jump to navigation

‘The Only Thing We Have to Fear…’ is the CIA December 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Surveillance State.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: there was much to like about Truman, especially his standing up to the immensely popular war hero MacArthur, who wanted to start WWIII in Korea.  But Truman’s use of the atomic bomb against the already defeated Japanese Empire at Hiroshima and Nagasaki more than negates the better part of his legacy.  Nevertheless, on his warning here about the CIA he was right on.  This article tells us who really runs the American Empire (hint: not you and me, or even the robot Obama) and suggests the reason for the assassination of JFK.

 

 

President Truman’s true warning on the CIA

 

Fifty years ago, exactly one month after John Kennedy was killed, the Washington Post published an op-ed titled “Limit CIA Role to Intelligence.” The first sentence of that op-ed on Dec. 22, 1963, read, “I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency.”

President Harry S. Truman.

 

It sounded like the intro to a bleat from some liberal professor or journalist. Not so. The writer was former President Harry S. Truman, who spearheaded the establishment of the CIA 66 years ago, right after World War II, to better coordinate U.S. intelligence gathering. But the spy agency had lurched off in what Truman thought were troubling directions.

 

Sadly, those concerns that Truman expressed in that op-ed — that he had inadvertently helped create a Frankenstein monster — are as valid today as they were 50 years ago, if not more so.

 

Truman began his article by underscoring “the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency … and what I expected it to do.” It would be “charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without Department ‘treatment’ or interpretations.”

 

Truman then moved quickly to one of the main things bothering him. He wrote “the most important thing was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions.”

 

It was not difficult to see this as a reference to how one of the agency’s early directors, Allen Dulles, tried to trick President Kennedy into sending U.S. forces to rescue the group of invaders who had landed on the beach at the Bay of Pigs, Cuba, in April 1961 with no chance of success, absent the speedy commitment of U.S. air and ground support.

 

Wallowing in the Bay of Pigs

 

Arch-Establishment figure Allen Dulles had been offended when young President Kennedy had the temerity to ask questions about CIA plans before the Bay of Pigs debacle, which had been set in motion under President Dwight Eisenhower. When Kennedy made it clear he would NOT approve the use of U.S. combat forces, Dulles set out, with supreme confidence, to mousetrap the President.

 

Coffee-stained notes handwritten by Allen Dulles were discovered after his death and reported by historian Lucien S. Vandenbroucke. They show how Dulles drew Kennedy into a plan that was virtually certain to require the use of U.S. combat forces. In his notes, Dulles explained that, “when the chips were down,” Kennedy would be forced by “the realities of the situation” to give whatever military support was necessary “rather than permit the enterprise to fail.”

 

The “enterprise” which Dulles said could not fail was, of course, the overthrow of Fidel Castro. After mounting several failed operations to assassinate him, this time Dulles meant to get his man, with little or no attention to how the Russians might react. The reckless Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom then-Deputy Secretary of State George Ball later described as a “sewer of deceit,” relished any chance to confront the Soviet Union and give it, at least, a black eye.

 

But Kennedy stuck to his guns, so to speak. He fired Dulles and his co-conspirators a few months after the abortive invasion, and told a friend that he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds.” The outrage was very obviously mutual.

 

When Kennedy himself was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, it must have occurred to Truman – as it did to many others – that the disgraced Dulles and his unrepentant associates might not be above conspiring to get rid of a president they felt was soft on Communism and get even for their Bay of Pigs fiasco.

 

‘Cloak and Dagger’

 

While Truman saw CIA’s attempted mousetrapping of President Kennedy as a particular outrage, his more general complaint is seen in his broader lament that the CIA had become “so removed from its intended role … I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. … It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government.” Not only shaping policy through its control of intelligence, but also “cloak and dagger” operations, presumably including assassinations.

 

Truman concluded the op-ed with an admonition that was as clear as the syntax was clumsy: “I would like to see the CIA restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President, and that whatever else it can properly perform in that special field – and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.” The importance and prescient nature of that admonition are even clearer today, a half-century later.

 

But Truman’s warning fell mostly on deaf ears, at least within Establishment circles. The Washington Post published the op-ed in its early edition on Dec. 22, 1963, but immediately excised it from later editions. Other media ignored it. The long hand of the CIA?

 

In Truman’s view, misuse of the CIA began in February 1953, when his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, named Allen Dulles as CIA director. Dulles’s forte was overthrowing governments (in current parlance, “regime change”), and he was quite good at it. With coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) under his belt, Dulles was riding high by the late Fifties and moved Cuba to the top of his to-do list.

 

The Truman Papers

 

Documents in the Truman Library show that nine days after Kennedy was assassinated, Truman sketched out in handwritten notes what he wanted to say in the op-ed. He noted, among other things, that the CIA had worked as he intended only “when I had control.”

 

Five days after the op-ed appeared, retired Admiral Sidney Souers, whom Truman had appointed to lead his first central intelligence group, sent a “Dear Boss” letter applauding Truman’s outspokenness and blaming Dulles for making the CIA “a different animal than the one I tried to set up for you.”

 

Souers specifically lambasted the attempt “to conduct a ‘war’ invading Cuba with a handful of men and without air cover.” He also lamented the fact that the agency’s “principal effort” had evolved into causing “revolutions in smaller countries around the globe,” and added: “With so much emphasis on operations, it would not surprise me to find that the matter of collecting and processing intelligence has suffered some.” (Again, as true today as it was 50 years ago.)

 

Clearly, the operational tail of the CIA was wagging its substantive dog — a serious problem that persists to this day.

