The ‘Super Bomb’: More financials

After my recent post about the cost of using cruise missiles in Syria, the Americans have now used a ‘MOAB’. This is a ‘Super Bomb’, nicknamed ‘The Mother of All Bombs’, a corruption of the bomb’s acronym, which stands for ‘Massive Ordnance Air Blast’. The actual designation of the device is GBU/43B, which doesn’t float well as a headline in quite the same way, does it?

This enormous explosive device is the biggest non-nuclear weapon ever detonated, according to some reports. However, during WW2, slightly larger bombs weighing 22,000 lbs were used and known as ‘Grand Slams’. The MOAB was developed at a cost of an estimated $300,000,000. This also included the cost of the 20 bombs delivered. Each one is estimated to have cost $16,000,000, and the logistical costs involved in the deployment and delivery this week are believed to be close to $1,000,000.

On this occasion, I will refrain from speculating what better use could have been made of that money. However, it is worth looking at the result. The bomb detonated just above a tunnel complex, believed to be used by insurgent fighters in the region. The blast could be felt almost two miles away, but reports say that no civilians were injured. The claim is that 36 fighters were killed by the bomb, confirmed by Afghan soldiers, and US Special Forces personnel on the ground.

The sum is simple enough. $17,000,000 divided by 36 = $472,222. That’s what it cost to kill each man in that tunnel complex. Current estimates agree that ISIS has around 20,000 fighters in Syria alone. Other sources estimate that the Taliban has a force in excess of 35,000 operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So, if we use the same cost basis to destroy every one of those 55,000 remaining soldiers, we are left with a pretty big bill, one that America has to fund. $25,972,221. (Yes, almost 26 BILLION dollars)

Compared to the cost of the cruise missile attack that only killed six people, that’s very good value, I suppose. A bargain.

Syria missile attack: The financial side

I have left a few comments on other blogs about this recent event, so I decided that I also ought to write something about it on here.

I looked up the cost of that operation. Fifty-nine cruise missiles = $94,000,000. The amount needed to replace them? Around $100,000,000. Factor in the costs involved in the preparation of the attack, use of warships, and the other logistical issues, and the total is something like $200,000,000. Yes, that is two hundred million dollars.

I would have to consult those better qualified than me, but I imagine that many good things could have been done in America, with that amount of money. It costs a bit less than $100,000,000 to build a very good hospital. So that’s two and a bit great new hospitals that could have been created in some poor districts of the US. A large new high school costs about $40,000,000 to construct. So, that money could have gone to building five good schools, to help educate the children of America.

It costs less than $40,000 dollars to buy a decent-sized electric car in the US. So more than 5,000 electric vehicles could have been bought and supplied to government agencies, to help reduce pollution. I could keep going on. Flood defences, new homes for those in need, solar panels, medical research, palliative care, and so on…Even in 2017, $200,000,000 is a great deal of money, and it could, and should, have been put to better use.

So, who wins? Not the six Syrians killed in the attack. Not the rebel fighters, who still can’t beat Assad. Not the civilians, who will be caught up in just as many future battles. Not the reputation of the US military, which failed to render the airfield unusable, or even to destroy all the aircraft kept there. Not the citizens of nations all across the world, who now fear that this escalation could lead to an all-out war between Russia and NATO.

Let’s consider the possible ‘winners’ who emerge from this situation.

Assad can now claim that his sovereign nation was attacked by a foreign power. And he will be telling the truth, like it or not.
ISIS continues to operate as if nothing has happened, no doubt cheered by the thought that the US might remove Assad, leaving the way open for them to take control in the future.
The arms companies will be happy, as they make more profit from selling at least another fifty-nine cruise missiles. And that’s only the beginning of an increase in the ringing of their cash registers.
Then there are those companies involved in post-war ‘reconstruction’ and security, companies like Halliburton. They will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of another Iraq to come.

Then there is Mr Trump of course. After being under sustained attack from the American media, and failing to get the support he needed from a large section of his own population, the President has finally done something. Whether this was at the suggestion of the hawks in his own military, or his own doing, is of no matter. He is now being seen as decisive. A man of action. The American version of Putin. A strong leader, unafraid to take the moral high ground, even if that moral high ground involves using hundreds of millions of dollars worth of explosives.

And if that action helps his friends in big business, so much the better.

Trump, Wire Tapping, and the IRA

Today, the former IRA fighter and latterly politician, Martin McGuinness, died. I do not mourn his passing, as his track record was not something to be admired. But I respect that he believed in a cause, and that he was prepared to fight for it. So I will leave it at that.

The positive side of his death, at least for me, was that the Trump wire-tapping fiasco finally fell off of the news here. Something considered to be more relevant to UK politics had finally happened, so we were spared yet another day of ‘Was he, wasn’t he? Was GCHQ involved’? The constant speculation on our news media.

