and "Sear's Best." The bicycle marketer must have understood small boys, because he had two Stingray-type bikes in full color. I lusted after the "Sear's Best" model, the 'Scream' with its butterfly handlebars, its 5-speed shifter in a console on the main tube, its banana seat, and its dragster-type slick rear tire. It was too much to hope for, but I would hold the catalog and walk in circles around my room at night when I was supposed to be in bed, dreaming. I literally prayed about that bike, even offering to take the "Better" model if that's all God thought I deserved... but I really figured there was no way I'd get any bike for Christmas. After all, even the cheaper model was $50 and the "Scream" was $80. The number was beyond comprehension to a person who got a quarter for his allowance. It might as well have cost a million dollars.

I remember my birthday, that December day in 1969, very well. It was raining and cold, and my father wasn't home for dinner so we all ate and waited for him to start on the cake. I heard my father pull up around 6:30 and ran to the front door to open it for him, and as I did the bike of my dreams appeared as he wheeled it inside.

I couldn't believe it. If you've ever really wanted something, figured you'd never get it, and then, lo and behold, it's yours, you understand. Nothing would do except that we go outside and ride it, in the cold December rain at night, so we did. And then we brought it back inside and I lovingly dried it off with a towel. My father even brought it upstairs that one night so I could sleep with it in my room. To this day, it was the best birthday present I've ever had.

But, like most love stories it ended badly. Six months later I went up to stay with my stepsister and her husband for a couple of weeks. Despite my repeated demands, backed up by my parents, that my bike not be taken out while I was away, my sisters did take it out, and left it out for a couple days in the rain. By the time I returned home it was rusted, the chrome flaking off. Once the paint blisters and the steel corrodes there is nothing that an eight year-old boy can do with Naval Jelly to restore his pride and joy. I still rode it but things were never the same. I'd look at the rust and the flaked chrome and alternate between depression and anger. A year later someone stole it from our garage, and although we came across the thief on the bike and stopped him, I could not get my father to take it from him even though I positively identified every scratch and defect down to the traces of Naval Jelly still remaining on the chainguard. We went home and called the police but the thief had hidden the bike by the time they came and I never saw it again. I was heartbroken.

That was the last bike I owned until I was an adult. I had forgotten what it looked like until I ran across a picture of it while Googling random stuff. Here it is... my first love.

I know, it looks ridiculous. I wonder what I ever saw in it. And then I realize that when one is in love common sense goes out the window. I've owned several bikes as an adult, some costing in the thousands, made of titanium with top-end componentry... and yet, no bike has ever made me happier. No photo can possibly reproduce the experience, the emotion, of owning my dream bike. Laugh if you will, but how many of you would have given everything for such a bike when you were eight?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tragedy Isn't Funny: An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh

Hello Rush,

As a listener of yours since the late '80s, and a member for the past several years, I think you're going a little overboard on the astronaut.

I joined after the press was ganging up on you over your issue with painkillers. I didn't think it was fair, and I wanted to show my support.

Similarly, I think the story of Lisa Nowak and her actions this morning is really a tragedy. Captain Nowak is an Annapolis grad with a regular commission, three young children, and is at the pinnacle of her career as a test pilot and astronaut. Now, all of that is over. Regardless of the legal outcome, her career is ended and she will have to resign her commission because she can no longer be trusted behind the controls of a fighter aircraft much less in command of an aircraft carrier or in the Space Shuttle.

If she is acquitted of all charges, she will still be unemployable; no defense contractor or airline will have her for the same reason that the Navy and NASA no longer will. She will almost surely be court-martialed; if she is found guilty she will most likely lose her pension. Her marriage is most likely over as well. And, if she is convicted in a criminal court she will spend at least a decade in jail.

I don't know why Captain Lowak did what she did. I don't know what pushed her to act this irrationally. My point is, regardless of the reason this is a tragedy that has and will harm many innocent people, from the intended victim to the male astronaut to the Nowak children to Captain Lowak herself. The woman has lost everything. There's nothing funny about that.

Give the woman a break, okay?