HAMMERNEWS- Michael Hammerschlag

Current Political Commentary by journalist Michael Hammerschlag; Thoughts on foreign policy, Republican outrages, liberal strategies, science by 8 year correspondent in Russia/Ukraine over 22 years and longtime commentator; Website: http://HAMMERNEWS.com

Sunday, August 28, 2005


my article on global warming
9-24 Although Hurricane RITA only came 150 miles or so from NO, that was enough to cause rains that rolled off the saturated ground and filled Ponchartrain to 7ft above normal- the same as the worst of Katrina. Surge did serious damage along middle and west La. shorelines, worse than Katrina. Predictably the shodilly repaired canal walls failed on the Industrial Canal, flooding the poor stinking city again, starting with the devastated Ninth Ward northeast of the Quarter. ("It will only flood the areas that were flooded before," said one official in what was supposed to be good news.). Corp of Engineers tried to minimize and deny problem at first. If power and pumps can keep pumping on 17th St. Canal and repairs raced to breaks, maybe flooding can be controlled. Levees can apparently often only be repaired when the flow has stopped- when both sides are equal and city has flooded, but the difference was, they had ability to block the entrance to the Canal, and they had the repair material, equipment, + people in place. They are optimistic, saying the latest water can be removed in a week, but probably more like 2-3. Nobody cares much about the Ninth Ward.
The disastrous attempted evacuation of Houston shows how brilliant the 36 hr. evacuation of New Orleans was. This solid clog of cars was what was expected in a major city evacuation- and why one has never been attempted before, and was never considered a possibility in nuclear war planning. Houston does flood in places, but since it's not below sea level, such a massive evacuation wasn't called for- people die in evacuation- the fried elderly bus (with exploding oxygen tanks- the horror), heart attacks of people stuck in polluted traffic jams breathing exhaust. NYT: "The question is how many people will be gravely ill and die sitting on the side of the freeway," said State Representative Garnet Coleman, Democrat of Houston. "Dying not from the storm, but from the evacuation."

Some Houstonians went North to Lufkin, more into the actual path of the hurricane, which made landfall at 3:42am on the TX-LA border. Area has massive chemical and oil industry and also is the location of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in several huge salt caverns along the border. Interviewed director of that once.
Idiot Mayor-Gov. didn't order all lanes out, like Nagin did in NOLA, as they alarmed people with apocalyptic possibilities. Houston, at 5 million people, is 4 times bigger than NO, and it has only 2-3 main routes out: 45N and 10W (and 59W), whereas NOLA had 4 routes: 10W, 10W to 55N, Ponchartrain Causeway, 10E to 59N. From Galveston only route out was 45N- evacuation was justified there.

My solution for NOLA is clear a mile wide strip of city by Lake- the lowest parts, dig it up down to 100 ft.and use that to fill in rest of below sea level city to (all parts that are destroyed) 1 ft above sea level. Then move lakefront the mile in to new levees. Build huge flood gates at Gulf entrance to Ponchartrain. Alternatively build network of canals, and dig dirt from there, but that may increase flooding hazard. Either proposal would require wholesale destruction of parts of city, lest there be patchwork of high and low places. Alternatively, houses could all be raised by stilts or a concrete base the height below sea level. Since they don't have basements or real foundations, popping them loose is much easier.


9/15 WELL, thought onetime home N'Awlins dodged a bullet- only got 96mph winds (just barely Cat 2, 15mph less than Cat 3)- eyewall sort of broke after hit land and was 30 miles to east. Oh No- delayed breech of Lake levees- 2pm Teus- and NO is flooding!!! Typical- cable news dopes don't know what's important- haven't heard anything else about it- get the helicopter over the breech!! Instead of rescueing people one by one, rescue the city- PLUG the BREECH!! Ponchartrain is 7.5 ft higher than normal, so must add those numbers onto below sea level to get depth of flooding (29 ft max in northern zones by Lake). Incredible, had 100 years to (huge Times-Picayune series) prepare for this, but FEMA and Corp. of Engineers don't have sinkable barges and long metal or concrete panels to immediately be slapped onto levee ruptures!! They just watched dumbly for 54 hours as city filled with water, then encouragingly said water level isn't rising any more. BECAUSE IT IS SAME AS THE LAKE. $100,000 to stop breeches or $100 billion to rebuild city. (NO's historic battle between land and water).

Although the weather service and FEMA helicopter tour reported to Washington that the levees had failed Monday morning, it took 30 hours before media realized levees were ruptured (didn't even understand extensive canal and 350 mi. levee system), because blithering Brownie (now in charge of Girl Scouts) reissuringly stated, "I don't want to alarm anyone that New Orleans is filling up like a bowl. That isn't happening." So people went to bed on Mon. night and woke to find 5-20 ft of water filling their house, or in horror- washing over their beds in the powerless dark.. Maps.google.com shows zoomable maps, satellite pics, and flooded Katrina satellite pics... down to house level. Compare the map and satellite size of lower delta to see the huge erosion (30 sq mil/yr) of the wetlands.

