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Drones & stuff…

This is my response to Single Acts of Tyranny.

Nick and RAB

I wasn’t really talking about historical battles like Lepanto, Famagusta, the always forgotten battle of Tours, forgotten by people moaning about the crusades I mean, (predating the first crusade by some 350 years). By the standards of today you could argue Henry V at Agincourt was a war criminal, (I don’t, but you get the point). Nor am I saying some of the Muslims and Ottomans behaved properly, clearly they did not on many ocassions.

The Battle of Tours is not forgotten round here. Charles Martel played a blinder there. It is generally regarded as macrohistorical. I think it was Gibbon who said something like the Divinity School at Oxford would be be demonstrating the truth of the revelations of Muhammad to a circumcised people or some such if Martel had lost. It is also pretty much the first occasion when infantry stood against heavy cavalry. By any stretch Henry V was by modern standards a war criminal. But he was English so that’s OK. And the French did dreadful things. They still do. And considering the number of times we’ve since dug them out of a hole – fuck ‘em. There are some cause not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian Grenadier and the French are certainly one.

One of the reasons I find military history so fascinating is the essential tension between “great forces” and individuals. For example read up on the Battle of Midway. Of course the USA was going to Godzilla Japan but that specific battle hinged on individuals. And the thing is I saw an interview with a US dive-bomber pilot. Eighteen planes in his squadron took off. He hit a Japanese carrier and sunk it (the Japanese like the US didn’t have armoured decks) and every other plane in his squadron was shot down. Things hinge. Then there is the tactical genius of Chester Nimitz. But don’t take my word for it. They named an entire class of the mightiest warships ever built after him.

I also wasn’t talking about Israeli air combat with Syria (1982?). I was talking in fact about Western, notably American policy to kill people because you, want to via drone strikes.

This gets technical. Ultimately by and large most of the people killed by drones are utter scum. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I am by nature a Republican but of the Clint Eastwood or Gary Johnson school (to the extent that matters me being English and all). I actually personally find the US Elephants grotesque in their rejection of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party in favour of loons like Rick Perry or non-entities like Mitt Romney (but doesn’t he have nice hair!). Yes, Israel had a war in ’82 with Syria and utterly cained them in the air (100-0?). But I also meant earlier and later conflicts where Israel also cained them. But as to the Arab/Israeli schtick the stormer was the Six Day War where Israel bet every fighter jet they had on decking Egypt and Syria and won. I have nothing but praise for that. That was something else.

Many, even in the intelligence community are concerned about this policy, particularly the so-called top 20 because when you off say the number one target, number 21 joins the top 20 and becomes a ‘priority’ target. It’s never ending, though this maybe the crypto-agenda of course.

It might be just that. We here talk of “exit strategies” but never “winning strategies”. This is a cockamamie war. Now call me cynical but I suspect the fundamental issue here is the Khazi not being hung by his bollocks from a lamp-post within the space of an electoral cycle.

Like Ron Paul, I think such a policy has significant blowback and a major rethink is required because the neo-con foreign policy has landed us in two major wars and a number of regional scraps, delivered security theatre at home, cost enormous amounts of money and death of our troops, radicalised some rather dumb sections of our community, reintroduced and legitimised torture (which we never used against even Nazis, surely a far, far greater threat) but delivered little enough for us to question the very parameters we set.

OK. What is the neo-con policy? I worry it is war everlasting. If there is “blowback”. it ain’t drones (unless people are being deliberately obtuse) but torture and Gitmo and detention without trial… The objection to drone strikes is silly. Drones are used they are cheap (relatively) to buy and deploy and they have a long time on station. Objections are basically variants of Pilgerism based on the fact they don’t put pilots in jeopardy. Oddly enough the lack of a “sit in pilot” is entirely by the by. Drones are used because of their endurance and cheapness. Not out of “cowardice” which is the real reason people object to drones isn’t it? To quote General George Patton, “You don’t win a war by dying for your country, you win a war by making the other poor bastard die for his”. Essentially people object to drone attacks because at some level they feel them “unsporting”. War isn’t sport. Sport is sport. I hate, I utterly despise, pseudo-military metaphor applied to sport. Last year I visited the battlefields of Gallipoli. That wasn’t won or lost on the playing fields of Eton. That was bloody awful and a game of Rugby just isn’t. Essentially if you can fight a war and keep your folk out of harm’s way because you have General Atomics (cool name – sounds like something from the “Jettsons”!) building Reaper drones and the baddies think flip-flops and an AK-47 are the height of style then so be it and let them be blown to smithereens by a “pilot” working out of CentCom in Florida. It’s like this. Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle during the First World War campaigned for body armour for British troops. He was dismissed by the War Department for advocating cowardice. Bravery has it’s place on the battlefield. Pointless sacrifice doesn’t. It is the deranged romanticism of the Highland charge. Now that came unstuck against the Duke of Cumberland’s trained bayonets didn’t it? In war winning is everything. All else is losing.

