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Linguistic Abuse

loaded_words_medium.jpgStephen Poole, author of Unspeak,

“In December 2002, two prisoners at the US base in Bagram, Afghanistan, died after trauma to their legs of such severity that the coroners compared it to the results of being run over by a bus. The subsequent official investigation was nothing if not creative. The death of one was explained in this way:

'No one blow could be determined to have caused the death,' the former senior staff lawyer at Bagram, Col. David L. Hayden, said he had been told by the Army's lead investigator. ‘It was reasonable to conclude at the time that repetitive administration of legitimate force resulted in all the injuries we saw'.

The logic of this is startling. You may compare it in some ways to the Chinese method of execution, used until 1905, known as 'death by a thousand cuts'. Since no one cut can be determined to cause death, no one is responsible for the killing. Similar is the principle behind the firing squad: everyone fires at the same time and one soldier has a blank, so no one soldier can be sure that he killed his comrade. But at least in these two cases the intention is avowedly to cause death. To use the argument as an excuse for 'accidental' extrajudicial killing is different. It is perhaps more like a sophistic application of Zeno's paradox of motion. Since at every place in the flight of an arrow it can be considered at rest, an infinite number of such points of rest cannot possibly add up to travel, so the arrow does not actually move and can never reach its target. Similarly, no number of 'legitimate' things can ever add up to something that is illegitimate. It's just one of those unfortunate things.

But this is deliberate linguistic misdirection. The insertion of the word 'legitimate' before 'force' aims exactly to pre-empt the question of legitimacy. Even if one allows that some force might be legitimate, you're dissuaded from wondering whether a repetitive sequence of legitimate blows can be illegitimate. That principle is common in other areas of law: repetitively playing your music too loud can add up to a disturbance of the peace. 'Legitimate' force also implies that the victim had been found guilty of a crime deserving of violent punishment; but the dead prisoners had never had a trial.

GAO on Global War On Terror

The latest testimony by David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, on GWOT;

“GAO’s prior work found numerous problems with DOD’s processes for recording and reporting GWOT costs, including long-standing deficiencies in DOD’s financial management systems and business processes, the use of estimates instead of actual cost data, and the lack of adequate supporting documentation. As a result, neither DOD nor the Congress reliably know how much the war is costing and how appropriated funds are being used or have historical data useful in considering future funding needs.”

Via Menzie Chinn

No Shame, No Sense and a $296 Billion Bill

The Mother of All Flow-Charts


Integrated Defense Acquisition, Technology, & Logistics Life Cycle Management Framework (via FP blog)

Related; Hammer Time; Two decades later, perhaps the most enduring example of government waste is the $436 Pentagon hammer

Anecdotal Efficiencies


DoD and the military services are trying to implement a "new" program/institutional structure to reduce waste:

Defense Department managers say past Lean Six Sigma projects have revealed that between 57 percent and 90 percent of the time it takes to accomplish a given process is time wasted � that is, time not spent on something a customer is actually waiting on. It is time spent waiting for a problem to be solved, a technical glitch to be fixed, for a tool, parts or information to arrive, or duplicative work to be completed.


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