Monday, October 29, 2007


Physician, heal thyself. It’s a praise often used to talk about the idea that doctors don’t make the best patients because they’re more used to giving medical advice than taking it and often ignore symptoms and lead hectic lifestyles. I’ve also read that physiatrists and psychologists often have troubled personal lives because what makes them so good at providing advice to their patients causes them to treat their children and spouses like patients which often is resented.

All this makes me wonder if somebody like me who works in the International security industry has the ability to provide advice to the industry as a whole or if I’m incapable of really seeing the industry for what it is? You’ll have to answer this question for me because I think I can provide an unbiased assessment but maybe I’m too jaded to even realize that I’m biased.

To understand today’s Private Security Company’s you have to take a hard look at the evolution that got us to where we are. Most of the industries old guard began as Risk Management firms specializing in the provision of kidnap and ransom services, helping the insurance industry analyse risk in potentially high risk locations in Africa, the Middle and South America, providing training services to local guard forces, doing security survey’s and general risk management consulting and finally providing security managers who could provide their clients with day to day security advice.

Who worked in the Industry, well it was a mixture of ex-military officers doing the survey’s and developing corporate crisis management plans while the ex-soldiers were doing the on the ground training or advising work in the deserts and jungles where the oil wells and mines could be found.

For the most part these old guard companies were British.

There was a brief attempt to evolve towards something totally different in the early 90’s with the advent of the Private Military Company. This idea, although interesting never really gained any traction within the private or public sector. The original idea was that if you deployed a well trained, disciplined and well-equipped force quickly you could prevent the Rwanda’s of the world while the UN was still chatting away about what to do. In exchange the government that hired said PMC would pay them vast amounts of money or resources in return for providing them with a stable country. Now looking at this purely from a moral perspective the idea that a small group of armed men could quickly stop some of the most horrific wars in Africa and then leave the country in the hands of its legitimate government without all the hubbub of the UN and different factions of country’s deciding if such an intervention was good for it’s national agenda while countless people were being starved or butchered seems on the face of it a rather good idea. Often though such good ideas become perverted and it would be impossible for that same illustrious International body (UN) to come together and create the rules by which a PMC could operate. There would always be the possibility of a PMC being lured by money or diamonds into fighting for a not so legitimate government.

As quickly as they came they were gone and the industry went back to its core although US entrepreneurs had begun to take notice of Control Risks Group and Armor Group and said we can do that too. The timing coincided with major Western governments scaling back its collective military’s yet deploying them heavily in the Balkans. The Americans were soon outsourcing everything but combat forces to civilian company’s, as were the Canadians and less so the British. Whether it was catering for your deployed forces or logistics delivery at home, the alternative delivery years were beginning so it was only a logical follow on that static guarding of facilities and small but specialized training would follow and how quickly they did.

The first major move towards legitimate private military training came when the US government agreed to fund, train and equip the Bosnian Army but when President Clinton turned to the military they didn’t have the people to spare while his state department was also saying hey lets not publicly take sides and further isolate the Russians who are historical friends with the Serbs so they found MPRI who hired all those recently released and downsized US Army personnel who would just love to paid to do what they do best but without all the regular army restrictions. The beginning of the oversight and governance challenge quickly became apparent as some members of the training team were accused of several felony level crimes but were never prosecuted due to the confusion over what laws if any applied in war torn Bosnia.

By the beginning of the millennium, the US Military was outsourcing all catering (KBR), logistical and static guarding of its facilities in the Balkans (yes under the Clinton administration KBR was making money) and after the bombing of the USS Cole the US Navy needed to quickly train its sailors and officers to better protect their ships when they were in foreign ports but with all the cut backs to the Navy, they were barely manning all the ships so to put aside so many personnel to conduct some major long term training was not going to happen so they decided to outsource it like so many other functions. Into the breech stepped Blackwater USA. A tiny training outfit but one perfectly suited to respond to the US Navy’s needs as it was run and staffed by former Navy SEALS who already had the background and skills so desperately needed.

With DynCorp training police in Haiti and Bosnia on behalf of the Clinton administrations Department of State we witnessed the birth of the first two major non-British private security company’s.

