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Somehow I always thought it would be other guys who would sink a tanker in the Strait of Hormuz to block the Persian Gulf.  I reckoned without the peculiar incompetence of this administration and the bad luck our military has had in the region.

It appears we are still more of a danger to our allies than to our enemy, as the Japanese tanker Mogamigawa was reminded yesterday when rammed by the USS Newport News.  What's a cruise missile up the stern tube between friends, eh?

Mishima had a good take on this earlier: "The sub rear-ended the tanker.  It must not have seen its brake lights."

I figure that the captain - like the Decider in Chief - just doesn't know when to change course to avoid disaster.

More seriously, the collision brings into question the sonar and maneuvering capabilities of our subs in a high traffic channel like the Strait of Hormuz and shallow waterway like the Persian Gulf.  While they might well detect a nearby ship in isolation, the presence of many ships and small craft in a narrow channel could have made it difficult to judge proximity of the Japanese tanker.  It begs the question of how they could avoid Iranian coastal defence craft or submarines in a hot war.

The Iranians have built and deployed their own design of mini-subs in the Persian Gulf recently.  These tiny torpedo-shaped subs can reach any target in the Gulf and carry mines, divers or torpedos.  If the USS Newport News didn't detect the tanker, it is unlikely they would have noticed an Iranian mini-sub approaching.

Submarines are expected to avoid surface vessels, and a bloody huge, deeply laden oil tanker would seem a pretty obvious obstacle to avoid - especially since the tanker will not be able to adjust course quickly.

The Newport News is loaded with cruise missiles.  We now have confirmation that they are operating in the Persian Gulf at a time when the Bush administration is moving all the brass around in preparation for cooking the intelligence justification for the next unprovoked, illegal war.

One possiblity is that the submarine was shadowing the tanker in a practice drill to hide beneath the tanker's noise signature in the water.  Alternatively, the sub might have been hoping to use the cover of the tanker to slip into the Gulf undetected by the Iranians who monitor the straits very closely indeed.  The shallowness of the strait would have made this a big challenge for our extremely large submarines, built for open ocean operations rather than coastal warfare in shallow waters.

The Japanese will be particularly sensitive to another collision with a US submarine having suffered the loss of the training vessel Ehime Maru in 2001 in the Pacific.  At a time when the US has little credibility abroad, further erosion of our military's standing with our allies is very unhelpful.

There will be a lot of disquiet in the Navy today that this event has happened.  I feel sorry for the captain and crew of the USS Newport News as we know that this administration is excellent at blaming the troops for its screw ups.

Originally posted to LondonYank on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 04:03 AM PST.


The crew of the USS Newport News

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hah. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LondonYank, GreyHawk, kraant, mango, possum

    If I may indulge in some pimping-

    Take the Redstate Challenge

    We have the power to close Hormuz, but not keep it open.  Apples fall down.

  •  He's really going to do it. (6+ / 0-)

    A pure genius for choosing the most disastrous course of action he has.

    •  Is it possible that the sub did see the tanker (8+ / 0-)

      but was so close because it was using it as a screen to try to sneak around without being detected? In other words, might this have been some kind of attack exercise?

      In any case, glad to see you on the case here, LY. Have you commented on the changes in personnel in the services, yet? What do you thing it signifies that Fallon and Clapper get key spots?

      In other words, are you ready to reprise your startling speculations on the prospects for a new war in the Gulf?

      The name is not the thing named, the map is not the territory. -- Gregory Bateson

      by semiot on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 05:03:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm restraining myself (10+ / 0-)

        having called "wolf" a bit too often back in October last year.  But I'm watching closely, and I'm more and more uncomfortable with the acceleration of events.  The changes in intelligence and military top brass all indicate preparations for offensive action rather than sensible, reality-based risk reduction.

        "Being a politician is a poor profession. Being a public servant is a noble one." - Herbert Hoover

        by LondonYank on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 05:05:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I admire your restraint, and am trying (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LondonYank, semiot, Spoc42, possum

          to follow suit, having followed you right down the rabbit hole last October.  Sigh.  However, just because we're paranoid, doesn't mean, well, you know the rest.

          The changes in intelligence and military top brass all indicate preparations for offensive action rather than sensible, reality-based risk reduction.

          Yes.  Amen.

          I still remain concerned that Gates, a black-ops specialist, is now in charge of the Pentagon, the new home of black-ops.  Combining this with the more recent shifts, and, well, I don't see any of this as a lead-up to what Clark termed "The Smart Surge: Diplomacy."

