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What might have been

Posted on September 15th, 2016 in American Hegemony,Books,Capitalism,Climage Change,Economy,Education,War by Robert Miller
Children with gas masks 1941 in Great Britain

Fig 1  Children with gas masks 1941 in Great Britain

This is the story of what might have been, had FDR stayed alive to finish his fourth term as the President of the United States, he died just as his fourth term was beginning on April 12, 1945. This story begins in the more modern days of Global Climate Change and “Black Lives Matter.” Had FDR been around to finish his fourth term, things might have gone very differently: we might have avoided the Cold War. Let me say at the outset that I regard the Cold War as the most senseless, the most costly, the most wasteful thing that was ever perpetrated on the human soul. In addition to its cost [we are spending more than a trillion dollars every year] part of which is to support our nuclear capability. Now, Obama has recently announced that we will spend a trillion dollars to “modernize” our nuclear arsenal; creating in the process much smaller ‘bombs,’ the use for which has not yet been specified. Where is the logic in this? We should be putting all of our energy into getting rid of the Nukes, so at least some us can get some sleep. So far this news has not been contested by the American public, who will have to pay for this enhancement, while our roads and bridges continue to erode. We will miss the opportunity to invest in education and training to help advance our students and prepare them for better lives. We are still living with the dangerous aftermath of the nuclear arms race and no one knows if or when we will successfully mitigate the danger that these threats pose. World-wide I count the total number of lethal warheads at 15,493; the United States (7100), Russian Federation (formerly the Soviet Union, 7300), France (300), India (110), Great Britain (210), China (210), Israel (80), Pakistan (120), North Korea (8); [See Fig 2]

The number of Nukes still threatening the stability of our planet; based on national distribution

Fig 2. The number of Nukes still threatening the stability of our planet; based on national distribution

all of these nations have placed our civilization in a perilous future, one that has no guarantee that we will emerge from this nightmare with our bodies intact rather than be instantly  vaporized.   Should a single one of these be fired accidently or not, the whole array of these missiles might go off in some horrified, modified synchrony and in doing so eliminate all human life on this planet; perhaps we will go back to a state where only bacteria will survive and we will restart the life’s cycle all over again. Conceivably we might already have done this and we are currently enjoying life the second time around like Bill Murray’s rendition of Groundhog day.

The reader might ask, quite sensibly, why the author of this posting would wander back and revive interest in a President that has been dead for more than seventy years. But that is when the Cold War started and we have a special responsibility, because most of the blame for starting the Cold War falls on our shoulders:  we have to face the fact that We Started The Cold War.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning

These are the words Churchill used when the Battle of Britain was safely concluded in November 1942 at which time Pearl Harbor had already taken place, so the Americans were in the war, alongside Great Britain. Although it didn’t seem so at the time, it proved to be prophetic projection to the end of WW II; even though there would be many more years of bloodshed and the final blow of WW II would not be struck by the British, or the French, or the Americans, but it would be the Russians, who, against all odds defeated the vaunted sixth German army at the battle of Stalingrad; from that moment on it would be the Red Army, including the tank battle of Kursk that further destroyed the German army’s capacity to make war, and allowed the Russians to march right into Berlin, though they would pay an enormous price along the way: the final tally was 27 million Russians dead [mostly civilians, I recently heard a professor of Russian history proclaim that the death toll for the Russians in WW II could be as high as 40 million]. I mention this because far to few Americans are aware of the fact that Russia won WW II. Hitler send upwards of 200 divisions into the war against the Russians, but the most the allies faced was 10-15 divisions in the wars in Africa and Sicily; event in Sicily was a bloodbath for the Americans and British.

What I really want to talk about

I will come back to WW II later, but first I want to paint the full panoply of the collective threats we face today.

It seems to me and to many others I know, that the world is on fire, not just because of our many failures related to war on “terror,” and there are many of these, but also plaguing us is the incomplete recovery from the Great Recession, that has introduced all of us to the deficiencies of globalization, which concentrates too much wealth into the hands of those that don’t need it and don’t spend it appropriately. The most recent data, released very recently suggests that improvements in median income rose 5.2 % in 2015, but we will need to see a steady progress of these years, before we get too excited.

This is one reason that Donald J. Trump has has staked out a claim to be the President of of the United States. With all the uncertainties in this race, and the fact that the polls seem to be narrowing, he just might win the election, even though right now he has a special talent for inducing people not to like him at all.