After the invasion of Afghanistan several more PSC’s emerged and began to operate private security details (PSD’s) protecting government officials and those in the private sector looking to be first at the trough for reconstruction contracts. It was a PSC that provided protection to all those UN field workers that registered Afghanistan’s population to vote and it was a PSC that protected the polling stations and the workers there during the vote and well as protecting all the Non-Governmental Agency workers who came to help or to monitor elections. In fact without this blossoming industry much of what did go right in Afghanistan would not have occurred with the speed at which it did because the Military and State Department that President Bush inherited 9 months earlier had been gutted and completely outsourced in every way possible to save money during the tough 90’s. The projected surpluses that President Clinton spoke so much about were gathered by outsourcing so many government and military functions that President Bush had absolutely no choice in Afghanistan but to continue down the same path of outsourcing and it wasn’t to long before we had felony type crimes being commitment and once again the laws were dodgy at best on the issue.

In fall of 2005 a drunken member of USPI working as an armed guard on a USAID funded reconstruction contract shot and killed an interpreter. The guard, a US citizen later tried to claim that the unarmed interpreter threatened him. The result he was flown out of Afghanistan two days later without the permission of the Afghan government who wanted to arrest him. Later when I was asked what I would do if one of my guys did the same thing (by the reconstruction company’s Group VP) I responded the same thing, I’d rather have the guy tried in the US than here, his response was you better get him out, we won’t let our company’s name be associated with a murder trial in Afghanistan.

In Nov of 2005, a member of the DynCorp Police training team ran over and killed a child outside of the gates of the compound I was living in. The driver never stopped but it was obvious to everybody who was driving the white suburban, as at the time DynCorp was the only company using the vehicles with modified front bumpers. They had removed the original factory installed bumper and replaced it with a solid black steel plate. At the time a documentary film crew was in my compound working on their film for the Sky News so when they heard about the hit and run they went and filmed the aftermath and then filmed the company refusing to comment on the incident.

In February of 2006 DynCorp was replaced by Blackwater USA as the sole provider of PSD service to the US Embassy and USAID staff in Afghanistan while DynCorp continued with the police-training program.

In the year I spent in Kabul I only had two weapons pointed at me. The first was a DynCorp PSD team member who wasn’t happy that I had closed up behind him waiting to get through the North Checkpoint into the Embassy. Since the rear of my vehicle was sticking out into the busiest traffic circle in Kabul and the team didn’t have a protectee on board I didn’t feel the need to keep a distance from him, nor did the RSO when it was reported to him but this was the mindset, here I was a fellow western armed guard working at the same Embassy he was working at and he was willing to point a weapon at me and scream in English to back up into a busy traffic circle.

The other incident occurred during the visit of President Bush when a very newly arrived member of Blackwater obviously nervous over the big visit while being new to the post pointed his rifle at me and asked me to halt, although I was in an area open to security forces, had my badge showing and was uniformed. He apologized after I yelled who I was to him but it was an obvious case of inexperience. He looked like a young kid so he was probably no more than 25 or so.

In Iraq the problem was the same just magnified in size and scope. During my time there I was provided with PSD services from Armor Group who took a completely different approach. They were firm but polite and while they used aggressive driving and blocking techniques they were never threatening nor did they ever wave their weapons about at people. The day I arrived they’d lost 2 Brit’s killed by an IED attack yet they went about their business as if nothing had happened, no extra animosity towards the locals just the normal drills.

Over the years I’ve watched as the industry followed two very distinct paths, the first path was the British one, a more reserved low profile path of hiring older more mature family men who had served for 12 years or more and were there to just do a job that needed doing and to do it well.

The other path was the American path this was perpetuated by DynCorp and Blackwater but also endorsed by Triple Canopy too. We had a generic name for all of these guys we called them collectively Dynawarriors. They were the guys with the mirrored wrap around sunglasses that had more gear hanging off their bodies than necessary and always seemed to pointing a weapon at somebody. They believed in overt security, posturing to as if to say look at how powerful we are so you better not attack us. The US Company’s tended to hire younger, aggressive guys who were single and looking for some trigger time. Young Rangers and Marines were especially loved as they were fit, keen and always followed orders.

I’m not one to throw stones as my house is definitely made of glass and I’ve made more mistakes than the average guy but the most recent incidents in Iraq were inevitable. The lack of oversight by an understaffed and overstretched Department of State safe allowed a group of young men to have free rein out there coupled with a lack of accountability beyond getting fired.

I can’t remember how many men I fired during my time in Kabul but it was a lot and in every case except one I didn’t have to be told by the RSO to do so. As for DynCorp the RSO told me in Nov 2005 after I’d fired 2 of my personnel for getting into a drunken fight at a club in Kabul that he was lucky that our company took a proactive approach while he’d had to pull the Embassy badges (our weapons permits) from 6 DynCorp guys who’d done the same thing weeks earlier because their management wouldn’t fire anybody unless forced. Why you ask, I can only speculate but when we fired somebody the cost of his replacement’s flight and pay during the mandatory 14 day training period had to be borne by the company so that might have something to do with it?

