Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Syrian army would like to appear squeaky clean

It isn't "Our beloved Free Syria Army has actually advertised its own murders on YouTube"

Robert Fisk                                 Independent/UK                                27 August 2012

Every day, a new massacre is reported in Syria. Yesterday, it was Daraya. Slaughter by Syrian troops, according to those opposed to Bashar al-Assad. Slaughter by Bashar's "terrorist" opponents, the Syrian army said, producing the wife of a soldier whom they said had been shot and left for dead.

Of course, all armies want to stay clean. All that gold braid, all those battle honours. Thank God for Our Boys. Trouble is that when they go to war, armies ally themselves to the most unsavoury militias, gunmen, reservists, killers and mass murderers, often local vigilante groups who invariably contaminate the men in smart uniforms, until the generals have to re-invent themselves and their history.

Take the Syrian army. It kills civilians but claims to take every care to avoid "collateral damage". The Israelis say the same. The Brits say the same, the Americans and French. And of course, when an insurgent group – the Free Syrian Army or Salafists – set up positions in the cities and towns of Syria, government forces open fire on them, kill civilians, thousands of refugees cross the border and CNN reports – as it did on Friday night – that refugees cursed Bashar al-Assad as they fled their homes.

And I cannot forget how Al Jazeera, loathed by Bashar now as it was once hated by Saddam, came back from Basra in 2003 with terrifying footage of dead and wounded Iraqi women and children who had been shredded by British artillery firing at the Iraqi army. And we don't need to mention all those Afghan wedding parties and innocent tribal villages pulverised by US gunfire and jets and drones.

The Syrian military, whether it admits it or not - work with the shabiha (or "village defenders" as one soldier called them), who are a murderous, largely Alawite rabble who have slaughtered hundreds of Sunni civilians. Maybe the International Court in the Hague will one day name Syrian soldiers responsible for such crimes – be sure they won't touch the West's warriors – but it will be impossible for the Syrian army to write the shabiha out of the history of their war against the "terrorists”

The disconnect has already begun. Syrian troops are fighting at the request of their people to defend their country. The shabiha have nothing to do with them. And I have to say that the German Wehrmacht tried to play the same narrative game in 1944 and 1945 and then in post-war Europe. The disciplined lads of the Wehrmacht never indulged in war crimes or genocide against the Jews in Russia, Ukraine or the Baltic states or Poland or Yugoslavia. No, it was those damned SS criminals or the Ukrainian militia or the Lithuanian paramilitary police who besmirched the good name of Germany. Bulls***.

The Vichy French army tried to clean its claws by claiming that all atrocities were committed by the "Milice", while the Italians blamed it all on the Germans. The Americans used the vilest criminal gangs in Vietnam, the French used colonial troops to massacre insurgents in Algeria. The Brits tolerated the B Specials in Northern Ireland until they invented the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), which got contaminated by sectarian killings and was disbanded. No, the UDR was squeaky clean compared to the Germans. But at the height of their Iraqi occupation war, the Americans were paying Sunni "neighbourhood guards" to liquidate their Shia enemies, and paying thug-like reservists – along with quite a few professionals – to torture their prisoners in Abu Ghraib. And then there is Israel – forced to grovel when their own Lebanese Phalangist militia slaughtered 1,700 Palestinians in 1982.

Of course, war stains all who take part in it. Wellington's men in the Peninsula Wars could no more prevent their Spanish guerrilla allies committing atrocities than the Brits and Americans could prevent their Soviet allies raping five million German women in 1945. Didn't the Turkish army use its own version of the SS to help in the genocide of the Armenians in 1915? Keeping clean is a dirty business. 



The South African Connection

By Ian Harris                              Otago Daily Times                          Aug. 24, 2012

In a remarkable turnaround, causes once viscerally hostile to each other joined forces to mark the centenary of the African National Congress in Wellington last weekend. The causes were the decades-long anti-apartheid campaign, supported by thousands of New Zealanders, and the South African sporting connection, championed by the New Zealand Rugby Union and supported by thousands of others. The occasion was a conference recalling New Zealand’s contribution to ending a brutal apartheid regime.

The parties are now at peace – and the NZRU contributed $1000 to conference costs. Rugby administrators also met a delegation representing those who were once at loggerheads with the rugby union. After all, the anti-tour movement is part of the union’s history, too. The delegation included a South African whose evidence, in a case brought by Philip Recordon, Patrick Finnigan and counsel Ted (now Sir Edmund) Thomas, helped scupper the All Black tour of South Africa in 1985.

He is Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile, a Presbyterian minister and Princeton graduate who, on returning to South Africa after the court injunction stopping the tour, was arrested on a trumped-up charge and sentenced to 11 years’ jail. He served three years before the changing political scene brought his release. His wife Nambita was also jailed. Though lawyers in New Zealand met the expenses of the case, the Stofiles bore by far the greater cost, and the conference gave them a standing ovation. In post-apartheid South Africa, Mr Stofile became premier of Eastern Cape, sports minister, and is currently ambassador to Germany.

Former All Blacks Bob Burgess and Graham Mourie and Olympic 5000m runner Anne Hare told why they refused to play sport on apartheid terms. Their reasons boiled down to morality and human decency – qualities unfortunately rather rare among their sporting contemporaries, administrators, fans and government politicians, whose focus was their own freedoms, not others’.

Halt All Racist Tours leader Trevor Richards and other protesters recalled high days and low days in their efforts to disrupt the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand. There was passion, courage, humour, doggedness, anger, creative energy, weariness and fear as thousands turned out week after week in protest. The campaign spanned trade unionists, church members, teachers, students, lawyers, diplomats, artists and other groups. In the process, New Zealanders were forced to face the reality of racist attitudes at home – and how ready certain politicians were to exploit those prejudices for their own ends. Defending the morally indefensible helped National to win the 1981 election.

Maori were as divided as everyone else over rugby contacts, but the trauma of the tour proved a turning-point. Its legacy is a heightened awareness of how far New Zealand had to go (and still has) to achieve full equality of opportunity, status and respect for Maori. Christian conviction played a major role in the campaign against apartheid, and attending the conference were two New Zealand churchmen whose contribution to freedom and equality in Southern Africa stands out. Anglican Bishop John Osmers has spent 47 years in the region, helping South African and other refugees and joining the ANC himself.