35 Comments

  1. Firstly thank you for such a long and considered response to my earlier comment. I sincerely appreciate it. I am sorry this is somewhat shorter, no disrespect is intended.

    Even though it’s a bit tangenital I kinda agree with you on the first two paragraphs.

    As to the last paragraph, I agree the lack of a pilot is neither here nor there and broadly support the sentiments.

    I simply make the point that the decision to kill people via drone strikes (again the drone strike per se is not the issue) is fundamentally Star Chamber medieval nonsense. There is no right to reply or defend yourself whatsoever. US politicians simply decide which people can be killed by fiat simply by calling them a terrorist or enemy combatant.

    I make the case we should all oppose that, not to protect vile Islamic murderers, but to protect ourselves in case, in a few years time, you, me and RAB and other cats contributors are called subversives and our last conscious thought is “Fuck me that looks like a Brimstone missile, oh shit….”

    If we okay killing by fiat by clowns like Obama and Bush, we put our own heads on the block. Not where I want my head and saying they only kill bad people isn’t close to good enough.

  2. John Galt says:

    The argument about drones, etc. is a side-swipe at the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is an aspect of the problem but not the real problem.

    After the events of 9/11 the United States had a massive amount of moral and political capital in finding and bringing those who had caused that terrorist outrage. If they had undertaken covert operations supported by intelligence along with a package of multimillion dollar payments and US repatriations of entire families who rat out the Al Qaeda leadership then they could have rolled up most of the bad boys by the end of 2003.

    Instead they went on some meaningless rampage, introduced internment without trial (for what else is the purpose of Gitmo?) and invaded two sovereign Muslim nations without any real justification. Combined with the introduction of Security Theatre in the US and forcing this same bullshit on non-US countries, is it any surprise that the moral and political capital of 9/11 has ebbed away.

    For myself, I find the US Government objectionable for these reasons (and the UK Government for aiding and abetting).

    Drone attacks – Meh!

    What is the difference between these and the use of Tomahawk Cruise missiles in the 1st Gulf War? Precious little in reality although interesting to note that the Tomahawk was built by General Dynamics (parent company of General Atomics).

    In summary, I don’t object to the means by which the US Government prosecutes its War on Terror. What I object to is the fact that we have been dragged into a coalition with the US for what has become an UN-WINNABLE WAR!

    It doesn’t matter how many drone attacks the US Government carries out. Each time they kill one Al Qaeda leader another one will pop-up because the US has done nothing about the root cause of the conflict.

  3. Paul Marks says:

    Not the first time that infantry stood against a charge by heavy cavalry.

    The first time – since the decline of the Legions.

    Also do not forget the Islamic army that attacked Toulouse (really the old Visigothic Kingdom although in a formal relationship with Frankish Kingdom of France).

    The Kingdom (or whatever you want to call it) of Toulouse defeated a larger army than the forces of Islam fielded at Tours.

    As for Drone strikes.

    If Barack Obama feels like killing me – no problem.

    I am not a American citizen.

    But he has also killed American citizens (without trial).

    And they may well be legally problematic. Roman citizens under the Res-Publica should not be treated like barbarians (like you and me Nick). We can be used as dog food, or put in the Arena to fight to the death (I bag the sword and shield – you can have the net and trident). But Barack may not treat American citizens this way.

    Although he could use the Lincoln defence.

    “They were in the field against us”.

    But that sounded better in the Civil War – when there were actual battlefields.

  4. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    “If Barack Obama feels like killing me – no problem”

    Eh?

  5. NickM says:

    Paul,
    Two issues. Firstly I fail to see what a Roman legionary could do against cavalry armed with a short sword and secondly was it really heavy cavalry? Hadn’t the stirrup yet to be invented?

    Oh, and I guess a third. I Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or any of those clowns wants to kill me I tend to object.

  6. RAB says:

    I think Paul means in a legal sense. If Barry wants to kill foreigners no problem, but targeting and killing Americans without due judicial process, tends to get eyebrows raised at the very least.

    I don’t think SAoT has a problem with the tools of destruction (after all you cannot un-invent technology) but with TOOLS who order that destruction. And there’s little we can do to stop the latter at this present time.

    My wife has just retired from the MOD where she worked in a Welfare capacity, mopping up the mess that our politicians make when sending our brave lads to godforsaken places, under equipped and resourced. She had to deal with those who already had gotten the shitty end of the stick by coming home with large parts of their anatomy missing and often their minds as well, and then encounter no thanks or support at all from our Govt and a fuck off but all the best P45.