Now (9/16) levees are still breeched in three places and repair attempts continue (CNN map): combined current death toll over 1000. They've sandbagged one break- 17th Ave. levee, enough to pump out water in canal to finish a permanant repair and drain there, but really can't pump out city until all breeches are completely sealed (they seem to be pumping out city but only by blocked canal entrances on Lake- 2 breeches on London Ave. canal and one massive one from a loose barge canal on Industrial Canal- a ship channel that connects the River and Lake to the Gulf- remain)- but the 7.5 ft high surge has receded, causing much drying. Wildy hopeful claims now- dry by Oct 2nd, but even when pumped out, city will take months to really dry. Claim 40 pumps are working, but does that mean they have electricity?- the power station for the pumps themselves was underwater. After hurricane water was higher in city than Lake, and Corp. of Engineer head was talking of opening (BBC) more levee walls to allow water to escape. Ruptured canals on east and west usually drain pumped water north from 22 pumping stations (with 148 electric pumps) into the Lake, and were protected by only 2 ft thick flat concrete slabs anchored to a 15 ft verticle sheet of steel, instead of 3-6' of tapered reinforced concrete. $10-50 million of 3 ft square 25 ft deep concrete pillars could have reinforced canals levees+ prevented breeches, but these damn canals tripled or quadrupled levee exposure. Weren't there gates on the Lake that could have been closed when the canal walls failed????? We are Americans- it's simpler to ignore risk and pay 2000 times more. 3 explosive charges by terrorists could have achieved all the same results, since the power would have failed under flooding and there was no capability to repair breeches. Almost every other city in world has dealt with swamp by filling it in- Boston, San Fran, etc., usually by cutting down hills. Only NO and Holland (half country below sea level) did it on the cheap- by pumping water out and leaving it below sea level. My '98 Maui Time article on global warming predicted more and more devastating hurricanes.

Need huge self-powered water pumps- Navy dredging barges, ship bilge pumps- they needed 22 before to keep swamp from flooding and probably 2 times more to actually remove the 60-100 square miles of water- 66 new massive pumps brought into a city with almost no road connection (They have brought back 40 of the pumps). 3 months before city is actually dry; now nightmare stench of polluted warm corpse and disease ridden city bathtub water. City is going to stink so badly, nobody will stay or maybe return. Disease deaths could start wholesale by Sunday (yup, first reports Sun-350 people in center hospitalized w dysentery), when desperate people drink the contaminated sewage that's inundated city and get cholera, typhoid, dysentary; maybe even standard tropical plagues: malaria + yellow fever from mosquitoes; plague from millions of rats. Huge numbers of snakes, and few alligators reported too. Maybe 1000-2000 initial deaths and 2-5 times that from disease. New Orleans is hottest city in US, not literally (like Phoenix + Las Vegas), but always 90-100 degrees and 90-100% humidity.. and contaminated standing water soon becomes unspeakably foul. I remember showering there, drying off, and being soaked in sweat within 60 seconds. My roommate there got a little burn on his thumb from a hot beignet; they ended up carving off a third of his thumb after he got staph. They say 240 plants in MS+ LA made or used dioxanes, one of the most lethal substances known.

Meanwhile Bush had been looting levee reconstruction money (diverted 50% since 2001+ FEMA lost 1/3 of funding in last year) - this is homeland security. June 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency chief for Jefferson Parish, fretted: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished." Village Voice reports, "On August 15, just two weeks before Katrina slammed into the U.S., the Pentagon boasted of spending $6.4-billion -- so far -- on 2,705 Army Corps of Engineers construction projects in Iraq, all but 200 of them started since June 2004." A levee contracter in MN says ACE cancelled the project in the middle, explaining they were flat broke.

As I said to RI Nat. Guard head year and half ago, "Time to bring these guys home from Iraq to do their job as real homeland security." He disagreed. 35-37% of LA + MS Nat. Guard troops were in Iraq with their vehicles. Homeland Security skull Chertoff showed his nerdy incompetence when he insisted people in Convention Center were being fed and watered and FEMA hack Michael Brown had no idea 20,000 people were there; later he was roasted by Ted the Kop-ple; Bush showed too much concern against looters (product rescuers), and not enough concern for sick thirsty hungry dying residents. One can't discount the fact that NOLA is vastly Democratic and Bush admin. has enjoyed punishing the "opposition", as he did when he allowed the Enron + electric utilities domestic terrorism against CA in 2000 (90-fold price increases that led to Ahhnold putsch + vastly enriched his greatest contributor). It's not blacks he doesn't care about, it's the poor and middle class. The Dick Cheney just put in a NO appearance, scouting more no-bid contracts for Halliburton, where emergency room Dr. Ben Marble, who had lost his Gulfport house to Kat, called out, "go fok yourself, Mr. Cheney," echoing the phrase Cheney had cursed Sen. Leahy with a year ago (video). He was handcuffed and detained by the SS for 20 minutes an hour later. Bush avoided that in Jackson Sq. TV address by sterilizing the square of residents.