As I said in the beginning maybe I’m biased because I’ve always worked for British private security company’s, but I also worked in Washington DC for a year so I think I have a good insight into both view points. Maybe I’m biased because it was US Company’s whose men pointed weapons at me in Kabul?

Or maybe its time more people from within the industry spoke up and said enough is enough. We need standards of conduct, we need clear and defined laws so that our personnel not only know what is expected of them but how they will be treated should they break the laws they fall under.

The International Peace Operations Association has been trying to lay down a code of conduct but has received no government support and therefore cannot apply any real penalties or meaningful sanctions to its members. Doug Brooks (President of IPOA) is a fine man trying to do good work but if the industry cannot police itself the US government must step in and work to regulate this industry like all others to ensure there is a clear code of conduct and all applicable laws are laid out within the request for proposal (RFP) notices that they put out so Private Security Company’s can decide if they want to bid on these contracts with full knowledge in hand.

Having both the government and the industry step up and demand better of each other will go a long way to preventing unnecessary incidents from happening. They can’t stop them because no matter how good your plans and procedures are they’re in the hands of humans who sometimes make mistakes but what comes after those mistakes is also just as important and by having good laws, rules and procedures in place you can at the very least properly investigate and if necessary hold people or company’s accountable. Until these steps are taken we will continue to be lumped all together as Dynawarriors.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


A couple of nights ago I was watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie to pass the time. At one point Johnny Depp’s character Captain Jack says to Elizabeth “sticks and stones love, sticks and stones” in response to being called a vile evil man. Later I found myself repeating the old children’s saying:

Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But names will never hurt me.

I used it on bullies, I taught it my kids and I’m sure each and every one of you has used it or certainly at least wanted too at some point in your lives.

The same day I watched Pirates I’d read the comments made by democratic representative Pete Stark from California and wondered if the first lady was currently repeating that saying to the President. In case you haven’t seen the quote, which was made shortly after the house failed to garner enough votes to override the Presidents veto of the children’s health care bill. He said the President is spending money "to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough … to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

After I read the comment a few times and his later statement saying he supports the troops but raging on about chickenhawks in Washington I began to think about the saying again and realized that it was a fairy tale lie we tell to our children to help them cope with bullies. While I suppose it’s true in the first part, sticks and stone can break your bones, but the second part…names will never hurt me is completely and utterly false. Names and words hurt just as much as broken bones and are certainly more common for most folks.

Whether it’s a strong rebuke from your boss or a nasty comment about your weight by your spouse words impact people far more deeply than we let on and sometimes they go over the line.

Politics is a rough sport only for people with far thicker skin than my own but recently we’ve begun to see a more overt series of attacks coming from the far left that are directed not at policy but at people. The MSM are eating it up, juicy headlines sell papers and this is the stuff of legend.

The two most recent cases that really stand out are the ad taken out in the New York Times suggesting that the commanding General of US forces in Iraq was betraying his country and the recent comments by a congressman suggesting that the President was somehow personally enjoying the deaths of US servicemen.

While everybody has the constitutionally given right to free speech there must be some level of decency expected if we are to rationally debate an issue as important as a war. To suggest that a General regardless of his position or whether you agree with what he may or may not say at a Congressional hearing is somehow betraying the nation is simply going over the line of civil discourse and removes any possibility for rational discussion following his testimony.

As for Congressman Pete Stark, well I’m willing to put his speech into the hate category. His obvious hate for the President and the efforts of the US military on behalf of their Commander in Chief was clearly laid out in his message. He didn’t criticize the war or attack the administrations reasons for going to war, or even the conduct of the war he only attacked the President. While Rep Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the house and fellow Democrat, did say that the comments went over the line, she didn’t say she disagreed with them, would sanction the member or apologize on behalf of the Democratic Party, no instead she understood his frustration and sympathized with him.

Once again it’s hard to have a rational discussion with folks after they’ve supported such language and this is why Congress is and will remain totally polarized for some time to come and why the poll numbers for both houses of Congress are lower than the Presidents.

While we must continue to fib to our children about not letting names or words thrown by bullies hurt them, we must also look to our politicians and demand better because as adults we know that words do hurt and in many cases much more deeply than we’d like to admit. We also know that when hurt by words we seldom forget who attacked us nor totally forgive the attacker.

Monday, October 22, 2007


In Canada the government has recently struck an independent panel to advise the government on what role Canada should play in Afghanistan after its current combat commitment in Kandahar province expires in February 2009.