In 1979 South African security sent a parcel bomb that blew off his right hand – with an unintended consequence in the formation of an ANC church front. Expelled from Lesotho, he was nevertheless encouraged because the attack brought home to him the importance of the work he was doing. In Botswana, Bishop Osmers again became a target of South African security, who in 1988 sent a death squad to assassinate him. Tipped off, he hastily escaped to Zambia, where he continued to support ANC cadres and served as an ANC chaplain. “If the national military can have chaplains,” he says, “why can’t the liberation movements?”

The other churchman is Anglican monk Michael Lapsley, who went to South Africa in 1973, was expelled in 1976, and lost both arms and an eye in 1990 when he opened a letter bomb in Zimbabwe. Also an ANC chaplain during the liberation struggle, today he heads the Institute of Healing Memories in Cape Town.

On the eve of the Wellington conference, police shot dead 34 striking workers at a platinum mine near Johannesburg. Mr Stofile condemned the massacre, and the conference observed a minute’s silence for the victims.

Inevitably, the killings revived memories of similar incidents during the apartheid era. And there is a link – not overtly racial now, but in the continuing economic exploitation of South Africa’s people and resources by foreign companies. On the road to human dignity, there is still a long way to go.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Paul Ryan: Galt, Gold and God

by Paul Krugman                   New York Times                  August 24, 2012

So far, most of the discussion of Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominee for vice president, has focused on his budget proposals. But Mr. Ryan is a man of many ideas. Most of those ideas appear to come from Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged,  a fantasy in which the world’s productive people — the “job creators,” if you like — withdraw their services from an ungrateful society. The novel’s centerpiece is a 64-page speech by John Galt, the angry elite’s ringleader. Yet the book is a perennial favorite among adolescent boys. Most boys eventually outgrow it. Some, however, remain devotees for life. And Mr. Ryan is one of those devotees.
True, in recent years, he has tried to downplay his Randism.. It’s not hard to see why: Rand’s fervent atheism — not to mention her declaration that “abortion is a moral right” — isn’t what the G.O.P. base wants to hear. But Mr. Ryan is being disingenuous. In 2005, he told the Atlas Society, which is devoted to promoting Rand’s ideas, that she inspired his political career: “If I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” He also declared that Rand’s work was required reading for his staff and interns.
And the Ryan fiscal program clearly reflects Randian notions. As I documented in my last column, Mr. Ryan’s reputation for being serious about the budget deficit is completely undeserved; his policies would actually increase the deficit. But he is deadly serious about cutting taxes on the rich and slashing aid to the poor, very much in line with Rand’s worship of the successful and contempt for “moochers.”
This last point is important. In pushing for draconian cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and other programs that aid the needy, Mr. Ryan isn’t just looking for ways to save money. He’s also, quite explicitly, trying to make life harder for the poor — for their own good. In March, explaining his cuts in aid for the unfortunate, he declared, “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.”
Somehow, I doubt that Americans forced to rely on unemployment benefits and food stamps in a depressed economy feel that they’re living in a comfortable hammock. But wait, there’s more: “Atlas Shrugged” apparently shaped Mr. Ryan’s views on monetary policy, views that he clings to despite having been repeatedly, completely wrong in his predictions. But Mr. Ryan seems undaunted in his monetary views. Why?
Well, it’s right there in that 2005 speech to the Atlas Society, in which he declared that he always goes back to “Francisco d’Anconia’s speech on money” when thinking about monetary policy. Who? Never mind. That speech (which clocks in at a mere 23 paragraphs) is a case of hard-money obsession gone ballistic. Not only does the character in question, a Galt sidekick, call for a return to the gold standard, he denounces the notion of paper money and demands a return to gold coins.
For the record, the U.S. currency supply has consisted overwhelmingly of paper money, not gold and silver coins, since the early 1800s. So if Mr. Ryan really thinks that Francisco d’Anconia had it right, he wants to turn the clock back not one but two centuries. Does any of this matter? Well, if the Republican ticket wins, Mr. Ryan will surely be an influential force in the next administration — and bear in mind, too, that he would, as the cliché goes, be a heartbeat away from the presidency. So it should worry us that Mr. Ryan holds monetary views that would, if put into practice, go a long way toward recreating the Great Depression.
And, beyond that, consider the fact that Mr. Ryan is considered the modern G.O.P.’s big thinker. What does it say about the party when its intellectual leader evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novels?
© 2012 New York Times       http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/24-2                    {Abbrev.]
Paul Krugman is professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University and a regular columnist for The New York Times. Krugman was the 2008 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Why the US is out to get Julian Assange

Seumas Milne                            Guardian/UK                                21 August 2012

Considering he made his name with the biggest leak of secret government documents in history, you might imagine there would be some concern for Julian Assange among those trading in the freedom of information business. But the virulence of British media hostility towards the WikiLeaks founder is now unrelenting. The ostensible reason for this venom is Assange's attempt to resist extradition to Sweden (and onward extradition to the US) over sexual assault allegations. But as the row over his embassy refuge has escalated into a major diplomatic stand-off, with the whole of South America piling in behind Ecuador, such posturing looks increasingly specious.

Can anyone seriously believe the dispute would have gone global, or that the British government would have made its asinine threat to suspend the Ecuadorean embassy's diplomatic status and enter it by force, or that scores of police would have surrounded the building, swarming up and down the fire escape and guarding every window, if it was all about one man wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations in Stockholm?

To get a grip on what is actually going on, rewind to WikiLeaks' explosive release of secret US military reports and thousands of diplomatic cables two years ago. They disgorged devastating evidence of US war crimes and collusion with death squads in Iraq on an industrial scale, the machinations and lies of America's wars and allies, its illegal US spying on UN officials – as well as a compendium of official corruption and deceit across the world.

WikiLeaks provided fuel for the Arab uprisings. It didn't just deliver information for citizens to hold governments everywhere to account, but crucially opened up the exercise of US global power to democratic scrutiny. Not surprisingly, the US government made clear it regarded WikiLeaks as a serious threat to its interests from the start. Vice-president Joe Biden has compared Assange to a "hi-tech terrorist". Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old soldier accused of passing the largest trove of US documents to WikiLeaks, who has been held in conditions described as "cruel and inhuman" by the UN special rapporteur on torture, faces up to 52 years in prison.

