Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Battle of the Super-Soakers

The vampires had risen, far more of them than anyone had contemplated. The Slayer and her friends, fellow warriors by now, had a fairly secure position. But there were a lot of the undead coming. The stock of arrows and crossbow bolts was running low. The experimental ammunition, with african blackwood rods swaged into lead bullets, worked, but the supply was also low.

The Sun had dropped below the horizon. The vampires weren’t bothering to wait for full dark, they were massing in a field a half-mile away. There were too many of them.

One of the Scooby Brigade said, more to himself: “We need a miracle about now.”

The Slayer said: “Listen.”

They could all hear it. It was the roar of very large piston engines.

“What the fuck,” someone else muttered.

They saw a large twin-engined airplane, a flying boat. It was painted orange and red and it was flying low. It was flying towards the vampires from the north.

The Slayer said: “Watch.”

The airplane came right over the vampires and dumped 1,400 gallons of water in a swath right across the assembled horde. The vampires began bursting into flame and shrieking. Another water-bomber came roaring in and sprayed the leading edge of the horde. The skies were lit up with the flames of burning vampires and the air was filled with their shrieks.

“Holy water,” the Slayer said.

The first airplane descended and touched down on a nearby reservoir, scooping up another load of water. Inside the airplane, at the top of the water tank, a priest in full regalia opened a small hatch as soon as the airplane began its climb. As the airplane climbed away from the reservoir, the priest chanted some blessings and did a few other things. Then he slammed the hatch shut and gave a thumbs up to a crewman, who yelled: “We’re good for another run!” into the intercom.

The Slayer and her warriors watched as the first airplane laid down a lane of water just in front of the retreating vampires. The front ranks skidded to a halt, afraid to try and run across the sodden and now consecrated ground. They were nicely bunched up when the second airplane dropped its load right on them.

“Let’s go, there’s some mopping up to do,” the Slayer said. She led her troops down from their redoubt and into combat. Overhead, the water bombers made some more passes, but now they were as much putting out spot fires caused by burning vampires as they were killing the undead.

There wasn’t much for the troops to do. The vampires who hadn’t been killed outright by being soaked with holy water had taken enough of the spray to be debilitated. It wasn’t so much combat as slaying the wounded. One of the wounded was Locutus, the vampire commander. His legs were gone at about mid-thigh and one of his hands had been burned off.

Locutus tried to straighten up as he said: “You think you have won this time, Slayer, but--” He disappeared in a shower of dust as a wooden arrow ran through his blackened heart.

The Slayer lowered her bow: “I have no time for famous last words,” she said to the dissipating cloud of dust.

One of her warriors trotted up and said: “I think we got them all, Boss.”

The Slayer nodded. “Well, you asked for a miracle,” she said.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Carrington- Pregnancy

Carly’s uncle Max and her father Bill were doing their morning rounds. Both had sidearms, Bill carried a .22 Henry and Max had a bow. The air held the hint of Spring.

“Carly’s pregnant,” Bill said.

“Whoa. No shit?”

“She told Sue last night.” Sue was Carly’s mother. “What are we going to do about it?”

“Nothing we can do,” Max said. “Any idea who the father is?”

“She didn’t say, according to Sue. My guess it would that asshole Frank Anderson.”

“So when he tried to rape her, that wasn’t the first time? Why didn’t she tell anyone?”

“Probably because she thought we’d cowboy up and go hunt him down,” Bill mused. “And that would have started a feud.”

“So she waited her time and then shot him the next time he tried? Tough girl, our Carly.”

“Times make people pretty hard.”


“What life is this going to be for my grandchild,” Bill asked. “We, everyone, have been hanging on by our nails for years, now. Waiting for some sign that things are going to go back to the way they were, or get close to it. And when it does, then what? We’ve been trying to teach our kids science and math and other things, but they see none of that matters these days. Teach handicrafts or farming and they pay attention. Algebra and the like, not so much.”

“So if things do recover, they’ll be on the outside?”

“Like a Kalahari goat herder looking at a computer.”

“What if things don’t recover?”

Bill stopped walking and sat on a fallen tree. “Then we, as in humanity, are forever screwed.”

Max sat down next to him. “Why?”

Bill shrugged. “Because there’s nothing left. If we go back to the Stone Age, there’s nothing else. All of the steel and iron in buildings and cars and railroad tracks will rust away, sooner or later. And even if we did start melting them down into ingots, all we have is wood for a fuel source. All of the oil and coal that was easy to get out of the ground has been gotten. Same for iron, tin, copper. The industrial revolution took off because the Brits and then us had lots of coal that could be mined by hand. Took coal and coke to make steel available. Took electricity to make aluminum from ore.”

Max didn’t say anything.

Bill continued on. “Won’t happen overnight. There’s lots of steel and aluminum out there. A mile of railroad track has--” he thought for a few seconds “-- almost three hundred tons of high-grade steel in it, not counting the fish plates and the spikes. Harder to get at, since they welded it all. Not like the old days, you could break out forty-foot sections.”

“Bust a lot of hacksaw blades doing that, now.

“Yeah. You’d have to dig under the track, build a big hot fire, heat it up and maybe you could then beat it apart, I dunno.”

“So, what do we do?”

“I think we’d better get those books you bought out on how the Indians did things, back before the white man showed up, and we’d best teach ourselves and our kids how they made tools and things.”

Max looked skeptical. “So our grandkids and great-grandkids are going to be running around in moccasins, wearing buckskins, shooting bows and living in tepees or wigwams?”

“Yeah. Folks forget there were something like fifteen million Indians lived in this country before Columbus showed up, bearing gifts and diseases. Might even be better if they can hang onto horses and cows.”

“And all of our culture and literature and music and shit like that’ll be gone?”

Bill nodded. “Pretty much. None of it’s worth a turd if you’re living a subsistence life. Things don’t recover, in a hundred years, there won’t be fifty people on the planet who’ll know who Shakespeare or Neil Armstrong was.”

“But life goes on.”

“It do. As long as we don’t give up. Best sign of that’s Carly’s baby.”

“Gonna be tough, with another mouth to feed.”

“Yeah. But that kid’s the future. A long as people keep having kids and raising them and teaching them to survive, we go on. And maybe, sometime, they’ll figure out a way to get back to things like science and art and shit.”

Max stood up and brushed off the seat of his pants. “But we’ve got work to do, now.”


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Carrington; Morning Watch

Carly woke up when her brother Sam touched her on the arm. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t need to. She quickly got dressed, strapped on her revolver, put on her boots and went downstairs. Sam was in the kitchen, yawning. The kitchen was dimly lit, only a faint glow came through the glass panel of the wood stove. It was four in the morning.

“‘Anything new,” she asked while stretching.

He shrugged. “The chickens were making a little bit of noise, but I didn’t see anything.”

“Did you use the flashlight?”


Carly nodded. Uncle Max was big on not showing light at night. It had better be a dangerous situation to justify using a light. Uncle Max said that lights attract attention, especially the bad kind. More than one of the kids had taken a beating for it.

“What’s it like out,” she asked.

“Not too cold, maybe 40 or so. No wind, clear sky. Moon is still up, but it’ll set in an hour or so.”

Sam handed her an orange whistle on a lanyard cord, the night watch rifle and two spare magazines. Carly removed the magazine from the rifle, checked to verify that there was a round in the chamber and re-inserted the magazine. The rifle was a Ruger 10/22 with a flashlight and a silencer that Uncle Max had built. The silencer had been illegal at one time, but nobody had seen a cop in four years. Uncle Max was fond of saying that the law was what was in your holster. The whistle was to be used only in an utter emergency. Sound carried these days, since there wasn’t any background noise to speak of.

She put on her coat, hat and gloves, picked up the rifle and went into the light lock. The “light lock” was a mud room with a door on either end, one into the kitchen and one to the porch. The inside was painted flat black. At night, the windows in the doors and in the mud room were covered with heavy drapes. Carly figured that the term “light lock” came from her cousin Tyler’s love of science fiction.

Carly paused on the porch to let her eyes adjust, which didn’t take very long. It was scarcely brighter in the kitchen than it was outdoor, She thought for a few seconds, then opened the door to the mud room and pulled out a white poncho, more of a cloak, really. She didn’t know if anybody was about, but why give them an edge, she reasoned.

She went out and made her rounds. The barn was secure, the sheep, chickens and the few cows were quiet. She still was not used to how few animals there were in the barn anymore. It was a lot harder to make good hay ever since the nights that the sky burned, which meant that fewer animals had be fed through a winter. The pigs were long gone, there was hardly enough food for the people, let alone scraps for pigs.

The night security watches, when everyone else was asleep, were the only times that Carly made the next stop on her rounds: The family graveyard. There were no tombstones, only carved wooden boards. She stopped at the grave of Billy, her brother. People once called her and Billy “Irish twins;” Billy had been eleven months older that her.

Fourteen months ago, Billy got a bad cut on his arm as he and Sam were skinning a deer. Back in the old days, that would have meant a trip to the emergency room for some stitches and ten days’ worth of antibiotics. Billy might have then had a small scar to talk about. Now there were no ambulances, no emergency rooms and no antibiotics. Billy had died of blood poisoning five weeks later. They couldn’t even bury him until the Spring thaw.

There was a little snow on the marker. Carly brushed it off with a gloved hand. There had been no real time for her to mourn or grieve. Life was hard since the skies burned and it seemed to her that each year was harder than the one before. If it wasn’t for having been Billy’s primary nurse as he slid down towards death, Carly would have thought that he was the lucky one.

It was getting on towards sunup. Carly went back to the house. She built the makings of a fire in the wood cookstove in the kitchen, then used a stick to transfer fire from the wood stove to the cookstove. The cookstove had been in the basement of the small barn for decades, too heavy to take away and too beat-up to sell. It had taken the men and boys days to move it into the kitchen and to move the propane stove out to the small barn. They counted themselves lucky to have it; lots of families were cooking now in their fireplaces.

Carly then went to the sink in the basement and used the hand-pump to draw water for the morning meal, She was carrying the second pail up from the basement when she felt the first kick. Hell of a thing to be born in this day and age, Carly thought.