I was reading the story on line at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) site, which included a feature that allowed for comments. As I’d spent a year in Afghanistan and a year overseeing Afghan projects as a private contractor it was a subject that greatly interested me. Now for those of you that don’t know, the CBC receives the vast majority of it’s funding from the government of Canada but is an independent organization, it is also known by some of us as the Communist Broadcasting Company.

I expected the comments to largely congratulate the conservative PM for naming a former Liberal cabinet minister as the chair but found not only condemnation for the panel but for the mission too. I can certainly understand the debate about naming independent commissions who write reports at taxpayer expense when we have well paid politicians in place to do the fact finding and to make political decisions but I was completely unprepared for the hate and ignorance of the facts that I found strewn throughout the comment board.

It was mostly aimed at the idea that the big bad US had invaded poor old Afghanistan for no good reason as the Taliban hadn’t done anything to the US and why was Canada participating in this US war anyway. Most of the comments somehow wrapped the war in Afghanistan into the war in Iraq as if they were joined in the reasons they began and almost all seemed to ignore whom the Taliban were and what they represented.

I also must admit to weighing in with several comment about why this war began, who the Taliban were and what I’d seen going on in Afghanistan during my time there and while working with a client who is heavily involved in reconstruction. Many of the reply’s I received ignored the basic facts and continued to rant about Canadian arrogance (the Russian and British failed how can we win) and being forced by the US into fighting for them. Some asked me to expand on my comments about the dozens of mentoring programs ongoing, the NGO effort, the USAID sponsored reconstruction effort and yes the military efforts to put a nail in the Taliban coffin so I decided to turn to this forum to continue the debate.

It occurred to me that if Canadians and all the world’s citizens better understood where the Taliban came from and what they represented they might find that this war in Afghanistan is the noblest war we have fought since Korea. I don’t say this lightly as we have fought many decent wars since then in Kuwait, in the Balkans, and in Africa but it’s been a long time since we fought a war for a grossly oppressed people with such a great chance of success.

Talib means student and the plural is Taliban meaning students or a group of students, which is where the organization drew its members from in Pakistan. The founder was Mullah Omar. He had become sickened as he watched the Mujahideen and warlord rulers turn on each other after the Russian withdrawal and become as cruel or crueller than the Russians or the puppet government they’d installed and supported. The story is often told of an incident that finally propelled Mullah Omar to act and that was the raping and killing of the children of a family traveling in Kandahar. He told his students that the warlords were not following the Koran and not acting in the best interest of Afghanistan and that they the Taliban of the Koran would with Allah’s assistance put the country back on a faithful path.

Now you understand that the vast majority of the Taliban were illiterate men and boys who had spent their entire lives in religious schools known as Madrasahs. These schools did not teach anything other than how to recite the Koran in exchange for food and a place to live. The students were not taught how to read, write or any form of a trade, simply how to recite verses and memorize long passages of the Koran. They were not allowed to debate the meanings of the verses, but were told what they meant, end of story.

The Taliban were mostly Pashtun’s of western Pakistan and southern Afghanistan and followed Saudi based Wahhabism, which demanded the strictest form of Sharia law be instituted. They were initially financed by the Saudi’s and were armed and provided training by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI). While the US provided large amounts of weapons and ammunition to any militias willing to fight the Soviets during the 80’s there was no direct financing, training or equipping of the Taliban although it was a likely outcome due to the vast amounts of arms and ammunition that had been dumped into the region.

Feeling that they were ready to fight, Mullah Omar ordered his Taliban to take Kandahar City and in early Nov 1994 they did so. Within a few months the never before heard of group had taken 12 of the country’s 34 provinces with few casualties and often without a fight. Many of the warlords dedicated their troops to the cause of the Taliban and agreed to their terms, those that did not were executed. As they moved along the religious police, a strict sub-group within the Taliban movement provided tribal leaders with their instructions and then brutally enforced the rules. They used tactics right out of the Nazi handbook of promoting junior members of a tribe or clan above traditional leaders in exchange for unswerving loyalty. Knowing the outcome of Taliban failure, these junior leaders were completely beholden to the Taliban, they willingly turning in family members and friends to the religious police for even the smallest of offences such as kite flying, refusing to grow a beard, or in the case of women showing their faces in public.

