Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mathematics, Sociology, Israel, Lebanon and the outright Manipulation of the MSM

UPDATE: Welcome readers from newsbusters... I will update in a mo now that there are more photos and video available.

Your pensive and hesitant Pedant-General is always loathe to put his cards on the table, to stand up and be counted or generally to favour one side of the fence from any other that may be available.

He is therefore wringing his hands in response to the awful reports of "apparent" missile attack on an ambulance clearly marked with the Red Cross.
At the Red Cross headquarters in Tyre, I spoke to Kassem Chaalan, 28, who told me about being in an ambulance that was struck by a missile. When the armament struck the vehicle, he says, it hit the Red Cross symbol on the roof dead-on.
Rather than make any sort of precipitate decision, I have therefore dissembled and thought about it and make all sorts of noises of the "hum" and "ha" variety.

Amongst the many other thoughts that crossed my mind is this:
Missile strikes are pretty conclusive events. In fact, at a conservative estimate and assuming that our helicopter-launched missile has mass of 10kg (which is on the low side) and was travelling at, say, 500 mph (which is ~250m/s and also on the low side), the missile would have had kinetic energy of around 600kJ. This is transferred to the target when it strikes, in a fairly direct and unprepossessing manner.

As a quick quiz, how fast would a car weighing 1 tonne (that's a small/medium UK sized car such as Ford Focus with just the driver in it) have to be going to have 600kJ in kinetic energy?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Ok, I'll tell you. About 50 mph. So even before the warhead detonates, being hit by a missile of that size and at that speed has the same crushing effect on the target as being hit by a car full on at 50mph, except from above, where you don't have all the crumble zones to absorb the impact.

Let's look at a few examples. For each of these photos, you can click to be linked to the source news report.

There are a couple of things to notice about this.
Firstly the car is a mess. To say that it is no longer roadworthy would be somewhat sidestepping the extent of the damage. It looks very much as though a car of similar size struck it from above at about 50mph.

Secondly, the subsequent explosion has peeled the roof open, blown the boot lid open and thirdly we can see that the remainder is severely scorched with fire.

That seems to make sense to me.

What about this one:

Notice the fire damage, the blown out tyres, and the crushing impact from above. The floorpan is on the ground and the doors and roof are buckled. This car is not going anywhere. Ever again. Or at least, not of its own accord.

Or this:

Again, notice that the vehicle is a complete right-off. The roof has been ripped off by the explosion and there is extensive fire damage.

And what about this?

I don't know about you, humble reader, but I am beginning to spot a pattern. Missile strikes appear to correlate strongly with:
  • Crushing and general structural damage apparently from above
  • Other buckling and twisting or miscellaneous mechanical effects of explosions such as doors and boot lids open and bent and the roof ripped back up.
  • Fire Damage.
Correlation, of course, does not imply causation, but I think we can be fairly comfortable, given the analysis of the kinetic energy delivered by a missile strike as discussed above and the generally acknowledged effects of the detonation of an appreciable quantity of military grade high explosive, that we should at least be suspicious that there may be some form of causal link.

So, to our ambulance "apparently deliberately" targetted.

Here it is:

That link again in case you missed it:

Now, I'm looking at a photo of an ambulance that has:
  • no crushing impact from above;
  • the doors are open, but they are clearly not buckled. They are on their hinges and have not been ripped out when shut. There is no other buckling or twisting commensurate with an explosion;
  • no fire damage.
This is a vehicle in working order with the windows missing. From where I'm standing this is not a picture of a vehicle that has been hit by a helicopter launched missile. Indeed, given that there is lots of broken glass on the road around where the windows used to be, one wonders whether - surely not - the windows have been kicked out of a perfectly serviceable ambulance.

Can you imagine the field day that Hezbollah (and the BBC for that matter) would have if there really had been an ambulance hit by a missile. The image of a battered, burned out vehicle with a sorry bent scrag of metal showing the remaining traces of a Red Cross? Yet this is the only image I can find.

Why would that be? Who on earth could possibly gain from fraudulently reporting, or indeed entirely fabricating, a story about a direct hit on an ambulance? It couldn't happen. I mean obviously.


Bishop Hill said...

The BBC article you link to doesn't mention an ambulance - is this a stealth edit?

The Pedant-General said...

Come along your Grace, keep up. That was a play on the scare quotes around the word "apparent".

Sorry - that was a bit abstruce. Even for a Bishop.


towcestarian said...

I am a bit confused by why an ambulance in muslim S Lebanon has a red cross on it and not a red crescent. Al-Beeb diesn't seem to have noticed that either.

The Pedant-General said...

The relevance of that point was not lost on me either, Towcestarian, but I didn't quite know how to fit it in as an aside without, you know, making the post look a bit snarky. I would hate for that to happen.


I also owe you a response to your extremely pertinent and lucid comment on that poll, the overall topic of which is now starkly relevant, I'm sure you will agree.


dearieme said...

Zee cunnink chews used small missile covered mit bubble-wrap. Hah, you zink you fool me zat easily?

