Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Taliban Ambush in Afghanistan is Deja Vu Vietnam

Similarities to the Vietnam War

Th US forces in Afghanistan are fighting in the world's worse possible terrain against a cunning and very adaptable foe: the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In many ways, the foe is WAY worse than the more predictable North Vietnamese Army, a more convential force,and its North Vietnamese Liberation Front, or Viet Cong, its radical terrorism group.

The similarity to the Vietnam war is not in the geography, but the tactics used by both forces and the problems faced by the American soldier in this lunar like lanscape. Like in Vietnam, the enemy was difficult to find, locate and fix because of the lush tropical landscape, even with sensors. Like the Vietnam war, combat unit formations were small in size, not much more than battalions was more often than not. Many battles in Vietnam were small unit actions comprising of company size or less. Once the US forces engaged the enemy, the inevitable call to artillery, air strikes with napalm or B-52 runs were requested. US forces were instructed to fall back out of the kill zone. The NVA or VC usually monitored the radio or instinctively heard the approach and suddenly stopped the attack and vanished. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not. As was said many times during that war, the US won the battles most of the time, yet failed to win the war.

We have the same situation developing in Afghanistan. The same tactics are being used in addition trying to win the "hearts and minds" of the population, and like in Vietnam, most of the locals are lukewarm, at best, about the US presence, and easily persuaded by the money of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda to switch sides. This happened in Vietnam, but usually, the NVA or VC provided food, health care, clothes to win the locals.

In the Korangel Valley, a recent small firefight killed one US soldier. A platoon of around 40 men climbed down from their outpost and were on recon down into the small hamlets or towns around Ali-abad, mingle with the locals and try to "win" their support. The locals are cordial but remain silent when asked about "you know who". Much like the locals in Vietnam when asked about VC. A week earlier the same US platoon had killed over 15 suspected Taliban fighters in an ambush. The local leaders were angry and claimed that the men killed were actually looking for a lost girl despite being armed. The US response was essentially, bullshit. Same things happened in Vietnam. A kid would take the chocolate from a GI, smile, and suddenly five minutes later, the APC would blow up with the GI.

The US troops continued passing one local leader, Zarin, coming from a small town called Laneyal, where the US troops suspected terrorists existed. Not long after exchanging greetings and smiles with Zarin, all hell broke loose as the US platoon was caught in a three-way deadly Taliban crossfire as they attempted to scale up the terraced wheat field. The platoon really was close to chaos, hunkering down in the rocks along the river bed. The firebase, a mile away, started lobbing 120mm shells. A squad left at Ali-abad, peppered the area with machine gun fire. The terrain is ominious. Not a place to be ambushed at!

With the enemy closing in and the US holding their ground, things were getting worse, not better. Like in Vietnam, the call to airstrikes was requested. As the aircraft approached, like in Vietnam, the Taliban vanished like ghosts. The pilot told the troops incoming was a 500 pounder, get the hell out of its blast zone. They did. Other bombs followed, blowing the crap out of anything. The harrowing ambush had receded. Only one US soldier killed, no Taliban bodies were found. All in a day's life in the war . Maybe the enemy had dragged off the body.

Just like in Vietnam forty years ago. History is repeating once again at all levels.

Iranian Spreads its Islam Further and Further

The Sudanese regime's armed forces were created and trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and relations between Teheran and Khartoum are known to be close. Reports of transports of arms across land from Sudan to Gaza first appeared at the beginning of this year. Earlier reports suggest that the Israel Air Force bombed an arms convoy on its way to Sudan in March.

The 17 truck arms convoy bombed in March carried missiles that would have given the Hamas rulers of Gaza the ability to strike at Tel Aviv. The convoy was being supervised by Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers. Israel’s aim is to stop Hamas acquiring Iranian Fajr rockets, designed to be stripped down and carried in parts through the tunnels from Egypt into Gaza, from where their range of at least 40km would have given Hamas a longer reach than its homemade Qassam rockets or the Grad rockets it has already smuggled in and fired at Israel.

A few days ago, an Iranian ship was torpedoed as it prepared to dock in Sudan, where its cargo of arms was to be brought ashore and then transported by land across Sudan and Egypt to the Gaza Strip. This was reported in an Egyptian newspaper. The US nor Israel have commented on the attack. In February, Cypriot authorities halted an Iranian arms ship en route to Syria, upon request of the US and Israel. The ship was sailing from Iran to the Syrian port of Latakia, and after a search turned up ammunition for T-72 tanks, used by the Syrian army, as well as various types of mortar shells.

