Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Saturday, April 17, 2004
Scratch Another Terrorist

CNN has nothing, and neither has The Command Post at this moment, but over at DEBKA they're reporting the new leader of Hamas, Rantissi, will have to be replaced on account of being dead.

Apparently Israel dropped some high explosives on his car from the air, causing the number of terrorists in the world to decrease by one.

Friday, April 16, 2004
Bomb Defused in Brussels

The bomb disposal squad towed away a car which contained two hand-grenades linked to the fuel tank in Brussels today. I found out about it via Rantburg, where they pointed to this article at Expatica.

While it happened round noon, no mention was made of it on the state radio news bulletin at 18.00. Also, on the website of the state television news service there is no mention of it among the items that were broadcast in the evening news. I had to go to a section called 'quick news' to find this short article in the headlines. Near the end it mentions of a similar car-with-grenade being towed away a week ago, and also that the police suspects a settling of scores by criminals. No mention is made about terrorism, unlike the Expatica article which mentions Osama Bin Laden's latest letter.

One other cursory mention of this event I found was in the dispatches of the official Belgian news agency Belga: here.

Keeping an eye on this one...

Sprout Followup

Over at his blog Fainting in Coyles the chief editor of The Sprout is explaining why he published the autopsy pictures everybody in Belgium is talking about. He also speculates on the reason why a judge banned the further sale of the magazine issue in question, with a €1000 fine per copy still sold.

Thursday, April 15, 2004
Lies or Poor Marksmanship?

Recent claims about the Falujah fighting put the number of Iraqi dead at 600. If you believe Al Jazeera, 250 of those were women and 250 were children. That means 'only' 100 fighters. Either the U.S. Marines are very poor marksmen (which I doubt), or they are killing civilians on purpose (which I doubt even more) or somebody is lying (most likely).

Apart from counting the bodies, it seems there is no obvious way to get at the truth. And since the bodies are in an active war zone, it might be a while before decent inquiries are possible. At least, if nobody tampers with the evidence in the mean time (removing uniforms, killing extra civilians...)

There might exist a pretty straightforward technological solution to this problem however. These days, miniature digital cameras are very cheap, and data storage media are also getting less and less expensive. What if the U.S. military could just retrofit all their rifles and machine guns with a small camera which clips onto the barrel and uses a heat sensor (or some other method) to determine when the weapon is being fired. That way, there would be a record of the target of each shot fired.

If an opponent claimed hundreds of civilian dead, it would be quite easy to disprove by showing hundreds of pictures of legal military targets being hit instead.

Naturally there are some technical and operational hurdles to this idea, but I believe that they can all be overcome:
  • Camera falling into enemy hands: use encryption
  • Storage: take just a small picture that only covers the area where a shot would likely end up.
  • Out of storage space: just shoot without taking pictures
  • Battery life: since there is no LCD display to suck away the power like in a normal camera, a single battery could last quite long
  • ...

    What do you think? Worth trying? Waste of money?

    The Sprout Out of Line?

    Just heard that The Sprout Magazine has shocked Belgian media by publishing gruesome pictures from the Dutroux pedophile investigation. These pictures are part of the case file against Dutroux, but apparently everybody in the Belgian media has secured a copy of the entire file on DVD by now. But The Sprout is the only publication to actually print stuff as explicit and graphic as this from it.

    The Sprout's website claims it is doing this to expose the fact that Julie and Melissa, two of the children murdered in this case, did not die of starvation while their kidnapper was in jail as Dutroux claimed, but of torture and abuse.

    Personally, I think they could have made that claim without publishing the pictures. It would have been more respectful towards the parents, for one thing. Normally, I'm pretty much a free speech absolutist, and I still am. But that doesn't mean I have to approve of publishing just anything. I don't advocate using legal or other means to punish The Sprout for this, but in my eyes their reputation has taken a big hit. Shame on them!

    Monday, April 12, 2004
    Mogadishu 2?

    This article at Samizdata argues the point that Falujah is (against the expectations of the terrorists) no second Mogadishu. They are correct, in that it hasn't caused the U.S. to retreat, yet.

    But in a military sense, it is even worse than Mogadishu for the Americans. Remember, back then over a thousand Aidid warriors were blown away compared to nineteen U.S. casualties. Right now there are already more dead marines and still 'only' hundreds of dead jihadis/baathists/terrorists/civilians.

    The very fact that withdrawal is still not on the table means that the fabled 'U.S. aversity to casualties' isn't what it used to be...