 

Fox Guarding Hen House

 

After Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, the patrician, well-connected Dulles got himself appointed to the Warren Commission and took the lead in shaping the investigation of JFK’s assassination. Documents in the Truman Library show that Dulles also mounted a small domestic covert action of his own to neutralize any future airing of Truman’s and Souers’s warnings about covert action.

 

So important was this to Dulles that he invented a pretext to get himself invited to visit Truman in Independence, Missouri. On the afternoon of April 17, 1964, Dulles spent a half-hour one-on-one with the former president, trying to get him to retract what he had written in his op-ed. Hell No, said Harry.

 

Not a problem, Dulles decided. Four days later, in a formal memorandum of conversation for his old buddy Lawrence Houston, CIA general counsel from 1947 to 1973, Dulles fabricated a private retraction for Truman, claiming that Truman told him the Washington Post article was “all wrong,” and that Truman “seemed quite astounded at it.”

 

A fabricated retraction? It certainly seems so, because Truman did not change his tune. Far from it. In a June 10, 1964, letter to the managing editor of Look magazine, for example, Truman restated his critique of covert action, emphasizing that he never intended the CIA to get involved in “strange activities.”

 

Dulles and Dallas

 

Dulles could hardly have expected to get Truman to recant publicly. So why was it so important for Dulles to place in CIA files a fabricated retraction? I believe the answer lies in the fact that in early 1964 Dulles was feeling a lot of heat from many who were suggesting the CIA might have been involved somehow in the Kennedy assassination. Columnists were asking how the truth could ever be reached, with Allen Dulles as de facto head of the Warren Commission.

 

Dulles had good reason to fear that Truman’s limited-edition Washington Post op-ed of Dec. 22, 1963, might garner unwanted attention and raise troublesome questions about covert action, including assassination. He would have wanted to be in position to dig out of Larry Houston’s files the Truman “retraction,” in the hope that this would nip any serious questioning in the bud.

 

As the de facto head of the Warren Commission, Dulles was perfectly positioned to protect himself and his associates, were any commissioners or investigators — or journalists — tempted to question whether Dulles and the CIA played a role in killing Kennedy.

 

And so, the question: Did Allen Dulles and other “cloak-and-dagger” CIA operatives have a hand in John Kennedy’s assassination and in then covering it up? In my view, the best dissection of the evidence pertaining to the murder appeared in James Douglass’s 2008 book, JFK and the Unspeakable. After updating and arraying the abundant evidence, and conducting still more interviews, Douglass concludes that the answer is Yes.

 

Obama Intimidated?

 

The mainstream media had an allergic reaction to Douglass’s book and gave it almost no reviews. It is, nevertheless, still selling well. And, more important, it seems a safe bet that President Barack Obama knows what it says and maybe has even read it. This may go some way toward explaining why Obama has been so deferential to the CIA, NSA, FBI and the Pentagon.

 

Could this be at least part of the reason he felt he had to leave the Cheney/Bush-anointed torturers, kidnappers and black-prison wardens in place, instructing his first CIA chief Leon Panetta to become, in effect, the agency’s lawyer rather than leader.

 

Is this why the President feels he cannot fire his clumsily devious Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who had to apologize to Congress for giving “clearly erroneous” testimony in March? Is this why he allows National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander and counterparts in the FBI to continue to mislead the American people, even though the intermittent snow showers from Snowden show our senior national security officials to have lied — and to have been out of control?

 

This may be small solace to President Obama, but there is no sign that the NSA documents that Snowden’s has released include the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report on CIA torture. Rather, that report, at least, seems sure to be under Obama’s and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein’s tight control.

 

But the timorous President has a big problem. He is acutely aware that, if released, the Senate committee report would create a firestorm – almost certainly implicating Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan and many other heavy-hitters of whom he appears to be afraid. And so Obama has allowed Brennan to play bureaucratic games, delaying release of the report for more than a year, even though its conclusions are said to closely resemble earlier findings of the CIA’s own Inspector General and the Constitution Project (see below).

 

Testimony of Ex-CIA General Counsel

 

Hat tip to the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who took the trouble to read the play-by-play of testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee by former CIA General Counsel (2009-2013) Stephen W. Preston, nominated (and now confirmed) to be general counsel at the Department of Defense.

 

Under questioning by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, Preston admitted outright that, contrary to the CIA’s insistence that it did not actively impede congressional oversight of its detention and interrogation program, “briefings to the committee included inaccurate information related to aspects of the program of express interest to Members.”

 

That “inaccurate information” apparently is thoroughly documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee report which, largely because of the CIA’s imaginative foot-dragging, cost taxpayers $40 million. Udall has revealed that the report (which includes 35,000 footnotes) contains a very long section titled “C.I.A. Representations on the C.I.A. Interrogation Program and the Effectiveness of the C.I.A.’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques to Congress.”

 

Preston also acknowledged that the CIA inadequately informed the Justice Department on interrogation and detention. He said, “CIA’s efforts fell well short of our current practices when it comes to providing information relevant to [the Office of Legal Counsel]’s legal analysis.”

 

As Katherine Hawkins, the senior investigator for last April’s bipartisan, independent report by the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, noted in an Oct. 18, 2013 posting, the memos from acting OLC chief, Steven Bradbury, relied very heavily on now-discredited CIA claims that “enhanced interrogation” saved lives, and that the sessions were carefully monitored by medical and psychological personnel to ensure that detainees’ suffering would not rise to the level of torture.

 

According to Hawkins, Udall complained – and Preston admitted – that, in providing the materials requested by the committee, “the CIA removed several thousand CIA documents that the agency thought could be subjected to executive privilege claims by the President, without any decision by Obama to invoke the privilege.”