          The stakes are considerably higher now than they were 4 years ago.  The entire region -- from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Emirates and Lebanon -- looks set for a multi-state sunni-shiite dust-up.  Now is, perhaps, not the best time to be playing frat boy games in the gulf.

          •  Gates was analyst side, not ops side of CIA (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ek hornbeck

            in fact, he was originally a Soviet specialist, just like Condi Rice was.   And that's part of the problem.  All these national security types whose paradigm is the Cold War, and who have neither the knowledge nor have they made the adjustment to the new situation.

            Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

            by teacherken on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 09:24:32 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Gates was ops big time (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ek hornbeck, oxon

              As deputy director he personally oversaw the arming of the Taliban and set up the network for recruiting of Saudi finance and personnel for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets.  He also oversaw the program to stream over $5 billion in arms to Saddam to fight Iran using CIA front companies and US arms dealers and companies including Bechtel, LaFarge (partially owned by G.H.W. Bush and with Hillary Clinton on the board of directors) and others.

              Gates is bad news.  He isn't like Condi because Gates gets the dirty jobs done - and quietly.

              "Being a politician is a poor profession. Being a public servant is a noble one." - Herbert Hoover

              by LondonYank on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 10:38:40 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  I'm glad you are restraining (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LondonYank, ek hornbeck, possum

          Gates bothers me but the changes in military brass does not appear to be anything but change.  I don't think the branch of service of the top brass is any harbinger.  If further action is planned, it is planned.  No need for a Navy guy merely because any action against Iran would be mostly carrier based.

        •  It could be both - a rational policy covered by a (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          semiot, ek hornbeck


          I think it's extremely unlikely that, all things that have happened since March 2003, the Joint Chiefs of Staff will move if Bush says jump.  

          Instead, what we're seeing is an end-game unfolding in which two or three things are happening simultaneously.  

          First, Bush is floundering around, stalling for time, but (most of) the Army's going to be coming home to rebuild itself within the next 18 months.  They're not ready to invade Iran or even withstand a concerted Shi'a uprising.

          Meanwhile, the guys who made the worst mistakes -- the Cheney people and political appointees at DoD and within the intel agencies -- are being replaced by competent place-holders.  Career people, like Hayden, Gates, and McConnell, have been reassigned or brought out of retirement to run things.  We may not particularly like everything they've done, but they've survived Senate confirmation hearings before, and probably will this last time.

          Finally, there is a disinformation campaign going on directed at Iran.  They will end up the big winners in this disaster, but the Generals don't want them to jump into southern Iraq just yet.  There's still a lot of details of the deal to be negotiated about how Iraq gets divied up, and frankly, deception is normal when dealing with unfriendly states such as Iran.  Putting on a fearsome face and the appearance of unpredictability is one of the oldest tricks in war and peace.

          Look at who's gone at DoD (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Wurmser, Franklin) and look at who's still there (Pace and the other Joint Chiefs who pushed back against Cheney's Iran war plans).  Look at where Cheney's going to be soon?  In the U.S. Courthouse with his right hand raised testifying about what he knew before the fact about Scooter's outing of Valerie Plame.  Do you really think Dick's going to be around too much longer after that?  Is Dubya the "right man" to lead America into another war?  

          •  Hope you're right about all this, lev (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            LondonYank, ek hornbeck

            I've been looking for "cooler heads to prevail" and someone to "take away the puchbowl" of war for four+ years now.

            Having said that, it does worry me that Navy and Air Force guys - in one case a guy (McConnell) who is notorious for telling superiors the intel they want to believe, and in another case a guy (Clapper) whose claim to fame in the Pentagon is picking bombing targets - are now in place with what is left of our "unused" tactical military assets. On top of that, we have Commander Doubledown, his back to the wall, his pile of political maddeningly chips low, just itching to write the next clause beyond the Iraq comma, still at least nominally calling the shots. I'd like to believe "nobody is that crazy" when I think of a pre-emptive attack on Iran - but then I think of old Commander Doubledown, I look at the glory hogs, toppers, trimmers, wind chimes, arbitragers, and yes men that populate the upper reaches of our military-industrial-governmental institutions, and crazy looks all too obviously attractive an option in this situation.

            The name is not the thing named, the map is not the territory. -- Gregory Bateson

            by semiot on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 09:06:30 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The war is like the supertanker - it takes years (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              LondonYank, semiot

              just to stop the thing.  I wouldn't say it has much more forward momentum left in it, though.

              I spent some time looking for the origins of the "McConnell is a yes-man to his core" rumour.  The evidence is pretty thin, and comes down to some disparaging person comments from Bobby Inman.  He doesn't think much of Hayden, either. McConnell wouldn't be the first target. I could find even less for the notion floating around that McConnell is really Cheney's send-up.  Nothing there other than a report that the two of them "kept in touch" after the Gulf War.

