• Who’s Winning in Ukraine? Orwell (and Baghdad Bob)

    September 2, 2022 // Comments Off on Who’s Winning in Ukraine? Orwell (and Baghdad Bob)

    Score another point for author George Orwell as his masterwork 1984 continues to serve as an instruction manual for our society.

    In the world of the future, war was a constant feature, though the sides changed frequently. Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia are the three fictional super nation states in George Orwell‘s 1949 dystopian novel. Using the government’s near-perfect control of the media and ability to rewrite history on the fly, whenever an old ally became the new enemy, everything was switched around to make it appear “Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.” Lies were the news. We are close to something similar with Ukraine, where it has become impossible to know who is advancing and who is retreating. The American media has become so entangled with the unreality of the war that Ukraine should have defeated Russia many times over and again by now.

    Start with that nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia. We are told the Russians hold the plant. We are also told by the Ukrainian side that a mass nuclear incident is ready to happen if the shelling of the plant does not cease. UN inspectors are on the ground to tsk tsk over what might happen if more bombs hit the plant and the cooling systems fail. Left wholly unsaid is if the Russians hold the plant and the Ukrainians want it back, exactly which side is doing the dangerous shelling? Are the Russians shelling themselves? Yet even while Ukraine attacks the plant the western media buy into the narrative that it is the Russia who are endangering all of Europe. It makes no sense but then again neither does the phrase “Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia” when you clearly still remember (but dare not say out loud) that last month you were sure the war was not with Eastasia but with Eurasia. And no matter the Russians have held the plant since March. Six months later it is time for this story to surface.

    Articles wringing their hands over the danger openly mock our common sense, beginning by saying “The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was quick to call the shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant a ‘war crime.'” “We survived a night that could have stopped the story, the history of Ukraine, the history of Europe,” said Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. “An explosion at Zaporizhzhia would have equaled ‘six Chernobyls,'” he said, upping the odds by a factor of six with just words. But… but…

    We are told the Ukrainians, when not not shelling the nuke plant, are engaged in a titanic offensive to recapture areas to the east previously taken by the Russians. None of it matters in the details, the tiny towns being fought over either strategic points when Ukraine captures them or unimportant hamlets when still held by Russia. Sources for this information are equally mocking, made-for-the-internet organizations like Kyiv Independent (Bodies Exhumed from Mass Grave Show Signs of Violence), The New Voice of Ukraine (World must be ready for Russia’s disintegration), Institute for the Study of War (Russia’s ‘strategic defeat’ could threaten his regime) or Ukrayinska Pravda (Ukrainian forces destroy Russian Mi-8 helicopter and kill over 120 Russian soldiers.) These sources have all the credibility of a late night infomercial — order within the next ten minutes and we’ll double the number of Russians claimed killed! There are also some curious patterns if you watch closely — when Zelensky stopped showcasing photos of kids with guns and old women making Molotovs the Russians stopped targeting “civilians” an apartment complexes.

    As for the hamlets, the video reminds one of the earliest days of the conflict when six months ago bodies in the streets were labeled freedom fighters willing to stand up to Russian tanks while bodies buried were the results of atrocities. It all lacks context. Here’s eight seconds of a tank blowing up. Where was it shot? When? Was the explosion caused by a mine, a missile, or something internal to the tank? Is the tank Russian or Ukrainian? In most cases the media outlet has no real idea of the answers to those questions, never mind who shot the video towards what end. Even if they stumble on to the basic who-what-where, the exploding tank video is devoid of context. Was that the lead tank hit, stopping the Russian advance toward a village? Or was it a Russian tank that lingered in an open field and got picked off in a lucky shot, strategically without much consequence. One assumes clever hands can change a mini-Ukrainian flag to a spray-painted Z as necessary, because most of the hardware used by both sides is the same. Some of the video might as well be doctored Ohio State-Michigan footage. It would accomplish the same goal.

    Ask Baghdad Bob how it works. As one commenter put it, he’d likely mimic Western press reports about Ukraine’s “lightning offensive.” Nearly all of MSM use the word “humiliating” to describe Russia’s losses. Russian defenses “collapsed” and they “fled in panic.” This was widely attributed to the supposed “exhaustion” and “low morale” of Russian troops. As a result, the battle lines have been “redrawn,” the war’s contours “reshaped.” Putin is said to be “livid and “isolated.” The “Ukrainian victory shattered Russia’s reputation as a military superpower.”