    So I am glad if Drones do the fighting for us and do not risk any more brave Britons for the fuckin vanity of our politicians. But who controls the Drones? Where is the accountability? When you have soldiers on the ground and they get killed, someone has to explain how and why. But with Drones, well how do we know who has been killed unless the Govt chooses to crow about it… Second in Command Al Qaeda dude etc. They could be taking out whole villages of innocents by accident and we will never know will we?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/9300187/It-may-seem-painless-but-drone-war-in-Afghanistan-is-destroying-the-Wests-reputation.html

  7. NickM says:

    RAB,
    I honestly don’t see the problem here. There is a chain of command, there is a pilot. It really is no different from putting an F-16 up only the pilot’s seat is several thousand miles away. The problem is the essential mutability of this war. What precisely are the US / NATO aims? There is your problem. For all his many sins FDR in the war with Japan had a clarity of purpose. There is no clarity of purpose here. None. I believe the fundamental crime here is going to war without having the vaguest notion what victory would mean or look like. We are fighting in the ‘stan loonies for whom fighting is recreation because in the ‘stan there is fuck all else to do. I mean Germany and Japan threw in the towel after being monstered but this lot won’t. There is no Dresden or Hiroshima, Hamburg or Tokyo in the ‘stan. It is a USAF general said in 2001 when they’d run out of things worth bombing, “Not a target rich environment”. It is a fucking hellhole. There is nothing for them to say about, “Steady on lads these Yanks mean business and our whole civilization is threateed!” Because they don’t have a civilization. They literally have nothing to lose except lives so crummy and benighted you or me would rather die than live like that. Christ! I bitch that Virgin hasn’t laid fibre optic down my street. These fuckers generally haven’t made a phonecall.

  8. RAB says:

    I am in general agreement with you Nick, but the chain of command is exactly what bothers me. Who is in charge of the Drones? The CIA seem to be doing the intelligence gathering and targeting, and we know how dodgy they have been in the past. Bay of Pigs? how many ways did they attempt to knock of Castro to no avail? 300? So under whose command are the drones? Army, Navy or Airforce?. Congress is supposed to oversee and have a say in all that, but have been sidelined for decades and that just accelerates under Barry, who has gone completely Napoleon on their ass.

    In Britain, of course, there is little accountability at all. Drones minor (the upgraded children’s toys equipped with high viz cameras rather than rockets) will be deployed during the Olympics to spy on the crowds where CCTV can’t reach, and once up to speed on usage there, you can bet your sweet bippy that they are not going to be put back in the box and returned to the storeroom after the “Emergency” has passed. Who will be in control of those? Not me or you, that’s for sure!

    Never mind, I’m old and cynical enough to find all this shit inevitable. I’m applying for a shotgun licence by the way. Amazing what a bit of “Accidentally discharged” buckshot can do to these Police State toys. If I don’t get the licence for some reason like being a Libertarian blogger for instance, I’m sure I can take them out with an air rifle. I’m a pretty good shot. ;-)

  9. john in cheshire says:

    I’m not sure that I’ve read your posting in totality or correctly. But as far as I’m concerned, you either a nation should enter a war to win or it should not enter it at all. If one enters to win, then the methods one uses have to be appropriate to that end. If it means placing all muslim heads on spikes for hundreds of miles, to instill the required fear and capitulation, then so be it, because I believe that’s what they’d do to us. The enemy is either the enemy or it isn’t. If it is, then it has to be destroyed, with minimal exposure of our own forces to danger. If it isn’t then why wage war? Is that too simplistic.

  10. Paul Marks says:

    Yes RAB – I meant legal problem.

    Nick – yes Romans did face (and field) very heavy cavalry.

    You take me back to one of the oldest historical disputes I was involved in.

    Way back in the 1970s (and long before) wargamers INSISTED that Roman cavarly must have been able to SCHOCK charge – otherwise what is all the horse armour and the lance for in late imperial cavarlry?

    Then in about 1984 (if my memory does not play me false) the evidence on Roman saddles came in.

    In a Roman saddle (horns in each corner) you do not need stirrups.

    The fully armoured Roman cavalry were called the clibanarii (the word means “oven” – because of how hot the armour was) – they were as armoured as knights in the Middle Ages (indeed they are where the idea of Arthur and his knights comes from).

    But did Romans face heavy cavalry?

    Yes many times.

    And some of the weapons that Roman infantry are equipped with (such as the Roman pick axe – the entrenching tool) do horrible things to horses – even horses in horse armour.

    Lightly armoured horses have no chance at all – mass pilum fire (and all the other nasty things the infantry have) will bring them down.

    Remember even Roman slings (and ever man carries a sling) are deadly – they fire lead bullets.

    Roman artillery?

    Remember Gladiator – although that film is crap on the infantry.

    Indeed the Persian cataphracts were where the Romans got the idea from.

    Accept the Persian cataphracts are in mail – the clibanarii (and their horses) are in segmented armour (a bit like a tank).

    By the way two of my favourate Legions were known for their victories over heavy cavalry.

    The 12th Fulminata and the 15th Apollinaris.

    Not that 8th century Arabs really count as heavy cavalry (if we are going back to Tours).

    The Thunderbolts (the 12th Fulminata) and the Palmleaves (the 15th Apollinaris) would have had little problem with them.

    They were destroyed by no enemy – they were destroyed by bureaucracy.

    Late Roman and then Byzantine bureaucracy.

    Indeed the term “Byzantine bureaucracy” is known in our language.

    Over the centuries they ended up as border guard units (not worth …..).