Of course dopes who shot at emergency workers or helicopters should get Cobra treatment. Of the poor people remaining in NO had no cars or friends to leave with (in poorest big city in US-28% below poverty line, and 64% black- America will be shocked at the depth of poverty, infirmity, and ignorence), some were looters lusting for booty and others people worried about them. NOLA criminals are as bad as the worst anywhere, and friends there say gang viciousness and murders have vastly increased in last 20 years. Gunman thugs had supposedly taken over the Convention Center, with 25,000 people, and repulsed several efforts by 11 man teams of police to enter it. Up to 70% of police quit, confronted with the loss of their homes, city, and massive looting of guns; but I remember them one night marching in a 4 man phalanx down Bourbon St., beating anyone who didn't scurry out of the way with nightsticks, inc. people facing other way. Tourists describe brutal and callous treatment by police and sherrifs. Arrival of now 58,000 National Guard + Army troops was greeted wth great relief, but horrific tales of arbitrary killings, as well as rapes and murders have been reported. Lots of banks in NO and casinos (why didn't these sail away?) in Mississippi and no power or police for days. Good time to be scuba expert, and there's no doubt crews of professionals have robbed tens of millions of dollars while media obsessed about stolen TV's.

Chertoff's qualifications for being HSA director was that he was Republican Council to the Whitewater investigation which spent 5 years investigating a simple land deal that lost the Clintons a lot of money (and exonerated him 4 times). In 2001 FEMA director Joe Albaugh was Bush's campaign manager, and Brown was his college roomate - a political incompetent with no knowledge of his post (commissioner of International Arabian Horse Association). " Browny, you're doing a heck of a job," said Bush on TV to tearily grateful semiphore frat winks by Brown.
NYT: "As he watched a line snaking for blocks through ankle-deep waters, New Orleans' emergency operations chief Terry Ebbert blamed the inadequate response on FEMA. " I haven't seen a single FEMA guy," he said. He added: "We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans." " Bumbling Brown finally took the fall, but NYT details Bush lawyers squabbling over legalistic juristictions while Rome drowned. In reality, I think Bush inexplicably tried to do a full power grab from Blanco, who refused to give up control of her Nat. Guard, and then was punished by 3 days of inaction. The Insurrection Act wasn't necessary to be invoked in such a massive disaster. No doubt Blanco and Nagin were also out of their depth, but a modern large city has NEVER BEEN EVACUATED before. One also can't ignore the massive corruption in La. + NO that has misspent, diverted, or stole unknown amounts of levee reinforcing monies- note 17th St. leve on Jefferson Co. side stayed dry, preserving the white suburbs of Metarie, et. al. NBC News had 9/14 story about levee board corruption.

No one in this administration is able- La. Gov. hired respected former Clinton FEMA director to run show. Bush had gutted FEMA into patronage org: 11 of top 15 people were inexperienced political hacks. Amazingingly mayor Nagin said he will relieve all police and turn city over to Nat. Guard. This disaster and it's mishandling will do for vacationing bike-boy Bush what Andrew did for his father; erase what little popularity he has left. Think of him pressed to the window of Air Force One on low overflight of Gulf damage like a ten year old boy, saying "neat". Since, he's made 4 damage control trips to area (haunting NO- Dowd), lately staying on a Navy destroyer (Mission Accomplished). Bush was so out of touch as he flew in to NO on Sept. 2nd, that he had to watch a specially cut DVD of news broadcasts to understand how serious situation was (How Bush Blew It- Newsweek). Mother Barbara displayed her patrician sensitivity: “They all want to stay in Texas,” said the senior Mrs. Bush. “Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know [that is, the Houston Astrodome], were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." NO dopos thought, Superdome can hold 60,000, so people can stay there. Yeah for 3 or 4 hours, with functioning toilets, water, air-conditioning, lights. Without that, it's a hellhole in 24 hours because people are simply full of crap. Incredible FEMA or no one made a centralized website for refugees to find each other- I almost did it- norefugees.com- people had to hunt through 50 different sites for lost relatives. Times-Picayune site Nola.com is best.

Kudos to Houstonians, Texans, + Louisianans for their big hearted welcome of bedraggled NO refugees (took them to amusement parks!); sometimes Texans are really good people. Big mistake to force evacuation of dry healthy people in NO, renewal needs people and services, and why would anyone who can get water and food want to be miserable resented powerless refugees in an alien place. Worse, residents will be ejected by self-deputized carpetbagging cops and soldiers from distant states. Video shows them battering down doors and leveling multiple shotguns and automatic weapons at possible residents, as if attacking hostage holders. Once they break open the doors of these empty houses, rain, animals, looters will continue to trash them. A SF Chronicle reporter describes almost getting blown away by a dozen NO SWAT guys when he steps outside a rented house to make a cell call. The pool reporters had hired their own SEAL team as protection... from police and soldiers. Imagine a resident has a gun and thinks these invaders are looters- I guarantee homeowners are being killed by their "rescuers". Let some of these disaster tourists collect bodies rather than bully residents- it's an outrage that bodies are allowed to rot outside for 2 weeks- where is our humanity? Now the resulting meat is very hard to identify. 10,000 deaths was deliberate overestimate by mayor who wanted aid spigots cranked full open ($2 bil/day)- humans, like animals, will almost always flee slow water succesfully. Now they are bringing people back. Press aquitted themselves well- even FOX news was erupting with outrage (video).

As I said to people Tues (as filled up at $2.64), gas would be $3.50-4.00/ gal in 2 weeks, then 6 hour waits in another week. CBS showed one Atlanta station at $6/gal Wed. 20% of imported oil intake and 30% of refining initially shut down (now less), but at least imports should be restartable within 2 weeks or so, if they go into emergency mode, and if refineries have own generators- (9/11) 4 are still down for many weeks and some 500 of the thousands of off-shore wells had some damage- now operating at 60% capacity. Refineries are so stretched that they normally operate at 95% capacity, but they have been reaping $20/barrel profit. Much longer than Oct. and we are looking at the collapse of the US economy. NO is most economic strategic port in US (after NYC?). Maybe this is the shock that will detonate the debt-bomb, ceasing the inflow of foreign cash that sustains our heedless borrowing lifestyle, raising interest rates, popping the housing bubble, and cause widespread bancruptcy.