    At one point Ukraine boasted it destroyed 509 Russian tanks using shoulder fired missiles. Maybe; one of the techniques of modern propaganda is to throw out some outrageous number, challenge people to disprove it, and then shout “you can’t disprove it so I’m right.” So no proof. But history suggests 509 man-on-tank kills is ridiculous. During Gulf War 1.0, one of the largest tank battles of modern times at 73 Easting saw Coalition forces destroy only 160 Iraqi tanks, and that was using the M-1 tank with its sophisticated aiming tech and night vision. Even at the famed Battle of the Bulge only 700 tanks from both sides were destroyed.

    American media has mostly pulled its correspondents out of the fighting; all the network stars got themselves some images of shells whizzing by for their sizzle show reels and every refugee seemingly was interviewed at least twice. The refugees proved marvelously articulate, speaking in talking points and wrapping up with slogans to never see defeat or something equally polished. Apparently audiences in America lapped it all up; tickets to this show run in the billions while you can go see Top Gun again for under 20 bucks.

    The rest of the victory over Eastasia has long been forgotten. But remember Snake Island’s defense? Remember all the times Russia was going to just run out of bombs or missiles? (Russia Turns to Old Tanks as It Burns Through Weapons in Ukraine; Russian Troops Stay on Border with No Food and Communications) Remember the stalled Russian convoy, the columns which supposedly had plumb run out of gas, the mighty drones which killed a hundred times their weight in Russians (Wolverines!) and all the other bloodthirsty tidbits served up. But coincidence as Ukrainian victories seem to coincide with U.S. announcements that another couple of billion dollars in aid are inbound.

    So who is winning? Who knows?

    Here are some Twitter resources for alternative views from the MSM on the conflict in Ukraine. All are interesting and worth reading with an open mind; none are guaranteed correct, not all claim to be neutral, and not all are endorsed. Try @mtracey, @imetatronink, @FOOL_NELSON, @ErnestLemingway, @WaywardRabbler, @witte_sergei, @RWApodcast, @TheWillPorter, @aaronjmate, @caitoz, @Antiwarcom. Also https://www.youtube.com/c/AlexanderMercourisReal, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiBR6Z16tXxC5mQO3nsSBEg, and https://bigserge.substack.com.

    As an example of alternate thought, try this: “People, to put it bluntly, don’t know anything about war. They don’t know that armies use up lots of vehicles in a high intensity conflict, and so a picture of a burning tank seems very important to them. They had never heard of MLRS before this year, so the HIMARS seems like a futuristic wonder weapon. They don’t know that ammo dumps are a very common target, so videos of big explosions seem like a turning point. Ukraine enthusiasts eagerly propagate Ukrainian claims, no matter how absurd, but the information coming from the Russian side mostly takes the form of dry briefings from the MOD. Ukraine is playing a Marvel movie, Russia is putting on a webinar.”

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Other Ideas

    Understanding Things: That Stalled Russian Convoy in Ukraine

    March 24, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    The amount of disinformation coming out of the Ukraine war is unsurpassed in modern history. Unlike the glory days when outlets like CNN sent knowledgeable reporters into combat zones looking for actual information, today most MSM coverage is based on borrowed social media video, or just. made. up.

    The problem with the former, video from social media, is it lacks context. Here’s eight seconds of a tank blowing up. Where was it shot? When? Was the explosion caused by a mine, a missile, or something internal to the tank? Is the tank Russian or Ukrainian? In most cases the media outlet has no real idea of the answers to those questions, never mind who shot the video towards what end. Even if they tumble on to the basic who-what-where, the exploding tank video is devoid of context. Was that the lead tank hit, stopping the Russian advance toward a village? Or was it a Russian tank that lingered in an open field and got picked off in a lucky shot, strategically without much consequence. At that point it is just war porn, a little jolt for the viewer. Such videos were immensely popular among the terrorists in Iraq; nearly every one captured had some random video on his phone of a US vehicle being blown apart by a roadside IED. Now the same thing is on MSNBC.

