Archive for ‘War’

August 12, 2017

Mission Creep

Black Hawk Down

Mission creep is the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes. It is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, stopping only when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs.

The term was originally applied exclusively to military operations, but has recently been applied to many different fields. It first appeared in 1993, in a ‘Washington Post’ article concerning the UN peacekeeping mission during the Somali Civil War.

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February 20, 2017

Troll Army

pepe

The ‘web brigades,’ also known in English media as the ‘troll army,’ are state-sponsored anonymous Internet political commentators and trolls linked to the Russian government.

Participants report that they are organized into teams and groups of commentators that participate in Russian and international political blogs and Internet forums using sockpuppets (fraudulent accounts) and large-scale orchestrated trolling (harassment) and disinformation campaigns to promote pro-Putin and pro-Russian propaganda. It has also been found that Wikipedia articles were targeted by Russian internet propaganda activities.

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August 21, 2016

Efraim Diveroli

Arms and the dudes

Efraim Diveroli (b. 1985) was the founder of AEY Inc., a major weapons contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense that was prosecuted for violating an American arms embargo against China. In 2007, AEY provided 42-year-old substandard Chinese ammunition in ‘crumbling boxes’ that was re-branded and re-packaged. Documents showed that the company totaled more than $200 million in contracts to supply ammunition, assault rifles, and other weapons in 2007, despite the fact that his partner, David Packouz, and Diveroli were in their early 20s at the time.

As a result of the publicity surrounding the contract and the age of the arms dealers, the United States Army began a review of its contracting procedures. He was indicted on several dozen counts of fraud, and eventually pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy. He was sentenced to four years in federal prison. He is a subject of a 2016 Todd Phillips drama comedy film, ‘War Dogs,’ in which he is portrayed by Jonah Hill. The film was based on a ‘Rolling Stone’ article by Guy Lawson which he later adapted into a book titled ‘Arms and the Dudes.’ The film is heavily fictionalized and dramatized, and many of its events, such as the duo driving through Iraq, never took place.

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March 13, 2016

How to Photograph an Atomic Bomb

National Atomic Testing Museum

How to Photograph an Atomic Bomb is a book written by Peter Kuran and published in 2006 by VCE. It documents the stories of the men who photographed US nuclear weapons tests between 1945–1963 and the techniques they used to capture nuclear blasts on film. The book contains 250 photos and 12 technical diagrams, some of which were previously classified.

Research on the book began while Kuran was working as an animator for ‘Star Wars.’ He was able to interview and collect material from photographers who witnessed the blasts, whom he calls unrecognized patriots. A traveling exhibit based on the book was purchased by the Atomic Testing Museum and put on display in 2007. In 2010, the ‘New York Times’ featured a 23-image slideshow on its website with photos taken from the book accompanied by an audio recording of George Yoshitake, then one of the few surviving cameramen.

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March 10, 2016

Shoe-throwing Incidents

Bush Shoeing by Dmitry Borshch

Shoe-throwing (also called shoeing) and showing the sole of one’s shoe as an insult are forms of protest in many parts of the world. Posters of George W. Bush’s face have long appeared through the Middle East with shoes attached to them, and some people have called former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ‘kundara,’ meaning ‘shoe.’ Shoeing received widespread attention after Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his shoes at then President George W. Bush during a 2008 press conference in Baghdad.

‘This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog!’ yelled al-Zaidi in Arabic as he threw his first shoe towards the president. ‘This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq!’ he shouted as he threw his second shoe. President Bush ducked twice, avoiding being hit by the shoes. Since the al-Zaidi incident, copycat incidents in Europe, North America, India, China, Hong Kong, Iran, Turkey, and Australia have been reported. Shoes are considered unclean in the Arab World, but Matthew Cassel of ‘The Electronic Intifada’ has expressed the opinion that the Western media overplayed the phenomenon as being ‘Arab’ in particular.’

February 1, 2016

Survivor Guilt

sophies choice

war by leif parsons

Survivor guilt is a mental condition that occurs when a person perceives themselves to have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not. It may be found among survivors of combat, natural disasters, epidemics, among the friends and family of those who have died by suicide, and in non-mortal situations such as among those whose colleagues are laid off. The experience and manifestation of survivor’s guilt will depend on an individual’s psychological profile.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines it as a significant symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Characteristic symptoms include anxiety and depression, social withdrawal, sleep disturbance and nightmares, physical complaints and mood swings with loss of drive.