The US interest in deterring others from following the WikiLeaks path is obvious. And it would be bizarre to expect a state which over the past decade has kidnapped, tortured and illegally incarcerated its enemies, real or imagined, on a global scale – and continues to do so under President Barack Obama – to walk away from what Hillary Clinton described as an "attack on the international community". In the meantime, the US authorities are presumably banking on seeing Assange further discredited in Sweden.

None of that should detract from the seriousness of the rape allegations made against Assange, for which he should clearly answer and, if charges are brought, stand trial. The question is how to achieve justice for the women involved while protecting Assange (and other whistleblowers) from punitive extradition to a legal system that could potentially land him in a US prison cell for decades.

The politicisation of the Swedish case was clear from the leak of the allegations to the prosecutor's decision to seek Assange's extradition for questioning – described by a former Stockholm prosecutor as “unreasonable, unfair and disproportionate" – when the authorities have been happy to interview suspects abroad in more serious cases.

Why, Assange's critics charge, would he be more likely to be extradited to the US from Sweden than from Britain, Washington's patsy, notorious for its one-sided extradition arrangements. There are specific risks in Sweden – for example, its fast-track "temporary surrender" extradition agreement it has with the US. But the real point is that Assange is in danger of extradition in both countries – which is why Ecuador was right to offer him protection.

The solution is obvious. It's the one that Ecuador is proposing – and that London and Stockholm are resisting. If the Swedish government pledged to block the extradition of Assange to the US for any WikiLeaks-related offence (which it has the power to do) – and Britain agreed not to sanction extradition to a third country once Swedish proceedings are over – then justice could be served. But with loyalty to the US on the line, Assange shouldn't expect to leave the embassy any time soon. [Abridged]

Twitter: @SeumasMilne 


Howard Zinn at 90

by Bill Bigelow                           Common Dreams                      August 23, 2012

This Friday -- August 24 -- would have been the 90th birthday of the great historian and activist Howard Zinn, who died in 2010. Zinn did not merely record history, he made it: as a professor at Spelman College in the 1950s and early 1960s, where he was ultimately fired for his outspoken support of students in the Civil Rights Movement, and specifically the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); as a critic of the U.S. war in Vietnam, and author of the first book calling for an immediate U.S. withdrawal; and as author of arguably the most influential U.S. history textbook in print, A People's History of the United States.

Zinn reminded teachers that the point of learning about social studies was not simply to memorize facts, it was to imbue students with a desire to change the world. "A modest little aim," Zinn acknowledged. Zinn insisted that teachers must help students challenge "fundamental premises which keep us inside a certain box." Because without this critical rethinking of premises about history and the role of the U S in the world, "things will never change." And this will remain "a world of war and hunger and disease and inequality and racism and sexism."

Zinn points out that the "one big family" myth begins with the Constitution's preamble: "We the people of the United States..." Zinn noted that it wasn't "we the people" who established the Constitution -- it was 55 rich white men. Glossed over in the traditional textbook are race and class divisions, including the rebellions of farmers in 1787. Zinn argues that it "established the rule of slaveholders, and merchants, and bondholders."

Teaching history through the lens of class, race, and gender conflict is not simply more accurate, according to Zinn; it makes it more likely that students -- and all the rest of us -- will not "simply swallow these enveloping phrases like 'the national interest,' 'national security,' 'national defense,' as if we're all in the same boat." No, the soldier who is sent to Iraq does not have the same interests as the president who sends him to Iraq. The person who works on the assembly line at General Motors does not have the same interest as the CEO of General Motors. No -- we're a country of divided interests, and it's important for people to know that."

Another premise -- the idea that the United States is fundamentally freer, more virtuous, more democratic, and more humane than other countries. For Zinn, the United States is "an empire like other empires. There was a British empire, a Dutch empire, and a Spanish empire, and yes, we are an American empire." The United States expanded through deceit and theft and conquest, just like other empires.

Patriotism is another premise that we need to question. And going to war on behalf of "our country" is offered as the highest expression of patriotism. Howard Zinn cuts through this curricular fog: "War is terrorism ... Terrorism is the willingness to kill large numbers of people for some presumably good cause. Zinn urged educators to teach a people's history: "We've never had our injustices rectified from the top. No. The important changes that we've had in history, have not come from government. They have reacted to social movements."

Thus when we single out people in our curriculum as icons, as "people to admire and respect," Zinn advocated shedding the traditional pantheon of government and military leaders: "But there are other heroes that young people can look up to. And they can look up to people who are against war. They can have Mark Twain as a hero who spoke out against the Philippines war. They can have Helen Keller as a hero who spoke out against World War I, and Emma Goldman as a hero. They can have Fannie Lou Hamer as a hero, and Bob Moses as a hero, the people in the Civil Rights Movement -- they are heroes."

One final "people's history" premise we need to remember -- "People change." Zinn did not look to President Obama to initiate social transformation; but in 2008, he saw the election as confirmation that the long history of anti-racist struggle in the United States produced an outcome that would have been inconceivable 30 years prior. And this shift in attitude should give us hope. Ordinary people can change the world.

Bill Bigelow is curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The New Totalitarianism of Surveillance Technology

by Naomi Wolf                                  Guardian/UK                         August 17, 2012

A software engineer in my Facebook community wrote recently about his outrage that when he visited Disneyland, and went on a ride, the theme park offered him the photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy – with his credit card information already linked to it. He noted that he had never entered his name or information into anything at the theme park, or indicated that he wanted a photo, or alerted the humans at the ride to who he and his girlfriend were – so, he said, based on his professional experience, the system had to be using facial recognition technology. He had never signed an agreement allowing them to do so, and he declared that this use was illegal. He also claimed that Disney had recently shared data from facial-recognition technology with the United States military.

Yes, I know: it sounds like a paranoid rant. Except that it turned out to be true. News21, supported by the Carnegie and Knight foundations, reports that Disney sites are indeed controlled by face-recognition technology, that the military is interested in the technology, and that the face-recognition contractor, Identix, has contracts with the US government – for technology that identifies individuals in a crowd.

