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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Sewer Rat

How fitting is this?

Based on my own recent work in Iraq, I know that Saddam Hussein's last place of refuge was a septic tank.

During my tour in Iraq, I managed 75 reconstruction projects with the 4th Infantry Division in the “Sunni Triangle� near to where Saddam was captured. These projects included sewage disposal and sewage treatment systems, along with the refurbishment and construction of many septic tank systems. The cramped underground chamber next to the hut where Saddam had been hiding matches a common septic tank design found everywhere in Iraq.

Here is a passage I wrote for the U.S. Army's "Iraqi Construction Assessment Guide":

"The most common form of sewage system outside of the biggest cities would be a septic tank. Septic tanks are not like the ones found in the U.S. They come in two basic forms, block or metal tank. In the block type, a hole is dug into the earth next to the building. Then an Iraqi cinderblock, brick or concrete block structure is built. The bricks or blocks are covered with mortar to make a smooth surface. It is covered with a solid or beam concrete ceiling similar to other structures. Into this the main or sub-main drainage lines are run. A small metal hatch is usually put into the ceiling of the tank to allow the tank to be emptied when full."

In rural Iraq where Saddam was captured, there is no sewage treatment available. Most Iraqis build their own version of a septic tank to dispose of their waste. These are built by first digging a hole in the ground about 1-2 meters deep. The hole is then lined with bricks or concrete cinder blocks to form walls. In areas where there are no vacuum trucks to suck up the sewage, the bottom of the tank is not sealed with bricks but left open to the dirt.

This allows for the liquid waste to soak into the ground as a form of leach field. Often salt is added to the dirt bottom to assist in the break up of the waste material. The bricks are covered with mortar to form a smooth waterproof surface to keep the waste from sticking to the walls.

Steel beams are placed over the hole and the spaces between the beams are filled with bricks, which are placed in a slight arch with gypsum instead of mortar as a binding agent, as it dries faster.

A small hole is left in the top of the septic tank to allow it to be emptied as it fills up. Often a pipe is run to the tank to allow sewage to be poured into the tank without having to remove the access cover.

In photos of Saddam's hideout, the mortar-over-brick construction is easily seen. In fact, the bricks are exposed in some spots where the mortar covering is worn away. In the roof of the hole, the support beams can be seen. Around the ventilation fan new gypsum is apparent which means that this was added after the hole was built. It was not needed for the original design or it would have been mortared into place.

The location of the hole near a hut only reinforces the idea that this was originally a locally-built septic tank. Most likely, the hole was emptied of sewage and the dirt bottom expanded horizontally to allow for better hiding.

This is supported by the reaction of news reporters who had crawled into the hiding hole. They all mention the terrible stench of the place. Also, a nearby ditch had recently been put to use as a latrine, which indicates that the septic tank for the hut was not available.

From everything seen, it is apparent that Saddam had converted the septic tank of the hut where he lived into a bolt-hole to hide in if coalition forces approached. It turns out to be an unbelievably fitting form of irony. Saddam was found cowering in a septic tank like the vermin he is.

At last, the “sewer rat� has been put in a proper cage, even if it is an improvement over his last quarters.
(Soldiers for the Truth)

Yeah, I thought so.

Friday, December 19, 2003

You Want Big Bunnies?

You can't handle the big bunnies.

Calvin attracted more than his share of comments. If you folks like big bunnies, you'll love Bodmin:

Bodmin is not available for adoption, but he's presently tipping the scales at something like twenty pounds.

Just for reference, bunnies range from two pounds (for really small dwarves) to four pounds (for the incomparable Dutch) to seven pounds (for the typical bunny) to twelve (for the giants). Bodmin is obviously head and ears above the others.

As you know, bunnies sometimes attack sheep (because they're there). In such a contest, I'd bet on Bodmin. Wouldn't you?

Shoe-Shine Boy Speaks

And you wouldn't believe what he says:

The Butcher of Baghdad has repeatedly insisted during this week's sessions that he is still president of Iraq and said his military and government never surrendered during the war, U.S. officials said.

