Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Ukrainian Genocide.

This woman's eyes have haunted me since 4:00 p.m. Ukraine time, June 2, 2014. Her name was Inna Kukuruza. She was a wife, a mother, and a citizen of Luhansk city. On that day, June 2, 2014, she made a fatal mistake walking past the City's Administration building after work. She, and many others, had her life ended in a hail of unguided rockets fired by a lone Ukraine air force jet. However, unlike the rest of those dead around her, she did not die immediately. She lay there for seconds, all filmed by the ever present phone cameras, and asked to speak with her daughter. Then she died. What the picture above doesn't show is her mangled legs, or her missing foot. She bled to death. My heart broke for her at that moment.

It was just the beginning of a campaign by the Ukraine military, and its paramilitary forces known as "National Guards", of killing civilians throughout the Ukraine provinces (known as Oblasts) of Donetsk and Luhansk. A slaughter that Europe has not seen since the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. Yet, through all the fog of war, a clear pattern has emerged. The Ukraine army approaches a "rebel" (NAF) area, normally a community. They establish fire bases around it, with varying types of artillery, and then they start shelling. It was the same in Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, Gorlovka, Donetsk, Luhansk, and every other community in the two break away provinces.

First the infrastructure is targeted. Specifically, the electrical power stations. Once these facilities are knocked out, and no power flows: sewage systems shut down; water systems shut down;  hospitals can't operate well; commerce can't function; and on and on it goes. The clear and obvious strategy is to place the citizens of the community in misery. To turn them against the NAF in a psychological warfare conducted with artillery. Of course, the artillery and its ferocity, terrifies the people all on its own.

Second, health and transportation are targeted. Bus stations and train stations are hit. Hospitals of all types are hit. Even schools are hit. The pattern repeats itself in every community the Ukraine army assaults. There is no mistake. At this point the citizens are not just terrified, but also trapped. They can't leave the chaos. They are corralled in a hell no civilian should have to suffer.

Then, the civilians themselves are targeted. Specifically, their homes, apartments, shops, and city centres. The victims have ranged from the very elderly, and in some cases mental patients, to the youngest children and everyone in between. The shells and rockets don't have a conscience - the people that fire them are meant to.

Slavyansk became the model for all Ukraine army operations since. Surround the community. Do not allow escape. And fire. Small caliber mortar fire was the start. There were many reports of it on social media, but the "main stream media" refused to report it, or its damage. As if encouraged by that, the Ukraine army brought in larger mortars, then field artillery. They got away with all that too, despite pictures of the destruction and the civilian victims flooding social media. There was no outrage, or reporting in the main media. The NAF refused to budge, so the Ukraine army brought in even bigger guns - self-propelled 152mm guns. Monsters of artillery, these weapons created massive, indiscriminate damage and casualties. Not completely satisfied with this level of destruction, the Ukraine army started using air burst white phosphorous shells at communities on the outskirts of Slavyansk, and then Slavyansk itself. The Russian government drew the line there and raised concerns about it at the UN. It was dismissed, and the  Ukraine army carried on.

Then came the battles around Donetsk city, Gorloka and Luhansk city. A whole new form of artillery was deployed - Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS). At the low end of these systems is the GRAD, and on the high end the "Tornado", "Hurricane, and "Smerch". They can fire up to 40 high explosive rockets at a time. They were designed by the Soviets to break up tank formation and create chaos. They are lethal and can level entire complete grid squares when deployed enmasse. They are also unguided. The use of MLRS took the ferocity of the conflict to an all new level, and with it a rapidly increasing civilian death and wounded toll. Pictures of grandmothers , fathers, children, and even priests - with their bodies torn to pieces - began flooding the social media. So grotesque were the results that You Tube began taking films of the victims off their site.

As if this wasn't a great enough outrage, the Ukraine army upped the ante one more time. On July 29, 2014 the Ukraine army fired four, of a reported five available, SS-21 ballistic missiles at the NAF held community of  Snezhnoe. The missiles are massive, and carry a warhead of up to 1000 lbs. They can be used to deliver nuclear weapons. In this case they carried high explosive warheads. These were designed as, and remain, weapons of mass destruction. Even the US government admitted the missiles were fired - yet they did not cause any damage. The reason? Russian S-300, S-400 anti-missile/air units on the Russian border shot them down before they impacted Snezhnoe. If the Russians had not intervened, the loss of life would have been in the thousands. It is here that apparently the US and West were prepared to draw the line on the Ukraine army. There was no condemnation by the West, but there was also no condemnation of Russia for shooting them down.