Carly was sixteen years old.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Easy Bread From Scratch

Making white bread is fairly easy. Fresh bread is very tasty without all of the preservatives and other crap. It does take time, but most of the time is spent waiting, so you can read, screw around on your computer or go for a walk during some of the waiting times.

This recipe will yield one loaf. It will scale up for two loaves by doubling the ingredients; you'll also need to double the flour addition steps (see #2 and #4).

Ingredients and Gear:

1 package of active dry yeast (¼ oz.)
1¼ cups of warm water (100-115°F)
1½ tablespoons of white sugar
1½ tablespoons of softened butter
½ tablespoon of salt
3¼ cups of bread flour-- some wizened old lady in the store told me that King Arthur flour is the best to use.
Vegetable oil
1 2-qt pan of water (optional)
Heating pad and cloth towel (optional)
2 large bowls
1 5x9 loaf pan (two for two loaves)
Plastic wrap or wax paper
Cooling rack
Measuring stuff
Stand mixer or food processor with a dough blade (optional)

1. Put the warm water into a large bowl. Whisk in the yeast and the sugar. Let it stand for ten to fifteen minutes. You should see signs that the yeast is growing.

2. Stir in a cup of flour, mixing well. You can use a mixer, though a hand mixer will not handle the entire mixing process. A sturdy food processor with a dough blade or a heavy stand mixer will work nicely.

3. Mix in the salt and the butter. (If you add the salt before you mix in the first cup of flour, you will kill off most of the yeast, the dough won’t rise and the result will have the consistency and the taste of drywall.)

4. Add flour, a ¼ cup at a time, mixing it well. Towards the end, you are probably going to be mixing it in with your hands (unless you're using a powerful food processor or a stand mixer). Keep mixing the dough until it has all pulled together. It may take you a time or two to know when this happens; the dough will have picked up almost everything in the bowl.

5. Lightly flour a large flat surface (this is a reason to keep your countertops clean). Start kneading the dough. There are a bazillion techniques, one is to push the dough flat, fold it over on itself, turn it a ¼-turn, push it flat and keep repeating, adding flour as necessary to the surface. You need to do this for about ten minutes. You'll be finished when the dough becomes somewhat elastic and it won’t be sticky. What you are doing is breaking down the gluten so that the bread will rise properly. (If you use a stand mixer or a food processor to do the kneading, you may need to add additional flour or the dough will be too sticky.)

6. Optional: If you have a cold kitchen, half-way through the kneading process, either put the pan of water on the stove and boil the water or turn on the heating pad.

7. When you are done kneading, put a little bit of vegetable oil in the other large bowl. Put the ball of dough in the bowl and turn it over so the entire ball is lightly covered with oil– this keeps it from sticking to the sides. (Don’t clean up the flour left on the countertop, you’ll need it.)

8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or wax paper, cover with a towel and set aside to rise. If your kitchen is cold, put the bowl on top of a heating pad and then put a towel over the bowl. Or you can put the bowl the top rack in a cold oven. Put the pan of very hot water on the bottom rack. This will warm the inside of the oven to 80-90°. If you leave it out on the counter in a cold kitchen (like up here in South Cryogenica in the winter), it won’t rise property. Given a choice between the "hot water in the oven" method or the "heating pad" method, the heating pad is far easier to use.

Be careful here if you use the "hot water & oven" method. You can over-rise the dough. In a 63°F kitchen, I've found that using a heating pad for the first rise works the best.

Let it rise for an hour, it will double in size. If it rises too much or too little, adjust your rising time as need be.

9. (If you are using a cold oven to rise the dough, take the pan of water out of the bottom rack and put it back on the stove to reheat it.) Take the wrap of the bowl and punch the dough down to deflate it. Dump the dough onto the floured countertop. (If you doubled the recipe for two loaves, this is where you must cut the dough into two equal amounts.) Flatten the dough out and shape it into a size that will fit the loaf pan(s). A little kneading in this step doesn't hurt, but don't go nuts. You can over-work the dough.

10. Lightly grease the inside of the loaf pan. Put the dough inside. Lightly coat one side of a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper with vegetable oil and lay it over the top of the loaf pan, oiled side down. Do not stretch plastic wrap tight.

11. Put the loaf pan aside to rise for 45 minutes. If you have a cold kitchen, put the loaf pan back in the cold oven on the top rack and the pan of hot water on the bottom rack for 30 minutes. Or you can put the loaf pan(s) on a heating pad and cover them with a towel.

12. Take the loaf pan and the water pan out of the oven and set the loaf pan on a countertop. (Do whatever you want with the hot water). Set the oven rack so it is in the middle of the oven.

13. Preheat the oven to 425°.

14. Remove the wax paper/plastic wrap from the loaf and put it in the oven for 30 minutes, and turn the oven down to 375°. You can test for doneness by taking the loaf out of the pan and tapping it on the bottom, it should sound somewhat hollow. If you want the sides to be a little crusty, take the loaf out of the pan 5 minutes early and then put the loaf back into the oven.

15. Remove the loaf from the pan (if you didn’t in the previous step) and set it on a cooling rack. Let it cool almost all the way to room temperature (by touch) before you slice into it. Store in a bread bag.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Chechen War

From WikiLeaks, this cable from 2006 examines the War in Chechnya.

Grozny is the capital city of Chechnya. It is worth keeping in mind that "grozny" is an adjective in Russian that means things like "threatening, dread, terrible, menacing".

With that.....

DE RUEHMO #5645/01 1500927
P 300927Z MAY 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 10 MOSCOW 005645



EO 12958 DECL: 05/25/2016

Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. Reason 1.4 (b, d)

¶1. (C) Introduction: Chechnya has been less in the glare of constant international attention in recent years. However, the Chechnya conflict remains unresolved, and the suffering of the Chechen people and the threat of instability throughout the region remain. This message reinterprets the history of the Chechen wars as a means of better understanding the current dynamics, the challenges facing Russia, the way in which the Kremlin perceives those challenges, and the factors limiting the Kremlin’s ability to respond. It draws on close observation on the ground and conversations with many participants in and observers of the conflict from the moment of Chechnya’s declaration of independence in 1991. We intend this message to spur thinking on new approaches to a tragedy that persists as an issue within Russia and between Russia and the U.S., Europe and the Islamic world.


¶2. (C) President Putin has pursued a two-pronged strategy to extricate Russia from the war in Chechnya and establish a viable long-term modus vivendi preserving Moscow’s role as the ultimate arbiter of Chechen affairs. The first prong was to gain control of the Russian military deployed there, which had long operated without real central control and was intent on staying as long as its officers could profit from the war. The second prong was “Chechenization,” which in effect means turning Chechnya over to former nationalist separatists willing to profess loyalty to Russia. There are two difficulties with Putin’s strategy. First, while Chechenization has been successful in suppressing nationalist separatists within Chechnya, it has not been as effective against the Jihadist militants, who have broadened their focus and are gaining strength throughout the North Caucasus. Second, as long as former separatist warlords run Chechnya, Russian forces will have to stay in numbers sufficient to ensure that the ex-separatists remain “ex.” More broadly, the suffering of an abused and victimized population will continue, and with it the alienation that feeds the insurgency.

¶3. (C) To deal effectively with Chechnya in the long term, Putin needs to increase his control over the Russian Power Ministries and reduce opportunities for them to profit from war corruption. He needs to strengthen Russian civilian engagement, reinforcing the role of his Plenipotentiary Representative. He needs to take a broad approach to combat the spread of Jihadism, and not rely primarily on suppression by force. In this context there is only a limited role for the U.S., but we and our allies can help by expressing our concerns to Putin, directing assistance to areas where our programs can slow the spread of Jihadism, and working with Russia’s southern neighbors to minimize the effects of instability. End Summary.

The Starting Point: Problems of the “Russianized” Conflict
--------------------------------------------- --------------

¶4. (C) Chechnya was only one of the conflicts that broke out in the former Soviet Union at the time of the country’s collapse. Territorial conflicts, most of them separatist, erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, South Ossetia, North Ossetia/Ingushetia, Abkhazia and Tajikistan. Russian troops were involved in combat in all of those conflicts, sometimes clandestinely. In all except Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian troops remain today as peacekeepers. Russia doggedly insists on this presence and resists pulling its forces out. Its diplomatic efforts have served to keep the conflicts frozen, with Russian troops remaining in place.

¶5. (C) Why is this? The charge is often made that Russia’s motive for keeping the conflicts frozen is geostrategic, or “neo-imperialism,” or fear of NATO, or revenge against Georgia and Moldova, or a quest to preserve leverage. Indeed, the continued deployments may satisfy those Russians who think in such terms, and expand the domestic consensus for sending troops throughout the CIS. However, while one or another of those factors may have been the original impulse, each of the conflicts has gone through phases in which the conflict’s perceived uses for the Russian state have changed. No one of these factors has been continuous over the life of any of the conflicts.

¶6. (C) We would propose an additional factor: the determination of Russia’s senior officer corps to remain deployed in those countries to engage in lucrative activity outside their official military tasks. Sometimes that
MOSCOW 00005645 002 OF 010
activity has been as mercenaries -- for instance, Russian active-duty soldiers fought on both sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from 1991-92. Sometimes it has involved narcotics smuggling, as in Tajikistan. Selling arms to all sides has been a long-standing tradition. And sometimes it has meant collaborating with the mafias of both sides in conflict to facilitate contraband trade across the lines, as in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The officers and their generals formed a powerful bloc in favor of all the deployments, especially under Yeltsin.

¶7. (C) This “military-entrepreneurial” bloc soon formed an autonomous institution, in some respects outside the government’s control. There are many illustrations of its autonomy. For instance, in 1993 Yeltsin reached an agreement with Georgia on peacekeeping in Abkhazia. When the Georgian delegation arrived in Sochi in September of that year to hammer out the details with Russia’s generals, they found the deal had changed. When they protested that Yeltsin had agreed to other terms, a Russian general replied, “Let the President sit in Moscow, drink vodka, and chase women. That’s his business. We are here, and we have our work to do.”

