Sunday, December 30, 2012

monkeys in battle

From a reader who does not want to be identified: 
"Hi As'ad, I thought you might find this amusing. Don't use my name if you post.

You may recall the reports from 2003 of Morocco providing monkeys to clear mines in Iraq (  ). We all know how crucial this was of course to ensuring US occupiers were met with flowers, candy, and bananas.

Anyhow, it turns out the Moroccan publication who reported the story may have been right when they said it "is not a scientific illusion but a well-known military tactic". I learned this reading Julia Lovell's "The Opium War" about the war of the same name. In 1841 Yijing (the Qing Emperor's nephew and inept commander of forces trying to repel the British in the south) "made room in the budget to buy nineteen monkeys: the idea was to tie firecrackers to their backs then fling them onto English ships moored nearby. 'But the fact was,' a truth-telling observer pointed out, 'no one dared go near enough to the foreign ships to fling them on board.' After the final rout at Ciqi, their keeper fled, leaving the attack-monkeys of Ningbo to starve slowly to death in his front lodge." (p. 208)

We never heard how Morocco's monkeys performed in Iraq. I am sure they learned from the problems of the Qing emperor's apes, and thus we see how monkeys too stand on the shoulders of giants."