Horror to Come

I was struck speechless to read that the Iraqi army has brought its handful of TOS-1 “Buratino” thermobaric rocket launchers into the field at Mosul.

(The Sun’s article) The Buratino is a weapons system I first encountered playing Steel Panthers World at War, when my usual opponent, “fose083” caused an entire wing of my force to disappear into thin air – I logged in to play my turn and my troops were … gone.

Named after Pinocchio

Named after Pinocchio

The TOS-1 is is a terror weapon, an area weapon, a blunt instrument. And it sounds like the Iraqi army is going to be deploying them against a city full of civilians. The Russians used them to obliterate the city of Grozny, in 1999. If you look at the pictures of Grozny during the battle, it’s reminiscent of Aleppo, or Hanoi after a B-52 strike.

A vintage T-72 chassis supports a rocket-launcher cluster of 220mm rockets that fire fuel/air explosives. When the whole cluster is launched and detonated, everything in a 300 x 400 meter area is destroyed. It doesn’t matter if you’re in cover or whatever – fuel/air explosives create a tremendous pressure-wave that instantly kills anything that has lungs. The Iraqis obtained a half-dozen TOS-1 shortly after the US “pulled out” of Iraq; they’ve been getting weapons from everywhere. I’m really surprised Israel didn’t step in and make sure Iraq didn’t have anything like these; they must be watching them very closely.

This is emblematic of the utter shambles that US foreign policy in the middle east has become: US special forces (barefoot, so as not to put “boots on the ground”) are marching in an attack on a city of between 1/2 million and 1.5 million people (including a relatively tiny number of ISIS!) alongside of cold war terror weapons originally designed to eradicate them; area weapons that obliterate 2 by 3 city blocks at a time – hardly the kind of precision that the proponents of modern warfare like to lie about achieving.

The TOS-1 is not a scalpel, it’s a sledgehammer. Fielding them against Mosul, like Grozny, is punishing the civilians of the city for not resisting ISIS – basically, it’s the same insane logic totalitarian warriors have always used: if you’re not for us, you’re against us and if you didn’t resist the enemy to the death, you must be on their side, so we’re going to kill you. Either way, in other words, the civilians get killed: because ISIS would kill them if they resisted, and now the Iraqi army with its US “trainers” and “assistants” is going to give them the other side of the coin. Heads you lose, tails you lose.

If you see whitewashed news reports that the Iraqis are using “heavy rocket launchers” now you’ll know it’s not “surgical strikes” – they’re going to make Mosul look like Dresden.


War Is Boring: “Iraq Moves Its Thermobaric Rocket Tanks to Mosul

By the way, the US government has been promoting the lie that “no boots on the ground” means, you know, special forces advisors and trainers and some intelligence assets and maybe drones and an occasional airstrike. That’s a lie. There are several US-owned, US-crewed batteries of 150mm artillery – Paladin self-propelled guns and howitzers. When the US starts building “fire bases” with all the logistics they entail, that means we are active participants in the war.

Also: Mosul is largely Sunni. The Iraqi government is largely Shia. Looks like some ethnic cleansing’s about to happen.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Why doesn’t Obama just give Baghdad some of those old “tactical nukes” he plans on replacing for $1T?

  2. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#1:
    Why doesn’t Obama just give Baghdad some of those old “tactical nukes” he plans on replacing for $1T?

    I know you’re being facetious; if I thought you were serious I’d say “Israel” but – yeah – the situation there has devolved into “WTF!?”

    There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
    I don’t know why she swallowed that fly,
    Perhaps she’ll die.

    There was an old lady who swallowed a spider.
    That wriggled and jiggled and wiggled inside her.
    She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
    But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly
    Perhaps she’ll die.

    The US is trying to piece back the British mandate lines while simultaneously protecting Israel and disempowering Iran, keeping Turkey and the Kurds both happy at the same time, etc.

    Given the level of competence on display I really do worry that some small-handed warmonger is going to sieze the opportunity to try to show the Russians who’s boss, and get a lotta lotta people killed. So far the Russians have been downright nice; they might stop.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 2: The US is trying to piece back the British mandate lines while simultaneously protecting Israel and disempowering Iran, keeping Turkey and the Kurds both happy at the same time, etc.

    I suspect Washington has a little bit more of a plan – something to do with taking revenge on the Iranians for shitcanning our favorite shah. Remember all the neocon chortling during the invasion of Iraq that “Men go on to Damascus – real men go to Tehran”? They seem to have clung to that bugaboo for 36 years and counting now. I have little doubt some secret file contains multiple maps detailing partitions of Iraq and Syria decorated with fancy words about durable peacemaking, with the higher-classified versions including fine print about weakening Iran’s Arab allies.

    With a little quibble about “downright nice” including bombing civilians, I entirely share your concern about small-minded warmongers (either the orange one or the American-Margaret-Thatcher-only-more-belligerent) painting themselves into a corner and trying to shoot their way out.

  4. Dunc says

    Whilst I don’t doubt that some people are still pissed off about the overthrow of the Shah, I suspect that the current belligerence towards Iran probably has more to do with their strategic location viz the Strait of Hormuz, their extensive oil reserves, and their unwillingness to play by US rules.

  5. jrkrideau says

    # 3 Pierce R. Butler ”I suspect Washington has a little bit more of a plan…”

    I’d suggest modifying that to something like “Washington is indulging in delusional fantasizing again…”.

    As far as I have seen the elite foreign affairs advisers and planners in Washington do not and have not had anything resembling a coherent plan since—well they must have had one once. Certainly not since the invasion of Afghanistan.

    Of course, there is my idea that George W. Bush was an Al Qaeda agent as most of his actions seem to indicate. In that case, the US foreign policy especially in the Middle East suddenly becomes a coherent plan.

    I do not disagree with your Iran idea, just that what appears to be drug-induced ravings don’t usually get dignified as “plans”.

    The US dithering, general incompetence and ineffectiveness against ISIS and the general mess in Syria and Northern Iraq leads me to wonder if it wants to turn Syria into another failed state though this may be giving the Washington idiots too much credit.

    One thing that really made me think that the USA had no real intention of dealing drastically with ISIS was the ISIS oil revenues. Oil shipments seemed to have continued without any interruption until the Russians arrived and suddenly a) a lot of oil tankers went up in flames and b) the USA seemed to catch on to the idea that one should interdict oil shipments. Duh.

    I agree with Marcus’ worry about “little-hands” but I am almost as afraid of “She of the e-mails”. Clearly she is much smarter, much more experienced and a fair bit saner but she appears to be an unreconstructed cold-war warrior who has not gotten the message that cold war is over.

    Oh, this article about Putin’s remarks in Sochi is interesting.

    He dismissed the idea that Moscow could have some impact on the U.S. elections.

    “Does anybody seriously think that Russia could somehow influence the choice of the American people?” he said. “Is it a banana republic or something? America is a great power.” http://www.wsj.com/articles/putin-says-russia-has-no-influence-over-u-s-elections-1477579171

  6. says

    Talk on news about ISIS using “human shields” (which is kind of “duh” when you consider they are dug in in an urban area)

    While it seems likely to me that ISIS are likely to do something like that, the fact that it’s news makes me suspect that the US is preparing to blame large numbers of civilian casualties on ISIS, not on the US and Iraqi army’s planned use of air strikes and area bombardment with heavy artillery. Because “human shield” doesn’t mean a whole lot to a 155mm howitzer – it takes out the whole block.