The Secret History of the Chechen War

¶8. (C) The lack of central control over the military, as well as officers’ cupidity, may have been a prime cause of the first Chechnya War. Immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, energy prices in the “ruble zone” were 3 percent of world market prices. Government officials and their partners bought oil at ruble prices, diverted it abroad, and sold it on the world market. The military joined in this arbitrage. Pavel Grachev, then Defense Minister, reportedly diverted oil to Western Group of Forces commander Burlakov, who sold it in Germany.

¶9. (C) Chechnya was a major entrepot for laundering oil for this arbitrage. It appears to have been used both by the military (including Grachev) and the Khasbulatov-Rutskoy axis in the Duma. Dudayev had declared independence, but remained part of the Russian elite. Chechnya’s independence, oilfields, refineries and pipelines made Chechnya perfect for laundering oil. Planes, trains, buses and roads and pipelines to Chechnya were functioning, allowing anyone and anything to transit -- except auditors. In the early 1990’s millions of tons of “Russian” oil entered Chechnya and were magically transformed into “Chechen” oil to be sold on the world market at world prices. Some of the proceeds went to buy the Chechens weaponry, most of it from the Russian military, and another lucrative trade developed. Dudayev took much of his cut of the proceeds in weapons. The Groznyy Bazaar was notorious in the early 1990s for the quantity and variety of arms for sale, including heavy weaponry.

¶10. (C) Chechnya was the home of Ruslan Khasbulatov and served various purposes for his faction of the Russian elite. He took advantage of the army’s independence from Yeltsin’s control. An informed source believes that it was Khasbulatov, not the “official” Russian government, who facilitated the transfer of Shamil Basayev and his heavily-armed fighters from Chechnya into Abkhazia in 1992, and who ordered the Russian air force to bomb Sukhumi when Shevardnadze went there to take personal command of the Georgians’ last stand in July 1993. The Yeltsin government always denied that it bombed Sukhumi, despite Western eyewitness accounts confirming the bombing and the insignia on the planes. Given the confusion of those years, it could well be that the order originated in the Duma, not the Kremlin.

¶11. (C) After Khasbulatov and Rutskoy were written out of the Russian equation in October 1993, so was Dudayev. Clandestine Russian support for the Chechen political and military opposition to Dudayev began in the spring of 1994, according to participants. When that proved ineffective, Russian bombing was deployed. (One Dudayev opponent recounted that in 1994 a Russian pilot was given a mission to fire a missile into one of the top-floor corners of Groznyy’s Presidency building at a time when Dudayev was scheduled to hold a cabinet meeting there. Not knowing Groznyy, the pilot asked which building to bomb, and was told “the tallest one.” He bombed a residential apartment building.) When air power, too, proved ineffective, Russian troops were secretly sent in to reinforce the armed opposition. Dudayev’s forces captured about a dozen and put them on television -- and the Russian invasion began shortly thereafter.

¶12. (C) Given the gangsterish background of the war, it is no surprise that the military conducted the war itself as a profit-making enterprise, especially after the capture of
MOSCOW 00005645 003 OF 010
Groznyy. By May 1995 an anti-Dudayev Chechen could lament, “When we invited the Russian army in we expected an army -- not this band of marauders.” Contraband trade in oil, weapons (including direct sales from Russian military stores to the insurgents), drugs, and liquor, plus “protection” for legitimate trade made military service in Chechnya lucrative for those not on the front lines. This profitability ended only with the August 1996 defeat of Russian forces in Groznyy at the hands of the insurgents and the subsequent Russian withdrawal -- a defeat made possible because the Russian forces were hollowed out by their officers’ corruption and pursuit of economic profit.

¶13. (C) Before they lost this “cash-cow” to their enemies, Russian officers went to great lengths to keep their friends from interfering with their profits. On July 30, 1995, the Russians and the Chechen insurgents signed a cease-fire agreement mediated by the OSCE. It would have meant the gradual withdrawal of Russian forces. Enforcing the cease-fire was a Joint Observation Commission (“SNK”). The head of the SNK was General Anatoliy Romanov, a competent and upright officer -- very much a rarity in Chechnya. After two months at this assignment he was severely injured by a mine inside Groznyy, and has been hospitalized ever since. Informed observers believe Romanov’s own colleagues in the Russian forces carried out this murder attempt. The cease-fire, never enforced, broke down.

¶14. (C) When the second war began in September 1999, Russian forces again started profiteering from a trade in contraband oil. Western eyewitnesses reported convoys of Russian army trucks carrying oil leaving Groznyy under cover of night. Eventually the Russian forces reached an understanding with the insurgent fighters. Seeing one such convoy, a Western reporter asked his guerrilla hosts whether the fighters ever attacked such convoys. “No,” the leader replied. “They leave us alone and we leave them alone.”

No Exit for Putin

¶15. (C) Sometime between one and two years after Russian forces were unleashed for a second time on Chechnya, Putin appears to have realized that they were not going to deliver a neat victory. That failure would make Putin look weak at home, the human rights violations would estrange the West, and the drain on the Russian treasury would be punishing (this was before the dramatic rise in energy prices). Putin could not negotiate a peace with Maskhadov: he had already rejected that course and could not back down without appearing weak. The Khasavyurt accords that ended the first war were the result of defeat; a new set of accords would be seen as a new defeat. In any case, the history of the war (and the fate of General Romanov) made clear that negotiations without the subordination of the military were a physical impossibility.

¶16. (C) Putin thus found himself without a winning strategy and had to develop one. He has taken a two-pronged approach. One prong was subordinating the military. The appointment of Sergey Ivanov as Defense Minister appears to have been aimed at subjecting the military to the control of the security services. A series of reassignments and firings is the surface evidence of the struggle to subordinate the military in Chechnya. Southern Military District commander Troshev, who led the 1999 invasion, refused outright the first orders transferring him to Siberia in November 2002, and went on television to publicize his mutiny. He was finally removed in February 2003. Chief of the Defense Staff Kvashnin, who had held the Southern District command during the first Chechen war, hung on in a combative relationship with Ivanov for three years until he, too, was replaced in 2004 (and also sent to Siberia as the Presidential Representative in Novosibirsk). The spring 2005 dismissal of General Viktor Kazantsev, Putin’s Plenipotentiary Representative in the Southern Federal District, was reportedly the final link in the chain. Military corruption, and feeding at the trough of Chechnya, has not ended, but the corruption has reportedly been “institutionalized” and more closely regulated in Kremlin-controlled channels.

Chechenization, Ahmad-Haji Kadyrov, and the Salafists
--------------------------------------------- --------

¶17. (C) The second prong of Putin’s strategy was to hand the fighting over to Chechens. “Chechenization” differs from Vietnamization or Iraqification. In those strategies, a loyalist force is strengthened to the point at which it can carry on the fight itself. Chechenization, in contrast, has meant handing Chechnya over to the guerrillas in exchange for their professions of loyalty, the formal retention of Chechnya within the Russian Federation, and an uneasy
MOSCOW 00005645 004 OF 010
cooperation with Federal authorities that in practice is constantly re-negotiated.

¶18. (C) Chechenization is associated with Ahmad-Haji Kadyrov, the insurgent commander and chief Mufti of separatist Chechnya. After he defected to the Russians, Putin put him in charge of the new Russian-installed Chechen administration. Chechenization was reportedly agreed between Kadyrov and Putin personally. But the seeds of the policy were sown by a split in the insurgent ranks dating to the first war. That split that took the form of a religious dispute, though it masked a power struggle among warlords. The split is the direct result of the introduction of a new element: Arab forces espousing a pan-Islamic Jihadist religious ideology.

¶19. (C) The traditional Islam of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia is based on Sufism, or Islamic mysticism. Though nominally the Sufi orders were the same as those predominant in Central Asia and Kurdistan -- Naqshbandi and Qadiri -- Sufism in the Northeast Caucasus took on a unique form in the 18th-19th century struggle against Russian encroachment. It is usually called “muridism.” Murids were armed acolytes of a hieratic commander, the murshid. Shaykh Shamil, the Naqshbandi murshid who led the mountaineers’ resistance to the Russians until his capture in 1859, was both a spiritual guide and a military commander. He also exercised government powers. The largest Sufi branch (“vird”) in Chechnya is the Kunta-Haji “vird” of the Qadiris, founded and led by the charismatic Chechen missionary Kunta-Haji Kishiyev until his exile by the Russians in 1864. Although the historical Kunta-Haji died two years later, his followers believe that Kunta-Haji lives on in occultation, like the Shi’a Twelfth Imam.

¶20. (C) When Arab fighters joined the Chechen conflict in 1995, they brought with them a “Salafist” doctrine that attempts to emulate the fundamental, “pure” Islam of the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors, especially ‘Umar, the second Caliph. It holds that mysticism is one of the “impurities” that crept into Islam after the first four Caliphs, and considers Sufis to be heretics and idolaters. The idea that Kunta-Haji adepts could believe their founder is still alive -- and that they worship the grave of his mother -- is an abomination to Salafis, who believe that marked graves are a form of pagan ancestor worship (Muhammad’s grave in Arabia is not marked).

¶21. (C) Wahhabism-based forms of Islam started appearing in Chechnya by 1991, as Chechens were able to travel and some went to Saudi Arabia for religious study. But the true influx of Salafis (usually lumped together with Wahhabis in Russia) came during the first Chechen war. In February 1995 Fathi ‘Ali al-Shishani, a Jordanian of Chechen descent, arrived in Chechnya. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, he was now too old to be a combatant, but was a missionary for Salafism. He recruited another Afghan veteran, the Saudi al-Khattab, to come to Chechnya and lead a group of Arab fighters.

¶22. (C) Al-Khattab’s fighters were never a major military factor during the war, but they were the key to Gulf money, which financed power struggles in the inter-war years. Al-Khattab forged close links with Shamil Basayev, the most famous Chechen field commander. Basayev himself was from a Qadiri family, but he was too Sovietized to view Islam as anything more than part of the Chechen and Caucasus identity. In his early interviews, Basayev showed himself to be motivated by Chechen nationalism, not religion, though he paid lip-service -- e.g., proclaiming Sharia law in Vedeno in early 1995 -- to attract Gulf donors. Basayev’s initial interest in al-Khattab, as indeed with other jihadists starting even before the first war, was purely financial.

