The First Casualty


Welcome back to the Scuttlebutt, Sorry I’ve been away.


The number of ways the concept that: “Truth is the first casualty of war,” have been phrased over the years is so high, and so wide that no one can really say who first observed it. Variations on the theme are claimed (without a lot of veracity) to extend back to the Greek playwright Aeschylus and there’s an entire website devoted to “who said it, and when.”  Under any circumstances, it’s a fact. This war is no different.  We’re going to discuss that.


While I am no Hemmingway, (but then neither was he) I haven’t lived an entirely unadventurous life.  That said, I’ve been, compared to Papa H and the rest of the “lost generation,” too poor to do a lot of foreign travel, and too busy earning a living and keeping a roof over my family’s head for such things. Hence one thing I never expected to experience is being an expat when WWIII started.  Well, chalk that up as “achievement-UNLOCKED.”


I was down in Cancun having some R&R when the balloon went up.  It’s a pretty surreal experience, let me tell you.  About 1/2 of the people at the resort were Americans, the rest were a scattering of every other nation on earth, including a couple that went on the pirate dinner cruise with us that was composed of a Russian gal, and a Ukrainian gal.  The pirate cruise was the night after Putin invaded…  




Talk about your 800lb elephants.  Everyone knew, and no one wanted to say anything, and of course this was when “everyone” (including, I admit, yours surly) expected Kiev to fall within a day, and the existence of Ukraine as anything but occupied territory to be a done deal by now.


The way that people avoided even thinking about the subject was somewhat startling to me… Outside our own party (which consisted of a retired USN sailor, A civilian employee of the USN, a former Soldier who runs emergency management for a living, and a life long history buff) I only heard two people even mention the war, and both of those were because they found out that I was retired Navy.  It’s like everyone was desperately immersing themselves in anything else, rather than the reality on the ground; and in the back of my head I hear Liza singing “Life is a Cabaret.” 


Well, by the end of the week I was in a hurry to get home before the shitstorm got any worse, and so that I had access to information that I really did NOT want to reach out to, while in a foreign country that had soldiers patrolling the streets, and military check points every forty miles or so. (By the way, don’t mistake me, this was a very enjoyable trip, and I’m glad we went… But the timing on it, well…)


Then I got slammed with a Norovirus on the way home, (an actual shitstorm, as opposed to a figurative one) that put me completely dysfunctional for a week, in the hospital, to the point that reading was hard.  Oh, and once I got to the point of bare functionality, I was working through a Wi-Fi system controlled by “Franciscan Medical Center.”  I literally could not access things like MeWe, much less anything more controversial, they just wouldn’t load… I suspect that they had a blocker on for whole portions of the web.  (Censorship, out of the Catholic Church??? Who would have thought? Pardon me while I go put a band aide on my tongue, I think I sprained it jamming it into my cheek that hard.) 


All that said, I could still tell what was probably truth, what was SOLIDLY Agitprop, what was likely Agitprop, and what was likely a wartime exaggeration.  What surprised me was the number of sites that I thought were real people that turn out to be Russian Bots.  


When someone who normally spouts a fairly hard conservative line, but doesn’t have much else in their feed, by which I mean, nothing about family, or friends, never goes on a trip and posts about it, few, or no pictures… Suddenly comes out of the blue with a story about how this person they’ve known for years, that is in Ukraine is telling them this…Then proceeds to claim every single thing Putin has used as an excuse for invasion, and ups the ante to:


“Russia did not attack us. It’s all propaganda. Russia is conducting an operation to destroy the military facilities of the nationalist regime of Ukraine with precision strikes. I hope they destroy them all. They don’t shoot at cities. We don’t have a Russian army in our city. But we have the Ukrainian army that is shooting in our city. They drive through the streets in armored military vehicles and shoot everything and everyone indiscriminately. And then they present it as if it were Russians. We are sitting at home now, trying not to go out. We hope that this will end soon, since all banks are closed, cards do not work.” 


I mean come on, if you’re going to try and develop Agitprop, at least work at it a little.  Fuck, Russia, you used to be far better at this, it’s like you’re not even trying.  Don’t mistake me, Ukraine is doing it too, and are nearly as heavy handed, saw someone post the picture of this “shot down pilot, hadn’t eaten in days, the people who captured him shared their food with him” bla bla bla. Come on, how stupid do you think people are?  Oh wait, never mind, I saw it because it was forwarded to me from someone I know in meat-space, so, yeah, I guess people ARE that stupid. By now, being captured by the Ukrainians, if you’re Russian, is probably about like being captured by the Soviets, if you’re SS… and for similar reasons.


Then you have the UN.  Putin had the ball-sack to start his invasion WHILE the UN security council was meeting over his aggression, and yet they are ordering the UN staff to not refer to it as a WAR or INVASION, but call it a “conflict” or “Military Offensive” because that’s what Putin calls it.  WOW, I didn’t think the UN could be any more of a bitch to the totalitarian regimes of the world… shows what I know. And for a late filing note, the Russian Army knocked out power to the containment system at Chernobyl, so in less than two days, when the fuel on the emergency gensets run out, the cooling system for the elephant foot at reactor 4 is toast, and all monitoring telemetry is already down.  On the other hand, Putin did manage to do something that Trump tried to do for four years and failed miserably at.  Get Germany to start covering their fair share of the NATO defense budget.  Germany is planning on spending $113,000,000,000 on modernizing the military and is planning on putting that commitment for military spending into their constitution. “law of unintended consequences” is a BITCH.


