Archive for August, 2011

Eggs In Ambush

It’s that time of year, again – the Minnesota Renaissance Festival is upon us, which means lots of scantily-clad women, lots of mud and/or dust, lots of beer, and lots of… soups in bread-bowls?

Hey, you have your Ren Fest memories, I have mine.

Anyway, here’s something a little different, combining as it does breakfast, bread, and Ye Olde Days – it’s called “Eggs in Ambush”.
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Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on August 26th, 2011 | No Comments »

Books and Things

Just a quick and probably pointless reminder that, if you’re in the US, and would like a free paperback of my first novel, you can enter the giveaway at Goodreads before midnight on the 18th. A handful will enter, a handful will win. You could be one of them.

Many months ago, I mentioned my “next” novel, and options I was considering for “publishing” it. I noted at the time that I was about two-thirds finished with it. Astute readers might notice that it’s spectacularly failed to materialize in the interim. Well, there’s a reason for that…
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Published in: Meta | on August 16th, 2011 | No Comments »

On Rioting, and Communication

In the wake of the recent UK riots, the BBC has an article on lessons learned from the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which reminded me of my own favorite lesson learned from that incident – which has to do with communication.

Everyone is, I think, well aware that the national guard were deployed to maintain order in Los Angeles, subordinate to the LAPD. What’s much less well-known is that the USMC were also deployed, subordinate to the LASD. They weren’t used to quell rioting, but to provide security for government and other “critical” buildings – and to provide security for sheriff’s deputies as they went about their business in the county.

It was the first time in decades Marines had ever deployed in a major civil support role. They had no training, no procedures, no special equipment – and that’s, in part, where my favorite anecdote from the whole thing arises.

When the national guard deploy in civil-support operations, they do so with limiter plates installed on their weapons, which restrict them to semi-automatic fire only. Today, I believe the same is true of the USMC. It was not the case in 1992, however; the Marines were issued fully-automatic weapons.

On the second day of the rioting, a four-man fire team of Marines in a HMMWV were assigned to escort a deputy serving a felony warrant in Los Angeles. The exact scope of their role was unclear; they’d received no real briefing or instructions, beyond a vague “keep the deputy safe”. The deputy led the way in his cruiser; the Marines followed.

They arrived at the address, and dismounted. As the deputy began to approach the address in question, shots were fired from inside the home from a shotgun. Everyone dove for cover. A couple seconds passed, and the deputy decided to advance up next to the front door, to try to engage the occupants in a conversation.

He stood up in a crouch, and shouted “Cover me!” to the Marines.

What he wanted was for them to watch the door and windows for movement, et cetera. The standard law enforcement interpretation of “cover me”.

What they did was to discharge between 200 and 300 rounds of fully-automatic suppressing fire into the building from three M-16s and an M-60 – the, one might argue, standard Marine interpretation of “cover me” when you are yourself taking fire.

Nobody was injured, the people inside the house immediately surrendered, and some quick clarifications were issued to all Marines concerning the rules of engagement and nuances of “cover” as it applies to law enforcement. All’s well that ends well, and whatnot.

It’s cited frequently in law-enforcement circles as a great demonstration of why communication – why standardized communication – is so important. It’s also a demonstration of why using the military to quell domestic disturbances – as people in the UK were calling for – is not a spectacular idea. Get even the best-trained troops into stressful and confused situations, and they can – and will – fall back on the training and reflexes that have been drilled into them – training and reflexes designed around a battlefield, not a friendly town or city. “Let’s fire into the house for sixty seconds” seems, under the circumstances, a perfectly reasonable idea. Deploy the Army in London, and you’re potentially one molotov cocktail, one screamed command away from a disaster nobody wants.

Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on August 12th, 2011 | No Comments »

Whither the War Trophies?

Every war, great and small, deserves its memorials, without doubt – any occasion in which social or political leaders have asked young men to die for small salaries and smaller, albeit shiny, medals, should be remembered, if only as a warning to a future, saner, generation. For hundreds of years this has been the way of things – young men go off to war, and their elders build memorials to the ones that failed to return.

Small-ish wars may perhaps bring small memorials – there’s at least one dedicated to the nineteen American fatalities from Operation Urgent Fury – whereas, traditionally, larger wars created more and larger memorials.

There are memorials to the American Civil War everywhere – statues and plaques and parks and plinths and fountains, oh my.

When The Great War (WWI) ended, memorials to the far too many young victims of the most brutal conflict appeared in, quite possibly, even more places than for the Civil War.

From 1918 to 1943 or so, it seems you could hardly turn around without running into a memorial to WWI, here in the States. There were the big expensive memorials, of course – and where there wasn’t room, or money, to build one of those, people bolted an artillery piece to a concrete slab in a corner of a park somewhere. Some were undoubtedly American-made, but it seems like the Atlantic, at the end of the war, must have been brimming with transport ships carrying German cannons westward, destined to wind up in parks in small towns across the country.

A lot of ‘em didn’t survive the scrap drives during WWII, of course, and many have disappeared since, as old age, the environment, and apathy changed people’s perceptions of what were increasingly rusty eyesores. That was okay, though, because post-WWII, every town and city with a VFW lodge seems to have acquired, however briefly, a surplus (American) tank, as combination memorial/trophy/conspicuous display of the overwhelming awesomeness of American engineering.

Over time, a lot of those have themselves disappeared, to museums or collectors or, quite often, scrapyards. Fair’s fair, after all; pointing to a Sherman on a concrete slab and saying “that’s what kicked Hitler’s ass, kid” has lost some of the impact it had in, you know, the early 1950s.

Where are the memorials and war trophies for more recent conflicts, though? Where are the rusty T-62s or M-60s commemorating the First Gulf War? After the Second Gulf War we of course set about an ambitious programme of nation-building, and in our typical penny-pinching style all the surviving BRDMs and whatnot wound up serving the New Model Iraqi Army.

And then there’s the Taliban. I suppose we haven’t actually won that war, yet – and it’s hard to deny that a battered Datsun pickup truck is a pretty pathetic memorial to the many who gave their all over there. Perhaps if and when that war ever ends, the thousands of already obsolescent up-armoured HMMWVs and first-generation MRAPs can get demilitarized and stuck on concrete slabs somewhere, but it lacks a certain something compared to a Feldhaubitze 98/09, don’t you think?

In all seriousness, though – nation-building and counter-insurgency conflict without end notwithstanding – whither the war trophies?

Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on August 4th, 2011 | No Comments »