Wednesday, March 26, 2003

If there was any doubt, we are definitely into the "fog of war". Witness, for instance, the reports of current actions in Basra. Last I heard (via NPR, about two hours ago), the official British reports were that they had seen mortars firing from positions in Basra into other positions in Basra, which they were guessing might be intended to suppress an internal revolt (if, that is, someone hadn't just screwed up with the map). From this, I have seen towers of speculation -- that there really is an internal rebellion, that the "internal rebellion" consists of "coalition" special forces, or by Shiites trained by the Americans or Brits, or that it's happening with logistical support from the Iranians -- or alternatively, for people with bitter enough memories of the Northern Ireland conflict, that the Brits just wanted to fire on the city, and made up an excuse. At best, we won't know for days; at worst, maybe never.

So, you just have to look at peoples' records, their sources, their sources' records, at how plausible it is that their sources are what they claim they are, and decide what, if anything, you want to believe. Assuming that you don't just curl up into a ball for a few days, and ignore the war completely, which may be the more rational course of action.

An example: There's a site I have seen cited with interest on several comment boards --, some of whose reports are available in English, e.g., here; they claim to be based on both a distillation of open source intelligence (i.e., journalistic and other reports), and selective leaks from Russian intelligence. Or not so selective -- many reports are attributed to communications intercepts from American and British units in the field, and the report I linked to actually goes further, claiming to summarize meetings at the Pentagon, and even an "online meeting" including, among others, Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Worrisome as it is to suppose that Russian intelligence could actually listen in on that sort of "online meeting", whatever that means, it is difficult to believe that anyone in Russia who had possession of those sorts of intercepts would allow them to be posted on a public web site -- translated back into English, no less.

Or at least, you have to hope. Because if those intercepts are even close to accurate, we are in deep, deep trouble.


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