The death toll so far in the Ukraine war against the Donbass Region (Luhansk and Donetsk) was estimated to be around 10,000. The wounded many more times that. Over 250,000 refugees have fled - mostly to temporary camps lining the Russian side of the border. Those that remain are suffering constant shelling. Constant terror. But, that's the point of it - right? The Ukraine government always refers to the NAF as "terrorists", yet the only side terrorizing its citizenship seems to be the Ukraine government itself. The Geneva Convention is supposed to protect civilians and civilian institutions at a time of war, however the lawyers in the crowd claim this isn't a war. It's war-light. It's an internal insurrection. Although the Ukraine government itself has accused Russia of invading it at the UN Security Council. It would seem, therefore, that the Ukraine government considers itself in a state of war. In that case, the rules of war as outlined in the Geneva Convention should apply to them.

If, for whatever reason, the lawyers succeed and the Ukraine government is not restrained by the Geneva Convention, then there is always the International Court of the Hague. It clearly details that attacks made against civilian populations, or terrorizing civilian populations, or forcefully moving populations is a crime against humanity. There can be no doubt in any right thinking person's mind that what Ukraine has committed against the Donbass is a crime against humanity. Inna Kukuruza was a member of humanity. She did not deserve to die in that blood soaked street in Luhansk city. There was no need. She did no wrong. Her only crime was to be a citizen of a break away region of Ukraine. As far as I'm concerned, Ukraine will never be able to whipe that spot of her blood off their hands. Her final appeal to speak to her daughter, her eyes betraying her terror, the helplessness, will never leave me.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The World at Undeclared War

"Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the Fact falls the shadow." 
Eliot 'The Hollow Men'

Such is the world we live in today. To even the casual observer, our world is torn by strife, hatred and malice. Wars are erupting in every corner of the globe as if some great match had lit the place on fire. Seemingly disconnected, seemingly indirect, they are erupting everywhere around us. But, is it happenstance,  or is an undeclared world war?

The one thing most people will agree on is "money turns the world". It always has and it always will. The chase for resources. The right to consume them above others. Also known as greed - one of the deadly sins. In a previous posting, I detailed the economic transformation happening to the world as this is written - The Great Uncoupling . Essentially, it described the economic uncoupling of the current "New World Order" into a bipolar economic world: North America and Western Europe vs Russia, China and the BRICs. Since that time it is coming together:

The economic realignment isn't a coincidence, but rather the culmination of decades of work by Russia and China to defeat the West economically. Apparently, they feel satisfied enough at this time to proceed formally, and they are. They have even gone so far as creating  their own IMF. India has just torpedoed a $1 trillion dollar treaty with the IMF. Argentina has just defaulted on its debt. And this was just this week. What all this amounts to is a revolution of sorts. The revolution being a complete undermining of the Western dominated financial system to a system based on Eurasian control. Included in this push, of course, is excluding the US dollar as a currency to purchase Eurasian or even BRICs supply contracts or orders. 

The next step, in such a financial war would be China exiting from its close relationship with US debt and dollars. It seems logical that once the new Eurasian financial system is on solid footing, that China would drop its US debt holdings and its massive reserve of US dollars. A final coup de gras (death blow) if you will. US economists already call the possibility of China selling off its massive holdings in US debt as the "Chinese Nuke". The consequences of such actions by the Eurasians would be catastrophic for economies in the Western world, and will lead to massive unrest. 

Some say that China would never do this, because it would be devastating for their economy as well. However, therein lies the lessons of history that people seem not to learn - even very recent ones. After the 2008 financial collapse China sent about 250 million people back to their villages around the time of the Chinese New Year - and left them there. They were instantly unemployed. There was no revolution. No chaos. Nothing. If a similar thing were to happen in the Western world, unrest would be a mild way to put it. It's all about expectations - the Chinese have few - the West has many.

That brings me back to the world in conflict today. The US and the West now knows it is in a financial war it cannot win. It risks losing the world dominance its dollar gives it, and its military defends. With the financial war gone, and unless it is willing to accept a "Brand New World Order", the only choice it has is to use its military strength - and that appears to be happening. The only problem with using direct military power is the Russians and Chinese have it to, and that would be "mutually assured destruction".  Instead, the West appears to have adopted a shadow war approach aimed at destabilizing both Russia and China. 