              As for Clapper, the worst I've heard about him is that he's a technocrat who has more of a grasp on air-to-air missile tactics than intelligence issues.  Okay, that means he's not likely to overextend himself into strategic issues, like "regime change" and remaking the map of the Middle East than some of his predecessors.

              As for Commander Doubledown, his back is to the wall, but I think he's pretty well contained by an invisible fence that's been put around him.  Nothing can penetrate that bubble now, either in or out.

              There was a productive exchange following my Diary yesterday, "The Boy Who Called Wolf:  DKos, Panic & the Permanent Iran War"

              Some objected to my use of the The Boy Who Called Wolf parable, thinking that it implied that some at DKos have lied on the subject.  I don't think so, but some have certainly been reflecting a heavy dose of disinformation.

              I think the chances of an attack on Iran are less than some might make them appear.  Here's part of my chat with kredwyn in the discussion string.  It sums up pretty well why I've concluded that the Iran war scare is both less and more than it appears:

              Disinformation isn't necessaily lies - (1+ / 0-)

              It's a process of persuasion that employs truth, partial-truths and misrepresentation in order to deceive or manipulate.

              Not all disinformation is outright lies.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  The most effective disinformation campaigns wrap a small germ of deception in a clean, attractive package of useful information.

              Similarly, not all disinformation is intended to misinform - the purpose may also be to terrorize, confuse, paralyze or provoke.

              Disinformation is usually conveyed by what appears to be a credible source -- sometimes the conduit is aware of the deception, but not always.  So it is with what I call, "War With Iran Is Inevitable" meme.

              Here's how I think this campaign has worked.  Let's take a look at the Thinkprogress account you quoted:

                A new report by Seymour Hersh finds that senior Bush administration officials are developing plans (not "developed") for a massive attack on Iran which could include nuclear weapons (maybe it has nukes in it...maybe it doesn't). Hersh points out that the Joint Chiefs of Staff — a panel of the highest-ranking military officials from each branch of the U.S. armed services — are strenuously opposed to the plan, so much so that some have threatened to resign if it goes forward. (emphasis and parentheticals are mine).

              First, let's separate out the speculation from the hard fact (assume, for the moment, that these facts reported are true, and the account is essentially accurate):

              fact:  senior Bush Administration officials are developing plans for a massive attack on Iran.
              fact:  [those plans] are not [fully] developed.
              speculation: [developing plans] may have nukes.
              fact: the JCS are strenuously opposed to the plan being developed by senior Administration officials.
              fact: some JCS members have threatened to resign if the plan moves forward.

              Next, let's apply some critical judgment to this story.  What is most significant here?  What component is most likely spin, intended to deceive or manipulate?

              If we apply an analytical framework to the account -- be it intel report writing, news judgment, or historical analysis -- we can reassemble the facts in a meaningful way to determine what's really significant and to isolate elements that are possible disinformation.  We rank order "facts" according to two basic criteria 1) most verifiable, and 2), most significant as new information.

              As an inteligence analyst, editor or an historian, I would proceed in the same method of rank-ordering.  Intelligence anaysts assign 0-10 scales to both credibility of source and verifiability.  Editors tend to focus on credibility and on breaking news.  Historians look for how new primary sources fit into patterns and other sources.  Regardless of the discipline, the result will be similar.

              I look at the Thinkprogress report on Hersh, and using a combination of the above methods and knowledge of context, develop a take on the story, as follows:

                1. Some JCS members have threatening to resign if the Administration's developing Iran war plan move forward. - Most significant (JCS members rarely if ever before have threatened to resign in mass).

                2. There haven't been any recent JCS resignations.  Instead, Rumsfeld has resigned (significant context, as he was patron of some of the most hawkish neocons at DoD, who earlier resigned (eg, Feith, Wurmser, Wolfowitz)

                3. Cheney is being forced to testify in the Plame case as to what he knows about Libby's role in destroying Valerie Plame. (significant contexts: a) Cheney is atributed to be the leading Administration figure pushing the Iran war plans; b)Plame was a CIA Iran WMD analyst when she was outed; and c) Plame's CIA non-proliferation unit had been a source of resistance against efforts to "cook the books" on Iran and Iraq WMDs).

                4. The Larry Franklin OSP-AIPAC investigation led to the forced departure of Naor Gilon,the Mossad Chief of Station and others who were involved with salting Pentagon Iran WMD files with information suggested by Israeli intelligence.