    And their old bases (for example Sadak) fell to the Turks after the defeat of 1070.

  11. NickM says:

    John,
    I don’t think it is too simplistic. I think it is wrong. And I don’t think you can win that way. But it isn’t even about winning because as I said we don’t know what winning is. Let me tell you something outrageous. The conflation of the Afghan adventure with the War on Drugs has resulted in huge numbers of Afghans becoming hooked on opiates. Why? They destroyed opium farmers livelihoods so they took the drugs themselves because they suppress hunger pangs. That is so fucked it is beyond human comprehension and my vague understanding is that there is a global shortage of opiates for medical purposes. Do I have to draw a diagram as to what ought to have been done?

  12. Paul Marks says:

    Where the (late) Middle Ages really score is in quality metal work.

    Milan (and other places) made armour that was lighter than anything that offered full protection on the Roman period.

    A man in a properly fitted suit of Milan armour could do forward wheels, backward wheels (whatever you like – have a dance if you want to).

    And it could still take a crossbow bolt at point blank range – or longbow arrows.

    Romans would have killed for armour that was as light (and yet so protective) as late Middle Ages armour.

    Also late Medieval swords were also better.

    And better than the Japanese swords everyone raves about.

    Late Medieval knights would smash Japanese samurai.

    Literally.

    Japanese armour would not stop Western weapons.

    And Western swords would smash Japanaese ones.

    “But the special training….”

    The Westerners had that to.

    Believe me – Henry V (or others of his time) could have wiped Japan off the face of the Earth.

    Even Joan of A. could have defeated Japanese lords in single combat.

    Becuase their weapons could not breach her armour and her weapons would have cut them to bits.

    And both weapons and armour were light enough for her to dance in them.

    Which she did.

  13. Paul Marks says:

    Impaling.

    I love the sword that Vlad used (Turkish in origin – but adapted).

    I watched a television show where it was used (with one hand!) to cut through a dead cow (though the spine) with one stroke.

    And with a twist of the wrist – you could remove the hand of your opponent.

    Not just make him drop his sword – take his hand off.

    Hard to recover from the schock of that in combat.

  14. NickM says:

    The weight was distributed more to the point. You could swim in it. It is Mark Twain to blame for the idea of winching knights onto horses. Modern body armour is more of a pain.

  15. Paul Marks says:

    Still – to get back to the post…..

    Body armour.

    Computer enhanced detection equipment.

    Remote drones operated from Las Vagas.

    Yes I want it ALL.

    I want to be William Wallace up against “Shuka Zulu” (another “Deadliest Warrior” silly match up).

    I want to have a foe none of whose weapons can breach my armour.

    And I want all my weapons to be able to kill him – and treat his shield as not even there.

    “But Shuka is fast”.

    “Did you hear that sound?”

    “Yes”.

    “That was my sword breaching the sound barrier – how fast do you think Shuka is?”

    The computer was very fair – they had Shuka (somehow) getting past the sword and at the face and throat of his foe.

    Made no difference – no chance to breach the face and neck protection.

    And there are those nasty things on the knees, elbows and and wrists of William Wallace.

    Any of which can kill an unarmoured man.

  16. Nelsontouch says:

    Hmm. In “The Western Way of War” it was said that the infantry at Tours were drawn from a property-holding landed peasantry.
    And that made the difference. Not the swords. The fact that they had a stake in the country.
    Not researched the truth of the claim – but “the moral is to the material as 3 to 1″ – that was Wellington or Napoleon, I think.

  17. HSLD says:

    I’m glad the discussion has turned to weapons, I thought I’d wandered into a CND meeting earlier :)

    One of my favourite mental pictures of the 6 Day War is Nasser asking the chief of his air force if they were wiping the Zionists off the face of the earth ( when actually their air force had ceased to exist in any meaningful form just before elevenses… )

    I wonder what he said ?

    Was it :-

    ” O Great Star of the Orient, O Scion of Pharoahs, we are driving the sons of apes and pigs into the sea ”

    Or :-

    ” Mate, we are so fucked. They killed our entire fucking airforce before I’d even got out of bed this morning “

  18. john in cheshire says:

    NickM, apologies for this because I’m in one of my vindictive moods. Why should I care if muslims are hooked on opiates, because that’s what they are doing to our people, here in our country?

  19. RAB says:

    Why should I care if muslims are hooked on opiates, because that’s what they are doing to our people, here in our country?

    Wrong John in the sense that THEY are doing it to US. WE are doing it to us, it’s called supply and demand. No demand, no supply.

    There was a really good article in the Telegraph last week I almost blogged, cos it was stone cold stonking sense. The thrust was that we should have bought the opium crop from the warlords in Afganistan from the off, not tried to “eradicate” the trade and replace it with other crops. Like Nick says there is a worldwide lack of medical opiates, it would have been in our interest. And let’s face it Afganistan isn’t Alberta in Canada or the Mid West of America, rolling fields of corn and wheat as far as the eye can see, so it’s utterly pointless trying to introduce it to a place only condusive to growing weeds that basically look after themselves till harvest time.