With China there are tensions with Japan, and some other Asian countries over the South China Sea. The US has shifted its military forces world-wide to the Asian theater . However, based on current events, it seems the West is targeting Russia first. The Western backed over throw of Ukraine's President resulted in a direct provocation to Russia - as t knew it would. Rather than react formally with an overt invasion, Putin has chosen to fight a shadow war back. He has in fact lured the primary forces of Ukraine into the east and south east of Ukraine, which allows him to: quickly resupply rebels; provide air superiority when and if necessary; provide artillery interdiction when necessary; and essentially corral the Ukraine army into an area that, if he chose, he could destroy quickly from Russia and take all of Ukraine within a week. I detailed it here The Mouse Trap. Action. Reaction.

This week tensions grew on Russia's southern border between Armenia (where Russia has a base) and Azerbaijan, resulting in open battle . Not to be out done, this week a relatively unknown group popped its head up wanting Siberian independence . Then of course there is the conflict in Transnistria. Transnistria is a separatist region of Moldova that essentially is almost an independent (albeit tiny) state now. It also has a Russian base, and strategic ammunition facility there. Among Russian commentators, most expect this area to be the next flame fanned by Western powers. In broad strokes, these conflicts around all of Russia's borders have one thing in common - they are flames being fanned by Western resources to destabilize Russia -that's my take on it. 

Then, of course, there is the "imperial" interest score card. Iraq has become essentially another proxy battleground mixing strange bed fellows with religion. The ISIS (Sunni) forces have fanned out from Northern Syria (an ally of Russia) into Iraq (a Shia ally of both Iran and Russia). Iran (an ally of Russia) has intervened to keep the Shia-dominated government of Iraq in control of the country. Saudi Arabia (a US ally) has funded the ISIS forces to first overthrow Syria and now Iraq. In fact, Saudi Arabia has even moved 30,000 troops to Iraq's border. The US could have ended this crisis quickly by providing air support to Iraq, but it refused. ISIS was then able to make large gains in Iraq. In case you weren't aware, prior to taking out Hussien, the US propped up mostly Sunni minorities to rule over Shias in the past. However, whenever "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" phase loses its place, "interests" take back over. This week the ISIS forces attacked the Kurds (also a US ally) in northern Iraq. The Kurds were quite happy with what ISIS did at first, because it allowed them to seize Mosul and other lands for a future "Kurdistan". Not so much now. 

In any case, the point is that, as is the standard operating procedure for the US and other powers, piecing together groups here and there to achieve short term goals can blow up in your face. It appears the "coalition of the willing" this time around can't be expected to last too long before the bigger powers get involved. For instance, if Iran gets more involved in Iraq, and the ISIS forces are getting defeated, it would not be surprising at all to see Saudi Arabia move those 30,000 troops into Iraq. That sets up a direct confrontation between the two on Iraqi soil - to begin with. That is a very real possibility. The US has a number of bases in Saudi and directly supplies it militarily. That could draw the US in as well. If Saudi Arabia were to begin to lose a war with Iran, US intervention is guaranteed. So as you can see, a simple invasion by a group of fanatical types (ISIS) can quite easily develop quickly into a region wide conflict of biblical proportions. 

For every action there is a reaction. So it is in science and so it is in life - which includes politics and warfare - unfortunately. The truth is that the world is already at war, but nobody seems to recognize it. Nor, does it seem, do they see the underlying causes. There is this and that about the usual "You're a nazi, we are democracy, yada yada", but in the end as in the beginning, it's simple rhetoric. The truth is far more serious. It's a war, a hot war, happening on multiple fronts before our eyes. Sure much of it lies in the shadows, not yet ready to be overt, but it's there nonetheless. People are dying, cities are being destroyed, countries and families are being ripped apart. Interests are acting. Daring each other to go to the next level. Seeing who will blink first. Seeing if anyone will blink. It appears that the days of blinking maybe over, and the ante will only rise. Until that unfortunate day happens, we will still be at world-wide war. It just remains undeclared.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Mouse Trap-Battle of Ukraine

It might seem like a strange headline, but the war in Ukraine really is over already. Some wars have their ending written the moment they are started - the fighting and dying being the interlude between the two. Take for example World War II. Hitler was warned by his Generals not to start the war in 1939, because Germany's rearmament was not ready and the prospect of over extension was obvious. Hitler didn't listen, and the moment German tanks crossed the Polish border the war was lost - for Germany. The case is remarkably the same here.

What started as a very obvious western coup of the then Russia friendly government of Ukraine turned into a civil war. Although it is denied, by both sides, the West and Russia have fed and lead the opposing forces in the Ukraine from the get go. However, unlike almost all other proxy wars the two have waged against each other since WWII, this time the collision between the two has become almost inevitable. It almost happened earlier in Syria when Chinese and Russian war ships steamed into the waters off its coast to challenge an immanent American-led assault. The US blinked, and the rest is history. Now the battlefield is Ukraine.