                5.  The Plame and Franklin cases proceeded after the CIA's Plame case damage assessment were reviewed by JCS and DIA staff, and after the Pentagon did its own investigation of Israeli espionage and deception campaigns related to Iraq and Iran.

                6.  The latest CIA assessments (09/06) show that Iran has not yet developed significant quantities of weapons-grade materials.

              CONCLUSION - The JCS will not okay a preemptive attack on Iran under present circumstances.  If push comes to shove with Bush-Cheney over this, the JCS, and their allies in Congress and the intelligence community, will take measures to ensure the resignation of Cheney, and if necessary, Bush.

              CAVEAT - IMO, the JCS has authorized a deception campaign to keep Iran from exploiting the above circumstances to the detriment of US interests in the region.  To wit: the Pentagon, US and allied intelligence services routinely send threatening messages regarding Iran war plans.  The intensity and timing of this disinformation is linked to developments in Iraq, more than any other factor.  Provided that Iran does not over-react, and goes along with withdrawal on reasonable terms, there will be no direct U.S. or Israeli military strike against Iran.

              by leveymg on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 06:54:39 AM PST

              [ Parent | Reply to This ]


      •  Yes, This is a Recognized Tactic (8+ / 0-)

        The sub 'tailgates' a large noisy ship and hopes it's small sonar signature is hidden by the thrashing propellor(s) of the larger ship.

        This tactic is practiced all the time, but the 'bump' is only a mistake if the captain gets fired. Otherwise, it was a 'dog-whistle' warning.

        I wonder if those new super-cavitating torpedoes could be fooled. Back in the '70s, we had some pretty smart torpedoes that could differentiate targets. I can only imagine that they are even better now.

        I hope we don't find out just how well the Russian-made torpedoes the Iranians have will work.


        "There is a time for compromise, and it is called 'Later'!"

        by LeftyLimblog on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 06:14:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's a safe bet... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LondonYank, semiot, ek hornbeck

          ...that we've had subs in the Gulf for years, even before the invasion. It's difficult to hide one bigger than a fast attack, so tailgating is expected. Ramming is not expected. Perhaps they were just ringing the doorbell... courtesy call!

          Satan himself had a 33% approval rating even as he was booted out of heaven.

          by Joy Busey on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 06:35:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Before you know it, the Bushies might (6+ / 0-)

    recruit Lauren Holly to command the sub when it hides behind/under a tanker.  She performed the drill successfully in "Down Periscope." We know the Bushies often confuse cinema with reality.

    If you don't have an earth-shaking idea, get one, you'll love building a better world.

    by hestal on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 05:33:29 AM PST

  •  Our American Hitler (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It seems to me bush is getting exactly what he wants.  In afganis. there is hunger we are supplying both side with weapons, and we have chaos with the taliban back. There is civil war in iraq, hunger, supply both sides weapons, and chaos..Then we supply weapons to israel so they can kill leb. and palistines , civil war, hunger and chaos..Now we are trying to start civil war in africa, plus we havent accomplished civil war in iran yet, or taken theere oil.Yes it seems our american Hitler is getting exactly what he wants while our congress is going to say apologize, mr. president, apologize right now, and send more kids into the slaughter..

    •  Bush makes Hitler look competent... (4+ / 0-)

      Look, if Hitler had invaded Poland and gotten stuck there for five years, do you think that Himmler and Goebbels and Hermann Göring would have left him in power?

      Dear Adolph,

          Since you haven't been able to extricate yourself from Poland, let alone defeat the insurgents and communists that are being funded by that bastard Stalin and the west, and you have not yet moved on France despite many promises to do so, we have to ask you to commit suicide, or we'll have to handle matters ourselves.

      Much love,


      (I know I'm going to get - signs for this one...)

      Dana Curtis Kincaid Ad Astra per Aspera! The enemy is not man, the enemy is stupidity.

      by angrytoyrobot on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 06:01:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Guy I work with, used to deal with the Navy (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LondonYank, newfie, ek hornbeck, possum

    suggests they were "tucking in" to the vessel in a training maneuver.  The closer you get to the "enemy", the lesser the chance you are seen by their radar.

    It sort of makes sense, that this was a training mission gone wrong.  It would be hard to imagine missing a boat that's several city blocks long!

  •  Any chance at all that it was in fact an accident (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and that it will give some of the naval advisors pause to consider that in fact it would be dumber than doorbells to do something aggressive in the strait?

    Be very kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle.

    by Wee Mama on Tue Jan 09, 2007 at 08:08:38 AM PST

  •  Los Angeles Class Attack Submarines (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    amanuensis, LondonYank

    The USS Newport News, SSN750, is part of Carrier Strike Group Eight.  She is part of the Eisenhower task force, operating off of Somalia, south of the straits of Hormuz.