 

Worse still for the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee report apparently destroys the agency’s argument justifying torture on the grounds that there was no other way to acquire the needed information save through brutalization. In his answers to Udall, Preston concedes that, contrary to what the agency has argued, it can and has been established that legal methods of interrogation would have yielded the same intelligence.

 

Is anyone still wondering why our timid President is likely to sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee report for as long as he can? Or why he will let John Brennan redact it to a fare-thee-well, if he is eventually forced to release some of it by pressure from folks who care about things like torture?

 

It does appear that the newly taciturn CIA Director Brennan has inordinate influence over the President in such matters – not unlike the influence that both DNI Clapper and NSA Director Alexander seem able to exert. In this respect, Brennan joins the dubious company of the majority of his predecessor CIA directors, as they made abundantly clear when they went to inordinate lengths to prevent their torturer colleagues from being held accountable.

 

A version of this article also appeared at Consortium News.

 

 

Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Hiroshima, Nagasaki and ‘Bomb Iran’ August 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Iran, Japan, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Roger’s note: this posting contains two somewhat related articles.  The second article, presents the view that the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was for geopolitical and not military reasons.  I first read this interpretation back in the 1960s in a book by the so-called revisionist historian, Gar Alperovitz, “Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam.”  Also, according to Wikipedia,
‘Alperovitz is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy and was named “Distinguished Finalist” for the Lionel Gelber Prize for The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth, (Knopf, 1995).’  I am no historian, but I find the “revisionist” argument to be quite persuasive.

 

 

Last week marked the 68th anniversary of the WWII destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9) — the first and only deployment of nuclear weapons in human history. Within moments of the nuclear explosions that destroyed these cities, at

An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

least 200,000 people lost their lives. Tens of thousands subsequently died from radiation poisoning within the next two weeks. The effects linger to this day.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has implied that this would the be fate of Israel if Iran was allowed to obtain nuclear weapon-making capabilities, including the ability to enrich high-grade uranium. To prevent this from happening, the economy of Iran must be crippled by sanctions and the fourth largest oil reserves in the world must be barred from global markets, as the oil fields in which they are situated deteriorate. Israel — the only state in the region that actually possesses nuclear weapons and has blocked all efforts to create a Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone – should thus be armed with cutting-edge American weaponry. Finally, the US must not only stand behind its sole reliable Middle East ally, which could strike Iran at will, it should ideally also lead — not merely condone — a military assault against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Netanyahu invariably frames the threat posed by Iranian nuclear capability (a term that blurs distinctions between civilian and potential military applications of nuclear technology) as “Auschwitz” rather than “Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, even though the latter might be a more apt analogy. The potential for another Auschwitz is predicated on the image of an Israel that is unable — or unwilling to — defend itself, resulting in six million Jews going “like sheep to the slaughter.” But if Israel and/or the US were to attack Iran instead of the other way around, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki” would be the analogy to apply to Iran.

A country dropping bombs on any country that has not attacked first is an act of war, as the US was quick to point out when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor — and this includes so-called “surgical strikes”. In a July 19 letter about US options in Syria, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded the Senate Armed Services Committee that “…the decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly. It is no less than an act of war” [emphasis added].

If the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during wartime remains morally and militarily questionable, one might think that there would be even less justification for a military strike on Iran, with whom neither Israel nor the US is at war. Of course, there are those who disagree: the US is engaged in a war on terror, Iran has been designated by the US as the chief state sponsor of terrorism since 1984 and so on. Therefore, the US  is, or should be, at war with Iran.

“All options are on the table” is the operative mantra with regard to the US halting Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. But if bombs start dropping on Iran, what kind will they be? In fact, the 30,000 lb. Massive Ordnance Penetrators (MOPs) that could be employed against Iranian nuclear facilities are nuclear weapons, since they derive their capability of penetrating 200 feet of concrete in the earth from depleted uranium. Furthermore, some Israelis have darkly hinted that, were Israel to confront Iran alone, it would be more likely to reach into its unacknowledged nuclear armoury if that meant the difference between victory and defeat.

Given all this, comparing the damage that would be done by bombing Iran with the destruction of  Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not farfetched. It also reveals some troubling parallels. In the years prior to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in response to what the US regarded as Japanese expansionism, imposed economic sanctions on Japan in 1937. Just before the US entered the war, an embargo was placed on US exports of oil to Japan, upon which Japan was utterly dependent.

In 1945, it was already clear that Japan was preparing to surrender and that the outstanding issue at hand was the status of its emperor. There was neither a military nor political need to use atomic weapons to bring an end to the war. Numerous justifications for dropping atomic bombs on Japan were invoked, but nearly all of them were challenged or discredited within a few years after the war ended. Three are particularly noteworthy today, as we continue to face the prospect of war with Iran.

Saving lives: US Secretary of War Henry Stimson justified the decision to use atomic weapons as “the least abhorrent choice” since it would not only would save the lives of up to a million American soldiers who might perish in a ground assault on Japan, it would also spare the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who were being killed in fire bombings. President Harry Truman also claimed that “thousands of lives would be saved” and “a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood was worth a couple of Japanese cities.” But as Andrew Dilks points out, “None of these statements were based on any evidence.”

Speaking in Warsaw, Poland on June 12 — two days before the Iranian election that he declared would “change nothing” with regard to Iran’s alleged quest to develop nuclear weaponry — Netanyahu used the opening of an Auschwitz memorial to make his case. “This is a regime that is building nuclear weapons with the expressed purpose to annihilate Israel’s six million Jews,” he said. “We will not allow this to happen. We will never allow another Holocaust.” About the Iranians who would perish after an Israeli attack, Netanyahu said nothing.