Fast forward: after the Occupy crackdowns, I noted that odd-looking CCTVs had started to appear, attached to lampposts, in public venues in Manhattan where the small but unbowed remnants of Occupy congregated: there was one in Union Square, right in front of their encampment. I reported here on my experience of witnessing a white van marked "Indiana Energy" that was lifting workers up to the lampposts all around Union Square, and installing a type of camera. These are enabled for facial recognition technology, which allows police to watch video that is tagged to individuals, in real time. When too many people congregate, they can be dispersed and intimidated simply by the risk of being identified – before dissent can coalesce.

At present, there is no law to prevent US government and law enforcement agencies from building facial recognition databases. And we know from industry newsletters that the US military, law enforcement, and the department of homeland security are betting heavily on facial recognition technology. As PC World notes, Facebook itself is a market leader in the technology – but military and security agencies are close behind. According to Homeland Security Newswire, billions of dollars are being invested in the manufacture of various biometric technologies capable of detecting and identifying anyone, anywhere in the world – via iris-scanning systems, already in use; foot-scanning technology (really); voice pattern ID software, and so on.

What is very obvious is that this technology will not be applied merely to people under arrest, or to people under surveillance in accordance with the fourth amendment (suspects in possible terrorist plots or other potential crimes, after law enforcement agents have already obtained a warrant from a magistrate). No, the "targets" here are me and you: everyone, all of the time. In the name of "national security", the capacity is being built to identify, track and document any citizen constantly and continuously.

The revealing boosterism of a trade magazine like Homeland Security Newswire envisions endless profits for the surveillance industry, in a society where your TV is spying on you, a billboard you drive by recognizes you, Minority Report style, and the FBI knows where to find your tattoo – before you have committed any crime: "FBI on Track to Book Faces, Scars, Tattoos", it notes; "Billboards, TVs Detect your Faces; Advertisers Salivate", it gloats; "Biometric Companies See Government as the Driver of Future Market Growth", it announces. Indeed, the article admits without a blush that all the growth is expected to be in government consumption, with "no real expectation" of private-sector growth at all. So much for smaller government!

To acclimate their populations to this brave new world of invasive surveillance technologies, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and and his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, both recently introduced "snoop" bills. Meanwhile, in the US – "the land of the free" – the onward march of the surveillers continues apace, without check or consultation. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012 



My mother got excellent care when she had cancer.Why is elderly mental health different? asks Fiona Phillips

Arifa Akbar reports                       Independent/UK                        18 Aug. 2012

Fiona Phillips was one of the first women to speak out about dementia, long before the days of high-profile campaigns. She broke the silence that had cloaked the "elderly illness" after her mother Amy began suffering from Alzheimer's. She died in 2006 – only weeks before her husband, Neville, was diagnosed with the same disease.

Fiona gave up her 12-year tenure as a GMTV presenter to spend more time with her father, so when he died in February this year, one might have thought it would have offered her some kind of closure. Yet it is clear from speaking to her that Neville's death isn't the end of the story. She receives floods of letters from the public, telling their stories of loved ones languishing with the illness, and she is an active member of the Alzheimer's Society.

At first she talks in a fast steam of emotion, with the strain showing in her voice. "It's only since they have both gone that it has really kicked in. I realise how much it has damaged me. So much of my life was wiped out by it. While it's going on, you just get on with it. Now I feel angry and upset," she says.

The problems around dementia care are immense, she says, not least because the area is grossly under-staffed and under-funded. "It's almost fashionable to talk about dementia now, but still no one is doing anything. It's time to stop talking and for something to actually be done. Dementia should be reclassified as a medical issue "

Her mother's story is a harrowing one, and it still keeps her awake at night. Amy Phillips began to change as far back as the early 1990s, but nothing was diagnosed until 10 years later. At the time Fiona didn't know it, but her father Neville was most likely suffering from Alzheimer's as well as her mother. "Dad would phone up and say 'You'll never guess what she's done – she's set fire to the kitchen!' But I still didn't realise, because he wasn't telling us everything. With that comes a whole lot of guilt. I still lie in bed thinking 'Did I do enough?' I go over it in my head… If I had looked after her full time, I would have had to give up everything. How could I have done that to my two children?"

The burden of care fell heavily on Fiona. At the darkest times, she was doing 10-hour round trips to Wales every weekend from her home in London, which she shares with her husband, Martin, with her two young sons in tow, and a job in television to do every weekday. Before her mother was diagnosed with dementia, she had also suffered from breast cancer, and Phillips says the treatment she received was markedly different from the way in which her dementia was handled. "The system gave her the gold service when she had breast cancer. She couldn't have had better care – but when it's elderly mental illness, it's very different."

But what she is most upset about now is the circumstances around her father's death. His last months were spent in a psychiatric ward, where he was given a cocktail of antipsychotic drugs and sedatives that dramatically transformed him. He had, until then, been living in a flat overseen by a warden, but after he went missing one day he was admitted to a specialist dementia care home. He had only been there for a day when there was an incident in which he hit out – a common symptom in Alzheimer's sufferers – and the home moved him to a psychiatric ward.

"As soon as he got into the system, it was an absolute mess," Fiona says. "I kept him off any drugs for three years but as soon as he was in care, he was on an A4 sheet of them – really powerful anti psychotics and sedatives. "He changed completely. He had always been a big, strong man, but he deteriorated so much. If you picked up his hand, it dropped like a rock. His eyes were opaque and watering; he was stooped over, his breathing was laboured."

"You go into elderly mental health [units] and it's the least staffed. They aren't equipped to deal with dementia patients. They blast them with drugs or keep them in bed. And there is such a lack of understanding, even in mental health nursing. Carers still talk of patients 'misbehaving', even though it's not them but their illness – you should know that if you work in mental health."

She adds that, if she were to suffer from Alzheimer's, she would contemplate using an assisted dying service , as the novelist and Alzheimer's sufferer Terry Pratchett has spoken about publicly – especially given current standards of care. "On the one hand, I really think life is sacred and precious. But on the other hand, while there is no cure for Alzheimer's and no proper framework for care, I don't think I'd want to be lingering around, with the people I love having to worry about all my affairs. "It is like taking on a life, not just an illness. That's what hits you when someone you love has it." 