    I’ve been screaming the same thing from the rooftops since we invaded looking to get Obama in a futile attempt to stop his terrorist games. And it took 10 years to do even that.

    Buying the drugs gets us a supply of what we desperately need for medical reasons, it cuts out the drugs for guns profitability of the trade for the terrorists, and the everloving fervent followers of the religion of peace might just go back to sleep again and not try killing us just for the hell of it.

    Legalise all drugs. You can’t leave some dangerous ones legal and criminalise the rest, it just doesn’t bleedin work! They tried that with Prohibition in America and ended up with the Mafia and organised crime, and the vast profits from the one illegal but demanded trade got invested in many others, and the corruption spreads. Indeed it has spread so far we will never eradicate it. The only solution is to legalise them all. And think of all the lovely taxes the Govt’s of the world could raise on the back of it! Cos let’s face it, Mankind likes getting off it’s face once in a while. It shouldn’t be a criminal or moral offence depending on your tipple, now should it?

  20. zack says:

    —————————-
    SAoT: I simply make the point that the decision to kill people via drone strikes (again the drone strike per se is not the issue) is fundamentally Star Chamber medieval nonsense. There is no right to reply or defend yourself whatsoever. US politicians simply decide which people can be killed by fiat simply by calling them a terrorist or enemy combatant.
    —————————-

    I agree with this, that is the sticking point of this. Of course, I think that Bush should’ve said, “we’re doing military tribunals, interrogating these bastards to get valuable info, and then executing them afterwards”, and that would’ve been an acceptable solution – but he caved when the left demanded civil trials. Because of that, we’re stuck with this crap situation.

    —————————-
    Nick: The problem is the essential mutability of this war. What precisely are the US / NATO aims? There is your problem. For all his many sins FDR in the war with Japan had a clarity of purpose. There is no clarity of purpose here. None. I believe the fundamental crime here is going to war without having the vaguest notion what victory would mean or look like.
    ————————–
    Well, there was the ‘freedom agenda’ that he talked about in the lead up to the Iraq war, but when that turned out to be too grandiose to be politically/practically workable (even though I still think it is the only viable long term solution to the problem of Islamo-Fascism), I think he should’ve settled for “any state that gives material aid to a terrorist organization that is intent on attacking the US, you’re dead”; that seems to be a workable compromise (after all, it was the training and organization that the Afghanistan bases provided that permitted them pull off 9/11. Their ability to hit us has decreased substantially since they were eliminated)

    ————————–
    There is nothing for them to say about, “Steady on lads these Yanks mean business and our whole civilization is threateed!” Because they don’t have a civilization. They literally have nothing to lose except lives so crummy and benighted you or me would rather die than live like that. Christ! I bitch that Virgin hasn’t laid fibre optic down my street. These fuckers generally haven’t made a phonecall.
    ————————-

    again, the Freedom Agenda, in theory, would address this – I believe that one of the reasons that Iraq’s government wasn’t felled by the ‘Arab Spring’ was that as a democratic republic (let’s see if it can stay that way), it’s government had some legitimacy. I think that the fiasco in Libya shows the problem with a “more rubble less trouble” approach; you can’t just destroy something bad and hope for the best – you have to try to build something good in it’s place, or there’s a good chance that what comes after will be just as bad, if not worse.

    Of course, you also need someone who can build a case for that politically, which we in the West haven’t really had since Reagan and Thatcher.

  21. zack says:

    ——————
    RAB: Buying the drugs gets us a supply of what we desperately need for medical reasons, it cuts out the drugs for guns profitability of the trade for the terrorists, and the everloving fervent followers of the religion of peace might just go back to sleep again and not try killing us just for the hell of it.
    ——————

    I would support this – then again, it makes too much sense for government to do.

    ——————
    Legalise all drugs. You can’t leave some dangerous ones legal and criminalise the rest, it just doesn’t bleedin work! They tried that with Prohibition in America and ended up with the Mafia and organised crime, and the vast profits from the one illegal but demanded trade got invested in many others, and the corruption spreads.
    ——————

    the main problem I see with legalizing the hard narcotics (crack, heroine, meth, etc.) is that they automatically make you a danger to others; one shot of them and you’re wacked out (hell, that’s why they exist) – these things make people unstable, likely violent. They are inherently different then alcoholic drinks (which, lets be honest, are more food then drug) in that you can have a glass of wine or beer, or have a shot, and still be in control, not be a threat to others. These drugs on the other hand, no such gradation, it’s practically binary.

    Concerning the corruption – that is a threat with any type of criminal behavior – that argument could be used to call for the legalization of almost any criminal activity. Look at human trafficking – alot of corruption is involved in that alot of money changes hand, and the profits go toward other illegal activities. I think that when dealing about whether or not the government should take action on something, we need to look at three things; 1) is the proposed action ethically moral; 2) is it within the governments proper, limited, area’s of activity; and 3) would the proposed action be effective while not infringing upon the rights of the citizens. I think that prohibiting these hard narcotics is affirmative on the first two (on the basis that people doing drugs are knowing taking action that would put others at risk of harm), but I’m not so sure on the third; I think that the War on Drugs as it is practiced now has a lot of problems, but I do think that it could executed in a more effective, legally constrained way.