Justifying expenditures: The total estimated cost of the Manhattan Project, which developed the bombs dropped on Japan, was nearly $2 billion in 1945, the equivalent of slightly more than $30 billion today. Secretary of State James Byrnes pointed out to President Harry Truman, who was up for re-election in 1948, that he could expect to be berated by Republicans for spending such a large amount on weapons that were never used, according to MIT’s John Dower.

A recent report by the Congressional Research Service shows that Israel is the single largest recipient of US aid, receiving a cumulative $118 billion, most of it military aid. The Bush administration and the Israeli government had agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package in 2007, which assured Israel of funding through 2018. During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Barack Obama, who had been criticized by the US pro-Israel lobby for being less concerned than previous American presidents about Israel’s well being and survival, pledged that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid subject to the approval of Congress. Not to be outdone, the otherwise tightfisted Congress not only approved the added assistance Obama had promised, it also increased it. An Iran that is not depicted as dangerous would jeopardize the generous military assistance Israel receives. What better way to demonstrate how badly needed those US taxpayer dollars are than to show them in action?

Technological research and development: One of the most puzzling questions about the decision to use nuclear weaponry against Japan is why, three days after the utter devastation wreaked on Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It was unnecessary from a militarily perspective. Perhaps the answer exists in the fact that the Manhattan Project had produced different types of atomic bombs: the destructive power of the “Little Boy”, which fell on Hiroshima, came from uranium; the power of “Fat Man”, which exploded over Nagasaki, came from plutonium. What better way to “scientifically” compare their effectiveness at annihilation than by using both?

The award winning Israeli documentary, The Lab, which opens in the US this month, reveals that Israel has used Lebanon and Gaza as a testing ground for advances in weaponry. Jonathan Cook writes, “Attacks such as Operation Cast Lead of winter 2008-09 or last year’s Operation Pillar of Defence, the film argues, serve as little more than laboratory-style experiments to evaluate and refine the effectiveness of new military approaches, both strategies and weaponry.” Israeli military leaders have strongly hinted that in conducting air strikes against Syria, the Israeli Air Force is rehearsing for an attack on Iran, including the use of bunker-buster bombs.

The Pentagon, which reportedly has invested $500 million in developing and revamping  MOP “bunker busters”, recently spent millions building a replica of Iran’s Fordow nuclear research facility in order to demonstrate to the Israelis that Iranian nuclear facilities can be destroyed when the time is right.

Gen. Dempsey arrived in Israel on Monday to meet with Israel’s Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Israel’s political leaders. Members of Congress from both political parties are also visiting — Democrats last week, Republicans this week — on an AIPAC-sponsored “fact-finding” mission. No doubt they will hear yet again from Israeli leaders that the world cannot allow another Auschwitz.

The world cannot allow another Hiroshima and Nagasaki either.

Marsha Cohen

Marsha B. Cohen is an analyst specializing in Israeli-Iranian relations and US foreign policy towards Iran and Israel. Her articles have been published by PBS/Frontline’s Tehran Bureau. IPS, Alternet, Payvand and Global Dialogue. She earned her PhD in International Relations from Florida International University, and her BA in Political Philosophy from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

 

Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Big Historical Lie

 

Via orwellwasright:

It is perceived wisdom throughout the Western world – particularly America – that the dropping of two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was “necessary” to end the war with Japan. Printed throughout textbooks in the post-war world, the understanding is that, had these targets not been struck, the war would have waged on indefinitely, with potentially untold American soldier and Japanese civilian deaths.

As the world commemorates the 68th anniversary of the attacks, however, it is important to take a step back and view the catastrophic event not through the prism of propaganda and mythologizing, but instead through the lens of historical scrutiny. For, as if often the case, the disparity between “Official History” and reality is characterized by lies and deceptions bolstered by patriotism and American exceptionalism.

We are told repeatedly that, without the use of weapons which current Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui refers to as the “ultimate inhumane weapon and an absolute evil”, Japan would never have surrendered. We are told that President Truman was troubled by the mounting Allied casualties, and that the Joint Chiefs had told him to expect 1,000,000 dead Americans in the pending attack on the Japanese home islands. Yet this figure is a complete fabrication, invented by Secretary of War Stimson. No such claim was made by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Truman himself, in different statements, asserted “thousands of lives would be saved,” and “a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood was worth a couple of Japanese cities,” and also “I thought 200,000 of our young men would be saved by making that decision.” None of these statements were based on any evidence.

The alleged indefatigably of the Japanese military and their unwillingness to surrender is also a proven myth. By the summer of 1945 their position was hopeless and numerous attempts to surrender had already been made. Brigadier Gen. Carter W. Clarke stated: “We brought them down to an abject surrender through the accelerated sinking of their merchant marine and hunger alone, and when we didn’t need to do it, and we knew we didn’t need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn’t need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.”

Truman knew weeks before the Potsdam Conference, which began in July, 1945, that the Japanese were making overtures to surrender, the only condition being the retention of the Emperor. But Truman was determined to test the new bombs. In the words of General Douglas McArthur: ”The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.” In the event, the US agreed to the terms of the Japanese surrender anyway – but not until they had tested their new weapons and caused the deaths of 100,000s of innocent civilians.

In reality, most of the military top brass were disgusted at the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki and understood completely that it served no military purpose whatsoever. Admiral William D. Leahy, the President’s Chief of Staff said, “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.” This view was reiterated by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who said, “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace… The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.”