The Taliban continued their march and by September 1996 they had captured Kabul. The Afghan people were extremely tired of the relentless fighting that took place after the departure of the Russians so when the Taliban arrived they were in fact greeted as liberators with the people willing to accept the harshness with which they applied Sharia Law in exchange for peace but for those that didn’t accept the Taliban it was a quick trip to the main stadium for a public execution. Most people don’t understand that it wasn’t the Russians who destroyed Kabul but the competing Mujahideen so when the Taliban arrived the daily rain of rockets stopped.

It was also during this time that the Taliban had come to the attention of Osama bin Laden who had worn out his welcome in Sudan was now looking for a new home to continue building and training Al Queda so it could better project war on the infidels. The agreement was one of non-aggression, in exchange for the hard currency required to continue his march to Kabul, the Taliban initially agreed to allow Al Qaeda to use territory in its control for training if Osama swore on the Koran that he would never use his organization against the Taliban. In 1996 he returned and began building his Al Queda movement with support and security provider by the Taliban. Later their agreement expanded to allow Al Qaeda to use government institutions to move money, move information in diplomatic pouches and to use government resources to source weapons and equipment.

Not all were pleased with the Taliban and quickly began pointing out that the banning of clapping at sporting events, the banning of music and laughter were not founded in the Koran nor was the harsh treatment reserved for women. Not only were women forced into the Burqa but in 1998 all women were banned from being seen in the street alone, families were ordered to blacken their windows to ensure women weren’t seen by passing men and home schooling for girls was disallowed (public schooling was revoked in 1996). Women were also banned from general hospitals with only one woman’s hospital assigned for a city with roughly one million women. The few dissenting voices resulted in the Taliban responding with mass killings and even harsher measures. The general public soon learned that to speak out was to die and silence and obedience was life.

Now while the Taliban were mostly successful on the battlefields of the south, there was one group known collectively as the North Alliance, led by Ahmad Shah Masoud that decided to fight back, although initially one faction of the Northern Alliance did align itself with the Taliban giving up Mazari Sharif without a fight. These fighters were treated very poorly by the Taliban and decided that they would reunite with their North Alliance brothers in what was the first and most damaging battlefield defeats for the Taliban. They lost thousands of their most seasoned veterans in short order but this set back was short lived although the Northern Alliance held out in a small area known as the Panjshir Valley unwilling to surrender. Their leader Masoud was assassinated two days before 9-11. The Taliban planted a bomb in a fake video camera and sent a fake team of journalists on a successful suicide mission.

The Taliban continued to protect Osama bin Laden under threat of removal from power by the US and it’s allies and resisted all UN calls for them to turn over bin Laden until October 2001 when the US began Operation Enduring Freedom, which by Dec 2001 had liberated Kabul and the vast majority of Afghanistan although major combat operations continued into the spring of 2002 and in Hemand and Kandahar provinces continue today.

Mullah Omar, who only visited Kabul twice during his rule has not been found nor has Osama bin Laden, both of whom are believed to be hiding in western Pakistan.

As I look back at the seven year history of the Taliban in Afghanistan and listen to the voices that say why are we fighting here in this place now, I can’t for the life of me understand how they don’t see that each time the people of Afghanistan have asked for peace and freedom they have been brutally oppressed with the Taliban making the Russian occupation look like the best of times. Mullah Omar can with ease sit alongside Hitler, Pol Pot and numerous other men who throughout history have been able to pervert normal people and create organizations of Evil.

I watched as the people of Afghanistan voted for the first (and second) time, knowing that their votes would be properly counted and that for once they’d have a voice. I spent many a day at the US Embassy talking with local nationals who said that they thought for the first time they could say their children would have a better life than they did. When I was in the South I was able to visit schools and medical clinics my client had built and realized that villages would have medical centers and children, boys and girls together would go to school for the first time in a generation knowing that with education comes advancement, self determination and the ability to think and govern as a people. I’d gotten there on a highway funded by USAID passing Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) checkpoints along the way. As I did all this in the two years I was directly involved with Afghanistan I realized that it had been a war of liberation, a true war of liberation whereby a nation of people would soon be able to finally achieve the peace and stability they desired and sought out for so many years.

I also reflect on the challenges that face the Afghan government and its people especially looking past the current Presidency and the next election. Columbia tells us that the fight against the poppy fields will be long one. Corruption is open and at every level of government and it will take time to mentor a new generation of Afghans into to understanding that they don’t work for themselves, their tribes or clans or their sect but they work for Afghanistan first. Perhaps it will take two generations of effort to develop a national sense of identity that allows people to think of their country before anything else. We only need to look to our own history’s to tell us how long that truly takes.