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January 18, 2016

For Want of a Nail

Butterfly

camel nose

For Want of a Nail is a proverb, having numerous variations over several centuries, reminding that seemingly unimportant acts or omissions can have grave and unforeseen consequences: ‘For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.’

The earliest reference to the full proverb may refer to the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. This short variation of the proverb was published in ‘Fifty Famous People’ by James Baldwin. Richard III is unhorsed in the rhyme, but, historically Richard’s horse was merely mired in the mud. The reference to losing a horse is directly linked to the titular character famously shouting ‘A Horse! A Horse! My Kingdom for a Horse!,’ in Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ (c. 1591).

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January 14, 2016

ADE 651

bomb sniffer

The ADE 651 is a fake bomb detector produced by ATSC (UK), which claimed that the device could effectively and accurately, from long range, detect the presence and location of various types of explosives, drugs, ivory, and other substances. The device has been sold to 20 countries in the Middle East and Asia, including Iraq and Afghanistan, for as much as US$60,000 each. The Iraqi government is said to have spent £52 million on the devices.

Investigations by the BBC and other organizations found that the device is little more than a ‘glorified dowsing rod’ with no ability to perform its claimed functions. In 2010, export of the device was banned by the British government and the managing director of ATSC was arrested on suspicion of fraud. The company was dissolved in 2013, and the founder, Jim McCormick, was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. Similar ‘bomb sniffing’ devices, which are still widely used, have also come under scrutiny in the wake of the revelations about the ADE 651.

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November 20, 2015

Red Mercury

mercury by Hussain Ismail

Red mercury is a hoax substance of uncertain composition purportedly used in the creation of nuclear bombs, as well as a variety of unrelated weapons systems. It is purported to be mercuric iodide, a poisonous, odorless, tasteless, water-insoluble scarlet-red powder that becomes yellow when heated above 126 °C (258 °F), due to a thermochromatic change in crystalline structure.

However, samples of ‘red mercury’ obtained from arrested would-be terrorists invariably consisted of nothing more than various red dyes or powders of little value, which some suspect was being sold as part of a campaign intended to flush out potential nuclear smugglers. The hoax was first reported in 1979 and was commonly discussed in the media in the 1990s. Prices as high as $1,800,000 per kilogram were reported.

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November 19, 2015

Afghanistanism

Afghanistan by Rhonald Blommestijn

Afghanistanism is a term, first recorded in the US, for the practice of concentrating on problems in distant parts of the world while ignoring controversial local issues. In other contexts, it has referred to ‘hopelessly arcane and irrelevant scholarship,’ ‘fascination with exotic, faraway lands,’ or ‘railing and shaking your fist at an unseen foe who is quite unaware of your existence, much less your fury.’

The first known citation of the expression was a quote by newspaper editor J. Lloyd Jones in 1948: ‘I don’t wish to belabor this subject of Afghanistanism, this business of taking forthright stands on elections in Costa Rica, while the uncollected local garbage reeks beneath the editor’s window.’ 

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September 14, 2015

Cowboy Diplomacy

Spock

big stick

Cowboy diplomacy is a term used by critics to describe the resolution of international conflicts through brash risk-taking, intimidation, military deployment, or a combination of such tactics. It is criticized as stemming from an overly-simple, dichotomous world view. Overtly provocative phraseology typically centralizes the message.

One of the earliest known applications of the term was in 1902, when it was used by Jackie Lawlor from Westford, Massachusetts and the American press to describe Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policies. Roosevelt had at the time summarized his approach to international diplomacy as ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick,’ an adage that was engraved on a bronze plaque on Donald Rumsfeld’s office desk in the Pentagon and has set the modern precedent. The term has since also been applied to the presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

August 20, 2015

Baker-Miller Pink

Goethe

Adam Alter

Baker-Miller Pink is a tone of pink that was originally created by mixing one gallon of pure white indoor latex paint with one pint of red trim semi-gloss outdoor paint. It is named for the two US Navy officers who first experimented with its use in the Naval Correctional Facility in Seattle, Washington at the behest of researcher Alexander Schauss. The color is also known as Schauss pink, after Alexander Schauss’s extensive research into the effects of the color on emotions and hormones, as well as P-618 and ‘Drunk-Tank Pink’ (so named because jails cells are painted this color because it is believed to calm inmates).

Contemporary research has shown conflicting results on the effects of Baker-Miller pink. While the initial results at the Naval Correctional facility in Seattle were positive, calming those exposed, inmates at the Santa Clara county jail were trying to scratch the paint from the walls with their fingernails when exposed for more than fifteen minutes. At Johns Hopkins, appetite suppression was observed and studied.

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