"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."-Winston S. Churchill

"The wandering scholars were bound by no lasting loyalties, were attached by no sentiment of patriotism to the states they served and were not restricted by any feeling of ancient chivalry. They proposed and carried out schemes of the blackest treachery."-C.P. Fitzgerald.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Operation PHANTOM FURY: D + 4 

This map over at GlobalSecurity.org provides the best layout of where our forces stand in Fallujah after three days of fighting. The Allied offensive kicked off Sunday evening from a line of departure along the railroad berm that runs along the north end of the city. Overall responsibility for the operation lay with the First Marine ("Guadalcanal") Division, with several units of First Cavalry Division seconded to the operation. It has been a very successful four days.

Moving from one's west to one's east, the units jumping off were First Battalion/1st Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion/5th Marines, 2nd Troop/U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Battalion/Eighth Marines, 1st Battalion/Third Marines, and finally, 2nd Battalion/2nd U.S. Infantry. On Sunday night, U.S. and Iraqi forces (probably elements of the 36th Commando Brigade) siezed the Fallujah hospital and both of the bridges over the Euphrates River. This was done to deny an easy line of retreat to the west.

The Marines and infantry advanced through the winding alleys of the several neighborhoods that made up Fallujah proper. The northwest part of town, Jolan, was the fastness of Abu Musa al-Zarqawi's Tawhid al-Jihad. The Marines basically went through Jolan, cutting off small rebel groups from the larger whole. On the left flank of the offensive, division sent 2/2 Infantry and 1/3 Marines through the Ba'athist stronghold of Askari. In both cases, there was tough fighting, but Marine and Infantry training and the small unit leaders and their seasoned NCO's decided the battle in favor of the Americans. As of this writing, in the western sector each battalion is moving south by west. The Marines and Cavalry in the west hope to pivot and bottle up the jihadi against the Euphrates for the final kill. The infantry-Marine team on the east end will be pushing the jihadi through the industrial sector in the southeast towards the anvil: the Queen's Dragoon Guards and the Black Watch. The Guards battalion and the Highlanders occupy blocking positions to prevent the escape of the jihadi, and have cut off the town from Baghdad to the east and al-Ramadi to the northeast.

In a larger tactical sense, what has been achieved has been to bottle up the jihadi into smaller component sections that can be defeated in detail. One report that came into Section 9 had it that both Hadid and Janabi, two promininent capos in the Zarqawi and Ba'ath organizations, respectively, have been killed in the past days. This has led to severe morale problems among the insurgents, and there have been attempts to escape to al-Ramadi and other Sunni towns. This A.P. report is especially revealing:

FALLUJAH, Iraq - Insurgents tried to break through the U.S. cordon surrounding Fallujah on Thursday as American forces launched an offensive against concentrations of militants in the south of the city. Some 600 insurgents, 18 U.S. troops and five Iraqi soldiers have been killed in the four-day assault, the U.S. military said.

In an apparent bid to relieve pressure on their trapped allies, insurgents mounted major attacks in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city 220 miles to the north. Guerrillas assaulted nine police stations, overwhelming several, and battled U.S. and Iraqi troops around bridges across the Tigris River in the city, where a curfew was imposed a day earlier.

The jihadi are attempting to initiate an uprising in Sunni Iraq to relieve Fallujah. I have it on good authority that this was foreseen by our command, and I suspect that much will fall on the jihadi in al-Ramadi and Mosul in the coming days. We are using approximately ten battalions in the Fallujah operation (hat tip: Wretchard). We have 50 battalions available for maneuver operations. Wretchard's take is that there will be a high operational tempo over the next two months in the runup to the January elections. I happen to agree, and believe that CENTCOM has chosen the late fall and winter months in Iraq to break the back of the Wahabist insurgency. Expect the Marines and infantry to relentlessly chase down the jihadists and bring them to account.

In the foreseeable future one can see the outlines of a political arrangement as local Sheiks and Ba'athis legacy politicians, wary of a Shi'a/Kurd dominated state, use the American offensive as an excuse to enter into a settlement with the Allawi government. That is how it looks from here. In the end, while the jihadi will be crushed by superior infantry-it will be the Iraqi political class that divides the spoils in a characteristically Iraqi manner.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Team America: World Police-The Fugstat Review 

Once again, Mr. Fugstat sends in a review; this time of Team America: World Police. As one might be aware from an earlier post, TA:WP was a huge favorite of mine, and an antidote to everything that poured out of the Left's cultural apparatus during the past election. As an aside, the movie works precisely because it is a riff on the old Thunderbirds puppet action/adventure series. Of course, Lady Penelope never got a sound rogering from Jeff Tracy.