¶23. (C) After the first war, al-Khattab set up a camp in Serzhen-Yurt (“Baza Kavkaz”) for military and religious indoctrination. It provided one of the few employment opportunities for demobilized Chechen fighters between the wars. Young Chechens had traditionally engaged in seasonal migrant construction work throughout the Soviet Union, but after the first war that was no longer open to them. The closed international borders also precluded smuggling -- another pre-war source of employment and income. The fighters had no money, no jobs, no education, no skills save with their guns, and no prospects. Al-Khattab’s offer of food, shelter and work was inviting. As a result, between the wars Salafism spread quickly in Chechnya. (Al-Khattab also invited missionaries and facilitators who set up shop in Chechnya, Dagestan and Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, whose Kist residents are close relatives of the Chechens.)

Battle Lines in Peacetime
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¶24. (C) Chechen society is distinguished by its propensity to unite in war and fragment in peace. It is based on opposing dichotomies: the Vaynakh peoples are divided into Chechens and Ingush; the Chechens are divided into highlanders (“Lameroi”) and lowlanders (“Nokhchi”); and these are further divided into tribal confederations and exogamous tribes (“teyp”) and their subdivisions. Each unit will unite with its opposite to combat a threat from outside. Two lowland teyps, for example, will drop quarrels and unite against an intruding highland teyp. But left to themselves, they will quarrel and split. After the Khasavyurt accords, when Russia left the Chechens alone, the wartime alliance between Maskhadov and Basayev split and the two became enemies. Other warlords lined up on one side or the other -- the Yamadayev brothers of Gudermes, for example, fighting a pitched battle against Basayev in 1999. But the rise of Basayev and al-Khattab undermined Maskhadov’s authority and prevented him from exercising any real power.

¶25. (C) This power struggle took on a religious expression. Since Basayev was associated with al-Khattab and Salafism, Maskhadov positioned himself as champion of traditional Sufism. He surrounded himself with Sufi shaykhs and appointed Ahmad-Haji Kadyrov, a strong adherent of Kunta-Haji Sufism, as Chechnya’s Mufti. Kadyrov had spent six years in Uzbekistan, allegedly at religious seminaries in Tashkent and Bukhara, and seems to have developed links to other enemies of Basayev, including the Yamadayevs.

¶26. (C) The religious division dictated certain policies to each side. The Sufi tradition of Maskhadov and Kadyrov had been associated for over two centuries with nationalist resistance. Basayev, with his new-found commitment to al-Khattab’s Salafism, adopted the Salafi stress on a pan-Islamic community (“umma”) fighting a worldwide jihad, notionally without regard for ethnic or national boundaries. Al-Khattab and Basayev invaded Dagestan in August 1999, avowedly in pursuit of a Caucasus-wide revolt against the Russians. They brought on a Russian invasion that threw Maskhadov out of Groznyy.

Chechenization Begins

¶27. (C) The second Russian invasion did not unite the Chechens, as previous pressure had. Perhaps the influence of al-Khattab and his Salafists, as well as the devastation of the first war, had rent the fabric of Chechen society too much to restore traditional unity in the face of the outside threat. (We should also remember that unity is relative. Only a small percentage of the Chechens actually fought in the first war, and many supported the Russians out of disgust with Dudayev.) Kadyrov and the Yamadayevs separately broke with Maskhadov and defected to the Russians. Kadyrov began to recruit from the insurgency non-Salafist nationalist fighters who were highly demoralized and disoriented by the disastrous retreat from Groznyy in late 1999. Kadyrov began to preach what Kunta-Haji had preached after the Russian victory over Imam Shamil in 1859: to survive, the Chechens needed tactically to accept Russian rule. His message struck a chord, and fighters began to defect to his side.

¶28. (C) Putin appears to have stumbled upon Kadyrov, and their alliance seems to have grown out of chance as much as design. But they were able to forge a deal along the following lines: Kadyrov would declare loyalty to Russia and deliver loyalty to Putin; he would take over Maskhadov’s place at the head of the Russian-blessed government of Chechnya; he would try to win over Maskhadov’s fighters, to whom he could promise immunity; he would govern Chechnya with full autonomy, without interference from Russian officials below Putin’s level; and he would try to exterminate Basayev and Al-Khattab.

¶29. (C) If the objective of Chechenization was to win over fighters who would carry on the fight against Basayev and the Arab successors to Khattab (who was poisoned in April 2002), it has to be judged a success. The real fighting has for several years been carried out by Chechen forces who fight the war they want to fight -- not the one the Russian military wants them to -- and who appear happy to kill Russians when they get in the way. The Russian military is “just trying to survive,” as one officer put it. Not all the pro-Moscow Chechen units are composed of former guerrillas. Said-Magomed Kakiyev, commander of the GRU-controlled “West” battalion, has been fighting Dudayev and his successors since 1993. But at the heart of the pro-Moscow effort are fighters who defected from the anti-Moscow insurgency.

The Military Overstays Its Welcome
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¶30. (C) The development of Kadyrov’s fighting force, along with that of the Yamadayev brothers, left the stage clear for a drawdown of Russian troops, certainly by early 2004 (leaving aside a permanent garrison presence). But those troops, still not fully responsive to FSB control, did not want to leave. Especially now that Chechens had taken over increasing parts of the security portfolio, the Russian officers were free to concentrate on their economic activities, and in particular oil smuggling.

¶31. (C) Kadyrov could not be fully autonomous until he -- not the Russians -- controlled Chechnya’s oil. He therefore demanded the creation of a Chechen oil company under his jurisdiction. That would have severely limited the ability of federal forces to divert and smuggle oil. On May 9, 2004, Kadyrov was assassinated by an enormous bomb planted under his seat at the annual VE Day celebration. The killing was officially ascribed to Chechen rebels, but many believe it was the Russian Army’s way of rejecting Kadyrov’s demand. Under the circumstances, one cannot exclude that both versions are true.

In the Reign of Ramzan

¶32. (C) Kadyrov’s passing left power in the hands of his son Ramzan, who was officially made Deputy Prime Minister. The President, Alu Alkhanov, was a figurehead put in place because Ramzan was underage. The Prime Minister, Sergey Abramov, was tasked with interfacing between Kadyrov and Moscow below the level of Putin.

¶33. (C) Ramzan Kadyrov has none of the religious or personal prestige that his father had. He is a warlord pure and simple -- one of several, like the Yamadayev family of warlords. He is lucky, however, in that his father left him a sufficient fighting force of ex-rebels. Though they may have been lured away from the insurgency for a variety of reasons, it is money that keeps them. Kadyrov feels little need for ideological or religious prestige, though he makes an occasional statement designed to appeal to Muslims, and makes a point of supporting the pilgrimage to the tomb of Kunta-Haji’s mother in Gunoy, near Vedeno (though that is in part to show he is stronger than Basayev, whose home and power base are in the Vedeno region). Kadyrov must only satisfy his troops, who on occasion have shown that, if offended or not given enough, they are willing to desert along with their kinsmen and return to the mountains to fight against him. He must also guard against the possibility, as some charge, that some of the fighters who went over to Federal forces did so under orders from guerrilla commanders for whom they are still working.

¶34. (C) Kadyrov is also fortunate in that the FSB, with whom he has close ties, has by this time emasculated the military as “prong one” of Putin’s strategy. Kadyrov has slowly but surely also taken over most of the spigots of money that once fed the army, and like his father he has started agitating for overt control over Chechnya’s oil (while prudently ensuring that others take the lead on that in public). Kadyrov is at least as corrupt as the military, but the money he expropriates for himself from Moscow’s subsidies is accepted as his pay-off for keeping things quiet. And indeed Kadyrov and the other warlords are capable of maintaining a certain degree of security in Chechnya. The showy “reconstruction” developments they have built in Groznyy and their home towns demonstrate that the guerrillas cannot or at least do not halt construction and economic activity. Moreover, there is enough security to end Putin’s worries about a secessionist victory. That has allowed Putin to demonstrate a new willingness to be increasingly overt in support of separatism in other conflicts (e.g., Abkhazia, Transnistria) when that advances Russian interests.

¶35. (C) Despite its successes to date, however, Putin’s strategy is far from completed. He still needs to keep forces in the region as a constant reminder to Kadyrov not to backtrack on his professed loyalty to the Kremlin. Ideally, that force would be small but capable of intervening effectively in Chechen internal affairs. That is unrealistic at present. The current forces, reportedly over 25,000, are bunkered and corrupt. When they venture on patrol they are routinely attacked. One attempt to redress this is to position Russian forces close but “over the horizon” in Dagestan, where a major military base is under construction at Botlikh. However, that may only add to the instability of Dagestan. A Duma Deputy from the region told us that locals are vehemently opposed to the new military base, despite the economic opportunities it represents, on grounds that the soldiers will “corrupt the morals of their children.”
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¶36. (C) Another approach is the Chechenization of the Federal forces themselves. Recently “North” and “South” battalions of ethnically Chechen special forces -- drawn from Kadyrov’s militia -- were created to supplement the “East” and “West” battalions of Sulim Yamadayev and Said-Magomed Kakiyev. Those formations are officially part of the Russian army. The Kremlin strategy appears to be to check Kadyrov by promoting warlords he cannot control, and to check the FSB from becoming too clientized by allowing the MOD to retain a sphere of influence. In Chechnya, that is a recipe for open fighting. We saw one small instance of that on April 25, when bodyguards of Kadyrov and Chechen President Alkhanov got into a firefight. According to one insider, the clash originated in Kadyrov’s desire to get rid of Alkhanov, who now has close ties with Yamadayev.

What Can We Expect in the Future?

¶37. (C) The Chechen population is the great loser in this game. It bears an ever heavier burden in shake-downs, opportunity costs from misappropriation of reconstruction funds, and the constant trauma of victimization and abuse -- including abduction, torture, and murder -- by the armed thugs who run Chechnya (reftels). Security under those circumstances is a fragile veneer, and stability an illusion. The insurgency can continue indefinitely, at a low level and without prospects of success, but significant enough to serve as a pretext for the continued rule of thuggery.