My opinion is a matter of record. I firmly believe that all presidential candidates, and Presidents, have been systematically wire-tapped, ever since the technology existed to enable it to happen. Certainly since the time of J. Edgar Hoover, and ever since then. It just seems obvious to me, but it has apparently surprised almost everybody else.

I am sick and tired of the constant bat and ball accusations surrounding the alleged Trump phone tapping. I am never going to comment on it again. And I don’t want to hear or read anymore about it. From anyone.

This means that I owe my thanks to Mr McGuinness. He died just at the right time.

The Independence Game

We are hearing a lot about independence these days. Britain seeking independence from the EU, Scotland seeking another try at independence from the United Kingdom, and a lot of people in Northern Ireland seeking to join the republic of Ireland, and gain independence from Westminster.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Scottish people had their chance to leave the United Kingdom. They had a referendum in 2014, but chose to stay in, by a majority of 55% to 45%. We didn’t hear any rumblings from Northern Ireland either, not until the decision to leave the EU last year. Now the republican Sinn Fein party has had surprising success in local elections there, with its stated objectives of becoming part of Ireland, and remaining in the EU. They are calling for their own referendum to leave, just as the Scottish Nationalists are also demanding to be allowed a ‘second go’ themselves.

It is no secret that both these regions benefit greatly from being part of the EU. Huge grants and subsidies keep them going, and these are unlikely to be matched once Britain formally leaves the EU, in a few years from now. Pundits cry about the break-up of the United Kingdom, and the end of the Britain we have known for centuries. But I have a suggestion.

Just give them independence. Don’t waste money on elections and referenda, pick a date, and tell them from that moment that they are independent. If they want, they can try to become members of the EU in their own right. In Northern Ireland this will be easy, as Ireland is already a member. But let’s see how Scotland manages with the Euro as their currency, and a foreign country (England) along their southern border. Let’s see if Ireland is happy to pay the benefits for the 5.5% of unemployed people in the six northern counties, and to police the sectarian troubles that will flare up once all this happens. Let’s see if Scotland can get the EU to fund its own 5.3% unemployed, and manage to pay a membership contribution at the same time.

They would do well to look at some modern examples of ‘Independence’. All those Balkan countries who sought independence from Yugoslavia. The Baltic States who wanted to regain sovereignty from the Soviet Union, and so many more. Their people are now picking crops for less than minimum wage in Britain and other European countries. Living four to a room, and being exploited by gang-masters. Their young women are being trafficked into prostitution in Europe, to cater for the sexual appetites of Germans and Britons, as well as others. Talk to them about the wonders of independence.

It would not bother me if Northern Ireland became part of Ireland, or Scotland became an independent country. England may no longer be that ‘green and pleasant land’ immortalised in the hymn. It has its own problems to sort out, but I am pretty sure we can manage to do that without Scotland, or Ulster.

Mosul: Behind the headlines

When you look at news reports of the fighting in Mosul, it is easy to overlook some of the basic facts about this huge city. Until recently, it had a population of almost 1.9 million people, and is the second largest city in Iraq after Baghdad. This makes it almost twice the size of Birmingham, England’s second largest city, and more than three times larger than Boston, in the USA.

Just imagine if those well-known cities were under occupation by a well-organised army of religious fundamentalists, and being attacked by forces from their own country helped by the US or a foreign power, as well as being bombed by British and American aircraft. Think how difficult it would be to deal with the potential for causing civilian casualties, or choosing which of the people you encounter is friend or foe. The maze of streets, the apartment blocks, rooftops, factories, industrial areas, and large airports. A major river, numerous bridges, shopping areas, markets, schools, hospitals, religious buildings, and administrative offices. Every wall or fence a potential hiding place. Every rooftop or balcony a spot for a sniper, and the ability for the enemy to hide in plain sight among crowds of distressed non-combatants.

For almost three years, this city has been a battleground between warring factions; international interventionists, and government troops. If you live in a city, or have ever lived in one, then you can only try to imagine what this must be like, as I do. Even allowing for the large numbers who have fled Mosul, it is estimated that more than 750,000 civilians remain there, possibly 1 million. That is still much larger than the population of Boston, and countless other western cities. By comparison, the largest city close to where I live is Norwich. This is the biggest city in the whole county, and covers a substantial area, including many suburbs, and an international airport. I cannot imagine fighting on the same scale happening there, yet the population is only 133,000.

Another fact overlooked, is that many of the residents remaining in Mosul actually welcomed the forces of Islamic State as liberators. They had previously suffered religious persecution from Iraqi government troops and sectarian militias, and were happy to have the intervention by the fundamentalists. Many joined them willingly, and some still fight alongside them to this day. Of course for many others, living under IS was unacceptable, as they were cruelly treated for many reasons, including religious ones. But as parts of the city are recaptured by the Iraqi army, their foreign allies, the police units, and the ‘Golden Brigade’, many civilians have been arrested, detained without trial as suspected members of IS. Many others now live in fear of reprisals by the army and militia units, as the old enmities between Sunni and Shia Muslims resurface in the ‘liberated’ areas of the city.