For years Tehran has been building up its military ties with Khartoum with an eye on its geopolitical assets: a long coast on the Red Sea, a main sea lanes to the Persian Gulf, a Muslim nation located opposite Saudi Arabia and next door to Egypt; Sudan’s command of oil resources and the White Nile, a major water source for an entire African region. This strategic jewel finally dropped into Iran’s lap.

Last month, Egyptian police arrested 25 suspects, 13 of whom have been charged with espionage and illegal possession of weapons and explosives. A manhunt is under way for 24 more suspects believed to be hiding in the Sinai peninsula's mountainous interior.

In an unusual admission, Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged in a speech recently that one of the men in Egyptian custody had been sent to conduct reconnaissance inside Egypt.

Make no mistake about Iran, they cannot be trusted.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Australia: Harbinger of Climatic Weather Change

Australia, the driest inhabited continent on earth, is regarded as highly vulnerable. A study by the country's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation identified its ecosystems as "potentially the most fragile" on earth in the face of the threat. Its climate is already hot, dry and variable. Its vulnerable agriculture plays an unusually important part in the economy. Most of its population and industry are concentrated on the coast, making it vulnerable to the rising seas and ferocious storms that come with a warmer world. In the south, an unprecedented 12-year drought continues. The Australian Alps have had their driest three years ever, and the water from the vast Murray-Darling river system now fails to reach the sea 40 per cent of the time causing food harvests to decline sharply. In the summer, temperatures have been reaching 105, 110F, which is extraordinary even for this country. Leaves are falling off trees in the height of summer while railway tracks are buckling from the heat. Experts worry that Australia, which emits more carbon dioxide per head than any nation on earth, may also be the first to implode under the impact of climate change. The Murray-Darling river inflows between January and March were the lowest in 117 years and the outlook for the next three months is also looking bleak. That’s the grim news in the latest Drought Update issued by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

For those living in the Murray-Darling Basin (contains 23 river valleys over 1 million square kilometers), the past 10 years of drought has virtually destroyed orchards and wildfires erupted all over causing extensive damage, in other areas, monsoons are worse than ever and mosquitos spread fevers, which is much more common than before in the northern areas. Many scientists down under agree that Australia is at the early stages of how changes in the climate tear at the fabric of life. A computer or cell phone is useless if you are starving.

In Melbourne, the heat wave was so intense that is, get this, buckled a steel skeleton of a new 400 ft Ferris wheel and distorted railroad lines. During the heat wave of 110F for four days, winds provided a hot furnace with 100 mph winds. Worse, Australia in February, sufferd its worse firestorm, many caused by rogue lightening strikes and this increased the ambient temperatures to 120F!

Back at the Murray-Darling Basin, where three of the country's largest rivers converge is becoming more shallow turning 100 acre food producing land to a dust bowl. The three rivers are simply vital for Australia's fruit and grain growing regions and its wetlands. What was is now mile after mile of dessicated fields with barren dead trees that once produced delicious peaches and pears. The human toll in suicides is rising, in Victoria, there is one suicide per week. Farmers, unable to make a living, are leaving their orchards. Water is becoming the precious commodity, many farmers earn more money selling water rights than their farm products.

Much of Australia remains in the worse drought in over 100 yrs. All cities there operate under severe water restrictions and using gray water, water from showers, to keep the lawn green. In Brisbane, residents use recycled water from toilet to tap. Some residents even purchase rain water. In the north, the tropical areas, the opposite is the case. It is wetter than all hell and the season is longer. The Darwin region is fighting twin epidemics of malaria and a dangerous form of hemorrhagic fever, both from mosquitoes that are worse then ever.

Australia relies on coal, some 80% of its electricity is generated by coal eating turbines, it is also the world's largest exporter of it. Australia is the world's highest per capita producers of greenhouse gases. Because of this, so far, Australia's governement has done little about the coal or about the climate changes. Coal is an industry there that is politically untouchable.