So what is the truth about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Why, when intelligence agencies knew months in advance that contingency plans for a large-scale invasion were completely unnecessary and that Japan desperately sought peace, did they, as Admiral Leahy put it, adopt “an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages”?

There are two main reasons. Firstly, the Russians had entered the Japanese war and were making striking advances through Manchuria, decimating the already weakened Japanese army. Indeed, their role was pivotal – as Air Force General Claire Chennault stated: “Russia’s entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped.” The last thing the American leadership wanted was for Russia to receive equal spoils of war and emerge from the war as a superpower equal to the US.

In this sense, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are more accurately perceived as the opening salvos of the Cold War, rather than the final shots fired in the Second World War – the Cold War was, after all, defined essentially as a balance of nuclear powers; realpolitik and the primacy of power where the arms race and military insanity took supremacy over diplomacy.

The other, far more sinister reason, was one of scientific curiosity. After making such a huge investment in the Manhattan Project (2 billion in 1940) and with three bombs completed, there was little to no desire to shelve the weapons. The fissionable material in the Hiroshima bomb was uranium, while the Nagasaki bomb was plutonium, and subsequently there was intense scientific curiosity as to the different effects these bombs would produce. As the US Army director of the project, General Leslie Groves pondered: “what would happen if an entire city was leveled by a single uranium bomb?” “What about a plutonium bomb?” For the science experiment to go ahead, surrender was not an option.

Perhaps Stanley Kubrick in his movie Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb expressed his understanding more than most of the mentality of those who pushed for the use of atomic weapons on the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki – it was a decision based on a kind of hell-bent fanatical militarism combined with the worst kind of scientific endeavor devoid of any sense of humanity. Small wonder that this history books and the propaganda machine went into overdrive in the following years, endlessly justifying the use of what President Eisenhower described as “that awful thing”.

Andrew Dilks is the author of Goliath.

Truman Lied, Hundreds of Thousands Died August 8, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Nuclear weapons/power, Peace, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Monday 8 August 2011
by: David Swanson, War Is A Crime                 | Op-Ed
www.truthout.org, August 8, 2011

On August 6, 1945, President Harry S Truman announced: “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT  It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British ‘Grand Slam’ which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.”

When Truman lied to America that Hiroshima was a military base rather than a city full of civilians, people no doubt wanted to believe him. Who would want the shame of belonging to the nation that commits a whole new kind of atrocity? (Will naming lower Manhattan “ground zero” erase the guilt?)  And when we learned the truth, we wanted and still want desperately to believe that war is peace, that violence is salvation, that our government dropped nuclear bombs in order to save lives, or at least to save American lives.

We tell each other that the bombs shortened the war and saved more lives than the some 200,000 they took away. And yet, weeks before the first bomb was dropped, on July 13, 1945, Japan sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan’s codes and read the telegram. Truman referred in his diary to “the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace.” Truman had been informed through Swiss and Portuguese channels of Japanese peace overtures as early as three months before Hiroshima. Japan objected only to surrendering unconditionally and giving up its emperor, but the United States insisted on those terms until after the bombs fell, at which point it allowed Japan to keep its emperor.

Presidential advisor James Byrnes had told Truman that dropping the bombs would allow the United States to “dictate the terms of ending the war.” Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was “most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in.” Truman wrote in his diary that the Soviets were preparing to march against Japan and “Fini Japs when that comes about.” Truman ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th and another type of bomb, a plutonium bomb, which the military also wanted to test and demonstrate, on Nagasaki on August 9th. Also on August 9th, the Soviets attacked the Japanese. During the next two weeks, the Soviets killed 84,000 Japanese while losing 12,000 of their own soldiers, and the United States continued bombing Japan with non-nuclear weapons. Then the Japanese surrendered.

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that,”… certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”  One dissenter who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed: “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”

Whatever dropping the bombs might possibly have contributed to ending the war, it is curious that the approach of threatening to drop them, the approach used during a half-century of Cold War to follow, was never tried.  An explanation may perhaps be found in Truman’s comments suggesting the motive of revenge:

“Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, and against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international law of warfare.”

Truman could not, incidentally, have chosen Tokyo as a target — not because it was a city, but because we had already reduced it to rubble.

The nuclear catastrophes may have been, not the ending of a World War, but the theatrical opening of the Cold War, aimed at sending a message to the Soviets. Many low and high ranking officials in the US military, including commanders in chief, have been tempted to nuke more cities ever since, beginning with Truman threatening to nuke China in 1950. The myth developed, in fact, that Eisenhower’s enthusiasm for nuking China led to the rapid conclusion of the Korean War. Belief in that myth led President Richard Nixon, decades later, to imagine he could end the Vietnam War by pretending to be crazy enough to use nuclear bombs. Even more disturbingly, he actually was crazy enough. “The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes,” Nixon said to Henry Kissinger in discussing options for Vietnam.

President George W. Bush oversaw the development of smaller nuclear weapons that might be used more readily, as well as much larger non-nuclear bombs, blurring the line between the two. President Barack Obama established in 2010 that the United States might strike first with nuclear weapons, but only against Iran or North Korea. The United States alleged, without evidence, that Iran was not complying with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), even though the clearest violation of that treaty is the United States’ own failure to work on disarmament and the United States’ Mutual Defense Agreement with the United Kingdom, by which the two countries share nuclear weapons in violation of Article 1 of the NPT, and even though the United States’ first strike nuclear weapons policy violates yet another treaty: the UN Charter.