The Novorossyia forces (NAF), also known as separatists to the Ukrainians, led by Igor Stelkov (former Russia army Colonel), created what can best be described as an "elastic defence". What that means is they spread themselves out thinly around towns, villages and cities throughout the Ukraine provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk that they claim as their own. Rather than negotiate with the NAF, the newly self-appointed government of Ukraine immediately responded with military force. First with weak incursions by a handful of armored personnel carriers (APCs), which were chased by residents out of communities, and then more radical "Right Sector" (neo-nazis) and "National Guard" units.

The Ukrainians gradually took each little community or town one by one. The NAF gradually withdrew to the areas directly surrounding their two cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. On the face of it, the Ukraine army appears on the verge of victory, but things aren't always what they seem. Firstly, as the NAF slowly withdrew from their elastic defence, they took a very serious toll on the Ukraine army's equipment and troops. Estimates are in the tens of thousands of deaths and wounded. The Government of Ukraine vigorously denies it, but the decree of mandatory service last week strongly suggest the numbers are true, and Ukraine needs replacements. The NAF, of course, are also taking serious casualties, but they are in reinforced defensive positions giving them a strong advantage. The traditional figure, if the attackers do not have air superiority, which in this case Ukraine does not, is about 10-1. Given each city is rumored to have at least 10,000 fighters, the Ukrainians would need about 150-200 thousand troops to take them. They are nowhere near that.

How then does Ukraine propose to overcome this tactical problem? It seems they intend to rely on massive artillery. In particular, the use of Grad and Smerch rocket artillery. Both these weapons systems were designed to tear apart NATO tank formations by the Soviets. They fire multiple rockets in each salvo, and flatten the ground grid by grid. Ukraine has been using these rocket systems already in smaller locals, but these are large cities - 500,000 to 1,000,000 people. Herein comes the part where you lose the war once you start it.

To fight a war in a cities of this size is a massive effort. The casualties are huge. The destruction wide spread. The civilian casualties unconscionable. Take the battles in Syria's cities for example. Or Stalingrad, Leningrad, Berlin, etc. The Ukraine army is slowly, methodically being drawn into a trap of its own making. For starters, it has transferred a massive amount of its men and equipment from the West of Ukraine to the front in the East. Those forces are focused around the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, and being warn down. These are its best units. However, the biggest danger for Ukraine is that the vast majority of its army is now within range of Russian artillery/rocket forces without those same forces having to leave Russia. Furthermore, the Ukraine forces are effectively without any air support.

I call it the "Mouse Trap". Russian forces, having lured the Ukraine army east, with the NAF being the cheese, can now trap those forces behind the Dnieper River - unable to defend the western part of Ukraine - including Kiev. That would be the metal part of the bar coming down on the neck. A good example of this is the Donetsk pocket that formed between the Russian border and southern Donetsk province. Ukrainian forces, following ambitious orders of the new President of Ukraine Poroshenko, sent 3 of the best and largest battalions they had to close all the border points between Russia and Ukraine. These forces swept north of Maripol and continued along the Russian/Donetsk border capturing crossing after crossing - until they came up against fortified emplacements waiting for them around Torez area. Then, suddenly, way back where they started the swing, the NAF captured a relatively small position that cut the entire force off from any resupply. Without air support or resupply, units like the 79th and 72nd airmobile brigades were systematically destroyed where they were trapped. Many have died. Many have surrendered to Russia at the border. Most of their equipment is destroyed. That battle continues. Point is, they were lured in and then destroyed, helplessly.

On a much bigger scale, this is what I believe Russia is doing to Ukraine, and in a sense its western allies. The calculation is: will the West go to war with Russia over Ukraine? The obvious answer is no. Being that the answer is no, Russia has a free hand to really act at any time it chooses in Ukraine. It may allow Ukraine to wither away in a battle of bloody attrition in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, and then move in when its citizens can no longer stand the scenes of civilian casualties and destruction. It may choose to move sooner to save the inhabitants, and bring its people along board. One thing it certainly will not allow is a NATO presence of any kind in eastern Ukraine, and western Ukraine is also questionable. Putin still sits back, with many cards up his sleeve, with the cat like smile that has become famous. Europe entertains the thought of already deflating economies, and what a Russian withdrawl from their economies would mean - instant depression. The US has too many balls in play around the world to react, and even if they could, what can they do to the Russians that the Russians can't do back to them? Not much.

It's a game of chess. A friend once called it Wizards Chess (after the famous Harry Potter scene). I call this particular strategy the "Mouse Trap", and Ukraine is the mouse.