Everyone was so happy NO was spared, but didn't worry about Gulfport-Biloxi, which got scoured clean by 150mph NE wall and 30 ft storm surge. Miracle NO was successfully 92% evacuated- I thought thousands would be caught on gridlocked freeways and be tossed like a Tonka trucks. All models of city evacuation (in nuclear attack) said it would take 4-7 days for a major city; 1 1/2 days was impossible, and mayor made huge decision relatively early. Chunks of highly eroded 100 miles of delta below NO disappeared into Gulf. Nobody is talking about it, but delta area 40 miles southeast and east of NO got annihilated by worse winds than hit Gulfport: Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Jefferson Parrishes must have many hundreds of fatalities. The normally 80% water St. Bernard P. was totally flooded by the miles long failure of levees of the Mississippi shipping canal that cuts off 40 delta miles between River and Gulf. President of Jefferson P. gave sobbing tremendously effecting blast at FEMA on MSNBC: "bureaucrats are committing murder! "(video) Terrible story about a Chalmette nursing home (20 mi. E near river): 34 drowned in upper floor out of 60 elderly as water reached ceiling, after they had nailed shut windows and barricaded doors, blocking their own escape.

2 pipelines or wells, and oil tank 60 miles south on Mississippi were leaking, which may become environmental catastrophe (not to mention gas and oil from 1/2 million flooded cars and trucks + gas stations:
NYT: "when Hurricane Ivan hit the gulf last September, it created underwater mud slides that uprooted crucial underwater pipelines, delaying the return of full production for six months. In all, that storm cut oil production by 43.8 million barrels.
---So far, there is no indication of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the gulf's 33,000 miles of underwater pipelines, a seabed grid that links thousands of offshore platforms to refiners and storage tanks on the coast.

Take away power, clean water, and add foul heat and flood water, and 1st world collapses to 3rd in 4 days- we are all not that far from the jungle. Only consolation is if there had been direct hit and no evacuations- old, moldering wood houses would have been eradicated, main levees of higher river and lake would have breeched fast.. and hundreds of thousands would have died.

HOW TO SAVE NO: Move hospital and military ships up the Mississippi and build tent city (what Pam exercizes recommended) on the higher ground of river levees adjacent to ships- use them for food and toilets and water. Or house people in upper floors of higher buildings near river. Or evacuate them with those ships to recently empty military bases that have vacant housing. Get large hovercrafts into city that can carry hundreds and cross water, land, levees and rescue the peoples trapped in high water houses. Take charge of convention center with Nat. guard and disarm gun-toters, shoot hostile ones. Airdrop camping membrane water filter/pumps, empty 5 gallon jugs, and little bottles of Chlorox so people can purify large amounts of water. Transporting mass quantities of heavy water in a flooded city is idiotic. Also airdrop floating packs of 5 or 10 MRE's by the hundreds of thousands. Heavy metal wrapper is total protection from water. Think rather than totally evacuate, they should make some large place, like maybe a hospital, habitable, pull circuit breakers and run it on big generators, pumped external water for toilets, and large Navy water purifying system... . New Orleans must not die.

New Orleans is a wonder, a foreign city in the middle of America where people from different riches, races, and rationales would meet in acceptance and brotherhood. Nowhere would you see a suited businessman slapping five with a shirtless tattoed chained motorcycle guy, or a lush society woman warmly chatting with a half-toothless uneducated black man, or people in exquiste finery cutting loose with such abandon. Even the garbage stench that assails one as he walks the streets is so rank it is sweet, and one learns to appreciate the perfumes.

With the best food, best music, best clubs, in America and maybe the world; romantic NO is a steaming gumbo of cultures, passions, senses, and fantasies. It will rise again.

Aug 27 Sat nt: Don't believe the reports about 6 ft below sea level (that's average)- when I lived there in ' 70's the number generally used was 12 ft below and it varies from 1-20 ft. This may well be the worst disaster in US history with over 10,000 casualties (1900 Galveston hurricane was worst w ~6000) - no way 1.3 million people can get out in a day and a half (wrong). The most amazing thing was you couldn't see the Mississippi from anywhere in city, unless you climbed 10-15 ft high levies- it's much higher than the city. Levies 5 miles north block the vast shallow (15ft max) obscenely warm (90 deg) Lake Ponchartrain from flooding the other side- it has the longest bridge in world- a 26 mile Key like stilt bridge that's so long you can't see land from the middle. The water table is 1 ft below surface and bodies float to surface, so people are buried in above ground crypts. Home to trillions of skettering 2 inch cockroaches (palmetto bugs) that infest sidewalks and homes. 22 drainage pumping stations operate continuously to keep city from flooding so it is already in flood equilibrium, but these stations will fail during hurricane hit. City could become 350 sq. mi. abandoned destroyed bathtub filled with warm toxic chemicals from vast chemical/oil industry, sewage, 1000's of businesses. Wished I'd visited it recently.