Without further ado, I'll hand it over to Mr. Fugstat:

Capitalist puppets

“Team America: World Police” is the latest feature film by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” fame/infamy. Before I talk about this movie, let me talk about talking about movies. Here’s my rule …
Reaction trumps ideation.
If something makes me laugh, I won’t think about it afterwards and then say “Oh no, I shouldn’t have laughed at that,” and wipe the smile off my face. Funny is funny.

So here’s my reaction:
This is a pretty @#$@# funny movie. Smart too. Functions on beaucoup levels …

On one level, it functions as a perfect-pitch send-up of the action genre. (ParkerStone’s rule while making this — When in doubt, ask yourself: “WWJBD?” or “What Would Jerry Bruckheimer Do?” ) So, there’s a team of anti-terrorists, a reluctant hero who joins the team, a woman he falls in love with who’s reluctant to love him back because she doesn’t wanna see him get killed like her last boyfriend, a guy who hates the new guy because of his backstory, an assortment of evil villains (Kim Jong-il, assorted towelheaded Arab terrorists who mutter shit like, “Durka, durka jihad” in pseudomiddleeastern dialect, all the trendy lefty PC actors — Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Janeane Gerafalo, etc., who are all proud members the Film Actors Guild, or “F.A.G.”), a craggy leader who smokes and drinks cocktails and zips around in an irritating mechanical chair, perfectly timed action beats, a secret fortress in Mount Rushmore, lots of shit that gets blown up. Like any good caricature, it’s insulting because it does resemble the subject. Here, it’s so close to a real “actioner” (I put it in quotes because I really hate that word) you could use it as a textbook for making one.

On another level, it pokes fun at the mentality of the right, reduced to its most simpleminded form – “Team America” is a squad of asskickers who saves the ungrateful world’s collective ass from the forces of evil; only fags have a problem with it. They take this attitude, then graft it onto the action film template. It’s funny, because the right tends to see the world in action film terms anyway.

ParkerStone satirize the right’s attitude by pretending to hold a more extreme version of it, an old comic strategy. The “National Lampoon” crowd used to do it. So did Jonathan Swift. But that’s not all they’re doing.
On yet another level, they have some sympathy with the right’s attitude. The leftist Hollywood types are maybe 10% caricatures of rightwing attitudes about Hollywood and 90% caricatures of leftist Hollywood types. These PC puppets open their mouths and spout retarded mindfog. (The Garafalo puppet notes, “It’s our duty to read articles in the newspaper and pass them off as our own opinions.”) The joke is clearly on the trendy leftists here. A die-hard (and not-too-trendy) 60s leftist I know is pissed at that fact …

But I laughed.

Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did — in the steamy puppet sex bit, I was pounding the chair and having a fit. Reaction trumps ideation …

But what ideas are we talking about here? Are ParkerStone really saying anything? Are they taking any stand?

You could say these guys are waffling and having it both ways – “Which side are you on?” and all that. Yeah, yeah, OK. But there’s a problem with taking sides in a polarized culture: anytime you do, half the country stops listening to you. The “South Park” boys take both stands and attack both sides. You could say they don’t stand for anything, but they do. It’s all there in that over-the-top speech the hero picks up from the bum at the bar. I’m not sure how family-friendly CJ’s blog is, so I’ll skip the filthy definition of terms and skip to the conclusion:

America can be a real dick sometimes.
But there are times that’s just what the world needs.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Innocence: Ghost in the Shell-the Fugstat Review 

Batou and Togusa ponder the case of the killer lovebots...

You couldn't ask the anime industry for a better movie, at least outside of Hayao Miyazaki's shop. However, despite my admiration for this art form, I missed the screening when the film Innocence: Ghost in the Shell opened here in Fort Lauderdale. However, one who didn't miss this film was my silent partner in this blog, Mr. Fugstat. He actually made his way to a theater in Sarasota, Florida, to sit down for a screening of Mamoruu Oshii's interpretation of Masamune Shirow's manga classic. Below then are his findings:

I ain’t afraid of no “Ghost”

The collective mind of assorted American fanboys has attacked this movie from day one of its U.S. release. It’s slow. It’s philosophical. Let’s deal with that.

