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kottke.org posts about war

Images of Iraq from the ten years since the invasion

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2013

Iraq Gun Flower

Maybe the most depressing part of this three part series of photographs of Iraq from the past ten years is not the photos of all the horrible things people are capable of doing to each other, not the [God, I can’t even think of the right set of rage-adjectives here] faces of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, but the fact that there is a part two to this series that starts in 2003, just after the fucking asinine MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner.

But maybe it was all worth it? To see these happy faces riding an amusement ride? Or these young people able to express themselves? Was it the right thing done the wrong way for the wrong reasons? I dunno. I just don’t know.

Nixon sabotaged Vietnam peace talks

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2013

In 1968, Richard Nixon, then a candidate for President, used backchannel negotiations to scuttle peace talks that may have ended the Vietnam War. Nixon was afraid an end to the war meant an end to his campaign.

By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks — or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had “blood on his hands”.

The war went on for seven more bloody years, most of them under Nixon’s watch. Shameful.

Rand Paul eternal drone warfare filibuster

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2013

Rand Paul has had the floor to the Senate for 10 hours now, filibustering against the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. You can watch here. What’s a filibuster?

A filibuster in the United States Senate usually refers to any dilatory or obstructive tactics used to prevent a measure from being brought to a vote. The most common form of filibuster occurs when a senator attempts to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a bill by extending the debate on the measure, but other dilatory tactics exist. The rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless “three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn” (usually 60 out of 100 senators) brings debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII.

What’s Paul upset about? Drones:

Paul said that all presidents must honor the Fifth Amendment. “No American should ever be killed in their house without warrant and some kind of aggressive behavior by them,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “To be bombed in your sleep? There’s nothing American about that … [Obama] says trust him because he hasn’t done it yet. He says he doesn’t intend to do so, but he might. Mr. President, that’s not good enough … so I’ve come here to speak for as long as I can to draw attention to something that I find to really be very disturbing.”

“I will not sit quietly and let him shred the Constitution,” Paul added.”No person will be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process,” he said, quoting the Fifth Amendment.

I have written about Obama’s continued use of drones before.

What we don’t know about drones

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2013

With drones in the news this week, The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins takes a look at what the drone wars are like on the receiving end of the action, and reminds us what we don’t know about drones (and their targets).

When an employee of the C.I.A. fires a missile from a unmanned drone into a compound along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he almost certainly doesn’t know for sure whom he’s shooting at.

When it’s OK for the US govt to kill citizens

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2013

This Justice Department memo about when the US government, without hearing or trial or due process or whatever other “rights” we as a country hold dear, can kill US citizens is fucking bullshit.

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

The whole memo is here. A staggering disappointment from a man many think is better than this. See also: Obama’s lethal Presidency.

Obama’s overlooked war and lethal Presidency

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2013

Tom Junod has been on the drone beat since writing The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama in July.

Sure, we as a nation have always killed people. A lot of people. But no president has ever waged war by killing enemies one by one, targeting them individually for execution, wherever they are. The Obama administration has taken pains to tell us, over and over again, that they are careful, scrupulous of our laws, and determined to avoid the loss of collateral, innocent lives. They’re careful because when it comes to waging war on individuals, the distinction between war and murder becomes a fine one. Especially when, on occasion, the individuals we target are Americans and when, in one instance, the collateral damage was an American boy.

Individual targetting isn’t exclusively done by military drones, but they are the favored method. Junod notes that even as Obama said that “a decade of war is now ending” in his inauguration speech, a drone strike killed three suspected Al Qaeda members in Yemen.

President Obama’s second inaugural was supposed to sound something like Lincoln’s: the speech of a man tired of war, and eager to move the nation beyond its bloody reach. In truth, it was the speech of a man who has perfected a form of war that can be written off as a kind of peace. He was able to put the pain of war in the past because his efforts to expand painless war have come to fruition.

Here’s the full report on the recent Yemeni strikes from the AP:

An American drone strike on Monday on a car east of Sana, the capital, killed three people suspected of being members of Al Qaeda, said Yemeni security officials. On Saturday, two American drone strikes killed eight people in Marib Province. Yemen, aided by the United States, has been battling the local branch of Al Qaeda. The United States rarely comments on its military role in Yemen but has acknowledged targeting Qaeda militants in the past.