Tim Newman said...

Heh heh! Good research, PG!

James Higham said...

Maybe it was a very, very gentle missile.

Lord Pasternack said...

P-G, gonnae come and comment on this article in The Hootsmon. I wrote comment 45, but it's now passed 100 comments, most of them pure drivel, and I simply cannot be bothered.

Be a good sport. I linked to you in my comment.

Lord Pasternack said...

Whoops. Wrong article. I meant this one, sorry.

James Higham said...

PGinO - this was a great post and I've stolen huge slices of it to do with my friends but... when's the next post?

chris said...

Another thing, many times when a missile hits something the people in it generally die. I can understand that it woul be possible for the helmeted and flack jacketed driver surviving, but all of his passengers as well?

James Higham said...

P-G in O - new post!

Akaky said...

And then, of course, there's the warhead. Kinetic energy is all very well and good, if you like that sort of thing, but to really blow the doors off of something there's nothing like a few pounds of high explosive going off on the passengers' side while you and the missile are both going at high speed.

The Pedant-General said...


Keep up at the back there:

"Secondly, the subsequent explosion has peeled the roof open, blown the boot lid open"
"and the generally acknowledged effects of the detonation of an appreciable quantity of military grade high explosive"

My point here is that missiles tend to crush downwards as well as blowing outwards: the fact that only the windows are missing whilst the roof is intact makes this look very very very suspicious.

Indeed, if the Hez really wanted a picture they would indeed have had to have done a "Michael Caine"

"You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"


Akaky said...

My apologies, P-G; I was skimming and the relevant portion skimmed right by me--won't happen again.

The Remittance Man said...

Since most guided weapons fitted to helicopters are designed to take out 60 ton tanks I think it's fair to say that even a combi ambulance would be toast after meeting one head on. The one in your photo may look as though its been left in a rough neighbourhood for a few minutes, but the victim of a catastrophic warhead-vehicle interface incident it ain't.

Now lots of people are harping on about biased reporting, especially by the BBC, and I don't doubt that there is some anti-Israeli bias. But I think the bigger problem is that your average journo has little or no understanding of how the military works.

This is especially the case when something like this latest fracas blows up. The demands of 24 hour news means that everybody gets a ticket to the warzone and orders to send back pictures and stories. So you get hardened foreign correspondents, sports writers, fashion editors even the bloody gardening writer suddenly stumbling around a warzone looking for a story that might get them a Pulitzer or just a ticket home.

Basically, they can't tell the difference between a battleship and a main battle tank or whether a corporal is in charge of a section or an army group.

In situations like that the neophyte war corrspondent tends to take everything at face value. If the nice man in the green helmet tells them it was an Israeli missile what done it, that's what they report (especially if they don't want to hang around because Mr G-H keeps warning them that the nasty IDF are likely to come back any second).

And back home the editors and subs are equally clueless. They assume that if the hack on the ground sends back a picture of a "missile strike" then it must be of a missile strike. Any bias simply confirms this.

My guess is what we are seeing is what happens if you mix complete ignorance of warfare, fear induced decline of critical faculties and helpful "locals" who do know what's going on (including how to play the media like a Stradivarius). Add a pinch of bias and you get the clusterphuque of reporting we are now getting from South Lebanon.

Anonymous said...

If I may attempt to clear up the crescent/cross puzzle - there are many Christians in Lebanon.

TroublemakerNYC said...

Here this is a must see about Quana:

Anonymous said...

OK, so the Israelis didn't bomb the ambulance. They just machinegunned it to smithereens. That's OK then.

Abu Nudnik said...

You're missing the point, Thomas: the Israelis weren't anywhere near the ambulance. It was staged, get it? It was staged to get people like you to believe that the Israelis are targeting the innocent and helpless. There is a long history of this going back to the Al-Dura incident of 2000. Go to

The reason is propaganda and the method is cultural symbolism. The Israeli under arms is the Jew at the foot of the Cross, spike and hammer in hand.

The Pedant-General said...


Abu Nudnik says it all, but I think we might need to ensure that this is said again. And again. And again. If you haven't caught on by now you are in serious denial.

This is why it is the missile bit is important:
The reports were of a missile. They were extremely clear on the fact that this "missile" had punctured a hole larger than a man's head straight through the centre of the Red Cross.

So, your (tacit) acceptance of the fact that this was not a missile strike is incredibly important. If this ambulance WAS machine-gunned, but not hit by a missile, why focus on the damage that the hoaxers KNEW to be false when they had a bona fide war crime to report in the shape of a machine gun attack?

I can think of only one reason: because the premise is wrong: the ambulance was not machine-gunned either. In fact, none of this damage was even caused on July 23rd. Rust takes months to form.

And by the way, I am very clear on this: machine-gunning an ambulance would NOT be "alright then". It would be a war crime. It would not be "alright then" even if it were carrying wounded Hezbollah fighters. It would be a war crime.


There is a big difference between condoning the commission of war crimes and the examination of readily available material to debunk fraudulent claims of such.

Why is it that you are unable to make this distinction?