Slow? No, you’re slow.
Mamoruu Oshii takes his time — and that’s fine by me. Jerry Bruckheimer he’s not. He settles into the story like a warm bath. When the action starts, it’s as fast as the human nervous system can process. You buy it, because the life surrounding the action feels real.

I’ll take philosophy for 500. What is: “A walk on the slippery rocks.”
Attacking science fiction (aka SF) for having philosophy in it is like attacking a western for the presence of cacti, cows and cowboys. SF is a primarily literary medium, primarily philosophical.
What’s happening here is current animation technology is just now catching up with certain ideas.

The ideas:
“Ghost in the Shell” is obviously a reretranslation of Koestler’s “Ghost in the Machine,” referring to Cartesian duality. I.e.: We’re spirits inhabiting mechanical bodies.
This notion is mocked by behaviorists, monists and other disreputable types. If the robot is complete, who needs a ghost at the controls?

Oshii, in the original film, took the ghost concept seriously and literally. Who-you-are = consciousness/volition inhabiting a physical system. (Batou, Kusanagi et al are still “human,” though they have doubts.) Whether the "shell" you're inhabiting is a meat or mechanical robot makes no difference. Oshii ducks whether God or the karmic slotmachine is the source of these ghosts. The “Puppet Master” indicates a ghost can appear in an AI of sufficient complexity.
“Ghost I” looked at how a machine entity could become humanized; “Innocence” viceversas that.

Essentially, it’s all about Section 9/Batou’s efforts to break up a ring of illegal sexbots, who get all slice-and-dice on their johns for reasons unknown. Turns out they’re dubbed with human ghosts – teenage waifs trapped in remote soul-broadcasting units. Seems that added human element in the boink machines enhances the experience. A scientist forced to engineer this horror removes the robots’ “Asimov” safeguards, and so they kill. (I’m not clear if it’s the bots themselves doing the killing or the nearly psychotic girls in the pods.)
The director’s attacking a certain technological obsession as a kind of psychopathia sexualis – and a perverted form of human reproduction at that. (See “Gravity’s Rainbow.”)

Remember the evolutionary chart in the museum at the end of the original? Oshii was saying that death’s randomizing effects are integral to life and natural selection. To be truly alive, the Puppet Master had to merge with Kusanagi. That’s the only way he could give birth to something new, something original, something unpredictable, which is what living things do. Alone, he can only make perfect, absolutely identical copies of himself. That’s not life.

Oshii’s first movie dealt with a machine entity that wants to come to life by creating bad copies of itself. His sequel deals with the human urge to make perfect, identical copies of ourselves. To Oshii, that explains our need to create anthropomorphic robots and dolls. We’re creeped out by dolls because they’re human and perfect, but not alive. Part of us wants to be like that. To be immortal. To be dead, perfect, unchanging. And we want the same thing in our love objects. Our living dolls.

Said before? Yeah.

But not with the visual poetry of this film.
What he’s getting that is how all this feels to someone like Batou, wrestling with the problem on the inside, in his soul, and wondering if he has a soul. Animated or not, the effects tech in this movie is only just now good enough to put that vision up on the screen. Which Oshii does.
I figure he’s wrestling with all that stuff because simulating reality is his job. (Like that book about Disney animation --“The Imitation of Life,” grinning, unblinking movie with a paintbrush on the cover. Just the thought. Always creeped me out.) Why imitate life in the first place? Why make a movie? Why a cartoon? And, for God’s sake, why a sequel? Oshii asks and answers these questions on every frame.
He could easily have made a dead, mechanical rehash of the original. What he’s made is new and alive.

My only problem with this movie is the art direction – a minor problem, but in the interests of fairness, I’ll mention it.
It’s good, but at times it goes too far. Movie suffers from artdirectionitis at the expense of story logic.
Two examples:
The rogue city goes beyond being Bladerunneresque to Bladerunner ripoff.
The ubiquity of 40s/50s retrocars (another Bladerunner ripoff) makes no sense whatsoever. Is it possible there’d be a fad for that kind of thing? Sure. But not every freaking car on the road. There’d be people in old models or people who didn’t like the oldtimey style. That style seems to be the look Oshii wanted. Look trumped logic.
Flaws, but the film’s still a masterpiece. (By its own logic, if it didn’t have flaws, it wouldn’t be alive.)

PS: I didn’t mind the dog.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Operations to retake Fallujah 

...have begun. At last report, much of Western Fallujah was taken, along with two bridgeheads over the Euphrates.

Updates and analysis as warranted.

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