  22. NickM says:

    zack,
    My take is one of the fundamental reasons for legalising drugs is that truly dreadful stuff like meth just wouldn’t be used anything like as much. It’s the whole bang for buck thing. Precisely the reason prohibition turned the USA from a nation of beer drinkers to spirits drinkers.

  23. zack says:

    NickM:My take is one of the fundamental reasons for legalising drugs is that truly dreadful stuff like meth just wouldn’t be used anything like as much. It’s the whole bang for buck thing. Precisely the reason prohibition turned the USA from a nation of beer drinkers to spirits drinkers.
    ————————————

    first off, America is still a beer drinking nation http://adage.com/article/news/consumers-drink-soft-drinks-water-beer/228422/

    Concerning the narcotics – meth may be worse (which I don’t see how it can be, at least compared to heroin), but I don’t see how that is an argument for legalizing the other stuff. They’re all bad, and I think that there is a legitimate case for keeping all of them illegal. Infact, I don’t see how you can say that heroin or crack should be legal, while meth is illegal.

  24. Julie near Chicago says:

    I got curious…good photos of Roman saddles at

    http://lostfort.blogspot.com/2007/07/roman-saddles.html

    and especially

    http://www.caerleon.net/history/army/page9.html

    which has info on, among other things, the Legion based at Caerleon–the Second Legion Augusta.

  25. NickM says:

    I wasn’t arguing that. I was saying if they were all legal then the use of the really nasty stuff would decline.

  26. RAB says:

    Quite Nick, nobody sniffs glue anymore, not now when you can pop down your local dealers pub and get a bag of Skunk faster than you can get served at the bar.

  27. NickM says:

    Ah glue RAB! With Space Invaders the scourge of my youth! Like all such moral panics it just went away. But skunk is an issue here. I hate the bloody stuff. It has completely replaced resin because of bang for buck. That was my point. Most people who die directly from drugs do so because they have no bloody idea what they are taking. Hell, the average street-dealer has no idea what he or she is selling. And this causes moral outrage and so the bansturbatory cycle rolls around. A few years back the Russians had a crackdown on vodka. You couldn’t get sugar in shops for love nor money and people were drinking brake-fluid and going blind or dying. And then there is the fact the US War on Drugs has one way or another killed more Mexicans than the invasion of Iraq killed Iraqis.

  28. zack says:

    Nick, you’re first point – there isn’t the same moral hazard (being a threat to others) sniffing glue doesn’t make you a threat to others; and just because some people go to stupid lengths to get a high isn’t a case for legaliizng drugs. You can use that argument (that you won’t be able to stamp it out, and the attempts to do so causes other problems) to call for the legalization of anything; I won’t go into examples because it would get tedious. The point is that any policy needs to have a moral foundation, and not just a practical one, to make it a good law. I think that there is a good case to be made for outlawing drugs on both grounds. The difference between alcohol and narcottics is not just quantitative, it is qualitative; booze doesn’t automatically make you a threat to others, for one.
    —————————–
    NickM: And then there is the fact the US War on Drugs has one way or another killed more Mexicans than the invasion of Iraq killed Iraqis.
    —————————–

    Well yes, criminals do tend to get violent when you try to arrest them. I remember in the 90′s people were making the same arguments and statements about the drug war in Columbia that they are about Mexico today. Well Columbia finally crushed the cartels (like FARC) in the mid 2000′s, and now has the lowest number of murders (with a larger population) in almost 3 decades http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/21217-colombias-murder-rate-lowest-in-26-years-police.html

  29. RAB says:

    Zack, I get the impression, and do correct me if I’m wrong, that you know sweet fuck all about drugs, and have never taken any. Except perhaps for Alcohol and Tobacco. Both those are drugs by the way, though legal and society sanctioned, and dangerous ones at that. I would far rather deal with a Pot smoker, and Acid head or even a Heroin addict of an evening rather than someone ripped to the tits on alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, I like alcohol, but I know when I’ve had enough for the buzz and not too much for the amnesiac mayhem.

    Why? well the first three categories know what they are doing and are no physical threat to anyone but themselves. Drunks on the other hand have lost all control in the main and havent a clue what they are doing to others, often including physical violence.

    So where is all this “Moral” bollocks coming from? There is nothing moral or immoral about taking drugs, and certainly when you leave the most debilitating legal and taxed, an the least debilitating criminalised.

    Mankind has been getting high since we left the plains of Africa. Doing so has actually advanced our progress toward civilisation, enhanced our imaginations of what was and wasn’t possible, infused our dreams and created great Art and beauty.