Dangerous dangerous precedent here. If George W. Bush were doing this sort of thing, we’d be marching in the streets about it. Why does Obama get a free pass? (And on Bradley Manning? And on Guantanamo?) Anyone in the press want to ask the President about the legality & moral stickiness of drone strikes at his next press conference?

What would realistic space battles look like?

posted by Sarah Pavis   Nov 21, 2012

This impressive 7,000 word essay written by user Memphet’ran on the appropriately named Spacebattles.com forum attempts to answer that question.

There are only a handful of engines that allow a combination of high thrust and low mass ratio. The most promising are Orion nuclear pulse propulsion and the nuclear salt water rocket. Some nuclear thermal designs also have thrust high enough to possibly be useful, although only for a small ship. The user “RJP” on Spacebattles also suggested something called a fission fragment drive which works by throwing high-velocity fuel fragments out the back of the ship, but other sites I’ve researched suggest it would be a low-thrust high-ISP [in-space propulsion] system more suitable to an explorer than a warship. Orion works by the (seemingly insane, but actually quite effective) method of throwing nuclear bombs behind the spacecraft and having it ride the blasts. The hot gasses from the detonations hit a heavy pusher plate at the back of the ship and drive it forward. NSWR [nuclear salt water rocket] is similar, but it instead uses a solution of fissionables in salt water that spontaneously explodes as it leaves the rocket nozzle. Both systems cleverly shift the propulsive reaction outside the spacecraft, eliminating the need to deal with most of the heat it produces and allowing it to be made much more energetic.

And previously on kottke.org:

For the same reason that we have Space Shuttle launch delays, we’ll be able to tell exactly what trajectories our enemies could take between planets: the launch window. At any given point in time, there are only so many routes from here to Mars that will leave our imperialist forces enough fuel and energy to put down the colonists’ revolt.

If you’ve got a hankering to go hands on, the video games EVE and FTL approach realistic space battles in their own ways.

(via @BenKuckera)

Arresting collection of Vietnam War photography

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2012

A little late for Veteran’s Day, but this is a great collection of photography from Vietnam. These two stick out for me (both photos by Horst Faas):

Vietnam War 01

Vietnam War 02

Some images NSFW and may be disturbing, etc. (via @Colossal)

1000 years of war in 5 minutes

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2012

This is a time lapse world map showing all the battles that have occurred in the past 1000 years. Worth sitting through the whole thing to see Europe go absolutely bonkers in the late 1930s.

(via @DavidGrann)

World War II, tweeted in realtime

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 11, 2011

The @RealTimeWWII Twitter account is tweeting the events of World War II as they happened 72 years ago. A sample tweet from a few hours ago:

Germany has announced (again) that it will respect the neutrality of Belgium & Holland; “No German troops will enter the Low Countries”

Meanwhile back in 1668, Samuel Pepys is having trouble with his wife because he had a dalliance with the maid.

To dinner. The girle with us, but my wife troubled thereat to see her, and do tell me so, which troubles me, for I love the girle.

Triangular war letters

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2011

The standard form of Soviet war correspondence during WWII were letters folded into a triangular shape.

Triangle Letters

During the war, the mails were brought for free from the front to home. It could not have been differently, because probably the postage stamps would have been the last item the halting logistic support would have delivered to the front. Even so, postcards and envelopes were shortages. The soldiers’ genius has thus created, right in the first months of the war, the format that was a letter and its own envelope in one. The folding process is very similar to how we, in our childhood, folded our soldier’s shako, knowing nothing about the triangular soldier’s letters.

(via raul)

Color photos of the London Blitz

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2011

These color photos taken of London during WWII’s Battle of Britain are great.

London Blitz

Alan Taylor recently covered the Battle of Britain over at In Focus as well…I love this “business as usual” photo.

US military suicide

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2011

This is an amazing statement:

For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Medieval warfare

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 29, 2010

A mass grave of soldiers discovered in England is shedding new light on how medieval battles were fought. It’s not a pretty picture.

In a letter sent nine days after the battle George Neville, the then chancellor of England, wrote that 28,000 men died that day, a figure in accord with a letter sent by Edward to his mother. England’s total population at the time is thought not to have exceeded 3m people. George Goodwin, who has written a book on Towton to coincide with the battle’s 550th anniversary in 2011, reckons as many as 75,000 men, perhaps 10% of the country’s fighting-age population, took the field that day.

Civil War blog

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 02, 2010

Disunion is a new NY Times blog that will be covering the events of the Civil War in “real-time” as it happened 150 years ago. From one of the first posts about the last ordinary day:

[November 1, 1860] was an ordinary day in America: one of the last such days for a very long time to come.