Of course, the funniest part of all this, (if something this sad and this monumental can be considered to have anything funny) is Putin’s speech at the start of it, where he said: “The attempt to appease the aggressor ahead of the Great Patriotic War proved to be a mistake which came at a high cost for our people,” he said. “In the first months after the hostilities broke out, we lost vast territories of strategic importance, as well as millions of lives. We will not make this mistake the second time.”


Uh, Vlad, baby, you’re the Hitler in this piece. Look, this is a straight up war of Conquest.  Oh, Vlad has been claiming for years that it’s actually a war to recover land “stolen” from “Mother Russia,” because as far as he’s concerned any land that ever flew a Russian flag, is Russia.  He’s written several books and papers about this, as far back as ten years ago or more.  


Now let’s just explore the ridiculousness of this claim for just a second before we move on.  OK, let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that anything ever having been under the flag of a given nation, is that nations still, and the nation in question has a right to take it back by force major if it’s being poorly administered (as determined by “the nation of the first part.”) 

Well, that means the Philippines belongs to us, we’ll just send the Marines around to collect.  Yeah, they belonged to Spain before us, OK Spain, you want to try and take them back from us?  Cuba, prepare to be boarded!  In fact, the entire damn Caribbean at one time or another flew the Stars and Stripes, as did most of Mexico (Mexican American war) Oh, and about half of Europe… But let’s not stop there, there’s a bunch of Chinese (OK Mongols) telling you to get the fuck off their Throne, Vlad.  Not to mention the fact that the Royal family of Russia at nearly the start of Russia, was in fact, wait for it, Ukrainian.  SO far from Ukraine being Russian, say rather that Russia is Ukrainian!  But then it was Mongolian, and then… In short, the competing claims of every square foot of Europe, and most of Asia would take a few thousand pages.  


Any time some national ruler starts making claims that “this land was ours, racially” they’re setting up the justification for conquest.  


I’ve heard a lot of BULLSHIT from some segments of the far right, that seem to want to claim Putin is not the bad guy here, because “well Biden launders money in Ukraine, and the left says Putin is bad, so he MUST be the good guy, and false equivalence this, and duckbilled platitude that…” 


Look, Yes, Biden is probably the worst disaster we’ve had in my lifetime as a president, and considering who has been president in the last 60 years, that’s saying something!  HOWEVER.  Just because he’s for something does NOT mean it’s automatically wrong, or a lie, or… and just because it’s being reported by the Mainstream Media also doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  It doesn’t mean it’s RIGHT either, but that’s why you have to learn how to figure out truth from fiction.  

Here’s a clue: When Al Jazira, BBC, MSN, CNN, Politico, and FOX ALL are saying variations on the same thing, allowing for editorial spin, when there is collaborating evidence from publicly available sat imagery, and from private and public HAM operators that do ELINT for FUN, it’s true, it’s all true, and screaming in denial because it forces you to look like you’re on the same side as the ice cream licker in chief, just makes you look like a moron at best, and a Russian Plant at worst.  (of course, it’s possible you actually ARE a Russian plant, their game, as I mentioned, is weaker than it’s ever been in my memory.)


Here’s a good place to find out what’s going on right now over in what I believe is the “Poland” of WWIII: Tom is an old Cold warrior, he’s a better analyst than I am,  he’s also got some really valuable sources, and staff. Don’t try to “friend” him, he’s maxed out, just follow and you’ll get better reporting than most folks in the newsroom are seeing.


Now I have said several times that Ukraine is the new Poland of WWIII, just in case you don’t understand the reference: On the first of September 1939, Germany, who had already eaten Austria without a shot being fired, and had already taken all of Czechoslovakia except for the parts that Poland had gotten, to buy them off, claimed that Poland had attacked them, using this false flag operation (called Operation Himmler) as a Casus Belli, and rolled into Poland.  This started WWII.  It’s worth noting that the USSR rolled into Poland from the other side, as Nazi Germany and the USSR were friends, before they were enemies.  Up until the first soldier crossed into Poland, we could have stopped short of war.  The trouble was that Hitler didn’t respect the people he was negotiating with, saw them as weak ass pussies who would fold.  (Sound familiar?) 


Even after Germany rolled into Poland, the war in Europe COULD have been short, and while bitter, a lot less bloody than it was.  That would, however, have required the allied forces to have rolled into Germany.  If England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc… had ATTACKED once Hitler took the gloves off, it might very well have been over much sooner.  Instead, they braced for him to attack them once he ate Poland.  This is called “ceding the strategic initiative to your enemy,” and is widely thought of as a Bad Idea(™).