    If you think that drugs have had no useful effect on Mankind, then as the late great Bill Hicks said… Take all your albums and burn them. All that great music was made by people who were real fuckin high! The Beatles even had to get Ringo back down from the ceiling with a rake to sing Yellow Submarine….

    And if you are sniffy about so called low culture pop music, then how about Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and Byron and the rest of the boys in the New Romantics band? Back then you could pop down the chemists and get anything you damn well pleased. Even Queen Victoria took Cannabis for her period pains, I don’t remember the Victorian era being one of moral turpitude, quite the opposite. It was one of incredible invention and burgeoning prosperity for all. How could that possibly be with all those nasty drugs available and unmoralised? Well until the control freak Bansturbators got to work with the Temperance movements etc.

  30. NickM says:

    zack,
    I disagree utterly. You don’t tackle my point. Drunks get violent and knife folk or crash cars. The moral threat is not clean cut between a beer and shooting-up. But you know that old NRA advert – “When guns are outlawed only outlaws have guns”. Why do so many right-wingers take that dictum (with which I agree) but not take it further. “When drugs are illegal only the mafia deals them”.

  31. zack says:

    First of all Nick, yes, drunks can get violent. The point I was making was that you can have a few without loosing complete control; there’s a gradation there. With hard narcotics, there is no such luck. Its a shot of heroin, a line of crack and they’re out of it. While I’ve never done drugs, I’ve been exposed to several people who have, and yes, when high they were a threat to others. I’ve seen people on drugs assault others because they thought they stole the other person stole their wallet (that was in their pocket); they are not in a proper state of mind.

    You’re right, there is no moral point to taking drugs, I never said there was. I was talking about there having to be a moral reason for making laws; do you think we should pass laws that are immoral? Concerning drugs, I think that a case can be made for outlawing a substance that only exists for fucking you up, and whose main side effect makes you dangerous to those around you.

    I’ve had had a glasses of wine that went great with my pasta; I’ve had beers that were great for steaks, or even just drinking. You can enjoy a few beers, or shots, or wine, or what ever for reasons other then getting shit faced, not so with with stuff like meth or crack. They exist only for people to get shitfaced. You can have a few drinks and still be in possession of your faculties – not so with these hard narcotics, they exist only to take you from sober to “out of your fucking gourd”. There is a major difference there. And I’ve never met anyone who was high on heroine, or crack, or meth who was NOT a threat to others (just to clear this up, I’m excluding pot as it has different effects, generally inducing lassitude).

    Also, concerning all of the great inventors and artists being high, about the large advances in technology, bull. The great inventors artists didn’t invent or create while high, and even the artists from the 70′s who did admitted that they thought their better stuff was written when they were off that crap.

    Concerning the Victorians (whom I thought you hated by the way?) they had a much different attitude toward these drugs – they treated them as medicines, for pain relief. They had a very negative view toward recreation drugs – why do you think the Victorians wanted to out law opium dens? They did it because they saw the harmful side effects of common, repeated uses of these drugs in quantities enough to mess you up. It’s the recreational uses that I’m talking about here.

  32. zack says:

    Just to make sure my stance on drugs is perfectly clear. I don’t have a problem with these substances within certain areas, area’s where they have beneficial uses. Morphine is used as a pain killer in hospitals, but it’s not given out over the counter because it’s two strong. Cocaine is actually used, legally, in the US as an topical anesthetic (in very small amounts) in certain very delicate operations, such as eye surgery.

    When used with in a legitimate domain, they’re actually beneficial, but when used recreationaly, they cause alot of problems. They’re different then alcoholic drinks in that you can have a few beers and still be in control – impaired, yes, but you’re not threat. Hard drugs are completely different, they are so potent that even small amounts are enough to make people unstable.

    If you drink enough to become violent or a threat to those around you (such as if you’re behind the wheel), then you should be arrested. You can see a guy in a car with case of beer, and that wouldn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to be doing something to be dangerous to others latter that night. Probable, maybe, but not necessarily.

    With narcotics though, it’s completely different. People who are carrying around a kilo of crack aren’t going to be having surgery tomorrow – the only reason to have that is that you’re planning on getting high, which means they are planning on taking an action that you know is going to make them a threat to others. There’s a perfectly good, legitimate reason to prevent that.

    I hope that I’ve made my stance clearer.

  33. RAB says:

    Let’s face it Zack, not only do you know fuck all about drugs, but you are actually anti fun. Medicinal purposes fine, laughing your ass off for the sheer hell of it and posing no threat to anyone? Not fine. You are a proto Bansturbator in the making son.

    a line of crack and they’re out of it.

    Um well there writ large is how little you know of which you speak. Crack is smoked my friend, not inhaled nasally as normal cocaine is. And no, they are not nessessarily out of it, it depends on their level of experience and tolerance.

    The Gay Buddhist and I spent an entire weekend snorting the finest Cocaine, 99% pure and £50 for half a gramme in the mid 70s. We had a bloody wonderful time! We felt like two Gods on rollerblades figure of eighting our way around the town festooning all we encountered with our devestating wit and perspicasity. Our friends, who we didn’t let into our little secret just thought we were more on form than usual was all, not off our faces at all.