¶38. (C) The insurgency will remain split between those who want to carry on Maskhadov’s non-Salafist struggle for national independence and those who follow the Salafi-influenced Basayev in his pursuit of a Caucasus-wide Caliphate. But the nationalists have been undercut by Kadyrov. Despite Sadullayev’s efforts, the insurgency inside Chechnya is not likely to meet with success and will continue to become more Salafist in tone.

¶39. (C) Prospects would be poor for the nationalists even if Kadyrov and/or Yamadayev were assassinated (and there is much speculation that one will succeed in killing the other, goaded on by the FSB which supports Kadyrov and the GRU which supports Yamadayev). The thousands of guerrillas who have joined those two militias have by now lost all ideological incentive. Since they already run the country, they feel themselves, not the Russians, to be the masters, and are not responsive to Sadullayev’s nationalist calls; Basayev’s Salafist message has even less appeal to them. Even if their current leaders are eliminated, all they will need is a new warlord, easily generated from within their organizations, and they can continue on their current paths.

¶40. (C) We expect that Salafism will continue to grow. The insurgents even inside Chechnya are reportedly becoming predominantly Salafist, as opposition on a narrowly nationalist basis offers less hope of success. Salafis will come both from inside Chechnya, where militia excesses outrage the population, and from elsewhere in the Caucasus, where radicalization is proceeding rapidly as a result of the repressive policies of Russia’s regional satraps. There are numerous eyewitness accounts from both Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria that elite young adults and university students are joining Salafist groups. In one case, a terrorist killed in Dagestan was found recently to have defended his doctoral dissertation at Moscow State University -- on Wahhabism in the North Caucasus. These young adults, denied economic opportunities, turn to religion as an outlet. They find, however, that representatives of the traditional religious establishments in these republics, long isolated under the thumb of Soviet restrictions, are ill-educated and ill-prepared to deal with the sophisticated theological arguments developed by generations of Salafists in the Middle East. Most of those who join fundamentalist jamaats do not, of course, become terrorists. But a percentage do, and with that steady source of recruits the major battlefield could shift to outside Chechnya, with armed clashes in other parts of the North Caucasus and a continuation of sporadic but spectacular terrorist acts in Moscow and other parts of Russia.

¶41. (C) Outside Chechnya, the most likely venue for clashes with authorities is Dagestan. Putin’s imposition of a “power vertical” there has upset the delicate clan and ethnic balance that offered a shaky stability since the collapse of Soviet power. He installed a president (the weak Mukhu Aliyev) in place of a 14-member multi-ethnic presidential council. Aliyev will be unable to prevent a ruthless struggle among the elite -- the local way of elaborating a new balance of power. This is already happening, with assassinations of provincial chiefs since Aliyev took over.
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In one province in the south of the republic, an uprising against the chief appointed by Aliyev’s predecessor was suppressed by gunfire. Four demonstrators were shot dead, initiating a cycle of blood revenge. In May, in two Dagestani cities security force operations against “terrorists” resulted in major shootouts, with victims among the bystanders and whole apartment houses rendered uninhabitable after hits from the security forces’ heavy weaponry. It is not clear whether the “terrorists” were really religious activists (“Whenever they want to eliminate someone, they call him a Wahhabi,” the MP from Makhachkala told us). But the populace, seeing the deadly over-reaction of the security forces, is feeling sympathy for their victims -- so much so that Aliyev has had to make public condemnations of the actions of the security forces. If this chaos deepens, as appears likely, the Jihadist groups (“jamaats”) may grow, drift further in Basayev’s direction, and feel the need to respond to attacks from the local government.

¶42. (C) Local forces are unreliable in such cases, for clan and blood-feud reasons. Wahhabist jamaats flourished in the strategic ethnically Dargin districts of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi in the mid-1990s, but Dagestan’s rulers left them alone because moving against them meant altering the delicate ethnic balance between Dargins and Avars. Only when the jamaats themselves became expansive during the Basayev/Khattab invasion from Chechnya in the summer of 1999 did the Makhachkala authorities take action, and then only with the assistance of Federal forces. Ultimately, if clashes break out on a wide scale in Dagestan, Moscow would have to send in the Federal army. Deploying the army to combat destabilization in Dagestan, however, could jeopardize Putin’s hard-won control over it. Unleashing the army against a “terrorist” threat is just that: allowing the army off its new leash. Large-scale army deployments to Dagestan would be especially attractive to the officers, since the border with Azerbaijan offers lucrative opportunities for contraband trade. The army’s presence, in turn, would further destabilize Dagestan and all but guarantee chaos.

¶43. (C) Indeed, destabilization is the most likely prospect we see when we look further down the road to the next decade. Chechenization allows bellicose Chechen leaders to throw their weight around in the North Caucasus even more than an independent Chechnya would. A case in point is the call on April 24 by Chechen Parliament Speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov for unification of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, implicitly under Chechen domination (the one million Chechens would constitute a plurality in the new republic of 4.5 million). The call soured slowly normalizing relations between Chechnya and Ingushetia, according to a Chechen official in Moscow, though the Dagestanis treated the proposal as a joke.

What Should Putin Be Doing?

¶44. (C) Right now Putin’s policy towards Chechnya is channeled through Kadyrov and Yamadayev. Putin’s Plenipotentiary Representative (PolPred) for the Southern Federal District, Dmitriy Kozak, appears to have little influence. He was not even invited when Putin addressed the new Parliament in Groznyy last December. Putin needs to stop taking Kadyrov’s phone calls and start working more through his PolPred and the government’s special services. He also needs to increase Moscow’s civilian engagement with Chechnya.

¶45. (C) Putin should continue to reform the military and the other Power Ministries. Having asserted control through Sergey Ivanov, Putin has denied the military certain limited areas in which it had pursued criminal activity -- but left most of its criminal enterprises untouched. He has done little if anything to form the discipline of a modern army deployable to impose order in unstable regions such as the North Caucasus. Recent hazing incidents show that discipline is still equated with sadism and brutality. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) has undergone even less reform. The Chechenization of the security services, despite its obvious drawbacks, has shown that locals can carry out security tasks more effectively than Russian troops.

¶46. (C) Lastly, Putin should realize that his current policy course is not preventing the growth of militant, armed Jihadism. Rather, every time his subordinates try to douse the flames, the fire grows hotter and spreads farther. Putin needs to check the firehose; he may find they are spraying the fire with gasoline. He needs to work out a credible strategy, employing economic and cultural levers, to deal with the issue of armed Jihadism. Some Russians do “get it.” An advisor to Kozak gave a lecture recently that showed he understands in great detail the issues surrounding the growth
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of militant jihadism. Kozak himself made clear in a recent conversation with the Ambassador that he appreciates clearly the deep social and economic roots of Russia’s problems in the North Caucasus -- and the need to employ more than just security measures to solve them. We have not, however, seen evidence that consciousness of the true problem has yet made its way to Moscow from Kozak’s office in Rostov-on-Don.

¶47. (C) We need also to be aware that Putin’s strategy is generating a backlash in Moscow. Ramzan Kadyrov’s excesses, his Putin-given immunity from federal influence, and the special laws that apply to Chechnya alone (such as the exemption of Chechens from military service elsewhere in Russia) are leading to charges by some Moscow observers that Putin has allowed Chechnya de facto to secede. Putin is strong enough to weather such criticism, but the ability of a successor to do so is less clear.

Is There a Role for the U.S.?

¶48. (C) Russia does not consider the U.S. a friend in the Caucasus, and our capacity to influence Russia, whether by pressure, persuasion or assistance, is small. What we can do is continue to try to push the senior tier of Russian officials towards the realization that current policies are conducive to Jihadism, which threatens broader stability as well; and that shifting the responsibility for victimizing and looting the people from a corrupt, brutal military to corrupt, brutal locals is not a long-term solution.

¶49. (C) Making headway with Putin or his successor will require close cooperation with our European allies. They, like the Russians, tend to view the issue through a strictly counter-terrorism lens. The British, for example, link their “dialogue with Islam” closely with their counter-terrorist effort (on which they liaise with the Russians), reinforcing the conception of a monolithic Muslim identity predisposed to terrorism. That reinforces the Russian view that the problem of the North Caucasus can be consigned to the terrorism basket, and that finding a solution means in the first instance finding a better way to kill terrorists.

¶50. (C) We and the Europeans need to put our proposals of assistance to the North Caucasus in a different context: one that recognizes the role of religion in North Caucasus cultures, but also emphasizes our interest in and support for the non-religious aspects of North Caucasus society, including civil society. This last will need exceptional delicacy, as the Russians and the local authorities are convinced that the U.S. uses civil society to foment “color revolutions” and anti-Russian regimes. There is a danger that our civil society partners could become what Churchill called “the inopportune missionary” who, despite impeccable intentions, sets back the larger effort. That need not be the case.

¶51. (C) Our interests call for an understanding of the context and a positive emphasis. We cannot expect the Russians to react well if we limit our statements to condemnations of Kadyrov, butcher though he may be. We need to find targeted areas in which we can work with the Russians to get effective aid into Chechnya. At the same time, we need to be on our guard that our efforts do not appear to constitute U.S. support for Kremlin or local policies that abuse human rights. We must also avoid a shift that endorses the Kremlin assertion that there is no longer a humanitarian crisis in Chechnya, which goes hand-in-hand with the Russian request that the UN and its donors end humanitarian assistance to the region and increase technical and “recovery” assistance. We and other donors need to maintain a balance between humanitarian and recovery assistance.

¶52. (C) Aside from the political optic, a rush to cut humanitarian assistance before recovery programs are fully up and running would leave a vacuum into which jihadist influences would leap. The European Commission Humanitarian Organization, the largest provider of aid, shows signs of rushing to stress recovery over humanitarian assistance; we should not follow suit. Humanitarian assistance has been effective in relieving the plight of Chechen IDPs in Ingushetia. It has been less effective inside Chechnya, where the GOR and Kadyrov regime built temporary accommodation centers for returning IDPs, but have not passed on enough resources to secure a reasonable standard of living. International organizations are hampered by limited access to Chechnya out of security concerns, but where they are able to operate freely they have made a great difference, e.g., WHO’s immunization program.