No matter what you think of war or the need to use force, remember this, the people of Afghanistan have been told for five years now that democracy is their future and that if they believe in that vision we will stand by them. The Taliban want to revert to their evil form of rule, by using IED’s and suicide bombers if necessary. What choice do we have?

Thursday, October 11, 2007


As I sit here writing this it’s mid Oct and another hurricane season is almost over, this will make two years in a row that in April I began reading about more frequent and more devastating hurricanes caused primarily by global warming. The same scientists who helped Al Gore put together his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” were again wrong as the last two seasons have been extremely mild and have not come remotely close to their predictions.

I also had some fun with a known Al Gore believer the other day when I said that when science can explain to me what happened to the predicted cooling of the 70’s then perhaps I’ll trust them to predict the global warming that’s supposedly occurring and will increase in strength dramatically over the next 50 years. I can tell you that he’s a Goreian (yes it’s starting to sound like a religion to me) and he reacted exactly as I’d hoped, he denied the idea as a made up hoax by non-believers, I asked him about the Time magazine cover story and again he fell easily into my trap stating that he didn’t remember any Time magazine cover story and if there had been one I was probably misstating it’s information to justify my ignorance of the currently irrefutable and overwhelming evidence of the coming catastrophe if we don’t act now and with vigour…he then went off on a it’s all Bush’s fault rant while I googled the Time Magazine article to continue my side of the debate (I don’t consider people who don’t use facts debaters) with facts in hand.

Here’s what I found (Italics mine to show the difference between my writing and that of Time Magazine):

Another Ice Age?
Monday, Jun. 24, 1974
In Africa, drought continues for the sixth consecutive year, adding terribly to the toll of famine victims. During 1972 record rains in parts of the U.S., Pakistan and Japan caused some of the worst flooding in centuries. In Canada's wheat belt, a particularly chilly and rainy spring has delayed planting and may well bring a disappointingly small harvest.

Rainy Britain, on the other hand, has suffered from uncharacteristic dry spells the past few springs. A series of unusually cold winters has gripped the American Far West, while New England and northern Europe have recently experienced the mildest winters within anyone's recollection.

As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing.

Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive,
for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.
Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.

Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered
year round.

Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds —the so-called circumpolar vortex—that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world. Indeed it is the widening of this cap of cold air that is the immediate cause of Africa's drought. By blocking moisture-bearing equatorial winds and preventing them from bringing rainfall to the parched sub-Sahara region, as well as other droughtridden
areas stretching all the way from Central America to the Middle East and India, the polar winds have in effect caused the Sahara and other deserts to reach farther to the south.

Paradoxically, the same vortex has created quite different weather quirks in the U.S. and other temperate zones. As the winds swirl around the globe, their southerly portions undulate like the bottom of a skirt. Cold air is pulled down across the Western U.S. and warm air is swept up to the Northeast. The collision of air masses of widely differing temperatures and humidity can create violent storms—the Midwest's recent
rash of disastrous tornadoes, for example. Sunspot Cycle. The changing weather is apparently connected with differences in the amount of energy that the earth's surface receives from the sun. Changes in the earth's tilt and distance from the sun could, for instance, significantly increase or decrease the amount of solar radiation falling on either hemisphere—thereby altering the earth's climate. Some observers have tried to connect the eleven-year sunspot cycle with climate patterns, but have so far been unable to provide a satisfactory explanation of how the cycle might be involved.

Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend. The University of Wisconsin's Reid A. Bryson and other climatologists suggest that dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth.
Climatic Balance. Some scientists like Donald Oilman, chief of the National Weather Service's longrange-prediction group, think that the cooling trend may be only temporary. But all agree that vastly more information is needed about the major influences on the earth's climate. Indeed, it is to gain such knowledge that 38 ships and 13 aircraft, carrying scientists from almost 70 nations, are now assembling in the Atlantic and elsewhere for a massive 100-day study of the effects of the tropical seas and atmosphere on worldwide weather. The study itself is only part of an international scientific effort known acronymically as GARP (for Global Atmospheric Research Program).

Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth's surface could tip the climatic balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years.
The earth's current climate is something of an anomaly; in the past 700,000 years, there have been at least seven major episodes of glaciers spreading over much of the planet. Temperatures have been as high as they are now only about 5% of the time.

But there is a peril more immediate than the prospect of another ice age. Even if temperature and rainfall patterns change only slightly in the near future in one or more of the three major grain-exporting countries—the U.S., Canada and Australia —global food stores would be sharply reduced. University of Toronto Climatologist Kenneth Hare, a former president of the Royal Meteorological Society, believes that the continuing drought and the recent failure of the Russian harvest gave the world a grim premonition of what might happen. Warns Hare: "I don't believe that the world's present population is sustainable if there are more than three years like 1972 in a row."