We are at the time of writing this, refusing to give to Ukraine the MIGs that Poland gave to us to give to Ukraine, based on a lot of piss poor excuses that come down to “we don’t want to piss Vlad off anymore than we have too, he’s already unstable, he might nuke us.”  We are also not supplying Ukraine with some of the sexy gear they’re asking for, for most of the same reasons.


(Look I understand that we don’t want to give our TOP LINE gear to Ukraine, because the likelihood is that SOME of it will get captured, and well, the longer you have to reverse engineer the enemies shit, the better prepared you are to face it.)  Still, During Nam, the VC had not just Soviet gear, but Soviet “trainers” flying and operating the gear.  The USSR wasn’t afraid that the US might go to nukes over it… It’s time to (paraphrasing Mattis here) be the threat that keeps OTHER people up at night.


The game of brinkmanship is NOT Chess, no matter what anyone wants to tell you, no matter how the press uses it as an analogy.  In Chess, you can see all the pieces, you know their capabilities, the only thing you have to figure out, is “what is his strategy?”  there’s a limited number of moves, a limited series of responses, and the first one to catch a mistake made by the other wins.  Brinkmanship is far closer to high stakes 7 card Stud Poker, with duces wild and no raise limit.  You can see some of what the other guy has, but not all of it, you can’t even reliably count cards, because there’s wild cards in the mix, which messes with the odds something fierce, and you’re not sure if your opponent is stable, or an idiot.


If you allow your opponent to regularly “buy the pot” by running up the bidding, you can end up with nothing but bus fare home.  Putin keeps threatening with nukes any time it looks like he’s going to get out bid.  That’s the equivalent of throwing a $250,000 chip on the table with the comment of “see your ten, and raise you.”  Is he bluffing? You don’t know.  But unless you want to bow out of the tournament, eventually, you are going to have to call. If not, any time he’s in trouble, he knows he can buy the hand.


Of course, the added “fun” in this case, is that neither side is really sure if that chip is worth anything or not.  No, I have not lost my mind.  In Poker, at a casino, there’s a pit boss that confirms “yes that’s a real chip, issued to the player, yes he has that much money.”  In Brinkmanship, not so much.


Russia’s military was believed to be TEN FEET TALL and bullet proof, back when they were the USSR.  Even those of us that played games with the Bear (paging the authors of “Blind Man’s Bluff,”) while we knew that the Soviets WE were going up against weren’t all that, (in fact a lot of them SUCKED) we still believed that their gear was within spitting range of us on the ground.  “Oh yeah, their navy sucked, and about a third (or MORE) of the weapons systems on any given platform were hard down at any given time, but dude, they have so many of them, and the Russian ARMY is bad ass, because Army is what Russia DOES.”  Then when the USSR collapsed, we found out that it wasn’t a 10 foot tall GDR (Giant Death Robot), it was a pile of little guys in a cardboard prop.


The evidence of this is on the ground, right now.  Everyone, including most assuredly Putin, thought that this was going to be a rout.  Yet, there is Ukraine, according to actual IMINT (that’s photo intelligence, IE: we got pictures of your burnt out shit)  


trading 3 or 4 to one across the line of battle.  Russia will probably win, if they go on long enough, and Ukraine doesn’t get support/reinforcements, for definitions of “Win” that is “we caused the government to fall or surrender.”  However, the pacification of the land they took is going to make them LONG for the “good old days” when they were fighting the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.  


SO, the thing you have to ask yourself, are Russia’s nukes even functional? And if so, how functional.  Much like that bottle of 1945 Romanee-conti Grand Cru that went for over a half million bucks, it’s only worth it, (for values of worth it) as long as we all believe it’s still wine.  That could be the most expensive salad vinegar in the world!  


Every indication is that Putin is falling into the same trap that snagged Hitler.  An increasingly small circle of real trusted advisors, all of whom are afraid to argue with the “great man” and more and more belief that only he sees the big picture, and has a plan.  If we don’t stop this now, the butcher bill is going to be much bigger.  He has told us repeatedly that he wants to restore the footprint of the USSR.  We need to believe him!


Currently China is watching what’s going down in Ukraine, and, I have no doubt, taking notes.  They have made the same claims to Taiwan that Putin made to Ukraine.  I am sure they are noting that the invasion didn’t go as easy as Vlad assured them it would.  Now they are waiting to see what “The West” will do.  Rolling over now means the very real possibility of either surrendering Europe and the Far East to Russia and China without firing a shot, or a two-front war.  Can we win a two-front war?  Well, we’ve done it before, but it was painful, bloody, and too many men died, because we had to split our power.  In warfare just meeting force with force is a suckers bet, and costs lives.  You want to meet force with OVERWHELMING force.  That way the butcher bill is much smaller.  When you are fighting on two fronts, you can’t do that all the time. If we don’t do something SOON, it may be too late.  Please remember that there’s no script, this isn’t a movie, there’s no guarantee that America will win, because ‘MURCA.  We must be smart, and right now ceding strategic initiative to our enemy is NOT smart.


Take care, watch your six, 

Until next time I remain,

Yours in service.

William Lehman.

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