Monday, 13 August 2012

NBC's 'Stars Earn Stripes' continues an inglorious tradition of glorifying war

Open letter                                      Guardian/UK                                      August 2012

As Nobel Peace Prize laureates, we call on NBC to cancel this reality TV show that likens military combat to Olympic athletics Jody Williams, Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, José Ramos-Horta, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Rigoberta Menchú Tum and Betty Williams

During the Olympics, touted as a time for comity and peace among nations, millions [in North America] first learned that NBC would be premiering a new "reality" TV show. The commercials announcing "Stars Earn Stripes" were shown, seemingly endlessly, throughout the athletic competition, noting that its premier would be Monday 13 August, following the end of the Olympic Games.

That might seem innocuous since spectacular, high-budget sporting events of all types are regular venues for airing new products, televisions shows and movies. But "Stars Earn Stripes" is not just another reality show. Hosted by retired four-star General Wesley Clark, the program pairs minor celebrities with US military personnel and puts them through simulated military training, including some live-fire drills and helicopter drops. The official NBC website for the show touts "the fast-paced competition" as "pay[ing] homage to the men and women who serve in the US armed forces and our first-responder services".

It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.

Real war is down-in-the-dirt deadly. People – military and civilians – die in ways that are anything but entertaining. Communities and societies are ripped apart in armed conflict and the aftermath can be as deadly, as the war itself as simmering animosities are unleashed in horrific spirals of violence. War, whether relatively shortlived or going on for decades as in too many parts of the world, leaves deep scars that can take generations to overcome – if ever.

Trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition further calls into question the morality and ethics of linking the military anywhere with the entertainment industry in barely veiled efforts to make war and its multitudinous costs more palatable to the public.

The long history of collaboration between militaries and civilian media and entertainment – and not just in the United States – appears to be getting murkier and in many ways more threatening to efforts to resolve our common problems through nonviolent means. Active-duty soldiers already perform in Hollywood movies, "embedded" media ride with soldier in combat situations, and now NBC is working with the military to attempt to turn deadly military training into a sanitized "reality" TV show that reveals absolutely nothing of the reality of being a soldier in war or the consequences of war. What is next?

As people who have seen too many faces of armed conflict and violence and who have worked for decades to try to stop the seemingly unending march toward the increased militarization of societies and the desensitization of people to the realities and consequences of war, we add our voices and our support to those protesting "Stars Earn Stripes". We, too, call upon NBC stop airing this program that pays homage to no one, and is a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent.

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997 Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1984 Mairead Maguire, 1977
Dr Shirin Ebadi, 2003 President José Ramos-Horta, 1996 Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, 1980
President Oscar Arias Sanchez, 1987 Rigoberta Menchú Tum, 1992 Betty Williams, 1977


The Higgs Particle

By Ian Harris     Otago Daily Times         Aug. 10, 2012

Since gold medals are in the air – and at Eton Dorney, on the water – let’s award one to Professor Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University, for coming up with the notion of a process in nature that holds the material world together: the Higgs boson, also known as the “God particle”.

While walking in the Scottish Highlands in 1964, Higgs had a bright idea about how sub-atomic particles acquired mass. This was the missing link in the standard model of the ultimately tiny, the process that caused other particles to cease whizzing freely after the Big Bang and cluster to form matter, stars, the planets – and us.

He conjectured an energy field through which particles moved and reacted in various ways, with some acquiring mass, others not. The field became known as the Higgs field. An accompanying particle or wave (Higgs prefers wave) carried the field’s effect: this was dubbed the Higgs boson. Here’s how National Geographic describes it: “Higgs’ idea was that the universe is bathed in an invisible field similar to a magnetic field. Every particle feels this field, but to varying degrees.

“If a particle can move through this field with little or no interaction, there will be no drag, and the particle will have little or no mass. Alternatively, if a particle interacts significantly with the Higgs field, it will have a higher mass. The idea of the Higgs field requires the acceptance of a related particle: the Higgs boson.”
Higgs’ imaginative leap tantalised physicists for 48 years. Then last month the European Organisation for Nuclear Research announced in Geneva that two teams of scientists, working independently, had smashed proton particles together at close to the speed of light, recreating conditions that existed a billionth of a second after the Big Bang – and confirming that the Higgs field and boson are indeed part of the mystery of the universe.
Well, near enough to confirming: the scientists are only 99.99994 per cent sure that what they saw was not a fluke. So they cautiously confirmed a new particle “consistent with the Higgs boson”.

So what has the “God particle” to do with God?  Nothing at all. Higgs’ discovery is pure science, not theology. Another physicist, Nobel prize-winning American Leon Lederman, gave the boson its moniker in his 1993 book The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question? He would have preferred “the goddamn particle”, because it was proving so hard to pin down. But his publisher ruled otherwise.

Higgs, an atheist, disowns the term, and well he might. Though there are people of science and religion who muse on discerning “the mind of God”, all they are doing is projecting an image of a divine super-scientist who must always be one step ahead (or 10,000 steps ahead) of what earth-bound scientists can discover. “God” then remains eternally embedded in the gaps beyond human knowledge.  That was fair enough in past eras, when people wove myths to explain how the world came into being and why it works the way it does. Religions carry some of those stories into the present, but sensible folk no longer treat them as science.

Instead, the stories represent the attempts of our forebears to make sense of their world and its forces – stars, seasons, the cycle of life and death, the “hidden energy of things” – and find meaning for their own lives within them.   Christians who regularly affirm God as “Maker of heaven and earth” retain at least some of that pre-modern understanding, while atheists use it to dismiss religion as outmoded. The modern conflict between religion and science thrives on mutual misunderstanding.

There’s another perspective, however, which makes that conflict irrelevant. It says to scientists: “Go for it! Find out all you can about the wonders of the universe and of life. Help us to see them as they are, for scientific truth can never be at odds with the religious search for meaning or the life-enhancing values which good religion carries. Its insights stem from centuries of reflection on human experience. Its truths have nothing to do with analysing atoms.”

