Archive for oktober, 2002

The trouble with cluster bombs

lørdag, oktober 26th, 2002

Here is a list of countries Belgium has bombed since the end of the Cold War:

  1. Norway, 2002

Why would Belgium, the land of the best chocolate in the world, bomb a country like Norway - a NATO ally?

In the vast and utterly deserted central mountain regions of Norway lies a remote valley, Hjerkinn. In this remote valley the Norwegian military has set up a playground for themselves. Here, a wide array of weaponry, ammunition, tactics and the art of hitting things with other things that explode is refined. It is for all means and purposes a shooting range for artillery, missiles and aircraft bombs.

From time to time, air forces from all over NATO come together in Norway, take off from the air bases scattered around the fjordful country and bomb the living daylights out of this remote valley. Well, that’s not entirely true. For the purpose of aerial bombardment practice, a designated field was constructed smack in the middle of the valley. It was dutifully fenced in and prepared in all sorts of ways, so that the pilots could let go of their ammunition without being concerned about duds. Its unofficial name is HFK-sletta (”The HFK field”). This field is big. Very big.

Enter the Belgian Air Force (or Belgische Luchtmacht / Force Aerienne Belge as their dual language proper name is). In October 2002, a Belgian F-16AM Fighting Falcon came buzzing along the snowy peaks along the outskirts of the aforementioned remote valley. From its belly hung a bomb. A CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition (CEM) to military people, a cluster bomb to the rest of us. It is yet another fine product from Minnesota, a US state with a large population of 3rd and 4th generation Scandinavian immigrants. The irony in that will probably be overlooked by most media.

The Belgian F-16AM’s target was HFK-sletta.

So what is the big deal with Belgium dropping a cluster bomb on a Norwegian shooting range designed for that specific purpose?

Here is the big deal: the Norwegian legislature Stortinget has explicitly forbidden the use of cluster bombs both by Norwegian aircraft abroad and at home as well as by foreign aircraft training in Norway. The reason of course being the uncanny large number of cluster bomblet duds left in Kosovo after the 1999 Operation Allied Force. A cluster bomblet dud is effectively a landmine, and Norway have ratified an international agreement on banning landmines.

Belgium on the other hand, have done neither of these things.

The pilot broke off at his designated ingress point and started the attack run. A few seconds later he probably radioed “Weapons Gone!” to anyone who cared to listen, and the cluster bomb descended from the F-16AM.

He missed.

That’s right. The cluster bomb missed its target, landing in a nearby mire instead. As a result of the rather soft nature of this mire, a large number of the 202 bomblets inside failed to explode on impact. I guess there is a shortage of ammunition-testing mires in Minnesota.

The Royal Norwegian Armed Forces joint headquarters sent out a press release, explaining somewhat tersely that a minor cleanup operation had been started to clear the area of cluster bomblet duds. Word of the mishap naturally seeped through to Stortinget and all hell broke loose. The Norwegian Minister of Defence, was uninformed of the matter at hand.

Poor sod, the pilot. After witnessing a Belgian captain doing a boner-inducing F-16 aerial display at Waddington International Airshow 2002, as well as knowing that the Luchtmacht flyers are rumoured to be among the hottest in NATO, I find the bombing incident rather strange. One would think they knew all the buttons upfront by now (and indeed by heart).

There are several morals to this story:

  • If you need to practice anything, make sure you don’t need it by practicing a lot in advance
  • If you want to be naughty, make sure nobody finds out
  • Getting forgiveness afterwards is slightly easier than getting approval beforehand

Peace and quiet is again restored in the Kingdom of Norway. Peasants are stockpiling supplies for the dark months ahead, children are laughing and playing in the streets, the upcoming cup finals is the talk of the town and the King is again waving from his balcony in Oslo.

Meanwhile, sinister plans are being laid in the highly secret Belgian air base at Kleine Brogel…

Note: this was posted on E2 as a rather silly parody of a highly political writeup about all the countries the US have dropped bombs on since World War II. As a direct result of the above, the other author pulled the object of the parody. Oh, well…


lørdag, oktober 19th, 2002

Danmark is a tiny island in the Oslo fjord in Norway. It is located just outside Sandvika in Bærum and visible from E-18 when driving eastwards through Sandvika. Its name is probably a nickname that stuck, because older maps does not show this island to have any name at all. When you stand ashore looking towards Danmark, you can make out the contours of Skagerrak on a very small scale. This is likely the reason for the island’s name.

The size of Danmark is just over 400m2 and has two boat sheds. There are no inhabitants on the island.

June 10, 2004, Major Update: The boat sheds have been demolished!

Kommentar: denne biten ble skrevet som en tongue-in-cheek til e2s danske redaktør Peter Ravn Rasmussen.

Rhubarb stew

søndag, oktober 6th, 2002

I am eight years old. The plate is full of salted herring, potatoes and pungent onion rings. Except for the onion, this was supposedly what my father ate while growing up. I look away from my plate towards my father and back again. He is eating it like it’s the last food on earth. After growing up myself I can only say that the last food on earth probably would be exactly that; salted herring and potatoes. The raw, pungent onion would be long gone.

On the calendar it was 1974 and pizza was still a few years away from being the staple of an eight year old’s dreams. I couldn’t even wish for pizza! Life is sometimes cruel.

In an attempt to make us kids eat anything at all, my mother makes white sauce to go with the herring and potatos. It helps a lot. The food disappears somewhat reluctantly from the plate and settles in small unexpecting bellies.

Then something happens. My mother produces a white 5 liter bucket from the refrigerator. I couldn’t see, but she might just have had a sly grin on her face. It’s stewed rhubarb! After herring and potatos, stewed rhubarb is like battle dressing.

Sometimes it’s easy to make an eight year old boy happy.

Stewed rhubarb is easy to make. It’s down there with boiled egg, tea water and breakfast cereals. During the hot season (if you have those) it is refreshing in a cool and tart way. A pleasant way of finishing a meal.

Stewed rhubarb
What you need:

  • 1500g / 3.3lbs of rhubarb stalks
  • 400g / 0.8lbs of sugar
  • 1 liter / 34 fl.oz. of water

What to do:
Mix the water and the sugar and let it simmer for 8-10 minutes after boiling. Wash and skin the rhubarb stalks, then cut them in 4-5 cm/2 inches long bits. Add the rhubarb stalks to the water and let them tender for 10 minutes. Serve cold in a bowl topped with whole milk or whipped cream. Be sure to put sugar on the table in case someone thinks the stew is too tart.

You don’t have to eat salted herring and potatoes before having stewed rhubarb. I certainly don’t anymore.