With 1/3 of nations refining and dozens of oil rigs affected, look for oil to reach $80 barrel. Offshore rigs produce 1.5 million barrels/day, about same as imports from Saudi Arabia; and maybe 20% of foreign oil is off-loaded at NO off-shore/pipeline docks. Total in gulf is 112 rigs and 15,000? workers, read oil thing that 21 rigs and/ or 1068 workers were evacuated. One floating rig (anchored with chains and weights, was dragged in concentric circle around another rig.

WIKIPEDIA: Until the early 20th century, construction was largely limited to the slightly higher ground along old natural river levees and bayous, since much of the rest of the land was swampy and subject to frequent flooding. This gave the 19th century city the shape of a crescent along a bend of the Mississippi, the origin of the nickname The Crescent City. In the 1910s engineer and inventor A. Baldwin Wood enacted his ambitious plan to drain the city, including large pumps of his own design which are still used. All rain water must be pumped up to the canals which drain into Lake Pontchartrain. Wood's pumps and drainage allowed the city to expand greatly in area. However, pumping of groundwater from underneath the city has resulted in subsidence, which has greatly increased the flood risk, should the levees be breached or precipitation is in excess of pumping capacity, as could happen during a hurricane. A major hurricane could create a lake in the central city as much as 30 feet deep, which could take months (years) to pump dry.

Since the city is located at an average of 6 feet under sea level, flooding in the region could be disastrous, especially if the storm surge exceeds 14 feet, the maximum height of the protective levees [1]. (It will rupture them)

New Orleans is on the banks of the Mississippi River about 100 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico at 30.07°N, 89.93°W. New Orleans is a unique city because some areas of the city range from 1 to 20 feet (0.3 to 6 m) below sea level, and rain-water must be pumped out as fast as it falls to prevent flooding. In addition to the urban areas of the city, New Orleans includes undeveloped wetland, especially in the east. Suffice to say, New Orleans is very flood-prone. If it rains more than 1 inch (25 mm) there is usually some form of area flooding, which due to the climate can be a fairly regular occurrence. Because of this, nearly all of New Orleans' cemeteries use above ground crypts rather than underground burial.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Salon has an agonizing Rashomon-ish look at the (site-pass allows several hours of viewing after watching a 20 second ad) killing of Knight Ridder reporter/Iraqi doctor Yasser Salihee by an American sniper as he drove around another car before an unblockaded American checkpoint. Incredibly, reporter Phillip Robertson, a close friend of Salihee, who was the brother of Robertson's interpreter, managed to surreptitiously be embedded with the same unit and track down and interview the sniper who killed him. The sniper comes across as decent and honorable in what may have just been a tragic accident of war- but either he or Iraqi witnesses aren't telling the truth- whether Salihee was stopped or driving and how far away he was. Neither can be really believed: Sniper Joe has too much to protect and Iraqi witnesses blame America for every insurgent bombing.

These mobile careless unmarked checkpoints that people can't really see, on penalty of death, are the most disgusting murderous events in our occupation. US forces invariably asks why drivers didn't stop when they shoot the tires or engine, but someone being shot at doesn't want to present a stationary target to people trying to kill him- the human instinct is to floor it; and if they don't see the US checkpoint, the shooting could be from insurgents, terrorists, or robbers-hijackers. Sandbags and canned megaphone announcements in Arabic would go a long way to preventing these horrors and the 27-100 thousand US PTSD victims (excel. article) they created. As I said in FIRM of MIND before the war, "Being wounded or killed isn’t the only threat; one can be wounded by killing." "They just didn't understand what "STOP!" meant," said a deserter sadly about a blasted family. "Hey, I'm a hero- I did crazy stuff over there... but they wanted me to shoot women and children," said another American deserter in Canada. Not understanding English has always been deadly to the indigenous in US wars., and of course teaching troops 5 to 10 Arabic phrases is expecting too much.

From Nov 27 interview of NPR's Anne Garrels:
"On election day there will be no traffic between provinces ... [and] there will be no traffic in the city itself. ... If you're moving around by car, it's too dangerous. I got shot at last time."
Q:Who shot at you?
Americans and Iraqis, in January. It was a joint checkpoint, except that they were hiding in the bushes and I couldn't see the checkpoint. It was the day before the elections, and traffic actually that day was allowed. This is the sort of thing we face all the time. There are supposed to be checkpoints, but there was no visible checkpoint, they were hiding in the bushes."Q:How would you know to stop?"You don't, until you're shot."
Q:Did they shoot at every car that drove by?
"They said they had orders to shoot every car that went by. Now, we survived that episode, and I went on to the next checkpoint and there was an extremely good captain there, and I explained to him what had just happened. He got on the radio, because these were not the orders, it was just complete chaos on the streets. He was very good and actually helped me negotiate several checkpoints.

The new Steven Bochco FX series OVER THERE had a wrenching depiction of a US squad blasting cars approaching their checkpoint- but it cheats: the all-hero troops riddle maybe one innocent car of refuges before 2 or 3 that are part of a conspiracy to smuggle some insurgent out in their trunk, an absurd ratio (they know the insurgent is going to make a try through intelligence and have their own US interpreter who examines Iraqi identifications). If we are lucky, we shoot up one insurgent car for every 10 innocent, but I suspect the ratio is far far worse.