Americans may never admit what was done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but our country had been in some measure prepared for it. After Germany had invaded Poland, Britain and France had declared war on Germany.  Britain in 1940 had broken an agreement with Germany not to bomb civilians, before Germany retaliated in the same manner against England — although Germany had itself bombed Guernica, Spain, in 1937, and Warsaw, Poland, in 1939, and Japan meanwhile was bombing civilians in China. Then, for years, Britain and Germany had bombed each other’s cities before the United States joined in, bombing German and Japanese cities in a spree of destruction unlike anything ever previously witnessed. When we were firebombing Japanese cities, Life magazine printed a photo of a Japanese person burning to death and commented “This is the only way.”

By the time of the Vietnam War, such images were highly controversial. By the time of the 2003 War on Iraq, such images were not shown, just as enemy bodies were no longer counted. That development, arguably a form of progress, still leaves us far from the day when atrocities will be displayed with the caption “There has to be another way.”

Combating evil is what peace activists do. It is not what wars do. And it is not, at least not obviously, what motivates the masters of war, those who plan the wars and bring them into being. But it is tempting to think so. It is very noble to make brave sacrifices, even the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life, in order to end evil. It is perhaps even noble to use other people’s children to vicariously put an end to evil, which is all that most war supporters do.  It is righteous to become part of something bigger than oneself. It can be thrilling to revel in patriotism. It can be momentarily pleasurable I’m sure, if less righteous and noble, to indulge in hatred, racism, and other group prejudices. It’s nice to imagine that your group is superior to someone else’s. And the patriotism, racism, and other isms that divide you from the enemy can thrillingly unite you, for once, with all of your neighbors and compatriots across the now meaningless boundaries that usually hold sway.

If you are frustrated and angry, if you long to feel important, powerful, and dominating, if you crave the license to lash out in revenge either verbally or physically, you may cheer for a government that announces a vacation from morality and open permission to hate and to kill. You’ll notice that the most enthusiastic war supporters sometimes want nonviolent war opponents killed and tortured along with the vicious and dreaded enemy; the hatred is far more important than its object. If your religious beliefs tell you that war is good, then you’ve really gone big time. Now you’re part of God’s plan. You’ll live after death, and perhaps we’ll all be better off if you bring on the death of us all.

But simplistic beliefs in good and evil don’t match up well with the real world, no matter how many people share them unquestioningly. They do not make you a master of the universe. On the contrary, they place control of your fate in the hands of people cynically manipulating you with war lies.

And the hatred and bigotry don’t provide lasting satisfaction, but instead breed bitter resentment.

This is excerpted from “War Is A Lie”

David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie.”

How the US Hid Shocking Hiroshima Footage For Decades August 5, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
19 comments

 

In a new book, Greg Mitchell explains how the United States’
coverup of nuclear footage from Hiroshima and Nagasaki affects us to this day.

 

August 3, 2011  |

The following article first appeared on the Web site of The Nation. For more great
content from the Nation, sign up for its
e-mail
newsletters here.

In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan sixty-six years ago this
week, and then for decades afterward, the United States engaged in airtight
suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. This
included vivid color footage shot by U.S. military crews and black-and-white
Japanese newsreel film.

The public did not see any of the newsreel footage for twenty-five years, and
the shocking US military film remained hidden for nearly four decades. While the
suppression of nuclear truths stretched over decades, Hiroshima sank into “a
kind of hole in human history,” as the writer Mary McCarthy observed. The United
States engaged in a costly and dangerous nuclear arms race. Thousands of nuclear
warheads remain in the world, often under loose control; the United States
retains its “first-strike” nuclear policy; and much of the world is partly or
largely dependent on nuclear power plants, which pose their own hazards.

Our nuclear entrapment continues to this day—you might call it “From
Hiroshima to Fukushima.”

The color US military footage would remain hidden until the early 1980s, and
has never been fully aired. It rests today at the National Archives in College
Park, Maryland, in the form of 90,000 feet of raw footage labeled #342 USAF.

When that footage finally emerged, I spoke with and corresponded with the man
at the center of this drama: Lt. Col. (Ret.) Daniel A. McGovern, who directed
the US military film-makers in 1946, managed the Japanese footage, and then kept
watch on all of the top-secret material for decades. I also interviewed one of
his key assistants, Herbert Sussan, and some of the Japanese survivors they
filmed.

Now I’ve written a book and e-book about this, titled Atomic Cover-up:
Two US Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never
Made
.
You can view some of the suppressed footage here or below.

“I always had the sense,” Dan McGovern told me, “that people in the Atomic
Energy Commission were sorry we had dropped the bomb. The Air Force—it was also
sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn’t want those [film]
images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child…. They didn’t
want the general public to know what their weapons had done—at a time they were
planning on more bomb tests. We didn’t want the material out because…we were
sorry for our sins.”

Sussan, meanwhile, struggled for years to get some of the American footage
aired on national TV, taking his request as high as President Truman, Robert F.
Kennedy and Edward R. Murrow, to no avail.

The Japanese Newsreel Footage

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the center
of Hiroshima, killing at least 70,000 civilians instantly and perhaps 50,000
more in the days and months to follow. Three days later, it exploded another
atomic bomb over Nagasaki, slightly off target, killing 40,000 immediately and
dooming tens of thousands of others. Within days, Japan had surrendered, and the
US readied plans for occupying the defeated country—and documenting the first
atomic catastrophe.

But the Japanese also wanted to study it. Within days of the second atomic
attack, officials at the Tokyo-based newsreel company Nippon Eigasha discussed
shooting film in the two stricken cities. When the first rushes came back to
Toyko, Akira Iwasaki, the chief producer, felt “every frame burned into my
brain,” he later said.