In dusty San Antonio, Colonel Robert E. Lee of the U.S. Army had just submitted a long report to Washington about recent skirmishes against marauding Comanches and Mexican banditti. In Louisiana, William Tecumseh Sherman was in the midst of a tedious week interviewing teenage applicants to the military academy where he served as superintendent. In Galena, Ill., passers-by might have seen a man in a shabby military greatcoat and slouch hat trudging to work that Thursday morning, as he did every weekday. He was Ulysses Grant, a middle-aged shop clerk in his family’s leather-goods store.

Great idea. The Times started publishing in 1851 so their archives should have a ton of stuff related to the war. (via df)

No more nuclear bombs

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2010

Richard Rhodes recently gave a Long Now talk called The Twilight of the Bombs about the future obsolescence of nuclear weaponry. From Stewart Brand’s summary of the talk:

How much did the Cold War cost everyone from 1948 to 1991, and how much of that was for nuclear weapons? The total cost has been estimated at $18.5 trillion, with $7.8 trillion for nuclear. At the peak the Soviet Union had 95,000 weapons and the US had 20 to 40,000. America’s current seriously degraded infrastructure would cost about $2.2 trillion to fix — all the gas lines and water lines and schools and bridges. We spent that money on bombs we never intended to use — all of the Cold War players, major and minor, told Rhodes that everyone knew that the bombs must not and could not be used. Much of the nuclear expansion was for domestic consumption: one must appear “ahead,” even though numbers past a couple dozen warheads were functionally meaningless.

Be unbeatable

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 26, 2010

Kamikaze pilot Masanobu Kuno wrote a farewell letter to his young son and daughter the day before he flew to his death in the Battle of Okinawa. From the translation:

Your father will become a god and watch you two closely. Both of you, study hard and help out your mother with work. I can’t be your horse to ride, but you two be good friends.

I should have a “crying at work” tag for posts like this.

Operation Mincemeat

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell tells us about Operation Mincemeat, a caper undertaken by British intelligence to fool the Hitler and the Nazis into thinking the Allied invasion of mainland Europe would come from through Greece and not Sicily.

It did not take long for word of the downed officer to make its way to German intelligence agents in the region. Spain was a neutral country, but much of its military was pro-German, and the Nazis found an officer in the Spanish general staff who was willing to help. A thin metal rod was inserted into the envelope; the documents were then wound around it and slid out through a gap, without disturbing the envelope’s seals. What the officer discovered was astounding. Major Martin was a courier, carrying a personal letter from Lieutenant General Archibald Nye, the vice-chief of the Imperial General Staff, in London, to General Harold Alexander, the senior British officer under Eisenhower in Tunisia. Nye’s letter spelled out what Allied intentions were in southern Europe. American and British forces planned to cross the Mediterranean from their positions in North Africa, and launch an attack on German-held Greece and Sardinia. Hitler transferred a Panzer division from France to the Peloponnese, in Greece, and the German military command sent an urgent message to the head of its forces in the region: “The measures to be taken in Sardinia and the Peloponnese have priority over any others.”

Myths of the Revolutionary War

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2010

Seven myths about the history of the American Revolutionary War, including “Great Britain Could Never Have Won The War” and “General Washington Was A Brilliant Tactician And Strategist”.

Washington also failed to see the potential of a campaign against the British in Virginia in 1780 and 1781, prompting Comte de Rochambeau, commander of the French Army in America, to write despairingly that the American general “did not conceive the affair of the south to be such urgency.” Indeed, Rochambeau, who took action without Washington’s knowledge, conceived the Virginia campaign that resulted in the war’s decisive encounter, the siege of Yorktown in the autumn of 1781.

Interactive map of the Nazi invasion of the USSR

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 12, 2010

An amazingly extensive Flash presentation of the eastern front in Europe during World War II. It takes a while for the Flash to load because of all the resources but well worth the wait if you’re at all interested in WWII. (thx, reis)

The physics of space battles

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 22, 2009

The logistics of fighting wars in space is a little different than the movies have lead us to believe.

For the same reason that we have Space Shuttle launch delays, we’ll be able to tell exactly what trajectories our enemies could take between planets: the launch window. At any given point in time, there are only so many routes from here to Mars that will leave our imperialist forces enough fuel and energy to put down the colonists’ revolt.