    Information about capabilities and equipment of submarines is scarce, and much of it is highly classified for obvious reasons.

    1. Displacement: 6,927 tons submerged
    2. Length: 360 ft (110 m)
    3. Beam: 33 ft (10 m)
    4. Draft: 32 ft (9.7 m)
    5. Armament:

       * 4 x 21 in (533 mm) forward torpedo tubes
            *Mark 48 ADCAP (Advanced Capability) torpedoes, drones, or Harpoon anti-ship missiles
       * on SSNs 719-725 and 750-773, 12 Vertical Launch System tubes
            *VLS can launch either Tomahawk cruise missiles in anti-shipping or land-attack mode.

    1. Propulsion: S6G reactor
    2. Speed: 25+ knots (46 km/h) submerged, some sources say 35+ knots (Classified) and others have claimed as high as 50+ knots.
    3. Depth: greater than 800 ft (240 m) and possibly as deep as 1500 feet although this is also classified.
    4. Complement: 140

    There have been 65 Los Angeles Class attack submarines in service.  Currently there are approximately 50 or so.
    Moving at a speed of 10 knots, it takes these things over a mile to stop, and a couple of hundred yards to turn.  Submarines, by international law, must give right of way to surface traffic.
    We don't know for sure what happened, but we can be pretty certain that this was an accident.
    These things cost around two hundred to three hundred million dollars each, and repairing damage to them typically costs millions if  not tens of millions of dollars.  The new Virginia Class which are replacing some of them costs almost a billion dollars a copy.  According to a former submariner I know in college, and another to whom I am related, a hole with a diameter of a pencil will sink the boat in less than five minutes under certain conditions.
    You don't ram them into things to send messages.
    No matter what the Navy's investigation shows, the captain, executive officer, navigator, and the officer on watch duty at the time will all lose their jobs and careers.  According to my former-submariner relative, "there is no such thing as command exoneration in the submarine service."

    The boat will now have to move to the nearest US port, at a speed and depth that is safe and quiet with the damage she has suffered.  Another sub will have to be dispatched to cover the hole in operational capability that has been lost, and other subs will have to be detailed to cover the hole created by that sub's new assignment.

    In the eyes of our government, the day the two towers fell, a fifth column was born. --Georgia10

    by soonergrunt on Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 07:53:17 AM PST

    •  Damn, you're so smart! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I should know better than to try to post anything about the military with my meagre understanding when you'll  be checking up on me.  

      I wore the Ralph Lauren backless dress with no bra and fishnets on New Year's Eve.  Had fun.

      Now I'm overloaded with a new contract for a high-profile complex system that's already in trouble and really shouldn't be blogging, but this story hit me as funny.  I know it means we're escalating towards the next war, but the sheer bumptiousness of this administration's policies in the Gulf is caught in this little vignette.

      "Being a politician is a poor profession. Being a public servant is a noble one." - Herbert Hoover

      by LondonYank on Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 02:01:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not smart so much as widely read (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        about a rather esoteric subject.

        I wore the Ralph Lauren backless dress with no bra and fishnets on New Year's Eve.  Had fun.  Well, I should hope so.

        The thing about these idiots who are constantly trying to start us into the shit in various places around the world is that they don't understand that no matter what kind of high-tech toys we have that others don't, warfare is a human excercise.  People who don't want to be ruled, or freed, or whatever you want to call it, won't be, and all of the bullets and grenades in the world will not make it so.
        Soldiers and their leaders only have so many hours in the day, and only so many calories worth of energy to burn.  These people, who have never seen a young physically fit man collapse from exhaustion, have never experienced hallucinations from lack of sleep, have never frozen all night in the middle of nowhere, have never held a 30-year-old man as he cried like a child because his wife cheated on him, cannot possibly know what an army can and cannot do.

        In the eyes of our government, the day the two towers fell, a fifth column was born. --Georgia10

        by soonergrunt on Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 03:54:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If this comment was a diary it would be Rec List (0+ / 0-)

          I'm not feeling real optimistic today about Bush's announcement last night that he intends to take on Iran and Syria if he can't win in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Four wrongs won't make a right.

          "Being a politician is a poor profession. Being a public servant is a noble one." - Herbert Hoover

          by LondonYank on Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 07:15:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I didn't see the speech (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            But I'd like to know just what army he intends to use.  The current one is exhausted.

            In the eyes of our government, the day the two towers fell, a fifth column was born. --Georgia10

            by soonergrunt on Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 07:30:59 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

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