The gift that keeps on killing

Posted on May 30th, 2016 in War by Robert Miller
Cluster bombs

Cluster bombs

The New Yorker magazine this week is running a story on the unexploded ordinance we left behind in Vietnam since the war ended in 1975. The story is written by George Black. Unfortunately Obama’s visit will be timed with the funeral for Ngo Thien Khiet, an ordinance specialist who was skilled at defusing bombs, one of the many thousands of unexploded bombs left over as a gift from the Americans to the Vietnamese people. Ngo Thien Khiet died while defusing a cluster bomb.

From the New Yorker article:

“Khiet, who died at the age of forty-five, and who leaves behind a wife and two sons, was an expert on the unexploded ordnance, or U.X.O., left over from the Vietnam War. He was particularly skilled at locating, removing, and safely destroying cluster bombs found in the farm fields of Quang Tri, an impoverished agricultural province that straddles the old Demilitarized Zone, or D.M.Z., which once divided North and South Vietnam.”

More than 40,000 Vietnamese people have been killed since the war ended in 1975. “More ordnance was dropped on Quang Tri than was dropped on all of Germany during the Second World War. The province was also sprayed with more than seven hundred thousand gallons of herbicide, mainly Agent Orange. The names of battlefields like Cam Lo, Con Thien, Mutter’s Ridge, and the Rockpile still give American veterans nightmares. The seventy-seven-day siege of the Marine base of Khe Sanh, in Quang Tri, so obsessed Lyndon Johnson that he kept a scale model of the base in the White House, and demanded daily updates on the course of the battle.”

“For the eight years before his death, Khiet worked for a nongovernmental organization called Project RENEW, which is based in the provincial capital, Dong Ha. The organization was founded fifteen years ago by a group of foreigners, including an American veteran named Chuck Searcy, who served in Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive. The group’s mission is to help clear the countryside of leftover U.X.O., and it has grown to employ an all-Vietnamese staff of a hundred and sixty people.”

Thanks to the  Project RENEW deaths from U.X.O., have been dropping every year since the program began. “On the day I [George Black] went out with the emergency response team, villagers had found a white phosphorus bomb, three shoulder-fired M-79 grenades, and a 37-mm. projectile. An advance team from Project RENEW had carefully scooped out small holes in the dirt to expose the rusted munitions, marking the spot with colorful warning flags and surrounding it with sandbags. It was time for the demolition crew to move in. We retreated to a safe distance, someone started a countdown, a technician hit a remote switch, and then there was a dull boom. The kids were safe to go back out and play.”

“A couple of days later, I met Ngo Thien Khiet. He was a quiet man, with a sober but friendly demeanor. He was dressed in military-style khakis, with his name stitched in red above his breast pocket. A floppy hat on his head bore the Project RENEW logo. As I reported in a story for The Nation, I’d been invited to join him on a survey of a village called Tan Dinh. Surveying for cluster bombs is slow, painstaking work. Before we set out, Khiet showed me a map that represented his prior work in the area. The map was divided into grid sections, each representing a square kilometre. The sections that had already been combed over were color coded according to the findings of the survey team. Green meant all clear. Red meant cluster bombs. Blue meant other kinds of munitions.”

“Khiet told me that, of all the types of ordnance that still lie buried in the fields of Vietnam, cluster bombs are the most dangerous. They are a particularly devious invention, designed to inflict maximum, indiscriminate harm, and so abhorred that their use, transfer, and stockpiling is prohibited by an international treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions. More than a hundred nations have signed or ratified the treaty; the United States is not one of them.”

“A cluster bomb is made up of as many as six hundred individual bombs, each about the size of a baseball, which are packed into a mother pod. The pod is designed to open several feet above the ground, unloading the bomblets in all directions and shredding anything in their path. Because cluster bombs were dropped by aircraft on fixed flight paths, sometimes clearing the way for Agent Orange spraying runs, unexploded bombs tend to be found in groups. If you find one, you’re likely to find more. After so many years, they are usually heavily pitted with rust and highly unstable.”

“Before going out in the field with Khiet, I had to sign a waiver giving my blood type and accepting full responsibility for any harm that might come to me. A young female paramedic stood in attendance nearby as I signed. There was some gentle teasing. Khiet told me I had nothing to worry about, because in fifteen years of work Project RENEW had never had a single accident.”

“On Thursday, Chuck Searcy sent me an e-mail from Hanoi to tell me what had happened to Khiet. The previous day, Searcy wrote, Khiet had received a call from one of his team members, who told him that a cluster bomb had been found. Following his usual protocol, Khiet proceeded to the site to determine how to dispose of the bomb. What happened next is unclear, but there was an explosion, and Khiet was wounded. He was rushed to the Hai Lang District Hospital, and died shortly thereafter. The colleague who had called him, a man named Nguyen Van Hao, was wounded by shrapnel but survived.”