Like a shotgun full of snow

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2009

Avalanches were used as weapons in World War I.

Some unknown person got the idea that avalanches could make a highly effective weapon. The avalanche war had begun. Avalanches could be started and even directed by just bombing a mountain. History has not yet calculated the exact number of deaths. Deaths have been estimated as high as 40,000 on each fighting side.

Hiroshima, 64 years ago

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2009

In remembrance of the mass destruction of life and property due to the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima 64 years ago today, The Big Picture presents a typically excellent selection of photos.

Update: From Design Observer about a year ago, Hiroshima, The Lost Photographs.

First trailer for HBO’s The Pacific

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2009

As a follow-up to the excellent Band of Brothers, HBO, Steven Speilberg, and Tom Hanks have teamed up to make The Pacific, a 10-part miniseries about the fighting in the Pacific during WWII from the perspective of a group of US Marines. The first trailer for the series has been released:

(via sarahnomics)

Update: So of course HBO made YouTube remove the video of the trailer. But they put up a smaller crappier version on their own site so it’s all ok, right? (Why do media companies not like people spreading their advertising around? That’s the fucking goal, yes?) Anyway, in the meantime I changed the link to the video above with a new one that hasn’t been removed yet. And if that one gets removed, you can probably find the newest ones here. (thx, greg)

No downtime

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2009

Yesterday’s Pictures of the Day at the WSJ were particularly fine, including a US soldier in Afghanistan who didn’t have time to put on his uniform and gets caught by the camera taking up a defensive position in pink I [heart] NY boxers and flip flops.

Pink Boxers

The Tao of War Photography

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2009

Bruce Haley shares his Tao of War Photography.

11. Do you believe in a personal, loving God who really cares about us mortals down here…? Go to a few war zones and famine areas and watch all those innocent children die, then answer this question………..

61. Yes, those really are gruesome hacked-up snake parts in that big glass of homebrew you’re expected to chug down, and YES, your hosts will be extremely dishonored and upset if you try to weasel out of it (or if they catch you dumping it under the table when they look away)… quit being such a pussy and just drink the damn thing…..

The blockade diet

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 28, 2008

Harper’s has a translated excerpt from a 1942 letter detailing a list of recipes used by the residents of Leningrad during the city’s blockage by the Nazis in WWII (subscribers only). In addition to mustard cakes and leather-belt soup, here’s this:

Soup from pets and domesticated animals
Meat is ranked by taste in the following order: dog, guinea pig, cat, rat. Gut the carcass, wash well and place in cold water. Add salt. Cook for one to three hours. For aroma: bay leaf, pepper, any sort of herbs, and, if available, grain.

The old hero of Gettysburg

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 26, 2008

1863 photo of John L. Burns, War of 1812 veteran and sharpshooter in the Battle of Gettysburg.

Old Hero Of Gettysburg

Burns, born ca. 1793, was a 70-year-old veteran of the War of 1812 when he was wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg, having volunteered his services as a sharpshooter to the Federal Army. He died of pneumonia in 1872.

And from the comments:

Mr Burns’ flintlock is at half-cock with the frizzen down, ready to ready to fire.

Lost photographs of the bombing of Hiroshima

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2008

A month after the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, the US government imposed a code of censorship in Japan, which means that photos of the effects of the nuclear device are somewhat difficult to come by. Enter diner owner Don Levy of Watertown, MA.

One rainy night eight years ago, in Watertown, Massachusetts, a man was taking his dog for a walk. On the curb, in front of a neighbor’s house, he spotted a pile of trash: old mattresses, cardboard boxes, a few broken lamps. Amidst the garbage he caught sight of a battered suitcase. He bent down, turned the case on its side and popped the clasps.

He was surprised to discover that the suitcase was full of black-and-white photographs. He was even more astonished by their subject matter: devastated buildings, twisted girders, broken bridges — snapshots from an annihilated city. He quickly closed the case and made his way back home.

The photographs were taken by the US Strategic Bombing Survey immediately after the war and are now in the possession of the International Center of Photography. A copy of a report made by the US Strategic Bombing Survey is available online at the Truman Library.

The McDonald’s theory of war

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2008

The Russian/Georgian conflict has proven the McDonald’s theory of war wrong. The theory stated that no two countries with McDonald’s restaurants would ever go to war with each other. (via mr)

Update: Depending on what you consider a war, the theory has been proven incorrect before. (thx, lots of folks who sent this in)