    The bigger problem is the media’s willingness to make things up, and then reinforce each other’s “reporting” by agreeing on what they have made up. Let’s disassemble one such episode.

    The media found online photos of a Russian convoy some 40 miles long. Within hours those images had become a story — the Russians had run out of gas just miles from Kiev, stalling their offensive. That soon led to think pieces claiming this was evidence of Russian military incompetency, corruption, and proof Ukraine would soon win. Soon enough Reuters was agreeing with CNN who agreed with NYT: stalled, no gas.

    Leaving aside the idea that perhaps no one on earth absent some Russian generals actually knew why the convoy was not moving, the media created a reason and confirmed each other. If you follow the right people on Twitter you can sometimes watch them form these consensuses on issues, journalist all thousands of miles away from the scene with no information on hand nudging one another into the narrative. It’s kind of like watching a time-lapse film of water freezing into ice. So are the Russians out of gas?

    Consider the lack of supporting evidence. Fuel travels through the same logistics chain that beans and  bullets do, and the Russians do not seem to lack for ammunition. Artillery shells are big heavy things, and there seem to be plenty of those making it to the troops on the ground. The Russians have over a million men in the field and absent one blurry TikTok purportedly showing some shoplifting, seem to be feeding them. If a million men needed to shoplift three meals a day it would not be hard to discover. We have also seen no evidence Russians are looting fuel dumps as they make their way across Ukraine. Russians are flying some 200 air sorties a day, many of which are helicopter flights from inside Ukraine. Each can use hundreds of gallons of fuel a day, never mind ammunition and spare parts, all of which must be hauled in. And look past that single stalled convoy; Russian armored thrusts are moving across vast swaths of land to the south without any concern for fuel. The empirical evidence suggests if anything there is plenty of gas. If not, that “stalled” convoy on the outskirts of Kiev is only about 100 miles from the Belarus border, a very short transit for fuel trucks on paved roads Russia controls.

    On the other side, if the Ukrainian forces had any information the Russians were low on gas their strategy would look different. You might see a full-on effort to attack fuel dumps, using Ukrainian air or drone forces, or even ground troops. You’d see Ukrainians blowing up gas stations and fuel handling facilities as they retreated. Instead of the exciting video of Javelins hitting tanks, you’d see everything from hand grenades to Molotovs blowing up fuel trucks. A tank without gas is already dead, what they military calls a soft kill, at much lower expense than destroying a modern tank. You might also see the Ukrainians trying for a much more mobile defense, ceding territory and making the Russians chase them until they run out of gas. There have been no signs of any of this, mostly the opposite actually as the Ukrainians set up static defensive lines on the outskirts of cities. There is literally nothing to support the MSM’s contention that the convoy ran out of gas.

    There were also MSM reports the Ukrainians had made significant attacks against the parked vehicles. While no doubt some skirmishes must have taken place along the 40 mile stretch, the fact that the convoy remained bunched up nose-to-bumper and not dispersed suggests no one was very worried about being attacked. The soldiers openly slept on the ground, it is not clear from the photos that air defenses were aggressively deployed, and overall it looks more like soldiers killing time than soldiers preparing to repel attackers. Though the MSM was in no position to know anything about the soldiers’ morale, they commented on it endlessly.

    Of course the convoy did start to move, and in a very predictable way. The textbook approach to using armor against an urban area is to surround it, besiege it, cut off food, water, power, and communications, and then if the defenders will not surrender, use artillery to either force them out or destroy them. Such an attack has to be coordinated 360 degrees so if some troops arrive early they must wait for the others to show up. This is what is happening now in the city of Mariupol. What is not done is to drive straight into town, where the narrow streets grant cover to defenders. The “stalled” convoy appears to have waited until Russian forces advancing from the south had made sufficient progress toward Kiev before spreading out west of the city and beginning bombardment.

    One convoy and one falsely reported story matter little in the middle of a vast war. But they serve as a clear example of how far the media has fallen, to the point where outlets like the BBC have become little more than propaganda mouthpieces, creating a fake narrative out of whole cloth and peddling it to an increasingly non-critical western media consumer.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Other Ideas