Naturally, I am no supporter of Islamic State. This horrible organisation has no place in the modern world. But we need to look behind the news reports, the five-minutes of combat footage, and the talking heads interviews, and to be aware that replacing one form of terror with another might well be what we are helping to achieve. Not only in Iraq, but in Syria too.

Shut up, and go away

Recently, we have seen the vultures circling over the heads of both Brexit, and the Labour Party leadership. Just in time to turn the political milk sour in advance of two by-elections, that well known rent-a-mouth, Tony Blair, reappeared to make one of his ‘impassioned’ speeches about the referendum result. We didn’t know what we were voting for, according to him. We were too stupid to understand the implications, according to him. We need to reject the vote, and get behind a deal to stay in, according to him. It’s not too late to overturn the result, and refuse to accept the will of the people, according to him.

This is the man who supposedly turned his back on politics, after losing the 2007 election, then resigning his seat in a safe Labour stronghold. He embarked on the usual round of ‘pretend jobs’, book deals, and very lucrative speaking engagements. But he obviously misses the power and prestige that comes with being the British Prime Minister, and there are even suggestions that he may well return to the political arena. In the meantime, he continues to pop up and mouth off about things that he could have influenced, had he chosen to remain in his previous job instead of leaving to become a multi-millionaire. Showing his true contempt for ordinary people, and telling us that he knows what is best for us, so we should listen to him.

Then we get David Miliband, pontificating about what a bad leader Jeremy Corbyn is, and how he will destroy the Labour Party. This from a man who lost the leadership election for that party, to his own less-effective younger brother. In 2013, he resigned from politics, to accept a lucrative job as head of the cartoon-sounding International Rescue Committee in New York, USA, where he now lives. Yet this grey man, former adviser to Tony Blair, and fellow-traveller in the politics of appeasement, feels justified to comment on the current situation here, adding fuel to the fire of Labour’s spectacular defeat in the safe seat of Copeland this week.

It seems that both men still crave positions of influence in British politics. They are also happy to back-stab their former political party, with agendas bordering on the suspicious. They are both losers, and bad ones at that. And they both represent a time when the Labour Party was hard to separate from the Conservative party in ideas, policies, or physical appearance. Corbyn may well prove to be a man who cannot lead his party to election victory. Political trends are changing the world over, and the right-wing resurgence is taking its toll on traditional Labour areas too. But what we will never need are the spiteful or patronising statements from the likes of Blair and Miliband, which are totally destructive, and will do nothing to help Labour become anything other than a middle-class Conservative clone.

They need to just shut up, and go away.

Where’s David?

Following the referendum vote last summer, David Cameron beat a hasty retreat from his job as Prime Minister, closely followed by his resignation as a Conservative member of Parliament. He was so keen to get out of politics, it’s a wonder that his shoes didn’t catch fire at the speed of his departure. It says something of a man whose life was supposedly so dedicated to politics that he became the holder of the highest job in the land, only to clear off the moment he didn’t win something. Like a spoiled boy taking his football home, because his team didn’t score a goal.

We haven’t heard that much about him since, have we? He gave up a huge salary, (but presumably kept a good pension) and couldn’t even be bothered to continue to represent the Oxfordshire voters who supported him over the years. He cast aside his responsibilities like a badly-stained raincoat, without so much as a look over his shoulder.

But fear not. ‘Call me Dave’ isn’t begging for loose change outside a railway station. Far from it.
He has signed up with a lucrative agency that supplies speakers for events and dinners. The potential earnings are huge, especially for someone who can bleat on about how and why he gave up the top job in UK politics. He has claimed that he can offer ‘lessons in leadership’ as well. (Stop laughing…)

And just in case that’s not enough to keep him in designer socks, he has also struck a book deal, for his official ‘warts and all’ autobiography. Publishers Harper Collins are reported to have offered a deal that could be worth up to £800,000 at the very least. That alone is equivalent to forty years salary for someone earning the average of around £20,000 a year.
Now they just have to find someone to write the book.

And what of his wife, the lovely Samantha? Will she be sitting dutifully at home, waiting to heat up his macaroni cheese when he gets in after a long lunchtime speaking engagement? Apparently not. For she has put her name to a new up-market fashion brand, with prices starting at £100, and going up to a lot more than that. She told Vogue magazine that her forty-piece collection would be aimed at High Street shoppers. Shows how long it has been since she shopped in a High Street in Britain.

So we need not worry. Dave and Sam are sorted. Their old friends have rallied round, found them some nice little jobs, and they are set for life. Makes me feel all warm inside.