Here are some facts about what is being done about cluster bombs:

  • The Convention on Cluster Munitions – prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. The international agreement, signed by 111 nations and ratified by 70 to date, entered into force on August 1st, 2010.  The U.S. has not signed the treaty. The first meeting of the State Parties to the Convention took place on November 9-12, 2010, in Vientiane, Lao PDR, and the second meeting took place in Beirut, Lebanon, on September 12-18, 2011.
  • Former U.S. ambassadors to Laos sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 8, 2011, calling for an increase in funding to the UXO sector in Laos and encouraging her to visit Laos in the course of a future trip to Southeast Asia. The Ambassadors had already written to Secretary Clinton one year beforehand, on July 15, 2010, asking for a dramatic increase of funding for UXO removal in Laos.
  • House/Senate Bill: The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2011 (S 558, HR 996) awaits passage in Congress. This bill would restrict the production and use of cluster munitions by the U.S.  A permanent ban on cluster bomb exports from the U.S. was passed in the Senate in March 2009.
  • A House Appropriations Subcommittee held the first ever hearing on the issue of UXO in Laos in April 2010, helping to educate members of Congress on the issue and increase support for additional funding for UXO clearance in Laos.
  • 2012 U.S. Budget: In the 2012 appropriations report, Congress set as a priority “the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in areas where such ordnance was caused by the United States,” and directed that “$9,000,000 be made available for UXO clearance in Laos.” This represents the highest dollar amount ever allocated by the U.S. to clearing UXO in Laos.

On September 6, 2006, a Senate bill–a simple amendment to ban the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas–presented Senator Clinton with a timely opportunity to protect the lives of children throughout the world.

The cluster bomb is one of the most hated and heinous weapons in modern war, and its primary victims are children.

Senator Obama voted for the amendment to ban cluster bombs. Senator Clinton, however, voted with the Republicans to kill the humanitarian bill, an amendment in accord with the Geneva Conventions, which already prohibit the use of indiscriminate weapons in populated areas.

The Legacy of Cluster Bombs in Laos

  • From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped over 2 million tons of ordnance over Laos in 580,000 bombing missions, the equivalent of one planeload every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years.  At least 270 million cluster bomblets were dropped as part of the bombing campaign; approximately 80 million failed to detonate.
  • Data from a survey completed in Laos in 2009 indicate that UXO, including cluster bombs, have killed or maimed as many as 50,000 civilians in Laos since 1964 (and 20,000 since 1973, after the war ended). Over the past two years there have been over one hundred new casualties each year. About 60% of accidents result in death, and 40% of the victims are children. Boys are particularly at risk.
  • Laos has suffered more than half of the confirmed cluster munitions casualties in the world.
  • Over the past four decades, less than 1% of the bomblets that failed to detonate have been cleared. All 17 provinces in Laos, and 41 of 46 of the poorest districts in Laos, are burdened with unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination.

The problem that I have with Hillary Clinton is that she seems to be in love with going to war.


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Take, for example Guatemala

Posted on January 24th, 2016 in American Hegemony,War by Robert Miller
John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State under Eisenhower; (right) and is brother Allen Dulles, head of the CIA

John Foster Dulles (right);Secretary of State under Eisenhower; and is brother Allen Dulles, head of the CIA

Ever since the United States, under then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, deposed the democratically elected Arbenz of Guatemala (1954) the country has more or less been in a continuous state of civil war, in which an unending series of dictatorships have carried out murderous policies against their own citizens, with death squads trained here in the United States at the School of the Americas.  You can read about how Arbenz was deposed here. At the time, the Dulles brothers were especially proud of what they achieved first in Iran to depose Mossadegh and then in Guatemala to depose Arbenz;  Allen Dulles could hardly wait to let it all out so he selected two journalists from the Saturday Evening Post to tell the story, published in 1954. In the four decades since Arbenz was deposed, Guatemala became one of the twentieth centuries most infamous killing fields. CIA operatives called it the “stainless” coup; it consisted of assassinations, rampant torture and executions, by death squads that killed entire villages. Four decades later over 250,000 people had been killed in a nation whose total population was less than 4 million. Che Guevara was in Guatemala city when Arbenz was deposed and he took home a lesson that he and Castro would apply to the Bag of Pigs invasion—-fight fire with fire and never surrender. That is why Castro has survived hundreds of assassination attempts directed by the CIA.