At times, he's the cocky killer who balks at the simplest orders from his jailers - such as being asked to stand during some of the questioning.

"He's saying things like 'I'd like to sit down now. I'm the president of Iraq. You wouldn't treat your own president this way,'" said a U.S. intelligence official.

Sources said the American interrogators, in an attempt to break through that hubris, are repeatedly telling him that he is no longer president of Iraq.
(New York Post)

When Saddam surrendered to the Fourth Infantry, he surrendered not only himself, but his title and status as a combatant. That's why his brain is yet free of bullets.

Is he really revoking his surrender? And is that a danger or an opportunity?

Libya Surrenders

WASHINGTON -- Libya will allow international inspectors to enter the country and search for weapons of mass destruction, President Bush announced Friday.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has admitted trying to develop weapons of mass destruction but now plans to dismantle all such programs, Bush said. Earlier, British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a similar announcement.

Britain and the United States have been talking about the issue with Libya for nine months, Blair said.
(Fox News)
(emphasis added)

Score another for speaking softly!

Note for "soft power" enthusiasts: it only works when you're carrying a big stick.

Thursday, December 18, 2003


Delaney is one daffy bunny:

Delaney is a delightful bunny to have around the house. She is spayed, perfect with her litterbox, and weighs about 9 lbs. Delaney is a happy-go-lucky girl. She comes running when you call her name and is always happy to see you when you walk through the door. She adores her stair steps spending time both on top and in them. Delaney recently learned a new trick-binkying on the couch! She runs back and forth, back and forth, shaking her head, leaping, and just plain having a blast. She cracks us up. Delaney is such a fun bun and always keeps us laughing. And she's cute too!
(Columbus, OH HBS)

Any bunny who likes to throw binkies is one happy bunny:

The happiest bunny expression is commonly called a "binky." It's impossible to mistake for anything else, and the first time you see one you will probably wonder if the poor thing is having a convulsion. When a bunny binkies, it jumps into the air and twists its head and body in opposite directions (sometimes twice) before falling back to the ground. This can be done while standing in one place, or while running, which is really weird looking, and is sometimes called the "happy bunny dance." A bunny can even turn 180o in midair. All this is a bunny's way of telling you straight out that it is happy and overall pleased with you and its life. Some bunnys binky a lot and some hardly at all, even if they are being treated well. Everyone has their own temperment.
(The Language of Lagomorphs)

Anyway, if you want a laugh, go visit Delaney at the adoptables page. She's got a couple of binky movies (which require Apple Quicktime). Pure comedy genius! And isn't that what makes a great pet?

What to do with the Shoe Shine Boy?

(If you say "Saddam" with the short "A," (Sad-damn), it apparently sounds like shoe-shiner in Arabic. Or so we've been told.)

If this post were an episode of Family Feud, I suspect you could easily guess the survey's number one answer: tar, feather and hang him high. However there is an alternative. Here's Rand Fishbein's proposal:

The U.S.-backed Coalition and the nascent Iraqi government should think beyond retribution and cleverly map out a strategy for using Saddam to further their long-term objectives namely, de-radicalizing the Middle East. Saddam and his men will get the punishment they deserve, to be sure. Suffering the depravations of prison life for the rest of their days is bad enough. Serving as spokesmen in a freedom campaign is an added humiliation they and their families will simply have to bear. But that is what must be done to demonstrate to the 500 million inhabitants of the Middle East that evil in the modern world will be given no quarter.

The first order of business is for Saddam and his associates to publicly repudiate their past behavior and apologize for the death and destruction they perpetrated on the region. After that, they should be compelled to appear in what might only be described as public-service announcements, renouncing the use of violence and calling on their followers to lay down their arms. Via television and radio Saddam should speak directly to the leaders of the Middle East imploring them to free their countries of oppression. What a powerful and empowering message this would be.

To his fellow despots in Syria, Libya, Pakistan, and Iran, Saddam's new invocation should be clear and to the point: Tyranny in the service of Arab nationalism or Islamic radicalism is destructive and ultimately self-defeating. Pluralism and respect for minorities must be the cornerstone of a new Middle East or your fate will be the same as mine.
(National Review)

Any takers?

