Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Kirk and the other NATO guys had their hands full. Kosovo was an air campaign - the sort that Americans seem to love. It's all so high-tech and removed, so quick and easy, so very painless. Did that sound bitter? Sorry.

They pored over intel as it came in, sorting out what was happening, what needed to be done, whether it was done, what to do next. They had to anticipate the moves of people whose goals were undecipherable by normal means. They had to figure out what people do when all they want to do is hurt someone else.

They made lists of targets - things that were top priority to remove the 'means for waging war.' They sent waves of bombers out with fighter escorts, charged with destroying weapons and infrastructure.

At one point one of the NATO partners started kicking up a fuss. It wasn't fair, they shouted, the Americans and the Brits were hogging all the glory. They were doing all the raids, not letting anyone else have a look-in. Country X had good planes and pilots, didn't they? Didn't they have top equipment? Didn't they train hard? Weren't they trusted, vital members of the NATO force?

Sounds ridiculous when you put it like that, but it happened.

So country X was given a bridge to blow up. It was a vital assignment, not some 'oh, well if you're going to stamp your little feet we'll send you off to vent your anger on some single-lane cart track used only by goat herders in the lambing season' thing but something that had to go down, had to be taken out at once.

Country X sent its bombers out. Several hours later they were back. The bridge? Still up. The bomb had missed. But Country X wouldn't hear of sending someone else to do the mission - this was their bridge. Second wave was sent in, again they came back with the bridge intact. More hours passed. A third flight went out and... jubilation! Country X representatives proudly displayed their video - and see! The bomb, the bridge, the large explosion! Victory, glory, all that is good. The intel guys coughed a bit. The bridge, they pointed out, was still standing actually. In fact, it was still clearly usable. Ah well, said Country X, details.

A set of planes was quietly sent out - British? Italian? American? I don't know - who levelled the bridge in a single pass.

I think the official position was that the bridge collapsed because of the original bomb damage. There was much solemn agreement on the ops floor.

It's not the enemy that gives you the most grief, they all said over cigars that night, it's your damn allies.

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