¶53. (C) Resources aimed at Chechnya often wind up in private pockets. Though international assistance has a better record
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than Russian assistance and is more closely monitored, we must also be wary of assistance that lends itself to massive corruption and state-sponsored banditry in Chechnya: too much of the money loaned in a microfinance program there, for example, would be expropriated by militias. Presidential Advisor Aslakhanov told us last December that Kadyrov expropriates for himself one third off the top of all assistance. Therefore, while we continue well-monitored humanitarian assistance inside Chechnya, we should broaden our efforts for “recovery” to other parts of the region that are threatened by jihadism: Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and possibly Karachayevo-Cherkessia. Among these, we need to try to steer our assistance ($11.5 million for FY 2006) to regional officials, such as President Kanokov of Kabardino-Balkaria, who have shown that they are willing to introduce local reforms and get rid of the brutal security officials whose repressive acts feed the Jihadist movement.

¶54. (C) We also need to coordinate closely with Kozak (or his successor), both to strengthen his position vis--vis the warlords and to ensure that everything we do is perceived by the Russians as transparent and not aimed at challenging the GOR’s hold on a troubled region. The present opposite perception by the GOR may be behind its reluctance to cooperate with donors, the UN and IFIs on long-term strategic engagement in the region. For example, the GOR has delayed for months a 20-million-Euro TACIS program designed with GOR input.

¶55. (C) The interagency paper “U.S. Policy in the North Caucasus -- The Way Forward” provides a number of important principles for positive engagement. We need to emphasize programs in accordance with those principles which are most practical under current and likely future conditions, and which can be most effective in targeting the most vulnerable, where federal and local governments lack the will and capacity to assist, and in combating the spread of jihadism both inside Chechnya and throughout the North Caucasus region. There are areas -- for example, health care and child welfare -- in which assistance fits neatly with Russian priorities, containing both humanitarian and recovery components.

¶56. (C) We can also emphasize programs that help create jobs and job opportunities: microfinance (where feasible), credit cooperatives and small business development, and educational exchanges. U.S. sponsored training programs for credit cooperatives and government budgeting functions have been very popular. Exchanges, through the IVP program and Community Connections, are an especially effective way of exposing future leaders to the world beyond the narrow propaganda they have received, and to generate a multiplier effect in enterprise. In addition to the effects the programs themselves can have in providing alternatives to religious extremism, such assistance can also have a demonstration effect: showing the Russians that improved governance and delivery of services can be more effective in stabilizing the region than attempts to impose order by force.

¶57. (C) Lastly, we need to look ahead in our relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia to ensure that they become more active and effective players in helping to contain instability in the North Caucasus. That will serve their own security interests as well. Salafis need connections to their worldwide network. Strengthening border forces is more important than ever. Azerbaijan, especially, is well placed to trade with Dagestan and Chechnya. The ethnic Azeris, Lezghis and Avars living on both sides of the Azerbaijan-Dagestan border and friendly relations between Russia and Azerbaijan are tools for promoting stability.


¶58. (C) The situation in the North Caucasus is trending towards destabilization, despite the increase in security inside Chechnya. The steps we believe Putin must take are those needed to reverse that trend, and the efforts we have outlined for ourselves are premised on a desire to promote a lasting stabilization built on improved governance, a more active civil society, and steps towards democratization. But we must be realistic about Russia’s willingness and ability to take the necessary steps, with or without our assistance. Real stabilization remains a low probability. Sound policy on Chechnya is likely to continue to founder in the swamp of corruption, Kremlin infighting and succession politics. Much more probable is a new phase of instability that will be felt throughout the North Caucasus and have effects beyond. BURNS

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Let's Not Be Beastly to the Hun

Actually, the song is "Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans". Noel Coward wrote it in 1943. The humor apparently didn't come across on the radio, the BBC banned it.

But here it is:
Don't let's be beastly to the Germans
When our victory is ultimately won,
It was just those nasty Nazis
Who persuaded them to fight,
And their Beethoven and Bach
Are really far worse than their bite!

Let's be meek to them
And turn the other cheek to them,
And try to bring out their latent sense of fun.
Let's give them full air parity
And treat the rats to charity
But don't let's be beastly to the Hun!

We must be kind,
And with an open mind
We must endevour to find a way
To let the German know that, when the war is over
They are not the ones who'll have to pay.

We must be sweet,
And tactful and discreet,
And when they've suffered defeat
We mustn't let them feel upset,
Or ever get the feeling
That we're cross with them or hate them,
Our future policy must be to reinstate them.

Don't let's be beastly to the Germans
When we've definitely got them on the run.
Let us treat them very kindly
As we would a valued friend;
We might send them some bishops
As a form of lease and lend.

Let's be sweet to them,
And day by day repeat to them
That sterilisation simply isn't done.
Let's help the dirty swine again
To occupy the Rhine again,
But don't let's be beastly to the Hun!

We must be just
And win their love and trust,
And in addition we must be wise,
And ask the conquered lands
To join our hands to aid them,
That would be a wonderful surprise!

For many years
They've been in floods of tears,
Because the poor little dears
Have been so wronged,
And only longed
To cheat the world,
Deplete the world,
And beat the world to blazes;
This is the moment when we ought to sing their praises!

Don't let's be beastly to the Germans,
For you can't deprive a gangster of his gun!
Though they've been a little naughty
To the Czechs and Poles and Dutch,
I don't suppose those countries
Really minded very much.

Let's be free with them
And share the BBC with them,
We mustn't prevent them basking in the sun.
Let's soften their defeat again
And build their blasted fleet again,
But don't let's be beastly to the Hun!

Don't let's be beastly to the Germans
When the age of peace and plenty has begun.
We must send them steel and oil and coal
And everything they need,
For their peaceable intentions
Can be always guaranteed!

Let's employ with them,
A sort of "strength through joy" with them,
They're better than us at honest manly fun.
Let's let them feel they're swell again
And bomb us all to hell again,
But don't let's be beastly to the Hun!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Carrington, Pt. 2

Carly met her father, her uncle Max and her brothers Sam and Josh when she was half-way back to the homestead. All were carrying rifles or shotguns, which told Carly that they had heard the shot she had fired and were coming to investigate. Uncle Max was very strict about not using firearms for hunting, only for emergencies, such as fighting. “Bows for hunting, guns for killing,” Uncle Max liked to say.

The concern on her father’s face lessened somewhat when he saw that she was alive and walking. “We heard a shot,” he said.

She nodded. “Frank Anderson wanted to rape me.”

“You get him?”

She nodded again and pointed back up the trail. “He’s a few hundred yards from the river.”

Her father looked at her gravely. “Go on back home with the water. Boys, you go with her, get a couple of shovels, a pickaxe, a heavy rake and meet your uncle and me back up near the river. Don’t leave your guns home.”

Uncle Max added: “Don’t any of you say anything to anyone else. There will be consequences if you do.” When Uncle Max spoke of “consequences”, that meant anything from extra work to an ass-whipping. Carly and her brothers were ten yards down the trail when Uncle Max added: “You come back with them, Carly.”

The three were out of earshot of their father and uncle when Sam asked: “So what happened, Carly?”

Carly shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

She didn’t. It took them 20 minutes to walk home. Carly slowed them up a little as she was carrying the water. Neither one of her brothers offered to help her with the load. When they got home, Carly took the water to the tank. There, at least, Sam helped her pour the water into the tank. She had almost finished putting the yoke and jugs away when her mother came up behind her. “Carly, come help me with the baking.”

Carly shook her head. “Can’t, Mom. Dad and Uncle Max told me to go back with Josh and Sam.”

Her mother looked sharply at Carly’s face. “What happened, dear? Are you all right?”

“I’ll be fine, Mom. But you have to ask Dad.” Carly’s mom moved to hug her daughter, but Carly shook her off, muttering that she had work to do. She went to the gun room, picked up her rifle, a .30-30, made sure it was loaded, grabbed some extra shells, and slung the rifle. Josh and Sam were waiting for her in the yard. Josh handed her a rake and a shovel to carry; he and Sam had two pickaxes and two more shovels. They set off back down the trail to the river.


Uncle Max and Carly’s father, Bill, were examining the body. Max looked at the hole in Frank’s face. “Your daughter’s a pretty good shot,” he commented. “Doubt if ol’ Frank here felt a thing.” He turned Frank’s head and saw the large exit wound in the back of his head. “Nope, he probably didn’t.”

Bill was of the opinion that Frank should have suffered terribly, but he kept quiet. “How far away you think she was?’

Max looked closer at Frank’s face. “No powder marks on him, it wasn’t too close.” Max noted that there were brain and blood spatters in one direction. He stood up and moved slowly down the trail in the opposite direction, looking at the scuff marks in the dry dirt. “Looks like about here’s where she was.” He looked back at Frank’s corpse. “Fifty feet or so? Doubt if Frank would have stood still and let her take a bead on him, so she had to have shot quick. Damn fine shooting.” Max looked around. “Let’s find a spot for him.”


By the time that Carly and her brothers returned, their father and uncle had found a likely spot and had dragged Frank over to it. Uncle Max ordered Josh to go further down the trail to the rise, hide, and hotfoot it back if he saw anyone coming. Then the four of them began the work of digging the hole. It took them four hours to dig a hole five foot deep; two working, two resting and on lookout.

They were ready to toss Frank into his grave. Bill said: “You think we should strip him?”

Max thought it over. “Yeah, we can use his stuff for mending and patching. Leave him his underwear, though. And toss his hat and knife in, those are kind of distinctive.” He turned to Carly. “You do it.”

Uncle Max’s tone was no-nonsense, Carly did what she was told. She bundled up Frank’s boots and clothes in a bundle made from his shirt. Then they rolled Frank into the grave. They threw in a layer of dirt, then some heavy rocks to discourage scavengers from disinterring Frank, then they filled the grave, occasionally stopping to tamp down the dirt layers.