Thought so.

One Fruity Greek

I was just browsing along, minding my own business, when I came across the funniest sentence in the English language:

An art exhibition in Athens celebrating the Olympics features a photo of a man having sex with a water melon.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003


Here's Calvin:

(Colorado HBS)

Calvin hasn't any description, but he's either an albino or New Zealand bunny. And isn't he GIGANTIC? I bet he's the scourge of cats!

A word about cats and bunnies: apparently they can sometimes get along. While one's a predator and the other's prey, from my experience I can say that the bunny usually attacks the cat, and not the other way around. You're probably asking: why is that?

Let's consider the cat: he's descended from a line of lone hunters. When he meets one of his cousins, a contest might be in the offing. But with all those sharp teeth and claws, both must be circumspect.

On the other hand, bunnies are accustomed to living in large groups, and are always jockeying for rank on the grooming ladder. When a bunny encounters a cat, he thinks: "time to show you who's boss!"

As you'd expect, getting a bunny and a cat to live together all depends on the cat. Will it tolerate the occasional nip on the flank? If yes, the two can be friends (as long as the cat knows its place). If no, I fear an impending tragedy...

Left Out

Poor lefties can't cope with another US victory. Greg Yardley writes a helpful roundup:

It's unfortunate that some Americans place partisan domestic politics over the removal of a murderous dictator, something the entire world should rightfully celebrate. However, this wasn't unexpected. Leftist authors, political commentators, and organizations have long been implying that anything contributing to the electoral defeat of President Bush was fine with them, even the unfortunate deaths of American soldiers abroad. When good news comes out of Iraq, they're forced to frantically downplay it.
(Front Page Magazine)

The line between critical dissent and Tokyo Rose is getting awfully thin, don't you think?

Best of the Web

The Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web" really rocks today. Read the whole thing. (And I'm long overdue in owing them a reciprocal link.)

Centennial of Flight: The Blooper Reel

Today is airplane day, hooray! It's also the day every news organization is obligated to write about aviation news. A couple of notable errors:

A Florida television station breaks the news about a couple who may have a piece of the original Wright Flyer. And the picture on the page? It's the wrong airplane.

Strategy Page (one of my favorite sites) lists the 10 fastest flights. Curiously they omit the Buran and all of Rockwell's Orbiters. What's up with that?

In the post, Strategy Page admits that spacecraft returning from orbit are the fastest manned vehicles, but omits them from the list. But consider the X-15: it was rocket-powered, it needed a first stage (B-52) to get aloft, it needed a reaction control system to maneuver outside the atmosphere, and it glided back to ground. Why does it get the nod, while the Shuttle does not? Just asking...

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The End of the UN

I think this bit from Mark Steyn is illuminating:

...The one consistent feature of the post-9/11 era is the comprehensive failure of the international order. The French use their Security Council veto to protect Saddam. The EU subsidises Palestinian terrorism. The International Atomic Energy Agency provides cover for Iran's nuclear ambitions. The UN summit on racism is an orgy of racism.

All these institutions do is enable nickel'n'dime thugs to punch above their weights. The New York Times, sleepwalking through the 21st century on bromides from the Carter era, wants the UN to run Saddam's trial because one held under the auspices of the Americans would "lack legitimacy". Au contraire, it's the willingness of Kofi Annan, Mohammed el-Baradei, Chris Patten, Mary Robinson and the other grandees of the international clubrooms to give "legitimacy" to Saddam, Kim Jong-Il, Arafat, Assad and co that disqualifies them from any role in Iraq. I've come to the conclusion that the entire international system needs to be destroyed.

Yes, and soon. The United Nations is an American gift to the world (see the San Francisco Declaration). And look what the world has done with it. Let's agree that the experiment is a failure and shut it down.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Lefties mourn Saddam, and (natch) hate Bush

No doubt you've seen several round-ups of what's on offer at DU or indymedia. From their sentiments you can reasonably conclude that the left wing is sad about Saddam's capture. Are they still qualified to be considered as our loyal opposition? I'm not so sure.