That same perspective dispenses with the need for a theistic God who is creator and first cause. Instead, it offers a glimpse of God in contemporary terms, through a metaphorical “God particle” around which the highest, deepest and best values of humanity cluster and cohere. In the field of religion, this “God particle” is love, a solar generosity of spirit lived out in everyday life. In the Higgs field, love doesn’t figure.

Tomorrow's Blowback Today?

by Nick Turse                 August 9, 2012                  by TomDispatch.com

In the 1980s, the U.S. government began funneling aid to mujahedeen rebels in Afghanistan as part of an American proxy war against the Soviet Union. It was, in the minds of America’s Cold War leaders, a rare chance to bloody the Soviets, to give them a taste of the sort of defeat the Vietnamese, with Soviet help, had inflicted on Washington the decade before. In 1989, after years of bloody combat, the Red Army did indeed limp out of Afghanistan in defeat. Since late 2001, the United States has been fighting its former Afghan proxies and their progeny. Now, after years of bloody combat, it’s the U.S. that’s looking to withdraw the bulk of its forces and once again employ proxies to secure its interests there.
While the United States is currently engaged in just one outright proxy war, backing a multi-nation African force to battle Islamist militants in Somalia, it’s laying the groundwork for the extensive use of surrogate forces in the future, training “native” troops to carry out missions -- up to and including outright warfare.  With this in mind and under the auspices of the Pentagon and the State Department, U.S. military personnel now take part in near-constant joint exercises and training missions around the world aimed at fostering alliances, building coalitions, and whipping surrogate forces into shape to support U.S. national security objectives. 
While using slightly different methods in different regions, the basic strategy is a global one in which the U.S. will train, equip, and advise indigenous forces -- generally from poor, underdeveloped nations -- to do the fighting (and dying) it doesn’t want to do.  In the process, as small an American force as possible, including special forces operatives and air support, will be brought to bear to aid those surrogates.  Like drones, proxy warfare appears to offer an easy solution to complex problems.  But as Washington’s 30-year debacle in Afghanistan indicates, the ultimate costs may prove both unimaginable and unimaginably high.
Start with Afghanistan itself.  For more than a decade, the U.S. and its coalition partners have been training Afghan security forces in the hopes that they would take over the war there, defending U.S. and allied interests as the American-led international force draws down.  Yet despite an expenditure of almost $50 billion on bringing it up to speed, the Afghan National Army and other security forces have drastically underperformed any and all expectations, year after year.    
One track of the U.S. plan has been a little-talked-about proxy army run by the CIA.  For years, the Agency has trained and employed six clandestine militias that operate near the cities of Kandahar, Kabul, and Jalalabad as well as in Khost, Kunar, and Paktika provinces.  Working with U.S. Special Forces and controlled by Americans, these “Counterterror Pursuit Teams” evidently operate free of any Afghan governmental supervision and have reportedly carried out cross-border raids into Pakistan, offering their American patrons a classic benefit of proxy warfare: plausible deniability.
This clandestine effort has also been supplemented by the creation of a massive, conventional indigenous security force.  While officially under Afghan government control, these military and police forces are almost entirely dependent on the financial support of the U.S. and allied governments for their continued existence.  Today, the Afghan National Security Forces officially number more than 343,000, but only 7% of its army units and 9% of its police units are rated at the highest level of effectiveness.  By contrast, even after more than a decade of large-scale Western aid, 95% of its recruits are still functionally illiterate
Not surprisingly, this massive force, trained by high-priced private contractors, Western European militaries, and the United States, and backed by U.S. and coalition forces and their advanced weapons systems, has been unable to stamp out a lightly-armed, modest-sized, less-than-popular, rag-tag insurgency.  One of the few tasks this proxy force seems skilled at is shooting American and allied forces, quite often their own trainers, in increasingly common "green-on-blue" attacks. Adding insult to injury, this poor-performing, coalition-killing force is expensive.  Bought and paid for by the United States and its coalition partners, it costs between $10 billion and $12 billion each year to sustain in a country whose gross domestic product is just $18 billion.  Over the long term, such a situation is untenable.    [Excerpts only]                  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/09-4

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Syria's descent into darkness

Western and Gulf regime support for rebel fighters isn't bringing freedom to Syrians but escalating sectarian conflict
Seumas Milne                              Guardian/UK                                  7 August 2012
What began as a popular uprising 17 months ago is now an all-out civil war fuelled by regional and global powers that threatens to engulf the entire Middle East. As the battle for the ancient city of Aleppo grinds on and atrocities on both sides multiply, the danger of the conflict spilling over Syria's borders is growing.
Driving the escalation of the conflict has been western and regional intervention. This isn't Iraq, of course, with hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground, or Libya, with a devastating bombardment from the air. But the increase in arms supplies, funding and technical support from the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and others in recent months has dramatically boosted the rebels' fortunes, as well as the death toll. Barack Obama has so far resisted the demands of liberal hawks for a direct military assault. Instead he's authorised traditional forms of CIA covert military backing for the Syrian rebels.
The US has long funded opposition groups. But earlier this year Obama gave a secret order authorising covert support to the armed opposition. That includes CIA paramilitaries on the ground, "command and control" and communications assistance, and the funnelling of Gulf arms supplies to favoured Syrian groups across the Turkish border. After Russia and China blocked its last attempt to win UN backing for forced regime change last month, the US administration let it be known it would now step up support for the rebels and co-ordinate "transition" plans for Syria with Israel and Turkey.  Not to be outdone, William Hague boasted that Britain was also increasing "non-lethal" support for the rebels. Autocratic Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing the cash and weapons, while Nato member Turkey has set up a logistics and training base for the Free Syrian Army.
For Syrians who want dignity and democracy in a free country, the rapidly mushrooming dependence of their uprising on foreign support is a disaster – even more than was the case in Libya. After all, it is now officials of the dictatorial and sectarian Saudi regime who choose which armed groups get funding, not Syrians. And it is intelligence officials from the US who decide which rebel units get weapons.
Opposition activists insist they will maintain their autonomy, based on deep-rooted popular support. But the dynamic of external backing clearly risks turning groups dependent on it into instruments of their sponsors, rather than the people they seek to represent. Gulf funding has already sharpened religious sectarianism in the rebel camp, while reports of public alienation from rebel fighters in Aleppo this week testifies to the dangers of armed groups relying on outsiders instead of their own communities.
The Syrian regime is of course backed by Iran and Russia, as it has been for decades. But a better analogy for western and Gulf involvement in the Syrian insurrection would be Iranian and Russian sponsorship of an armed revolt in, say, Saudi Arabia. For the western media, which has largely reported the Syrian uprising as a one-dimensional fight for freedom, the now unavoidable evidence of rebel torture and prisoner executions – along with kidnappings by al-Qaida-style groups, who once again find themselves in alliance with the US – seems to have come as a bit of a shock.
In reality, the Syrian crisis always had multiple dimensions that crossed the region's most sensitive fault lines. It was from the start a genuine uprising against an authoritarian regime. But it has also increasingly morphed into a sectarian conflict, in which the Alawite-dominated Assad government has been able to portray itself as the protector of minorities – Alawite, Christian and Kurdish – against a Sunni-dominated opposition tide. But as the independent opposition leader Haytham Manna argues, the militarisation of the uprising weakened its popular and democratic base – while also dramatically increasing the death toll.
There is every chance the war could now spread outside Syria. Turkey, with a large Alawite population of its own as well as a long repressed Kurdish minority, claimed the right to intervene against Kurdish rebels in Syria after Damascus pulled its troops out of Kurdish towns. Clashes triggered by the Syrian war have intensified in Lebanon. If Syria were to fragment, the entire system of post-Ottoman Middle East states and borders could be thrown into question with it.
That could now happen regardless of how long Assad and his regime survive. But intervention in Syria is prolonging the conflict, rather than delivering a knockout blow. Only pressure for a negotiated settlement, which the west and its friends have so strenuously blocked, can now give Syrians the chance to determine their own future – and halt the country's descent into darkness.  Twitter: @SeumasMilne                  [Abridged]