At this point, the American public knew little about conditions in the atomic
cities beyond Japanese assertions that a mysterious affliction was attacking
many of those who survived the initial blasts (claims that were largely taken to
be propaganda). Newspaper photographs of victims were non-existent, or
censored. Life magazine would later observe that for years “the
world…knew only the physical facts of atomic destruction.”

Tens of thousands of American GIs occupied the two cities. Because of the
alleged absence of residual radiation, no one was urged to take precautions.

Then, on October 24, 1945, a Japanese cameraman in Nagasaki was ordered to
stop shooting by an American military policeman. His film, and then the rest of
the 26,000 feet of Nippon Eisasha footage, was confiscated by the US General
Headquarters (GHQ). An order soon arrived banning all further filming. It was at
this point that Lt. Daniel McGovern took charge.

Shooting the US Military Footage

In early September, 1945, less than a month after the two bombs fell, Lt.
McGovern—who as a member of Hollywood’s famed First Motion Picture Unit shot
some of the footage for William Wyler’s “Memphis Belle”—had become one of the
first Americans to arrive in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was a director with the
US Strategic Bombing Survey, organized by the Army the previous November to
study the effects of the air campaign against Germany, and now Japan.

As he made plans to shoot the official American record, McGovern learned
about the seizure of the Japanese footage. He felt it would be a waste to not
take advantage of the newsreel footage, noting in a letter to his superiors that
“the conditions under which it was taken will not be duplicated, until another
atomic bomb is released under combat conditions.” McGovern proposed hiring some
of the Japanese crew to edit and “caption” the material, so it would have
“scientific value.” He took charge of this effort in early January 1946.

At the same time, McGovern was ordered by General Douglas MacArthur on
January 1, 1946, to document the results of the US air campaign in more than
twenty Japanese cities. His crew would shoot exclusively on color film,
Kodachrome and Technicolor, rarely used at the time even in Hollywood. McGovern
assembled a crew of eleven, including two civilians. Third in command was a
young lieutenant from New York named Herbert Sussan.

The unit left Tokyo in a specially outfitted train, and made it to Nagasaki.
“Nothing and no one had prepared me for the devastation I met there,” Sussan
later told me. “We were the only people with adequate ability and equipment to
make a record of this holocaust…I felt that if we did not capture this horror on
film, no one would ever really understand the dimensions of what had happened.
At that time people back home had not seen anything but black and white pictures
of blasted buildings or a mushroom cloud.”

Along with the rest of McGovern’s crew, Sussan documented the physical
effects of the bomb, including the ghostly shadows of vaporized civilians burned
into walls; and, most chillingly, dozens of people in hospitals who had survived
(at least momentarily) and were asked to display their burns, scars, and other
lingering effects for the camera as a warning to the world. At the Red Cross
Hospital in Hiroshima, a Japanese physician traced the hideous, bright red scars
that covered several of the patients—and then took off his white doctor’s shirt
and displayed his own burns and cuts.

After sticking a camera on a rail car and building their own tracks through
the ruins, the Americans filmed hair-raising tracking
shots
that could have been lifted right from a Hollywood movie. Their chief
cameramen was a Japanese man, Harry Mimura, who in 1943 had shot Sanshiro
Sugata
—the first feature film by a then-unknown Japanese director named
Akira Kurosawa.

The Suppression Begins

While all this was going on,
the Japanese newsreel team was completing its work of editing and labeling all
their black and white footage into a rough cut of just under three hours. At
this point, several members of Japanese team took the courageous step of
ordering from the lab a duplicate of the footage they had shot before the
Americans took over the project—and hiding it in a ceiling at the lab. Then they
handed over their footage.

The following month, McGovern was abruptly ordered to return to the United
States. He hauled the 90,000 feet of color footage, on dozens of reels in huge
footlockers, to the Pentagon and turned it over to General Orvil Anderson.
Locked up and declared top secret, it did not see the light of day for more than
thirty years.  McGovern would be charged with watching over it. Sussan would
become obsessed with finding it and getting it aired.

Fearful that his film might get “buried,” McGovern stayed on at the Pentagon
as an aide to Gen. Anderson, who was fascinated by the footage and had no qualms
about showing it to the American people. “He was that kind of man, he didn’t
give a damn what people thought,” McGovern told me. “He just wanted the story
told.”

Once they eyeballed the footage, however, most of the top brass didn’t want
it widely shown and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was also opposed,
according to McGovern. It nixed a Warner Brothers feature film project based on
the footage that Anderson had negotiated, while paying another studio about
$80,000 to help make four training films.

In a March 3, 1947, memo, Francis E. Rundell, a major in the Air Corps,
explained that the film would be classified “secret.” This was determined “after
study of subject material, especially concerning footage taken at Hiroshima and
Nagasaki.”

The color footage was shipped to the Wright-Patterson base in Ohio. McGovern
went along after being told to put an I.D. number on the film “and not let
anyone touch it—and that’s the way it stayed,” as he put it. After cataloging
it, he placed it in a vault in the top secret area.

“Dan McGovern stayed with the film all the time,” Sussan later said. “He told
me they could not release the film [because] what it showed was too
horrible.”

Sussan wrote a letter to President Truman, suggesting that a film based on
the footage “would vividly and clearly reveal the implications and effects of
the weapons that confront us at this serious moment in our history.” A reply
from a Truman aide threw cold water on that idea, saying such a film would lack
“wide public appeal.” (He also censored the first Hollywood movie, an MGM epic,
about the bomb, a wild tale,  as
I wrote here last week
.)

McGovern, meanwhile, continued to “babysit” the film, now at Norton Air Force
base in California.