That seems to be the major problem for them and ultimately us.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Firefight Games New Release: Rommel's Nightmare, May 21, 1940

Rommel's Nightmare is a historic game on the only Allied counterattack at Arras during the Battle of France. This attack, conducted by French and British armor began on May 21. The British, with two tank battalions over 60 tanks and many Matilda II tanks, caused the SS to flee when the shells from their weapons simply bounced off the thick armor. Rommel's 7th Panzer Division was just arriving and caught in the confused battle. The German panzers were clearly inferior in armor and guns and the British tanks advanced with impunity. Rommel was shakened, he called his superiors in a frantic and tried to maintain cohesion. The counterattack shook not only Rommel himself but his superiors in the German High Command, so much so, that on the 22nd, the panzer spearhead heading for the coast was halted and some were recalled. The battle lasted six hours and only ended when Rommel, in desperation, ordered his 88mm antiaircraft guns to lower their barrels and aim at the tanks approaching. The four 88mm guns easily penetrated the British armor. From this battle, the reputation of the "dreaded 88" as an antitank weapon was born and would last past WW2.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Panzer Corridor, May 22, 1940

Firefight's next upcoming release is perhaps the most intriguing WW2 "what if" game. The stage is set when the planned British counterattack at Arras with armor is postponed one day to allow the remaining French forces to attack towards Cambrai. Further south, the French 7th Army is ready to attack northwards from the Amiens area (40 miles away) to meet the Allied forces attacking southward. In between are five panzer divisions but most are westward.

This was historically the ONLY chance to cut off the German panzer spearhead. The flanks were not strongly defended and both sides knew it.

The what if is really historical. The French did attack and almost retook Cambrai on the 22nd. The British did attack on the 21st and were only stopped by Rommel's four 88mm guns. The soonest the 7th Army could be ready to attack was the 22nd, yet, it did not do so until the 25th or so.

PANZER CORRIDOR 1940 should be quite interesting!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Corvair for the Not So Mechanically Inclined

A Corvair for Dummies book!

If you are under 40, odds are you have never heard or seen a Corvair! Learn how to repair the most common restoration issues for the Chevrolet Corvair, 1965-69. Step by step procedures on critical issues. Learn the history about America's only rear engine, air cooled engine car.

As its author, I chose the issues that I had to deal with when I purchased my 65 convertible and 67 coupe. Although both had only 50,000 original miles, they both needed various things. In my case, the engines were solid, so no rebuilding needed, but changing the push rod tubes, rebuilding the carburetors etc. were all new to me. Hey, I am not a mechanic, but through lots of reading and help from Corvair experts and owners I documented certain procedures that are common to all new corvair owners.
This book is a great supplement to many other existing How-to books for the Corvair novice.

To order, go to:

A Love-Hate Relationship: Convertible Corvair Cars

Owning the esteemed Corvair convertible is, well, a double edged sword. You love them and not love them for very logical reasons. Owning one is really prestige when cruising down the road with the top down, hair flying, they look cool and everyone will look. Their personality changes from cool when the top is down to just “OK” or worse. They resale higher on the market, depending on the condition. The downsides of owning one is that there is no security even if the car is locked. A sharp knife will easily provide access. When the top is up, it’s vinyl top is bombarded with sun, fading it and making it weaker, yet, the interior is protected. When the top is down, the top is protected yet the interior vinyl is bombarded with sun and fades and weakens it. Of course, with the top down, there is no security at all. For passengers, front or back, if you are cruising at more than 40 mph, your hair is flying in the wind, the engine is louder and between the wind noise and engine, you can barely hear a radio from the rear seat or even the front unless it is blaring loud. Conversations between front and rear passengers are near impossible. On a highway going a slow 55 mph, you experience the Corvair hurricane. The first time is an experience, so much noise; you have to use sign language to communicate with passengers! Unless you are bundled up and love sound effects, most convertible owners stay off the freeways! If you have an engine that is not oil leak free, odds are you will be smelling it much more at a stop. Another downside is that the motor that raises and lowers the top may suddenly not do so while at mid-way! You are always crossing your fingers when you raise or lower it. If this happens, your only fix is to somehow cut the cables along the sides of top turning it into a manual top. Don’t lower it unless you know the weather will be good for a few days—just in case! Most convertibles have a rear window that can be barely seen out of. If this is you, as it was with me, your choices are to replace the whole top ($400), replace the rear window ($110) or cleaning it. If the rest of the top is fair to good shape, try cleaning it with kerosene, turpentine, Gel Gloss bathroom scum cleaner and a small plastic scrub brush with flexible bristles. Simply apply some and scrub with moderate strength. In my case, the plastic oxidation and scum prevented me from seeing out of it. After using the above and over one hour of scrubbing, the window was clear, not like new, but vastly improved.