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION: This is the multiplier effect of the terrible Rummy-allowed looted IED's - that they make US troops so (understandably) jumpy and terrified that they cause routine arbitrary tragic executions. A US News+WR report has a breathtaking 250,000 tons of heavy ordnance (out of 650,000 tons total): aircraft bombs, artillery and tank shells catalogued before invasion and then allowed to be looted by our undermanned army through criminal incompetence at the top- equal to 1 million 500 lb bombs. At ten 500 lb. roadside mines or market closeouts a day, that's enough for 274 years of attacks.
---"During the fall of 2003, what you would see was Iraqis going in at night, individually and in trucks," US weapons inspector David Kay told U.S. News . "They would pull ordnances out and drive off." Security was so bad after Saddam Hussein's regime fell, Kay recalled, that his team was often shot at by insurgents when they went to inspect the sites: "There were just not enough boots on the ground, and the military didn't give it a high enough priority to stop the looting. Tens of thousands of tons of ammunition were being looted, and that is what is fueling the insurgency." -USNWR 11/8/2004

Worst was the Manhattan-sized weapons dump of Al Qaqa'a (Kakah-ah- which became an issue before the 2004 US election), loaded with 380 tons of HMX, RDX, PETN high explosives, so powerful they are used in nuclear bombs, and able to make undetectable IED's out of rubble (no metal). The 101 Airborne Div., who swept the area April 7-10, 2003, said they "did not receive orders to search and secure the entire facility or search for high explosive-type munitions." By May 27, it was stripped of all explosives by looters. A huge munitions dump only 2 miles south of the giant Annaconda US base was carelessly allowed to be looted, commanders ignoring repeated pleadings from intelligence officers.
---Ford told me, "No one seemed too interested in what I said about that stuff. I went out there several times after I told them and the place was still unguarded. The more times I went out there, the more stuff was missing. Marciello told me that he saw many such unsecured storage sites all over Iraq that were full of weapons and ammunition. "They were commonplace," he told me. "Nobody really cared about them." -- Salon

Even the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research facility was allowed to be looted under the noses of US troops, putting a lie to the entire WMD excuse for invasion. The First Rule of Occupation is: "disarm the population", but Rumsfeld knew better, wanting to test his faster lighter cheaper invasion theories, and blindly convinced we would be feted as liberators.

In a WashPost column contrasting withdrawal strategies, Henry Kissinger claimed the Iraqi insurgents are "lightly armed" compared to the North Vietnamese, though of course the proper comparison is to the Viet Cong, who didn't have 500 lb. bombs.


In finally returning the 40% of Gaza off-limits to Palestinians (in the most dense place in world) by Israeli settlements and security, Israel has made an overdue step, but I fear they will react by solidifying the West Bank occupation. 28 x 4 mile Gaza is larger than one thought- Gaza City at the north end had almost all the people, while Israeli settlements had appropriated choice land along the Southern beaches, and caused networks of hated checkpoints. "I felt like I was visiting a foreign country," said one Gazan who was visiting a town 1 1/2 miles inland from his for the first time in a decade.

The spectacular gentleness with which totally unarmed (not even nightsticks) Israeli soldiers treated religious extremists who had flooded the area from West Bank and Israel contrasted wildly with the harshness and brutality of the long and sad occupation, which has become a cancer on the Israeli soul. As Palestinian negotiator Michael Tarazi said memorably in a speech I saw, "The settlements are our suicide bombers." Israeli extremists madly claim God's authority in claiming this land from 3000 year old claims, not much different than the fanaticism of Bin Laden's beliefs. Try redrawing the map of the world based on 3000 year old claims (or 100), and one instantly realizes the idiocy of that position. Pundits are celebrating the "ease" which which operation was carried out, because settlers haven't used guns (yet, except on some West Bank Palestinians), but they threw acid, solvent, garbage and paint on soldiers and fought like banshees, though they're recieving up to $300,000 relocation expenses. 54 Israeli soldiers were injured: one soldier seriously when he slipped off a 2nd story deliberately soaked with oil. Of course the settlers were encouraged by government subsidies and policy to settle there by uh,... Sharon.

If you can't keep the dozens of sleazy scandals of the Bushmen straight, SALON has compiled a list of 34 from January- now up to about 40. Mark Ames, editor of gonzo Russian alternative mag The EXILE, lists the endless contradictory gibberish the administration has claimed over the years on the number of battle ready Iraq soldiers/police- from 8000 to 200,000. Former co-editor Matt Taibbi managed to get the editor fired at the New York Press with an amazingly lame and tasteless "52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope."

text Copyright 2005 Michael Hammerschlag (use permitted with link)

Thursday, August 04, 2005


CREW IS ALL ALIVE + OK Times are EDT unless say "local".