    But the thing about Cocaine is that it is very moreish. If you have to take some more every ten minutes or so to maintain your high, elation, call it what you will, then you can soon see the downside of it. And at that bloody price we certainly couldn’t afford it. But they don’t call it the Champagne of drugs for nothing. It really is a great experience. But we both agreed that it was a two edged sword and we never bought any again.

    We also smoked a lot of weed and took a lot of Acid back in those days, and I guarantee that if you had us in conversation back then, you would never know that we had taken any drugs at all. To all intents an purposes, of our face we wern’t.

    What Nick and I are both saying is that really bad addictive drugs like Meth and Heroin will be filtered out by consumer choice if all drugs are legalised. Why get fucked up if you have a free choice of highs?

    So no, you know nothing about what you think you believe apart from what has been passed on to you by the likes of moralists like the Daily Fail. Don’t fall for it.

  34. zack says:

    rab: So no, you know nothing about what you think you believe apart from what has been passed on to you by the likes of moralists like the Daily Fail. Don’t fall for it.
    —————————-

    Have I done drugs myself? No. But I have seen what drugs do to people, and I have seen what people on drugs to do other people. I have first hand experience in that regard. Not from the media, not other people; first hand, eye witness.

    You did that crap and loved it, great. Did it occur to you that maybe that is clouding you’re judgement? That the facts that it made you feel like a ‘Gods on rollerblades figure of eighting our way around the town festooning all we encountered with our devestating wit and perspicasity’ color you’re perspective? (in my experience people on drugs tend to think they are wittier and more clever when they generally sound like total morons to people who are sober)

    ” Why get fucked up if you have a free choice of highs?” Well, there is that thing known as addiction, in which people keep going back to thing that fucks them up despite the consequences. Or is that something that is being made up as well?

    As far as being anti-fun; the only fun I’m against is the fun that comes at the expense of other people and their property. Maybe, if you bothered to read my posts, you would realize that is the entire point of my argument. Did you read my posts, (where I actually explained that) before concluding that I “knew fuck all” about it, or were they just to long for you? Or did you just dismiss it because you didn’t like the conclusions I’ve drawn from my experience? Either way I’m done. When you get off your high horse and your head out of the (marijuana?) clouds, let me know.

  35. RAB says:

    Sigh

    Yes Zack, I did read your comments all the way through, tedious, tendentious and ill-informed though they are. I always give our commenters that much respect.

    You appear to believe that ALL drugs are addictive and bad for you. Well frankly anything is bad for you in excess. You can die of too much water and let’s not forget the health fanatic who drank gallons of Carrot Juice thinking this was the sure fire route to eternity. Well he got to meet his maker rather sooner than he thought. He turned bright orange and died of Carotine poisoning.

    Well sorry but they’re not, not in a physical dependancy sense anyway. Marijuana , LSD, Excstacy etc are certainly not physically addictive. Your body does not crave them over and above the pleasure of the high.

    On the other hand, Alcohol, tobacco (both legal) and Heroin and Cocaine (both illegal) are. Your body needs a hit physically every day to just carry on as normal, even before you get to the high or mood alteration they are supposed to supply.

    The main danger to those taking illegal addictive drugs is as Nick said yesterday, they have no idea what they are taking. Heroin and Coke is invariably cut with all sorts of noxious substances, drain cleaner and bleach for example, to bulk up the weight of the product. They also have no idea of the strength of the drug because of this. Sometimes a batch turns up that is pretty pure and ten times stronger than the user is used to, and they drop like flies from overdoses.

    You also seem to believe that illegal drug users are a threat to anothers person and property entirely down to the nature of the alteration of conciousness that the chosen drug induces. Not so, or generally not so, except when taken as a cocktail with other drugs, and the main culprit here being Alcohol, the legal one.

    The threat to your person and property from so called junkies is that they are so desperate to feed their habit that they resort to criminality like mugging and burglary to get the money to do so. It’s not the nature of the drug but the desperation to get more of it that leads to the criminality.

    So let’s try legalising all drugs. Regulate the quality and see what happens. I bet drug use will fall not rise. The so called war on drugs has been utterly bloody counter productive for everybody except Law enforcement who have made an entire lifetime’s failed career out of it. It costs us billions and is a complete waste of time and money.

    So yes, let’s legalise all drugs, kick the moral panic into touch (because most dopers are no danger to anyone but themselves) educate and tell the truth to the populace about the risks and dangers, the swings and roundabouts of the whole thing, stop getting hysterical, and I bet drug use will go down not up.

    Legalisation takes the drugs out of the hands of criminals whose only reason to be in the trade is the vast profits to be made, and care little or nothing for the quality of the product provided. And as places like Mexico illustrate, thousands more die from the squabbles over the criminal profits, than will ever die from the drugs themselves.

    Let’s try Legalisation eh? Give it a try? Guess what? if it doesn’t work out we can always criminalise them all again and be back in the same space we are now. Deal?

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