A bloodless coup in America

Posted on November 25th, 2007 in Culture,History,Politics,War by Robert Miller

A bloodless coup took place in America during the aftermath of WW II. It was the time at which we were scheduled to take down the Pentagon and demobilize our armies. But the development of the atomic bomb, and its use on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, gave the Americans an opportunity to confront the Soviet Union with a new tool, without which a more peaceful state of co-existence might have developed between the two countries. FDR suddenly died months before critical decisions were made about the postwar policies towards the Soviets, and Truman, a neophyte, naive about the world, took the helm of American politics and, together with the hardliners (and his use of “medication” as pointed out by Geoffrey Perret in his book “Commander in Chief”), forced us into a sharp right turn in our geopolitical position where we still hover today. As a result, we have been on a war footing for the last 60 plus years.

Leo Szilard was a Budapest born physicist who was a key figure in the development of the atomic bomb during WW II. Together with Albert Einstein, he signed the October 1939 letter to FDR that was instrumental in initiating the Manhattan project and ultimately the development of the two bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His principal scientific contribution was in developing the concept of the chain reaction and how that would contribute to the explosive effects of a nuclear fission reaction. His motivation for contributing to the development of the bomb was exclusively driven by the possibility that the Nazis might develop an atomic bomb and use it to assert world-wide hegemony. But, by the Spring of 1945, Szilard began to grow uncomfortable with where things were headed. Germany was crushed and it was apparent that they never got off the ground with an atomic weapons program. It was also apparent to everyone that Japan was finished and would soon have to surrender. But the bomb project on which he was working continued and he began to see how atomic weapons would become a major player in an arms race with the Soviet Union.

Foreign Fighters in Iraq

Posted on November 22nd, 2007 in General,Politics,War by Robert Miller

An interesting report appeared in the NYT today about foreign fighters in Iraq. A significant insight into the numbers and countries of origin of foreign insurgents was revealed by discovery of a kind of center for foreign insurgents uncovered in a raid on a tent group in Sinjar, near the Syrian border. This information contained biographical data on 700 insurgents brought into Iraq since August 2006. Based on this data, it is now estimated…..”that the flow of foreign fighters was 80 to 110 per month during the first half of this year and about 60 per month during the summer. The numbers fell sharply in October to no more than 40, partly as a result of the Sinjar raid.” The majority of these insurgents were from Saudi Arabia and Lybia and together they account for about 60% of the foreign insurgents. The war in Iraq has been primarily a war with Iraqis, until recently dominated by the Sunnis (hence the appeal to the Saudis who are also Sunni). The important revelation provided by these documents is that no one in the administration should be allowed to suggest that we are fighting foreign invaders, like al Qaeda, as Bush would have you believe. To the extent that an al Qaeda connection exists in Iraq, it is loosely based on Sunni insurgents from within. This is a point that Juan Cole has been making since the insurgency began: it’s a civil war in which we have been standing in for the Shiites. Today, we have incarcerated about 25,000 Iraqis, held in prisons within Iraq. Only about 290, or 1.2% of the prisoner population are foreigners and of the 25,000, about 80% are Sunnis. It is the Sunni connection that drives the foreigners into Iraq. If we had a press that would press Bush and not allow him to get away with this complete hogwash on who it is we are fighting, the members of the White House press corps could begin to develop a little swagger of their own.

Who are the candidates for 2008?

Posted on November 21st, 2007 in Culture,Politics by Robert Miller

I have yet to watch any of the Democratic presidential debates. It is too early for me. I need a fresh new year, a January/February motivation for listening to anyone who wants to be the next president. The one thing I am grateful about is that the Democratic candidate list is long and strong. The Democrats are all focused on issues of great public concern, like the war in Iraq, health care and the dubious trajectory our country is on for its domestic and foreign policy agendas. Dennis Kucinich sounds like a 1930s FDR Democrat. I like his views better than just about anyone else: he is knowledgeable and forceful, although he stands little chance of gaining traction. I am loyal and appreciative also to Mike Gravel. You may not remember, but Gravel was the Alaska Senator who read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record, so that the secrecy and corrupt politics behind the Vietnam War would remain forever in the public domain, no matter what would happen to Daniel Ellsberg. And, this was done by someone who was also dyslexic (fortunately he didn’t have to read in all 7,000 pages). Gravel performed a giant public service to our nation. Something like that again is badly needed, as this country is in a tailspin over the many failures of its policies under Bush/Cheney and a lot of their predecessors. I don’t know if anyone in the Senate today would do what Mike Gravel did with the Pentagon Papers. Paul Wellstone would have done it in a heartbeat, but he is gone now several years. Meanwhile, the Republicans have been trapped by their own silly rhetoric and would ordinarily seem doomed or banished into American irrelevancy. But, this is America and anything can happen.

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