Recently, Guatemala has seen widespread demonstrations in the streets, demanding the resignation of Otto Pérez Molina, the current dictator of Guatemala. In response to the crowd anger, Molina resigned and is now held in Jail to face charges of corruption. His replacement is Alejandro Maldonado, cut from the same cloth as Molina. Whether or not there is a true overthrow of the repressive dictatorship is not clear at the moment. Reporter Allan Nairn has been covering Guatemala since the 1980s; he reports that Molina has been involved in murders constituting genocide against the indigenous Mayan people.

In a new development, just a couple weeks ago, police have police have arrested 18 ex-military leaders on charges of committing crimes against humanity during the decades-long, U.S.-backed dirty war against Guatemala’s indigenous communities. The ex-military leaders face charges of ordering massacres and forced disappearances during the conflict, which led to the quarter-million deaths cited above. Many of the arrested former military leaders were backed by the United States, including Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, who had worked closely with U.S. military officials to develop a system of attacking the highlands where Guatemala’s indigenous Mayan communities reside. The system involved decapitating and crucifying people. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn (how he has continued to report on this turmoil for decades, without being assassinated himself is a topic ripe for a serious documentary)

Allan Nairn Reports:(from Democracy Now)

  • ALLAN NAIRN: “Well, for Guatemala, this is kind of the beginning of a Nuremberg trial-type process, except it’s not being done by a foreign, occupying power that just won a war, the way the Nuremberg trials were done. This is being done by the local justice system. Heroism on the part of survivors who brought complaints forward, and also on the part of forensic anthropologists, lawyers, prosecutors, who are risking their lives to bring these cases, have resulted in this round-up of some of the worst mass killers in the country. And they were working for the Guatemalan army—they weren’t renegades. They were, in turn, working for the U.S. government. The U.S. was backing the G2 military intelligence service, for which many of these arrested officers were working. Some were on the U.S. payroll. They were armed, they were trained, they were advised by the U.S. General Benedicto, who we just saw in the clip saying he wasn’t a coward, he worked together with Colonel George Maynes, the U.S. military attaché. Maynes told me that he and Benedicto together developed the strategy of the sweeps into the highland villages, where they would go in, execute civilians, throw them in mass graves, decapitate, crucify.”
  • “Those who were arrested on charges yesterday are facing charges tied to two specific cases. One is the case of a 15-year-old boy. The army raided his house with machine guns. They snatched him. They taped his mouth. They threw a nylon bag over his head. They dragged him into a van. He was never seen again. The reason they hit his house was because his sister, his older sister, had been held captive at an army base, where she was being tortured and repeatedly raped, but she—one account says she had grown so skinny from lack of food that she was able to slip out through the bars and escape. So, retaliation, they hit the house, they took the boy.”
  • “The other case concerns the army base at Cobán, where they’ve so far found 558 cadavers, so far—skeletons, 90 of them children. People were brought there from massacre sites all around the northwest. Some of them fled from the massacre sites surrounding the Chixoy Dam project, which is backed by the World Bank. The army would go into villages, burn the houses, take women down to the rivers and violate them. And a number were taken away in helicopters—helicopters, some supplied by the U.S., some supplied by Guatemalan oligarchs, some working out of a CIA operation at the Aurora airport. And from there, they were flown to the Cobán army base. And now, years later, their bones, the bones of these largely women and children, have been traced through DNA sampling back to the surviving families, who have been brave enough to stand up and report this. And these are the bases of the cases.”
  • “So, what we’re talking about was the ISIS of its day. The tactics that the world is now finally starting to understand because of the ISIS videos—beheadings, crucifixion, slavery, gang rape, mass slaughter of civilians—ISIS brags about this. Well, the Guatemalan army and their U.S. advisers didn’t brag about it—they concealed it—but they were doing—they were using those same tactics.”

Hopefully this is only the beginning of bringing justice, long delayed, to  people of Guatemala. Every American must ask themselves why we have supported such murderous dictatorships in nearly every country with which we have been involved. If there is a worse track record in the modern era, someone needs to let me know about. As a country that has been a leading advocate of democratic principals, our recorded foreign policy is just the opposite of what one might expect from from a country that espouses democratic values. These policies were started with the Dulles brothers, but we continued them into the Vietnam war and virtually every one of our foreign policy blunders since. Why do Americans continue to believe that we are a special nation, the shining city on the hill, when the facts speak to a record of a very different country. While the Dulles brothers started this, they are long dead and forgotten, but what isn’t forgotten is our continued path down the highway they established for us. Why can’t we set a path for ourselves that doesn’t involve such murderous treachery.


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