Hard News by Russell Brown

Still with the Russians

Is it a crisis for the coalition? The authors of the most recent post to be translated from the iraqwar.ru site are in no doubt that that is the case.

There's a remarkable degree of detail here, but the question, of course, is whether it's for real. Would the Russian government share its intelligence in this way? Probably, yes, for political reasons (it also appears to tally with yesterday's blast from the Russian foreign minister)

Has it been accurate? On a number of key questions - such as the real state of Basra and the imminent arrival of many more US troops - yes. More accurate, it appears than the official coalition line. Anyway, given that connections to Russia seem a bit ropey this morning, here's an excerpt:

A particular point of concern for the US command is the huge overuse of precision-guided munitions and cruise missiles. Already the supply of heavy cruise missiles like the "Tomahawk" has been reduced by a third and, at the current rate of use, in three weeks the US will be left only with the untouchable strategic supply of these missiles. A similar situation exists with other types of precision-guided munitions. "The rate of their use is incompatible with the obtained results. We are literally dropping gold into the mud!" said Gen. Richard Mayers during a meeting in Pentagon yesterday morning. [reverse translation from Russian]

The US experts already call this war a "crisis". "It was enough for the enemy to show a little resistance and some creative thinking as our technological superiority begun to quickly lose all its meaning. Our expenses are not justified by the obtained results. The enemy is using an order of magnitude cheaper weapons to reach the same goals for which we spend billions on technological whims of the defense industry!" said Gen. Stanley McCrystal during the same Pentagon meeting. [reverse translation from Russian]

Since the early morning today the coalition high command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are in an online conference joined by the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. This meeting immediately follows an earlier meeting last night at the White House. During the night meeting with President Bush emergency actions were outlined to resolve the standstill in Iraq. The existing course of actions is viewed as "ineffective and leading to a crisis". The Secretary of State Collin Powell warned that, if the war in Iraq continues for more than a month, it might lead to unpredictable consequences in international politics.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Mayers reported on the proposed actions and corrections to the plan of the operation in Iraq. George Bush demanded that the military breaks the standstill in Iraq and within a week achieves significant military progress. A particular attention, according to Bush, should be paid to finding and eliminating the top Iraqi political and military leadership. Bush believes that Saddam Hussein and his closest aides are the cornerstone of the Iraqi defense.

During today's online meeting at the coalition headquarters Gen. Franks was criticized for inefficient command of his troops and for his inability to concentrate available forces on the main tasks.

According to [Russian military] intelligence Pentagon made a decision to significantly reinforce the coalition. During the next two weeks up to 50,000 troops and no less than 500 tanks will arrive to the combat area from the US military bases in Germany and Albania. By the end of April 120,000 more troops and up to 1,200 additional tanks will be sent to support the war against Iraq.

A decision was made to change the way aviation is used in this war. The use of precision-guided munitions will be scaled down and these weapons will be reserved for attacking only known, confirmed targets. There will be an increase in the use of conventional high-yield aviation bombs, volume-detonation bombs and incendiary munitions. The USAF command is ordered to deliver to airbases used against Iraq a two-week supply of aviation bombs of 1-tonn caliber and higher as well as volume-detonation and incendiary bombs. This means that Washington is resorting to the "scorched earth" tactics and carpet-bombing campaign.

Yes, if it's true, that is bad news at the end there. A move to conventional carpet-bombing means, inevitably, many more civilian deaths. The nice war is definitely over.

Meanwhile, al-Jazeera continues to cop it from an angry America for failing to conform to official ideas about news. Here's a story on the denial of service attacks mounted against its new English-language website (which may still be the reason the site is very hard to reach). And the Nasdaq Exchange has followed the NYSE in banning its reporters from its trading floor.

"In light of al-Jazeera's recent conduct during the war, in which they have broadcast footage of US POWs in alleged violation of the Geneva Convention, they are not welcome to broadcast from our facility at this time," said a Nasdaq spokesman.

Al-Jazeera has, of course, grievously upset almost every government in the Middle East since it began broadcasting, and has been intimidated in the past by the US government. But hey, who needs state censorship when the private sector will do it for you?

Here's an alternative view of the CNN-versus-al-Jazeera debate from the Arab News.

An interesting story from the Wall Street Journal on soldiers' weblogs. Cyberjournalist.net has tons of good stories on the Internet angle of the war, including links to some fascinating reporters' weblogs - the BBC correspondents are being encouraged to blog, but at least one CNN reporter has been ordered to stop blogging.

Oh, and my email response may be less than optimum until I can sort out my first really major problem in a year and a half's use of MacOS X. Microsoft Entourage has started crashing on launch, 100% of the time. The crash log indicates a kernel panic:

Command: Microsoft Entourage
PID: 824

Exception: EXC_BAD_ACCESS (0x0001)
Codes: KERN_PROTECTION_FAILURE (0x0002) at 0x00000000

The strange thing is, Entourage works now I've copied the Microsoft User Data folder to the home directory of another account on my system. But that means I have to log out and log into the alternative account every time I want to read my email. It's a clunky and irritating workaround, but it's the best I can do at the moment.

I've run Disk Utility (including repair privileges), TechTool and Norton (from the CD), and I've tried rebuilding the Entourage database and copying it back to my original home directory. Do any of the 9.25% of Public Address readers who run Mac systems have any idea what I can do here?