Hollywood and the entertainment industry are full of famous lefties. Every time one steps on a soapbox, I'm just a little bit more disappointed. And I'm especially saddened to hear Margaret Cho's latest missive.

I like Ms. Cho's humor. She alternates between finding funny vignettes from her immigrant parents (classic fish-out-of-water stuff) and describing perfect moments of American childhood. If you grew up watching Scooby Doo, you'll find her humor as nostalgic as it is hilarious.

Here's Ms. Cho on Saddam's capture. She starts off perfunctorily:

I have been watching on the news channels, the footage over and over and over and on and on 'til the break of dawn, they keep looking in his mouth, picking through his hair. He just looks like one of the patients in "Awakenings" who wouldn't wake up no matter what Robin Williams would do. Then, there are the makeover pictures, before spider hole, after spider hole. I am fully aware of Saddam Hussein's evil reign, and I believe that his capture is righteous, in that there is a need for humanity to avenge and bring the enemy at large to justice, but where will this justice land?
(Margaret Cho's Weblog)

Yes, Saddam's capture is righteous. Justice will land right on his head, or chest, Or wherever the firing squad aims. I'm with her right up to that last sentence. Here's where she alienates me:

Please know that the capture of this heinous murderer is something that I do agree is a long time coming, but this is going to [fella] make it look like President George "Dumb and Dubya" Bush went down into that dirty grave himself and dragged him out by that long, white Rip Van Winkle beard. It builds up Bush like Indiana DUMB[FELLA] Jones, and he is not. He did not go out there with a bullwhip and a leather bomber jacket and kick anybody's [butt]. Okay, he snuck out and went to eat some turkey with the troops, a weird thing anyway because he went without telling anyone and you are not supposed to do that when you are MARRIED WITH A FAMILY let alone President. Bush is not a hero. He didn't do [sierra]. He did not do [sierra]. [Sierra]. He did not do it.
(Margaret Cho's Weblog)

Pardon her French (and my brackets). She goes on and gets worse, delving into the standard tropes about how Bush wasn't properly elected, and how Republicans are wrong on all the important issues. I think she's saying what the Democratic Presidential candidates can't bring themselves to put on the record.

Ms. Cho's missive disappoints me. Like you, I used to think politics ended at the water's edge. If the left wing can't identify external threats, if they can't condemn islamokases, if they attend pro-Saddam rallies dressed in Palestinian garb, and if they can't find joy in the capture of a Fascist dictator, I wonder whether they can claim to be our loyal opposition.

We are at war with islamicist terrorists, if only because they've declared war on us. If the American left wing can't recognize the capture of Saddam and establishment of an anti-terrorist Free Iraq as a positive development, I think that says a lot about them. Don't you?

If you're like me, you have high hopes for the new Free Iraq. I hope they'll embrace consensual government and free-market capitalism. I hope they'll bid on contracts for new automobile assembly factories, new semiconductor plants, and a new Disneyland. I hope they're the newest Asian tiger economy. And I hope they join us in the fight against the terrorists. In that respect, I suspect they've got more at stake that do we. While they're tired of twenty years of conscription and fighting, I hope freedom-loving Iraqis volunteer to fight for our cause and against the nihilists.

As the lefties caterwaul their complaints, I wonder whether they deserve the mantel of the loyal opposition. Are you for or against the terror masters? Saddam's funding of Palestinian islamokases ought to have been the final straw. And yet is was not. Doesn't that say a lot about the modern left?

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Good News for the Weasels

Now that we've found Saddam, his major creditors (e.g., France, Russia) have a shot at collecting their debts from him. That makes this event win/win for everybody.

But whose dishes should he start washing first?

Operation Red Dawn

Saddam in shackles:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Without a single shot being fired, U.S. military forces captured former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as he hid in the bottom of a hole in a home near Tikrit, officials announced at a Baghdad press conference.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we got him," L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, announced.
(Fox News)

My first impression: make sure that's not one of his doubles.

Second impression: capturing him alive presents something of a dilemma, doesn't it?


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