You are allowed to bring your distress

We must not be scared of unhappiness as a feature of a meaningful life
Giles Fraser                               Guardian/UK                       3 August 2012
'Church, like therapy, is a countercultural space where people are given permission to bring distress.
The worst time of day is just before you go to bed. It's when you feel the day has been for nothing. The purpose of time has been simply to survive its passing. You climb the stairs defeated. And there is little prospect of tomorrow being any different.
The joke is I'm on a platform in a week discussing the nature of happiness. At the moment, that's a bit like asking a vegan be an expert on the perfect filet mignon. Luckily, I'm sharing a stage with someone who seems to know rather a lot about happiness. The motion – "happiness comes from having more" – is being proposed by Francis Boulle from TV's Made in Chelsea. Judging by the OMGs from my teenage girls, Francis Boulle (gorgeous-looking, rich, clever, nice) has a great deal more of all sorts of things.
Now, I'm not interested in hair-shirted puritanism. Happiness may not be about having more but it's not necessarily about having less either. I've known some pretty miserable monks. My problem is with happiness as some sort of obligation to which we must all aspire and which failure to attain constitutes ultimate failure.
One of the most valuable things about therapy is that it's a place where you don't have to pretend you're on top of the world and where happiness is not held out as the ultimate mark of a successful life. This is a wonderful liberation. For it's precisely sunny-side-up fascism that forces those of us who walk the black dog into lonely invisibility. Obligatory upbeatness won't acknowledge the presence of anger, emptiness or despair. Perhaps that's why I'm just hating the relentless optimism of the bloody Olympics.
A while ago the psychoanalyst Susie Orbach came to St Paul's Cathedral to talk about happiness. She explained "what provides for relief is often not the dissolving of despair but the recognition of its legitimacy. The therapist endeavours to help the patient find words that speak of his or her experience and in so doing conveys the sense that emotional distress can be borne and not trivialised." In contrast, the exhortation "Have a great day" has become the ideological camouflage of late capitalism and Made in Chelsea is its purest form. The economy is tanking. People are out of jobs. A loved one has died. A relationship has ended. Don't worry, be happy. Take a pill. Watch the Olympics.
No, the sort of happiness that's more than synthetic soma must hold together a range of conflicting feelings, of which unhappiness is one. And we must not be scared of unhappiness as a feature of a meaningful life. To express this as a contradiction: unhappiness forms part of the recipe for happiness itself.
This week's church readings included the über-miserable Jeremiah, who complained: "Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable refusing to be healed?" and refused to "sit in the company of merrymakers". Church, like therapy, is a countercultural space where people are given permission to bring distress. Which is why the permanently smiling evangelical represents such a deep betrayal. There is more to the Bible than the bit at the end.
We want to be seen and valued, even when unhappy. Orbach again: "Sadly the means to being valued has been represented in ways to do with the purchase of brands, of perfected bodies, with celebrity, with money. This method for recognition is the manufacture of self-hatred in the name of the happiness deity." Which is why my kids want Francis Boulle's autograph. I will, of course, ask him. But I won't worship at the same shrine. For when it comes to the happiness deity, I am a non-believer. That is not the god for me.       Twitter: @giles_fraser 

Anyone who now thinks Britain is too multicultural?