When they finished, the rest of the dirt was scattered about. They raked over the grave to remove marks and then threw some branches and leaf litter onto it. They also raked over the spatter from the shooting. Bill sent Sam to go find Josh and when the two returned, they all went home.

Nobody missed Frank. Nobody in the homesteads in the area ever mentioned him. His family didn't go looking for him.

It didn’t bother Carly at all. Too much bad shit had happened since the Day the Skies Burned and shooting Frank was, to her, a minor thing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kathy Had a Blog

(Flash fiction entry to this challenge)

Kathy had a blog. It was a bit of an adult one in content, for she was very much into the “alternative lifestyle”.

All right, let’s be honest: Kathy was kinky. The blog was open to all, it was on a website that Kathy owned through an offshore shell company. The website, which hosted in a small island nation, provided for a fair number of sexual offerings, all for a fee, of course. The website had some rigorous security protocols, for which Kathy paid a lot. The website made her more than that. A lot more than that. She had a nice house on a large piece of land in the North Carolina hills; the website made the mortgage payment and more.

Kathy thought that she was pretty careful. But one day, some asshole began hassling her about what she did to make a living. It started with snide comments on her blog about the “whore of Babylon”. Kathy was not religious and her first thought that the writer was referring to Donald Rumsfeld’s deal in the `80s with Saddam Hussein. But the comments soon became nastier and more personal.

She deleted them as fast as she could. Then she put on full comment moderation. The asshole retaliated by coordinating with some of his zealot buddies, they tried to take down her site with a denial-of-service attack and they came close to doing it. Her IT consultants set up mirror sites in other countries to prevent that from ever succeeding.

The asshole then ratcheted matters up. He began sending her e-mails with more and more personal data. When he sent her an e-mail with her real name and address, Kathy went to the cops. They were amused, at best, and told her that until the clown did something other than send her nasty e-mails, to just ignore him.

When she found her cat on her front porch, gutted from sternum to anus, Kathy stopped being scared. She got mad. The obvious steps were to install an alarm system, better locks, and start carrying her Glock 23. Her daddy had always told her that the way to win a fight was to not wait for her enemy to strike, but to take it to her opponent.

So Kathy did.

She set up another bank account in the Cayman Islands. Then she went to an Internet café and researched hackers. She found a hacking forum, joined it and posted that she was being cyber-stalked, she wanted to know who the guy was, and that she would pay for the information. She struck a deal. In four days, she had the name and information she needed. She put the agreed-upon amount into the bank account and gave her hacker the account number and transfer codes.

An attorney friend of hers in Boston sent the asshole a cease-and-desist letter.

Asshole sent her a truly threatening e-mail, along the lines of “no attorney can stop me from bringing down the wrath of the heavens upon you, you whore.” That pretty much was the opening salutation. It went downhill from there.

Kathy contacted her hacker friend and asked if he could hack into asswipe’s computer and not leave any traces. He said he thought so. Kathy told him what she wanted to have done. The hacker demurred, he was worried about his legal risk. But he vouched for her to a group of Ukrainians in Kiev, who were more than willing to look into doing what Kathy wanted.

Two weeks later, they e-mailed her hotmail account to tell her they could do the job. Kathy set up another bank account in the Cayman Islands and had her agent there manually deposit the down payment, in cash. (Kathy was no fool, she was not willing to do a wire transfer with hackers of this caliber on the other side.)


AP WIRE. Virginia Beach, VA.

A third year law student at Regent University was arrested early yesterday morning in a raid conducted by FBI agents and local police. Sources in law enforcement say that the student had over one hundred images of child pornography on his laptop computer.

Possession of child pornography is a Federal crime, punishable by up to twenty years in prison.

The name of the law student was withheld by police.


Kathy had her agent in the Cayman Islands deposit the rest of the fee for the Ukrainians. She added a 20% gratuity.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Carly walked down the long path that led from her family’s home to the river. She lightly carried a wooden yoke. Dangling from either end of the yoke was a woven sling. In each sling was an empty clear plastic jug with a blue top. Carly also carried a bucket with a funnel that had a screen. The well at the house was not providing a lot of water these days. It was necessay to supplement the well water with water from the river, which was a mile or so away.

It was a coldish day. Carly wore work boots, jeans and a sweatshirt. Over that was a knee-length denim coat that had been lined with flannel. A wool watch cap and gloves completed her ensemble. There was nothing stylish about it, only functional. The concept of “fashion” had disappeared years ago. Surviving was what people worried about.

She reached the river, which was sort of a glorified stream. Carly set up her equipment. Her routine was to draw a bucket of water, let it sit for a minute, pour off what was on top and then slowly pour three-quarters of what was left in the bucket through the funnel and into the jugs. The last bit of water was dumped back into the river. Then Carly would rinse out the bucket, back-wash the screen and repeat the process. It probably took her a half-hour to fill the jugs.

Carly shouldered the now heavy yoke, picked up the pail and the funnel and started back for home. She was about three hundred yards from the river, moving through a patch of woods, when she thought she heard something. She stopped and listened. She heard another noise. Carly didn’t think it was an animal.

“Who’s there,” she asked in a quiet tone.

A man wearing jeans, a flannel shirt, a denim jacket, boots and a brimmed hat stepped out from behind some trees about sixty feet away.

“Frank,” she said. It was a statement, not a greeting.

“Hi, Carly, it’s been a long time.” Frank had been a rough kid, back when the high school was still open. He looked rougher now.

Carly asked: “What do you want?” She was pretty sure she knew what he wanted.

“Well, now, I thought we might have a bit of fun, you and I.” The way Frank answered her made it clear to Carly what sort of fun he had in mind.

“Frank Anderson, I don’t have time for your foolishness.”

Frank started walking towards her. As he walked, he reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a heavy folding knife, the “commando” kind, which could be opened with one-hand and had a blade that locked open. The click was audible as he flicked it open. “Well, that just makes it even more fun for me,” he said with a look that was both predatory and anticipatory.

Carly’s right hand barely seemed to move as she apparently made a large caliber revolver appear from nowhere. Frank had time to widen his eyes in surprise as his brain registered the sight of a weapon being pointed at him and the sound of the hammer of the revolver being brought back.

The heavy lead slug from Carly’s pistol caught him low in the center of his forehead. He was dead before his knees buckled.

Carly stood stock-still, listening for any movement, any sign that Frank was not alone. She then removed the fired cartridge case, replaced it with a fresh round, re-holstered her sidearm and resumed her trip back home.

She would send her brothers to bury Frank.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hilary's Scars

(A response to this post)

Hilary took her shower that morning as she had for the last three years- with the lights of the bathroom off. She did not turn the lights on until after she had taken her shower, toweled herself off and put on her robe. Hilary changed clothes and got dressed either with the lights off or her eyes closed. When she went to the gym, she came and went in her exercise attire, she never showered there.

The reason was simple, really. Below where her cleavage started, there were scars. Scars crisscrossed her once gorgeous breasts. There was a deeper scar in her abdomen and there were surgical scars in the same part of her body. Scars from where surgeons had cut in. Scars from drains.

Three years ago, Hilary had been dancing at a nightclub. A man tried to dance with her, she spurned him. He grabbed her arm, she threw a drink in his face. He tried to hit her and she kneed him with some force. The bouncers ran him out the hard way.

He grabbed Hilary two blocks away from the club and Hilary fought back. He knocked her senseless, carved up her breasts, raped her and then stabbed her in the belly. He left her for dead in the alley but Hilary didn’t accommodate him. She dragged herself into the street and was found by a passing hack, who called 911. The doctors were more interested in making sure that they stopped the bleeding and repaired her insides rather than worrying about minimizing the scarring. And scar up she did.

There was no DNA recovered from the attacker. There were no security cameras at the bar. Hilary was very good with faces. She never forgot anyone she met. She sure as hell didn’t forget him. But all the cops would have had to go on was her memory. Hilary told the cops that she never saw his face. She didn't tell the cops that the jerk on the dance floor had attacked her. After Hilary gave the detective on the second interview her "I'm sorry, I don't remember anything" schtick, the detective gave Hilary his card, asked her to call if her memory returned, and he moved on to other cases.

Hilary had friends who were willing to do her favors and then forget that they had done them. One of them had pulled all of the credit-card slips from the nightclub for the three weeks prior to the night she was nearly killed. Another cross-referenced the credit card slips with records from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Hilary was given copies of those licenses. She had a match.

Hilary now had a name. She had an address. Once she was out of the hospital, as recovered as she was going to ever be, she began to plan. First, she confirmed that the photo on the license was indeed the attacker.

Hilary's attacker likely saw Hilary a number of times after she had recovered. Whenever he did, however, Hilary was always wearing large glasses and she had her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Hilary had 20/15 vision and never wore her hair pulled back.

Every morning during the work week, between 11 and 11:30, Hilary’s attacker walked from his office to a coffee shop. The trip took two blocks. Hilary noticed that there was a nondescript and old brick apartment building across the street just before the coffee shop, which offered furnished rooms and “move-in” specials.

Hilary took a furnished room. Paying double the security deposit, in cash, worked to waive the credit check. Hilary wore leather gloves the entire time and told the apartment superintendent that her hands were damaged “from an accident of industry.” Hilary told the super that her name was Ivana Petrova. She had ID in that name. He didn’t ask to see her ID, the Benjamins that Hilary gave him were all that he needed to see.

Hilary never stayed overnight in the room. The super seemed to think that she had rented a tryst-pad and Hilary let him think that. The few times that Hilary spoke with the super, she spoke in a very correct, very formal and almost stilted manner. The super complemented her on her English, he thought she was Russian and Hilary let him think that. Hilary paid the monthly rent in cash. The super never gave her a lease or receipts and she didn't ask for either. She assumed that the super was skimming the cash and that there would be no record of the apartment being rented. She was right.

