Women not designed to take life

Here is a nice piece of nostalgia from the newspaper Daily Mail of October, 1 1942 a quote from Major-General Jean Knox:

picture from my flickr photos

Women have won a merited place in the active army, but they cannot be trained to kill. I don’t believe woman can take life as men can. I know nothing of Russia, but I know women. Women give life. They are not designed to take life, even in total war.

So is this a complement or a criticism? It makes you wonder if it is better or worse to be “designed” to take life? On the other hand those struggling for equality find it positive that men and women are equally allowed to take lives in war. Personally I would like to disqualify all genders from taking lives.

Torture Established

CNN reports that the organization Physicians for Human Rights have conducted clinical evaluations of 11 former detainees from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan. The report from Physicians for Human Rights shows that the prisoners have been tortured

“We found clear physical and psychological evidence of torture and abuse, often causing lasting suffering,” said Dr. Allen Keller, a medical evaluator for the study.

In a 121-page report, the doctors’ group said that it uncovered medical evidence of torture, including beatings, electric shock, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, sodomy and scores of other abuses.

The report is prefaced by retired U.S. Major Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led the Army’s investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in 2003. “There is no longer any doubt that the current administration committed war crimes,” Taguba says. “The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account.”

The rights group demands:

• “Repudiate all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”;

• Establish an independent commission to investigate and report publicly the circumstances of detention and interrogation at U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay;

• Hold individuals involved in torturing detainees accountable through criminal and civil processes; and

• Monitor thoroughly the conditions at U.S.-run prisons all over the world.

Utility of Force

The University of Bath has a podcast with General Sir Rupert Smith. Sir Rupert is the author of the insightful book The Utility of Force: The art of war in the modern world (amazon). His main thesis is that war is changing from the tradition industrial war into a war amongst the people.

The essential difference is that the use of force is no longer used to win a battle but to create a condition  in which the strategic result is achieved in other means. The strategic object is to alter the opponents intentions as opposed to win over him or to remove him.

Senseless security

Bruce Schneier has an excellent blog, Schneier on Security, where he often lists examples of pointless security but today his list of senseless anti-terror actions was both funny and scary:

The “War on the Unexpected is being fought everywhere.

In Australia:

Bouncers kicked a Melbourne man out of a Cairns pub after paranoid patrons complained that he was reading a book called The Unknown Terrorist.

At the U.S. border with Canada:

A Canadian firetruck responding with lights and sirens to a weekend fire in Rouses Point, New York, was stopped at the U.S. border for about eight minutes, U.S. border officials said Tuesday.[…]

The Canadian firefighters “were asked for IDs,” Trombley said. “I believe they even ran the license plate on the truck to make sure it was legal.”

In the UK:

A man who had gone into a diabetic coma on a bus in Leeds was shot twice with a Taser gun by police who feared he may have been a security threat.

In Maine:

A powdered substance that led to a baggage claim being shut down for nearly six hours at the Portland International Jetport was a mixture of flour and sugar, airport officials said Thursday.

Fear is winning. Refuse to be terrorized, people.

Don't believe in (cyber) war

Once again one of Sweden’s largest daily papers refers to a report about the state of Swedish national IT security. Apparently we are totally unprepared and vulnerable to everything that’s out there. Two things really annoy me about reports like this:

Firstly, very few people seem to question the motives of these “expert” reports. Most of them are written either by companies attempting to provide systems intended to solve the problems they discover, or (as this latest report) is provided by organizations (often governmental bodies) that need to show that there is work to be done. The implication is that the organization should be funded to carry out the work.

Secondly, if the world was so unprotected and vulnerable to cyberwar and cyberterrorism then why is it that most of our technology related collapses, disasters and problems do not originate from bad people, purposely intending to do us harm but rather by faulty systems, incompetent staff, greedy management and pure incompetence. Just look at technology related disasters such as Five Mile Island, Chernobyl, Bhopal and Exxon Valdez.

Terrorism and war remain on the primitive level of bombs and rockets – incompetence and greed accompany high level technical systems.

Army 2.0

You might be excused for getting the impression that the US military is struggling to understand how they should be using Internet technology. On the one hand they recently began an effort to control what their soldiers are posting online (War blogs silenced) and now they have blocked access to sites such as YouTube and Myspace.

The reason for this? Bandwidth.

The US says the use is taking up too much bandwidth and slows down the military’s computer system.

But a US Strategic Command spokesman said a “secondary benefit” was to help operational security.

At the same time the military have realised the potential impact of sites such as YouTube and have started putting material online.

The Pentagon only recently started posting its own videos on YouTube, showing soldiers in action in Iraq in a move designed to reach out to a younger audience and to show the successes of the US military. (More on this over here).

But the best quote in this BBC article is the honest: “The cyberspace battle space was not one that we were particularly operating well in” Lt Col Christopher Garver, US Army.

Yes… we have noticed…

Lex Ferenda has more including the order (AP report | full text of order) and a increased list of blocked sites:

â??To maximize the availability of DoD network resources for official government usage, the Commander, JTF-GNO, with the approval of the Department of Defense, will block worldwide access to the following internet sites beginning on or about 14 May 2007.â??