Now lets review what many in the scientific community were concerned about, so concerned in fact that Time made it a cover story. Rapid and measurable temperature change, erratic weather patterns, dramatic changes in the Artic, dramatic changes related to past weather such as snow where there previously wasn’t, we have indications that man may be directly or at least indirectly responsible, we have scores of scientists from around the world with impressive titles from impressive sounding institutions being quoted and we have grave predictions of what all this will mean for mankind. If anybody is wondering what GARP was about, you know the study involving ships aircraft and scientists from some 70 countries…well their stated objective in 1974 was to develop a weather model that would allow them to more accurately forecast the weather up to 14 days in advance…wow what lofty goals we set.

Now as I said above when today’s group of impressive scientists who are basically saying the exact same thing but in reverse can explain to me how their colleagues of 1974 were apparently so out to lunch and backwards in their thinking then perhaps I’ll begin to pay closer attention to today’s debate.

How did things go with my office mate, well after he read the article he accused me of creating it, until I took him to the Time Magazine’s website archives section and allowed him to find it himself, he then said that computers changed everything and science evolves to which I replied I agree so perhaps today’s brilliant minds should stop saying the science is no longer debatable and it is indeed fact. He then went off on another Bush rant during which I realized that the Goreian religion is truly taking hold and Bush is the Roman Emperor of his day.

37 years after those great minds set out to develop a weather model that would accurately predict the weather 14 days in advance, the Weather network is lucky to get it right 2 days in advance and rarely does yet you expect the world to bankrupt itself based on scientific weather models that are telling us what will happen in 20 to 50 years. If we’d gone down that road 37 years ago, doing whatever science asked of us to ensure the planet stayed warm enough where would we be today? What’s to say that if we do as today’s scientists ask that in 2044 we won’t be shaking our heads at saying those fools they’ve caused the planet to cool too much?

Science is great at explaining why things happened after the fact but rarely very good at predicting things…if they were we’d all be more worried about the current ice age and would now know what the weather is going to be next week.

I firmly believe that every scientist worth his salt is working as hard as possible to help mankind avoid or minimize any weather related disasters but as we all know this planet has and apparently always will evolve and change. Thankfully Al Gore wasn’t around for the last great occurrence of global warming or mankind wouldn’t exist today. Hopefully we can all take a breath and allow the scientists to continue to develop ideas, review and reassess old assumptions and come to different conclusions without fear, for if we only allow one train of thought we are surely doomed to failure.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007



I’m becoming sickened by the political climate in the US these days…well actually I really should remove the word becoming, I’ve been getting sicker each day for the past few years as I’ve watched America forget 9/11, why it happened, how it happened and what we asked of our government after it happened.

As I’m prone to do let’s answer those questions:

Why it happened: This is probably the toughest question to answer as there are so many known reasons and probably even more unknown or best guess reasons. Some will say our foreign possible was responsible for 9/11 and then praise President Clinton’s style forgetting that more attacks against US interests occurred during his presidency than during any other administration in modern history or that the 9/11 plan was set in motion to attack the US while he was still president, in fact before George W. Bush even became the nominee for the Republican party. I fall in with the group that believes that the lack of response to the various attacks of the 90’s led to an emboldened bin Laden taking it to the obvious next step and that who was President didn’t matter.

How it happened: In early 2000 bin Laden gave the green light to begin moving personnel into the US to take flight training. Originally they wanted to fly up to 20 planes in 2-3 waves into various American cities over a 2 week period but that was quickly scaled down to 10 planes in 2 waves but the operational difficulties in recruiting 40 people, getting them into the US and getting 20 fully trained men to fly high performance passenger aircraft proved overwhelming for the organization so in late 2000 the plan was finalized and 20 people to man 4 planes for a single day coordinated attack on high profile targets was authorized and they mobilized. While we were watching CNN’s 24/7 coverage of hanging chads Al queda was on the move. In Mar 2001 the pilots in training had completed their flight training and began to finalize their plans of attack, making the final selection of flights and targets after completing several months of recon work. The original date of June proved to early, Aug proved unworkable as they were struggling to get everybody seats on the right flights so 9/9 was selected but again fate jumped in and it became unworkable for unknown reasons (some sources say this is when the 20 hijacker deserts causing the whole group to pause and see if he’d been taken by the FBI or just backed out) so 9/11 was finally the day.