Hilary had other friends. Friends who had the ability to modify hardware in ways that were heavily frowned upon. Which is why, one day, Hilary’s attacker, who was returning to his office and carrying a venti latte with extra foam, dropped dead on the sidewalk from a heavy 9mm bullet which had been very quietly fired from a third-floor room across the street and which had smashed into his skull.

He never knew why.

After all, confronting the target of one’s vengeance was an act of an amateur.

For Hilary was on a busman’s holiday.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Amazing Life

Thomas Lanman Hine

Old Lyme - Thomas Lanman Hine died in his sleep at Bride Brook nursing home on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010, following a long illness.

Tom was born Nov. 21, 1918, in Berkeley, Calif. He was the son of Dr. Thomas Buck Hine and Faith Lanman Hine.

Raised primarily in Cambridge, Mass., Tom graduated from Harvard in 1940, with a degree in engineering. He worked briefly for Bethlehem Steel, but knew World War II was coming and soon joined the Navy.

Tom had earned his pilot's license in 1939, and became a Naval aviator. Sent first to the Navy's aviation training center in Jacksonville, Fla., he was first in his class and was kept on as an instructor. In early 1943, he was sent to the South Pacific, where he flew PBY "Black Cat" Catalina seaplanes on night missions for the next two years. Awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Air Medal, Tom was instead most proud of the two Presidential Unit Citations presented to his crew and Patrol Squadron 11.

This was typical of a man who thought first of others and who was innately egalitarian. Shot down at night one mile off shore from a Japanese held position he and his crew had been bombing for over a month, Tom took a vote as to whether they should paddle their rafts toward the island or away. It was unanimous to paddle away. Three days later they were rescued, 110 miles from where they went down. The Army Air Corp seaplane pilot who found them, purely by chance while on another mission, had never taken off in the open sea, so Tom took the controls and brought his entire crew home safely.

Returning from the war at Christmastime 1944, Tom served as a test pilot at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. In 1946 he entered the Naval Academy's graduate program in electronics engineering. Tom's Academy roommate invited him along to meet the nurse he had been dating. Tom was introduced to Helen Tappan, and when his roommate transferred overseas, Tom gave her a call himself. They married on Dec. 20, 1947, in the Naval Academy chapel, in Annapolis, Md. The groom calmly took a final examination in advanced mathematics the morning of his wedding day. Tom and Helen celebrated their 62nd anniversary last December.

Tom spent 21 years in the Navy. As a test pilot in the 1950s, he was one of the very first men ever to fly a jet aircraft, he did multiple tours on aircraft carriers, and served in naval intelligence posts at the Pentagon, before retiring as a Commander in 1962. Tom then went to work for Grumman Corporation, the builders of some of his favorite planes. An aerospace engineer with expertise in optics, Tom invented the 'heads up' targeting display that helped to make the F-14 the Navy's primary fighter plane. The optics group he led also developed crucial components of the Lander used when men touched down on the moon. Meanwhile, in his spare time he and a partner bought a 1947 Bonanza light plane and he continued flying and working as a flight instructor.

Tom loved flying. Before he finally had to relinquish his pilot's license, in 2003, at the start of his final illness, Tom had flown, as pilot, more than 15,000 hours, nearly one and three-quarters years spent entirely in the air. He crashed four times and walked away after each, not the least put off about going up the next time. He began work on a homebuilt plane with his good friend and fellow pilot, Bob Taylor, who he hoped will one day fly it for both of them. A member of the AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and even the United Flying Octogenarians (the UFOs), Tom Hine was well known to local pilots and will be missed by many.

When not in the air, Tom was with his family. His endless patience and seeming immunity to anger, along with a witty sense of humor and love of puns, made him a great husband, father and friend. In addition to his beloved wife, Helen, Tom leaves three children, Peter Hine and his wife, Candis, of Amston, Conn., Pamela Hine of Old Lyme, and Nancy Juliano and her husband, Frank, of Milford. He will be greatly missed by his five grandchildren and their families as well, Thomas Hine of New York City, Katherine Hine Smith and her husband, Corey, of Middlebury, Conn., Theodore Hine and his wife, Gwyneth, of Amston, Alexander Hine of Old Lyme, and Peter Hine of Old Lyme. Tom was thrilled to be great-grandfather to Madeline and Ian Smith, and Luther Thomas Hine.

Tom retired from Grumman in 1979, and he and Helen built their home in Old Lyme, three miles from Tom's much-loved twin brother, Jonathan Hine. Though Jack predeceased him in 2007, Tom continued to enjoy the company and affection of Jack's widow, Janet Simpson Hine, and his nephews, Charles Hine, William Hine, and Jack Hine, and their families. Tom is also survived by his beloved sister, Margaret Gean, of Keller, Tex.

A memorial service celebrating Tom's amazing life will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010, at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. Interment of his ashes, next to his twin, will take place in the spring at Old Lyme's Duck River Cemetery.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On Hunting

It has been a very long time since I last took to the woods with a rifle. I used to hunt fairly regularly. But my opinions on it have not changed.

As I see it, there are three broad categories to hunting: Trophy hunting, meat hunting and varmint hunting. To my mind, the latter two categories are honorable, the first is not.

Meat hunting is honorable, far more honorable than going to the supermarket and buying a shrink-wrapped portion of a critter. The hunter, at least, is intimately familiar with where his or her meat is coming from, as opposed to the supermarket shopper, who usually has barely an idea of what a steer even looks like, let alone how the steers are treated. In some rural areas, the only meat that appears on the kitchen table was taken by hunting.

Varmint hunting is done to control population levels or to stop predation. It can be combined with meat hunting, such as in areas where the numbers of deer have exploded. There once was, and may still be, a predator control law in Vermont that was passed in the 1850s, when the state was a major producer of wool. It allowed farmers to kill predators by any means other than nuclear weapons, which were not permitted only because they didn't exist back then.

I have problems with trophy hunting. It would seem to me that going out and deliberately removing from the population the fittest adult male members of any species is counter to the long-term health of that species. It would be like identifying the smartest students in a college and then killing them so that someone could have a collection of the heads of valedictorians.

I've done varmint shooting to control predators and pests. Not much to say about that, it's what needed to be done at the time. Electric fencing around the chicken coop worked well, too, and was far more reliable.

Opening Day of whitetail season in some states is an unofficial holiday. I lived in one of those states for a time and would go back for years afterwards. We'd meet at the house of a friend who lived adjacent to a forest. It would be full dark, around 5:30 AM. Eggs, bacon, toast and coffee were what was prepared and served up in copious amounts. Everyone pitched in to help prepare, cook and clean up, so that the pans and dishes were washed and the kitchen was clean when it was time to go into the woods. (For those hunters who did not have a place to go for breakfast or who didn't want to make one, the volunteer firehouse served a hunters' breakfast on Opening Day, beginning at 4:30.)

As soon as it became light enough to see, we would make our way into the woods to where each one of us wanted to be and wait for sunrise, which was just after 7AM. Usually, nobody would see a buck, only does. I've had does walk right by me and look at me as if to say "we know you can't shoot us." Every few years, somebody would manage to shoot a buck, which would be dressed out, taken to the game-check station and then butchered.

The bucks were smart as hell. You wouldn't seen them out in the fields during the day from just before the beginning of bow season, through rifle season and then to the end of muzzle-loader season. After hunting season was over, you'd see bucks during the day. One year, I was out in the woods several days after Opening Day. I managed to get a glimpse of a buck and he saw me at the same time. He ran for a few seconds, bounding through the woods, and then dropped to the ground, completely invisible against the leaf litter, rocks and sticks. I tried walking him down, but whenever I got close, he'd bound up and run, weaving through the trees. He seemed to know how long it would take me to bring up the rifle and get a bead on him, for just as soon as I managed to swing the front sight onto him, he'd drop to the ground and disappear. That buck, a six-pointer, also seemed to work it so that the one time I had a clear shot, there was a house down in a valley which was in the line of fire. I gave up then, it was almost sunset.

Another year, it was cold, lightly snowing, and I was in the woods with a Garand.[1] I had been sitting on a fallen tree, which had come to rest against another tree, with the rifle in my lap. It was sort of out of the snow and it was pretty comfortable. A red squirrel's curiosity overcame its caution and it came out to investigate me. It walked down that log, jumped up onto the handguard of the rifle and looked me over. I guess it was satisfied that I posed no threat to it, for it jumped back onto the log and sauntered away.

Snow in November is almost magical, as it often falls with still air. The flakes of a Fall snow are usually fat ones that drift down among the trees and deposit the first coat of white of the season. There is little traffic noise out there, just an occasional vehicle on a paved road over a mile in the distance and the falling snow muffles even that sound. The quiet is only broken by the faint whine of a passing airliner, six miles above. The woods are second or third growth, that entire area was clear-cut in the 18th and early 19th Centuries for sheep and crop farming. The woods began to come back after the Civil War and the building of the railroads, when farmers went to the Midwest to farm land that was neither hilly or filled with rocks. Now there are probably more woodlands in New England since the time of the Revolution.

Several minutes after the squirrel left, I heard heavy steps in the leaves on the floor of the woods. (By Spring, the leaves would have composted themselves and one could move through the woods silently, but that was almost impossible to do in the Fall.) I shifted around, pointed the rifle in that direction, keeping my finger out of the trigger guard.[2] It was a buck and one of decent size, a six pointer. I snugged the butt of the rifle into my shoulder, quietly disengaged the safety and settled the front sight on his chest. As I took up the slack of the two-stage trigger, the thought came to me, or something spoke to me, but either way, the message was clear: "You don't really need the meat." I took my finger off the trigger, thought "bang, I've got you" and clicked the safety on, making no attempt to hide the metallic snick. The buck whirled his head around, saw me, and took off.

The times I went deer hunting after that were for social reasons. I left the Garand at home and carried a 6" Smith Model 29, telling everyone: "Hell, I never see a deer anyway, so I might as well carry something light." But the real reason was that since I wasn't going to shoot anything, the revolver was just for show.

[1]I had some five-round clips for my Garand, which made it legal to use.

[2]Yes, I know, you're supposed to verify your target before you point a gun at it. But if you make that much movement in those woods within eyeshot of a deer, it will see you and be gone before you can fire.