1:20 am 8/7 EDT Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka: A life and death struggle played out for the imprisoned 7 man crew of the Russian rescue submersible PRIZE, whose propeller snagged on the aerial of a Russian coastal sub detecting hydrophone station (or the very long low frequency arrays) and fishing nets 623 ft below the ocean 43 miles off Kamchatka.... as they ran out of breathable air. This is a little sub designed for 1 day operation- officials first said they had air till Monday, then (midnight Fri) it was "over a day", then 18 hours, which means it will be lucky if they are alive by Sat. midnight- judging by the record of Russian official deceptions about the tragic and frustrating loss of the huge KURSK, which was so shallow it would have protruded 150 feet out of the water if stood on end- see Season of Plagues. Officials are alternately talking about fishing rope wrapped around propeller OR (when pressed) a snagged aerial, and claimed they were raising the sub with hooked or looped underneath cables, but Russian admiral Fyodorov said the antenna array is held down by 4 concrete anchors weighing 60 tons. Old stomping ground Moscow News, says reporters didn't believe fishing line story because there was no fishing there, but nets and junk are everywhere, including dead spots in the middle of the ocean.

Sources say ship carries 120 hours of air, but the normal crew is only 3 or 4, not 7. If trapped Thursday morning (NYT says longer) by 11pm EDT Sat they have been there 79 hours (or maybe another day more). Fresh reports are that they have chemical oxygen generators- which probably made the difference. The resting immobile crew has shut off heaters and most appliances, and donned thermal suits in the chilled titanium skinned ship (41-45 degrees), to preserve CO2 scrubbing and acoustic telephone power.

Sun 12:10am BULLETIN: 7pm Fox News says the British ROV with joint personel is at depth on site and snarl is only fishing net, which they are currently cutting off. I suspect this may be required cover story by the Russian military, but if true- rescue is imminent. (only Fox has live reports in US) One of the eccentricities of Russian officials is that they will keep lying even after other officials have admitted the truth, causing contradictory ping-ponging reports. 8:50pm CNN says INTERFAX says SUB IS FREE, and 11:26pm (4:26pm Sun local) that SUB HAS SURFACED, and 12:30am CREW IS ALL ALIVE + OK . The Scorpio had a problem and had to return to the surface after cutting all fishing/antenna cables but one, then the PRIZE rose to the surface after a second Scorpio effort removed the last fishing net from the nose. They had just enough remaining compressed air to blow the ballast to float up.

In a heroic international effort, a San Diego C-5a raced there with 40 specialists, two 4 ton 4x8x4ft Super Scorpio ROV's (remotely operated vehicle), that can cut through one inch (Scorpio 45 can cut 70mm) one report said) of cable, a Deep Drone 8000 ROV and ultra deep diving suits flew from South Carolina,; and the British Defense Ministry dispatched a six-man crew and a Scorpio 45 by RAF C-17 transport. Both planes landed by 5:00am EDT Sat morning (Petropavlovsk time is 17 hours later, GMT+13), - these guys can be saved if everything goes perfectly. A KNSD TV crew flying with the plane says they are transporting the ROV's by Russian ship 100 miles, arrival time is 6 hours later. Coordinated by the Norfolk based ISMERLO international sub rescue org; the instant response was partly due by late June multination Mediterranian Sorbet sub rescue exercises.

The Brit ROV ship reached it 5 pm Sat- (10am Sun there), the est. 73nd hour of their ordeal. The US ROV ship never even left the dock!!- allegedly waiting for advanced equipment on advice of some "Russian officials". Perhaps paranoid about US spying on their secret undersea gear and ashamed of the decrepit state of said gear- what a gambol if they were deliberately denied, and those poor men had died. Even next door Japanese were pointlessly sending a submersible by ship that wouldn't arrive till Monday or later (via Australia?), though the sailor's air may run out sometime Saturday? They have bitter custody disputes with the Russians over the Kuril Is. just south.

Stranded submariners don't just run out of oxygen, they are poisoned by accumulating exhalation CO2, with accompanying panic (I've tested the effects of this with a bucket in a bathtub- it isn't pretty). If they have enough lithium or calcium hydroxide canisters, CO2 can be absorbed. In the Kursk, the Russians refused foreign help till their mariners were long dead, though it was moot: a handful lasted only 4-10 hours in a freezing dark half flooded compartment after the experimental supersonic torpedo blew all the forward hatches off. Officials claimed they were talking to Kursk sailors 3 days after disaster.

There is anger now that the Navy waited up to 48 hours before requesting help, according to the commander Vyacheslav Miloshevsky's wife- they actually were stranded Wednesday, so actually were trapped for 4 days. It was kept secret for at least 24 hours, and first publicized when a crewman's wife called a radio station. Kommersant says the head of Navy Kuroyedov may be fired over this and the Kursk disaster. Though there was no problem with with the Russian craft, the near disaster is another of a series. Another nuclear submarine, the K159, being towed to the junkyard, sank in 2003 when the inflated collar collapsed, with the loss of over 9 lives. The BBC reports that just last month:
---"A nuclear submarine was to fire two liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but both got stuck in their silos. The next day, a sister ship succeeded in firing a missile - but it exploded soon after take-off.
"All were lucky the ICBM did not explode on the sub," the military analyst Pavel Felgengauer wrote in his column in the Moscow Times.----

Russian prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the affair, and their Navy plans to buy two $1.5-6 million Scorpios. How they got trapped comes from the Independent: --- "One of the submariners, Captain Valery Lepetyukha, said the submarine had been sent to investigate an underwater surveillance antenna that had got entangled in fishing nets. He said: "We inspected one side then the other side of the device, that is to say, we were not immediately tangled.Then we found a hanging rope and went around it. While going around it, we apparently were caught by the net. We had no light in the back."---- The submarine boys at the bottom blog think that the AS-28 was actually looking for American bugs on their listening station, the placing of which was famously described in the book Blind Mans Bluff.

