December 8th, 2004

flora epacris

Seen recently at Berchtesgaden

Ever read Terry Pratchett's Hogfather? Excellent for Christmas, or midwinter. I think these are the critters that all the noise & light are there to shoo away in those long dark days.
There's been a fuss recently about whether the Sydney City Christmas decorations are up to scratch. I've been wondering if I should point out to all the people saying that in London, Paris, New York & so forth they have all these lights, that at Christmas time those cities are only getting maybe 4 hours of daylight. And not always very bright sunlight at that. Cold, slushy, grey & grim.
flora epacris

Another version of Gone With the Wind?

At his Rancho del Cielo retreat in California, President Ronald Reagan used to have a poster in his saddle room depicting himself as Clark Gable carrying Margaret Thatcher as Vivian Leigh upstairs in Gone with the Wind.

Made for friends of the Earth in the 1980s (or possibly CND)

The inestimably valuable 'alternative' (?) calendar of history notes, Our Daily Bleed,
(produced by Recollection Used Books and 'BleedMeister,' David Brown)

November 22nd

1982 -- US: "The MX is the right missile at the right time."

— Beloved & Respected Comrade Leader (bad)Acting President Reagan in a nationally televised speech in which he renames the deadly weapon "the Peacekeeper," prompting Dallas columnist Molly Ivins to wonder if it will be armed with "Peaceheads".

In 1985 Reagan announces plans to change the name to "Ditchdigger" & use the missile to dig a canal across Nicaragua.

Sat, 27 Nov 2004
Cost of war

In late October, The Lancet published an epidemiological study ( ) suggesting that the civilian death toll since the US invasion of Iraq was likely to exceed 100,000 (relative to the projected death rate from pre-invasion demographic figures).

(Note to those who don't believe The Lancet study methodology was accurate: the cluster survey explicitly excluded known hot-spots for violence, such as Fallujah. Neither does it assert that the increased death rate consists of civilian casualties inflicted directly by the occupiers. For a not-too-unreasonable critique of the study, see The Economist's commentary ( ).)

The flip side of the coin has now been revealed: CBS managed to get the Pentagon to admit the true scale of US casualties in Iraq -- and as with the civilian death toll, it's way higher than the news headlines suggest ( ). See, it's impossible to conceal the death toll (1230 troops killed in action), but the injuries are another matter. So far, 9300 troops have been injured in combat -- seriously enough that 5000 were unable to return to duty. Translation: limbs blown off, brain injuries, crippled for life, medical discharge territory. But wait, there's more: over 15,000 troops have been evacuated from Iraq with "non-battle injuries". "Non-battle injuries" covers just about anything not directly inflicted by the enemy -- if you're hit by a bullet it's a battle injury, but if your Hummer swerves off the road to avoid an IED and you break your neck in the resulting crash it's a "non-battle injury". Of course, this covers lesser conditions too -- psychiatric problems, dysentery and other diseases, and so on -- but that's 15,000 medical evacuees who warrant a flight to a hospital in Germany, and 20% of them never rejoin their units.

So the total US casualty count so far is over 25,000, with over 9,000 permanently out of combat (dead or crippled). As 300,000 troops have been rotated through Iraq, that makes for a total casualty rate of around 9%. To draw an analogy to another insurgency in which a western nation got pinned down in street fighting over a period of years, the average rate of attrition is roughly ten times the peak sustained by the British Army during the Northern Ireland Troubles at their worst (circa 1972-74) -- but as the rate of attacks on US personnel is increasing rapidly, I suspect it's much worse than these figures suggest.
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