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown                   Independent/UK                         5 August 2012
 More bleedin' foreigners winning our medals! Even cheering with indecent enthusiasm for Team GB! Golden Saturday must have been a bit awkward for this squad. Mixed feelings must have curdled the patriotic juices when Mo Farah, born in Somalia, won the 10,000 metres, hugged his daughter and pregnant light-skinned wife. And when he pronounced himself the proudest of flag wavers. Or when Jessica Ennis, the daughter of a black father and a white mother, wept as she received her gold while 80,000 fans cheered and belted out the National Anthem. I wonder how the formidable anti-immigration campaigners react when medals are won by super-fit migrants and children of migrants? Do they feel collective resentment that a Somali running off with a medal deprives real British talent?
Maybe they're like my father who was fantastically proud and claimed me as his daughter only when I got good grades – and the rest of the time arraigned me for being too much trouble and my mother's child. Even over this extraordinary, internationalist fortnight, when the world is in Britain, seeing the best of the British, some jingoists will not accept what their country is and will not let those who made their lives here or who identify with the nation ever, ever feel they can belong or represent GB.
Tiffany Porter, the injured hurdles hopeful, whose parents are black British, has faced humiliating tests of loyalty; Cuban Yamile Aldama, triple jump finalist, married to a Scotsman, waited a decade to get British citizenship. Both have felt their integrity sullied by innuendo for being who they are, not what they are trying to achieve. Aldama is hurt by it: "When I joined the team it never crossed my mind I would get a reaction like this. I feel part of this country. At home we have roast beef dinners on Sunday."
Seb Coe, one of my current heroes, has spoken movingly about how the opening reflected a nation with a "quirky sense of humour, a sense of fair play and the embracing of multiculturalism". Surely now is time for a nicely turned prime ministerial speech on what immigrants have brought to team GB. The story of this nation is one of continuous exchange between here and abroad, them and us and them who are us. The first man to win a medal for GB was Charles Gmelin, born in India to missionaries. Bradley Wiggins was born in Belgium and so on and on. There are nurses, doctors, scientists, writers and artists now claimed by this country who started life elsewhere .
I know of the problems – boy, don't we all. Day after day, we are woken by programmes telling us how bad migration is, how bad we migrants are, as do most of the papers, the far right and some nicely spoken, respectable citizens too. You'd think we are all terrorists, sex offenders, killers of daughters, illegal entrants, alien criminals, and procreators of too many more of the above. The abuse heaped upon me for being an Asian Muslim incomer with attitude would kill and bury me if I let it. We fight back because we are worth it and so is the state we live in. Immigrants don't give up.
On Friday evening, getting on to a tube in Victoria, I met a Somali family wearing so much Union Jack kit they looked like a mobile tourist stall. The mum had a red, blue and white band across her forehead under a tight, black head scarf; her sons carried flags and her daughter's leggings were festooned with crowns, Big Bens, St Paul's and colours of this nation.
They were coming back from a halal chicken restaurant after breaking an 18-hour fast for Ramadhan. They told me they were so happy because of Farah. They wanted their children to be like him, make this country proud of them. Near us a white family was just as joyous and for the same reasons. And I thought, this is brilliant, we are in it together. And then a smart-looking white woman in her forties muttered to a man she was with: "They're not British. How dare they? Why don't they go back where they came from?" You see, we immigrants can't win. But we'll never stop trying.      {Abridged]

Hiroshima is a war crime that haunts my family

Phil Strongman                        Independent/UK                         5 August 2012
On 6 August 1945 – 67 years ago today – a control operator at the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation noticed that there was no signal from Radio Hiroshima. It had, seemingly, gone off air. Telephone calls couldn't reach the city centre either. There was a simple reason for this – the city centre wasn't there any more. At 8.15am an American B-29 bomber had dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima. People were literally vaporised by a light '"brighter than a thousand suns". A firestorm and 600mph winds sucked the remaining air out of the downtown district. Soon a mushroom cloud spiralled into the stratosphere, and under it 140,000 civilians lay dead.
As Japan absorbed what had happened and its rulers prepared a formal protest at the new weapon, a second strike was prepared. The target was Kokura but on 9 August, it was obscured by fog so Nagasaki was hit. The death toll was 70,000. On 12 August Japan's Emperor, Hirohito, said surrender was inevitable. The war was over, but the bomb debate was just beginning.
Apologists for these events have used two arguments. These attacks were necessary because Japan wouldn't surrender without them, and because a land invasion against Japan's disciplined troops would have caused 300,000 US casualties or more. The bombing also kept the Soviets out of Japan and helped speed the end of the war. This thought now dominates – anyone disagreeing is "a soft peacenik". No one objected to the A-Bomb's use in 1945, we are told. No one who knew the score amongst the military high-ups. There was no alternative.
But the argument that no one in the know objected is a fallacy. General Eisenhower opposed it, "Japan was already defeated… dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary." The Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Nimitz agreed: "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in their defeat." Admiral Leahy, President Truman's Chief of Staff, concurred: the atomic attacks were "of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already ready to surrender…"
By spring 1945 Japan was faltering. Germany surrendered in May and since April US aircraft had roamed almost at will over Japan. Heavy bombing raids using dozens of B-29s were met with token resistance, and the firebombing of Tokyo had not been seriously opposed. A sea blockade had decimated imports. During this time Japan put out peace feelers: on 25 July Japan tried to get envoys to Russia, carrying Imperial letters which read, in part: "His Majesty… mindful of the fact that the war daily brings greater evil and sacrifice of the peoples… desires from his heart that it may be quickly terminated. But as long as England and the US insist upon unconditional surrender the Japanese Empire has no alternative but to fight on… for the honour and existence of the Motherland …"
These feelers were rebuffed by the US demand for unconditional surrender. But this was unacceptable to Japan, for it could mean that Hirohito –seen as semi-divine – could be put on trial. Time wondered whether the answer was some "deep secret" while the United States News confirmed, days after Hiroshima, that "competent testimony exists to prove that Japan was seeking to surrender many weeks before the atomic bomb…"  And post-Nagasaki, the US did grant the condition that the Emperor be left alone.  Why not in July or June? US stubbornness only makes sense if it's seen for what it really is: an excuse to delay peace long enough to test the bomb on real cities. Which is why previous bombing raids had always spared the first atomic targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Kyoto. These centres had been left virtually free of heavy bombing for just this purpose, so the effect of atomic destruction could be seen on "virgin targets". In 1958 the rightist National Review admitted that "the main purpose of using the atomic bombs on Japan was not military, but diplomatic, and that the real target was not Japan but Russia…"
So where does this leave us? US demands for Japanese unconditional surrender were always unrealistic – and deliberately so. This intentionally prolonged the war for the sole purpose of testing the atomic bomb on real cities. These attacks killed thousands, as did delaying the peace. This also allowed Stalin to take Manchuria, and Soviet triumph there inadvertently helped Chairman Mao to seize China, a move that later killed millions.
My father-in-law – a nissi healer called Kiekazu Higashikawa – was in Kokura on 9 August 1945. He was then 15, a shy Japanese teenager. A bank of cloud saved him from being vaporised. It also, indirectly, saved my future wife – and our children. The children of the next target, Nagasaki, were not so lucky, and they became the first victims of a Cold War crime against humanity. Why is it so difficult for some people, even now, to admit this fact?     [Abbrev.]