What we asked of our government after it happened: First as I recall we collectively said never again…we told the president do whatever it takes to keep us safe and get us some payback. Also as I recall the president said it would be a long war, a new type of war, and that it would take military might, intelligence efforts, financial efforts and policing efforts to defeat this enemy. We also learned of the intelligence failures, the failure to be able to identify and go after the folks who regularly stay in the country after their visa’s expire and we learned that our federal agencies don’t talk to each other much and often husband the information they gather even if they don’t have the resources to translate it and analyse it. So when the president said he would do whatever it took to destroy this organization that had attacked us so many times in the past and had now attacked us at home we cheered and said we’re behind you.

So what has he done and what have the results been? Well let’s start with what has been done:

First we asked the Taliban rather nicely to hand over all members of Al Queda, after a few weeks of pussy footing around with a government that only 3 countries recognized the congress gave the president the authority he needed and we took control of Afghanistan kicking the Taliban and Al Queda’s leadership all the way back to Pakistan. Sadly Pakistan wasn’t the anvil we’d hoped for and far to many escaped. Then after we discovered how many calls were placed back and forth between Afghanistan and several middle eastern countries to the hijackers in the US the President authorized the NSA to work quietly with cell phone companies to figure out how to more quickly identify how to track cell phone numbers when phones were captured and then trace those numbers to people and cells both internationally and domestically. Over the next few months’ cells were taken down around the world using this technique.

On the financial front the administration quickly realized the extent of money being moved about to finance operations and again quietly began working with banks to monitor more closely the SWIFT system which for those that don’t know is a uniform system used by most if not all major and minor banks to electronically move money between one bank and another. Laws based on attempts to stop money laundering and drug money had prompted banks to require the use of intermediate banks located in the US in the cash of US dollar transfers…these were simply way stations but it allowed the US to monitor and track all transaction coming from suspect countries which again led to the disruption of terrorist funding around the world.

But as we moved further away from 9/11 and anger grew over the war in Iraq we began to see the political need to separate from the administration. The first casualty was the so called domestic wire tapping program, a victim of a leak to the New York Times probably by a pissed off CIA analyst who thought the administration was putting too much blame on his agency for failures leading up to the Iraq war. Shortly thereafter the blood sport of journalists began with the leak into the identity of Valerie Plame, a nobody with a nobody husband more upset by the fact that nobody cared about his useless report on Niger (a side show mistake by British intelligence) and then came the outing of the SWIFT program which meant that the terrorist now knew for sure (not just guessing) how the US was tracking there communications and how they were tracking the money. A big thank you must go out to all the civil liberties organizations, politicians, leakers and reporters who have a hand in doing their collective very best to embarrass an administration that was only doing what we asked it to do.

Now the Democratic congress has passed the new security bill before they took there month off but vow to come back in 6 months when it’s due to expire and fix the bill that is so flawed. The news story in BBC said under unrelenting pressure from the administration the congress was forced to pass the flawed bill that may allow illegal wire taps within the US…I grew ill reading this and then remembered it was the Basically British Communist network and switched to CNN where I was greeted by Democratic congressman saying the administration had bullied them into voting for this unnecessary bill by threatening to keep them in session over their holiday. So I guess the BBC wasn’t far off…the democrats who run both houses congress passed a bill they thought was wrong (because the administration said it was needed) so they could take a month off but they promised to fix it when they got back to work in Sep. Funny how when the Iraqi parliament refused to pass bills until they got them right and then decided to take Aug off it was horrible…while US soldiers are dieing they go on vacation the headlines read…I guess it’s different in DC when you want to go on vacation.

Sorry to get off topic there but mano I’ve had a tough couple of days trying not to have a stroke as I get sicker and sicker of congress, and politicians in general. We demanded that the President do whatever it took to never let another 9/11 occur and he’s come through. I don’t care if big brother is listening to me and my wife discuss our lives on our phone nor do I much care if the government is checking my wire transfers as long as they are checking everybody’s including those who unlike me actually wish to harm us.

They hate us, they want to destroy our way of life and until we realize that the loss of a few civil liberties is better than the loss of our entire way of life then they will keep trying and we will keep forgetting what that day and those immediate days after 9/11 were like and what we demanded and then got. It’s truly sad but as we get further away the likelihood of another attack grows stronger not because of an incompetent administration but by us allowing politics and the hate of the Iraq war to cloud our judgement. Just because the administration thinks it’s a good thing doesn’t mean we must rally against us. They have been batting 100% since 9/12 and I sure hope I don’t get to say I told you so at some point in the future but if we all keep forgetting the lessons of 9/11 that day will surely come.