War blogs silenced

Wired News reports that In a directive (dated 19th April) US troops have been ordered not to blog without first clearing each post with a superior officer. There is also a discussion going on at the Wired Blog Danger Room.

Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq — the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.

The new rules (.pdf) obtained by Wired News require a commander be consulted before every blog update.

It’s hardly a surprising move. It’s doubtful whether blogs were revealing security information (US troops should be better trained in this case) but on several occasions information on blogs and films of YouTube (for example Iraqi kids run for water) have caused embarrassing situations which hardly have improved anyone’s opinions of the war.

Landmines – ban the technology

Certain technological artefacts should never have been designed, manufactured or used. Among these is the landmine. Its horrible impact is not only on the combatants but rather on the civil population which needs to live with the slowly decaying lethal devices for decades after the land was sown with them. Organisations such as the No More Landmines in the UK are working to ban them as legitimate weapons. These organisations need all the support that they can get.

The problem is that people are interested in a conflict while it is active and making headlines. When “peace” is achieved public interest declines considerably. This is unfortunate as the landmines remain. The cost of removing landmines is extremely high and almost impossible to meet for worn torn countries.

So how does one attempt to ensure that people’s interest remains focused on the landmine problem? Well artist & activist Will St. Leger came up with a novel and shocking approach. On Sunday 1st April he placed 100 fake ‘landmines’ made from stenciled metal plates in park around Dublin, Ireland.

Will explains: “The reason for doing this was to get people asking themselves “what if the world I walked in was littered with landmines?” They’re nearly all gone now, the Police took away most of them when a tourist called the emergency number to report ‘Landmines’. Afterwards, I wondered who the people of Laos, Cambodia and Iraq gonna call when they step on real landmine?”


 (via Wooster Collective)

2nd International Faslane Academic Blockade and Conference

Call for participation in the 2nd International Faslane Academic Blockade and Conference

Wednesday 27th-Thursday 28th June 2007

Trident Nuclear Weapons Base, Faslane, Near Glasgow, Scotland


The 2nd Faslane International Academic Blockade & Conference (FAB Conference) will provide a forum for presenting and discussing papers focused on the impacts of, and alternatives to, the nuclear state. In particular it will focus on the academic arguments against Blairâ??s proposed â??son of Tridentâ?? which it is estimated will cost the UK £76 billion by 2030, equivalent to the cost of bringing our CO2 emissions down by 60% over the same period. The conference is simultaneously a blockade of the Trident nuclear submarine base at Faslane, since it will take place directly at the North Gate of the base, on the road. All who work and study in universities,  including students, and all who are trying to think critically about the nature of the world, are invited to join us.


You can participate in a range of ways. You may present a paper at the conference. We hope that papers will take a variety of forms and reflect a variety of perspectives and disciplines. You are also very welcome to come along to listen to papers and participate in discussion groups. If you choose to do so, you may join those who are willing to continue the conference on the road in order to close down the base, thus risking arrest. We also need participants who do not risk arrest and who can, for example, continue our educational work by handing out papers to workers trying to enter the base on the morning of the 28th. Finally, our action overlaps with a studentsâ?? week-long anti-nuclear summer camp, taking place close to Faslane from the 28th. The students will join us on the 28th and would welcome you to stay on and offer workshops or talks at their camp if you wish.



Register for the conference by emailing D.Webb@leedsmet.ac.uk with the following info:

1)         your full name, university affiliation (if any), contact details

2)         whether or not you intend to present a paper

3)         whether or not you intend to blockade the gate and thus risk arrest

4)         whether or not you are likely to require accommodation

5)         which days you intend to participate (27th, 28th, any days of the student camp?)


If you intend to present a paper, please also supply an abstract to D.Webb@leedsmet.ac.uk, of 50-100 words, by 16th May 2007. You are welcome to send full papers before the event which we can upload onto our webpage (see http://www.faslane365.org/academics_and_scholars). Papers should be no longer than 4000 words.

If you have not already done so, please sign up to our email list to ensure you receive further information: send a blank email to faslane.academic.block-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.


The 2nd FAB conference is part of Faslane 365, a one-year continuous peaceful blockade of the Trident base at Faslane from 1st October 2006 to 30th September 2007. See http://www.faslane365.org. The Faslane 365 actions are entirely non-violent, respectful of people, and are part of the broader peace and global justice movement.


We look forward to seeing you on the 27th and 28th of June! The FAB Organisers: Stellan Vinthagen, Justin Kenrick, Jill Gibbon, Maud Bracke, Becka Kay, Catherine Eschle, Mark Blaxter and David Webb

Torture and the Future

Torture and the Future: Perspectives from the humanities ( Critical Issues in America, January 2007 – June 2007) is a companion website to an exhibition at the UC Santa Barbara. The exhibition is filled with interesting events which unfortunately all take place over there. I would have loved to listen to some of the lectures and it is unfortunate that they are not available online. However the site also contains a very good links section filled with online recommended reading and other material of interest. This alone is well worth the visit.