The Russians spent much time draping, dragging or attaching lines to pull it up or into more shallow waters, reportedly with their own ROV- Tiger (which had no heavy duty cutter arms). As expected, a prop snag on anything substantial can't be shaken loose, and there was serious risk of damage to the sub- they dragged it 200 ft before "lines parted". If they could have raised it above 200 ft depth, divers could help them escape into the water with scuba gear, since it has an rare bottom hatch. But give the Russian's credit: they don't sit on their hands when confronted with a problem like NASA, when they refused to even looking at the doomed Columbia with a telescope ("we couldn't do anything anyway" -See next post). Pressure at that depth is 19 times surface pressure, some 280 lbs per square inch, so opening an external hatch would compress air to 1/19th the volume, by explosive freezing flooding.

The trapped AS-28 was built in 1989. It is about 44 feet long and 18.7 feet high and can dive to depths below 1,640 feet. A vessel of the same type was used in the rescue efforts that followed the Kursk disaster, and is similar to US DSRV's, which I've toured. Designed to mate and rescue crew off sunken subs, the little subs can take 25-40 men at a time. On such a deep submersible- the majority of space is filled by ballast tanks and/or gasoline. Putin has not yet commented, though he dispatched Defense Minister Ivanov, who was on the surface at the site.

People running out of air underwater is personally agonizing- since I was just cave diving in the fabulous cenotes and longest underground rivers/tunnels in the world (~100 miles but only did a few hundred meters) in the Yucatan last year (with warm salt and cool fresh layers). I once came not too far from experiencing it at the end of the Bay of Fundy, body surfing the massive tidal bore into quicksand (quickmud) in Truro, NS.

Russian Wire from Moscow Times

Submariners blog - many fascinating insights



HIT in BASRA: Intrepid courageous National Review and Christian Science Monitor reporter Steven Vincent went from the height of his profession- a July 31 editorial in NYT- to its bottom- kidnapped and murdered Aug 2 by corrupt or fake police for reporting the extremist Shiite takeover of Basra's police and universities, and their intimidation of women. He claimed hundreds a month were being assassinated by Shiite extremists and police associated with Moqtada al Sadr (75% according to sneering cops), while the Bridge over River Kwai Brits are blithely training them to a fine edge (you want to destroy the bridge??). Vincent had traveled for years without security among Iraqis and loved them, even dressing up as a pilgrim and attending the bloody flaggellations in the holiest Shiite Ashura celebrations in Karbala.

His excellent blog describes the chilling encounter with the Muqti cops [Eddie grabbed my arm and, smirking and snorting, shoved his cell phone in my face, where prominently displayed on its call screen was a mini-image of...the Twin Towers burning.], and trying to explain the situation to a decent naive US captain who replied,
"I mean, I've always believed that we shouldn't project American values onto other cultures--that we should let them be. Who is to say we are right and they are wrong?". - July 29

I mentioned this at the end of my Capital Times article OVER THERE (which Bochco just filched for his good new FX nepotistic series-Wed 10 pm)
"It's almost heartbreaking to hear our troops simplistically celebrate the election, but by their sacrifice, help install the Shiite Mullahs that have been the bane of our existence in Iran. Muqtada Al Sadr didn’t stop the violence because he saw the light, but because democracy was soon going to hand him the keys to the kingdom."

Fake or killer police are deeply terrifying- there is no defense for a reporter or anyone else- this also happened in Moscow. This stuff has much resonance for me: from end excerpt of my Putin's War on Media article, here's my deeply disturbing take on almost being whacked in Mockba:

[[[ Oct '93 1am, Varshavskaya, Moscow: Walking the 9 minutes home from the metro in a quiet secluded residential area, my worst nightmare became reality. A BMW slowed as it passed me, then continued. Directions, I thought, my brain having returned to its normal complacency after being kidnapped at gunpoint in St. Petersburg 2 years before. Fool. BMW's were the company cars of the Mafiya. 100 ft. from my building door, 4 huge guys appeared on an intersecting course, just as I had known it would happen. This was it- I'd never seen anyone near my building after midnight before. One of them didn't want to do it, though, and angled off from the others. "Where are you going, come on", they exhorted. Speed walking to the door, I sprinted to the 4th floor, caught the elevator to 8, and sent it to 6 to confuse them.. but within 30 seconds they were camped on my landing, loudly chatting for 5 minutes. It was a message.

They could have been sent by Mafiya, Communist, or Government bosses enraged at my articles (I’d criticized the Mafiya gangs, the Communist Parliament, Yeltsin’s crushing of other powers, the rampant corruption); a girlfriend’s other boyfriend; an envious neighbor; or dubiously I was just a random target of opportunity- a rich foreigner. I never knew. Like so many things there it was lost in a miasmic cloud of fear and ignorance. For the next week I circled around, crossing the mud and hills of the train tracks to approach from the other side, where I studied the building carefully. 2 days later a car idled at the entrance (also unprecedented) + I crouched for an hour in the cold, debating alternatives. Complaining to the useless local militsia just could lead to other future risks: for foreigners and journalists safety lay in anonymity. ]]]] - THE NEW EVIL EMPIRE- The Mafiya in Russia (available on special request)

text Copyright 2005 Michael Hammerschlag