Carl von Clausewitz gives a Pre-Flight Briefing

“Men,” said the wing commander.

“And women,” came a gruff woman’s voice.

“I thought you were one of the Kuwaitis?” asked the wing commander.

“I am.”

“Hmmm, anyway,” continued the wing commander unperturbed, “Men, women and other members of the squadron of unknown sex. You must remember we are at war.”

“It’s hard to forget,” said Ginger, “they keep shooting at us.”

“Now none of that.” The wing commander wagged his stick at Ginger. “Foreigners have been shooting at the R.A.F. ever since its inception. So, the present circumstances are no different, except of course, we have the Americans on our side.”

“Half the time,” Ginger insisted, “it is the Americans who are doing the shooting.”

“Yes, that is what we call friendly fire.” The wing commander smiled paternally, “So shooting at us - is how the jolly Americans show they are being friendly. It’s like fox hunting, we don’t really want to kill the fox, and half the time the little blighters get away. So, next time an F-16 starts blazing away at you, just hide behind a hedge and wait for the hunt to lose your trail.”

“They killed Nigel.”

“Nigel was a vegetarian. Shouldn’t have been flying in the first place.” The wing commander blew through his moustache in annoyance. “Now this war…”

“I thought this was a police action,” asked Algy, “like those times in Korea when we rescued Korea from itself, and in Vietnam when we didn’t rescue anyone, we just got shot at.”

“Those too were police actions, but this time, we have a plan.”

“We do?” asked Algy in complete amazement.

“Yes,” the wing commander almost chortled, “the plan is we are appearing to lose, but in reality we are not. Therein lies the beauty of the plan. Its very nature is a cipher, an enigma, and a code if you will. Hence our enemies can not determine our next course of action.”

“But we are losing,” whined Algy, “Iraq has fallen apart, the different factions and clans commit atrocities every night; and we can’t even leave the base without someone taking potshots at us. How is that winning?”


“Sorry, what?”

“Misère,” the wing commander banged his stick on the blackboard where it was written, “it’s where in Five Hundred or Canasta you choose to lose every hand and in so doing win the game.”

A mosquito could have burped in the debriefing room and it would have been heard.

“But, but,” Algy began tearing his cap in two in frustration, “how is that winning? Iraq isn’t a card game!”

“Yes!” the wing commander was triumphant, “and not only does our enemy not know it’s a card game, they also don’t even know how to play Five Hundred or Canasta! We cannot lose! Unless, of course if we win.”

“But Wing Commander,” Algy almost started to cry, “don’t we have to declare at the beginning of the hand, that we are going to play Misère?”

“What?” the wing commander shrieked back. “And give away the element of surprise? Haven’t you read Carl von Clausewitz and his idea of the Fog of War? The enemy isn’t supposed to know what we are doing, that’s half the plan!”

“But this isn’t a war! It’s a …well it’s bally well not a war.”

“Which is also what we want the enemy to think.”

“But, but, but,” Algy was reduced to saying over and over.

“So, now that that is all settled. Captain Biggles, will now address you on today’s bombing run and answer any of your questions,” the Wing commander finished, sat down and promptly fell asleep.

Biggles stood up and pulled the goggles back from his eyes, he stared at his fellow pilots with the sort of intensity you’d expect from a short man with a moustache at Nuremberg.

“Men,” he declared looking out the window with the fierceness that would have frightened the short man with a moustache at Nuremberg, “we have not come here to crush our enemies. We have not come here to lead them to the promised land. We have not come here to hand out ice cream and lollipops. No, we are here because we are British, and the British have never needed a reason to invade another country, except when we invaded Germany, or France and occasionally America, but lets ignore those for the moment. Let us concentrate on the problem at hand.”

He turned around and looked at the map of Iraq, then searched around till he found Israel and pointed at that.

“This is our target.”


“Oh sorry,” he tried again and found Iran. “This is our target.”

“But we’re not at war with Iran.”

“We soon will be,” Biggles looked down his nose at his interlocutor, “and when it happens, we will not only be ready, but we will have already attacked them. I too, have read Carl von Clausewitz.”

“Isn’t he a Hun?”

“He is?” Biggles said in some surprise, “I thought he was Welsh, odd name and all.”

“Quite sure, born June 1, 1780, died November 16, 1831, a Prussian soldier, military historian and influential military theorist. Noted for his work titled ‘On War’.”

“Algy, don’t be such a girly swat.” Biggles snapped. “I’m giving the Briefing. Besides he may be a Hun and all, but that doesn’t mean I can’t read him. Now then, our reconnaissance shows us that Iran is filled with Persian carpets; in fact, Iran oddly enough is where all Persian carpets come from. It is one of the primary industries of Iran. Carpets are made from wool, and wool comes from sheep. These will be our targets. We are going to destroy all the sheep in Iran and cripple their economy. I read this in Clausewitz and he would know.”

The only sound that could be heard for several minutes was the wind blowing against the tent flap.

“No questions, good,” said Biggles pleased, “random bombing will start at 0500 hours, and continue till we run out of air-to-sheep missiles. Dismissed.”


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