The Japanese Footage Emerges

At the same time, McGovern was looking after the Japanese footage. The
Japanese government repeatedly asked the US for the full footage of what was
known in that country as “the film of illusion,” to no avail.

Despite rising nuclear fears in the 1960s, before and after the Cuban missile
crisis, few in the United States challenged the consensus view that dropping the
bomb on two Japanese cities was necessary. The United States maintained its
“first-use” nuclear policy: under certain circumstances it would strike first
with the bomb and ask questions later. In other words, there was no real taboo
against using the bomb. This notion of acceptability had started with Hiroshima.
A firm line against using nuclear weapons had been drawn—in the sand. The United
States, in fact, had threatened to use nuclear weapons during the Cuban missile
crisis and on other occasions.

On September 12, 1967, the Air Force transferred the Japanese footage to the
National Archives Audio Visual Branch in Washington, with the film “not to be
released without approval of DOD (Department of Defense).”

Then, one morning in the summer of 1968, Erik Barnouw, author of landmark
histories of film and broadcasting, opened his mail to discover a clipping from
a Tokyo newspaper sent by a friend. It indicated that the US had finally shipped
to Japan a copy of black and white newsreel footage shot in Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. The Japanese had negotiated with the State Department for its return.
From the Pentagon, Barnouw learned in 1968 that the original nitrate film had
been quietly turned over to the National Archives, so he went to take a
look.

Attempting to create a subtle, quiet, even poetic, black and white film, he
and his associates cut it from 160 to sixteen minutes, with a montage of human
effects clustered near the end for impact. “Hiroshima-Nagasaki 1945” proved to
be a sketchy but quite moving document of the aftermath of the bombing, captured
in grainy but often startling black and white images: shadows of objects or
people burned into walls, ruins of schools, miles of razed landscape viewed from
the roof of a building.

In the weeks ahead, however, none of the (then) three TV networks expressed
interest in airing it. “Only NBC thought it might use the film,” Barnouw later
wrote, “if it could find a ‘news hook.’ We dared not speculate what kind of
event this might call for.” But then an article appeared
in Parade magazine, and an editorial in the Boston
Globe
blasted the networks, saying that everyone in the country should see
this film:

This at last pushed public television into the void. What was then called
National Educational Television (NET) agreed to show the documentary on August
3, 1970, to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the dropping of the
bomb.

The American Footage Comes Out

About a decade later, by pure chance, Herb Sussan would spark the
emergence of the American footage
, ending its decades in the dark.

In the mid-1970s, Japanese antinuclear activists, led by a Tokyo teacher
named Tsutomu Iwakura, discovered that few pictures of the aftermath of the
atomic bombings existed in their country. Many had been seized by the US
military after the war, they learned, and taken out of Japan. The Japanese had
as little visual exposure to the true effects of the bomb as most Americans.
Activists managed to track down hundreds of pictures in archives and private
collections and published them in a popular book. In 1979 they mounted an
exhibit at the United Nations in New York.

There, by chance, Iwakura met Sussan, who told him about the US military
footage.

Iwakura made a few calls and found that the color footage, recently
declassified, might be at the National Archives. A trip to Washington, DC,
verified this. He found eighty reels of film. About one-fifth of the footage
covered the atomic cities. According to a shot list, reel #11010 included, for
example: “School, deaf and dumb, blast effect, damaged Commercial school
demolished School, engineering, demolished.School, Shirayama elementary,
demolished, blast effect Tenements, demolished.”

The film had been quietly declassified a few years earlier, but no one in the
outside world knew it. An archivist there told me at the time, “If no one knows
about the film to ask for it, it’s as closed as when it was classified.”

Eventually 200,000 Japanese citizens contributed half a million dollars and
Iwakura was able to buy the film. He then traveled around Japan filming
survivors who had posed for Sussan and McGovern in 1946. Iwakura quickly
completed a documentary called Prophecy and in late spring 1982
arranged for a New York premiere.

Later a small part of the McGovern/Sussan footage turned up for the first
time in an American film, one of the sensations of the New York Film Festival,
called Dark Circle. Its co-director, Chris Beaver, told me, “No wonder
the government didn’t want us to see it. I think they didn’t want Americans to
see themselves in that picture. It’s one thing to know about that and another
thing to see it.”

Despite this exposure, not a single story had yet appeared in an American
newspaper about the shooting of the footage, its suppression or release. And
Sussan was now ill with a form of lymphoma doctors had found in soldiers exposed
to radiation in atomic tests during the 1950s—or in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Still, the question of precisely why the footage remained secret for so long
lingered. But McGovern told me, “The main reason it was classified was because
of the horror, the devastation. The medical effects were pretty gory. The
attitude was: do not show any medical effects. Don’t make people sick.”

But who was behind this? “I always had the sense,” McGovern answered, “that
people in the AEC were sorry they had dropped the bomb. The Air Force—it was
also sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn’t want those
images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child. But the AEC,
they were the ones that stopped it from coming out. They had power of God over
everybody. If it had anything to do with nukes, they had to see it. They were
the ones who destroyed a lot of film and pictures of the first US nuclear tests
after the war.”

As Dark Circle director Chris Beaver had said, “With the government
trying to sell the public on a new civil defense program and Reagan arguing that
a nuclear war is survivable, this footage could be awfully bad
publicity.”

Today

In the summer of 1984, I made my own pilgrimage to the atomic cities, to walk
in the footsteps of Dan McGovern and Herb Sussan, and meet some of the people
they filmed in 1946. (The month-long grant was arranged by the current mayor of
Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba. My new book has a lengthy
chapter describing what it’s like to be in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to
intervieww survivors.) By then, the McGovern/ Sussan footage had turned up in
several new documentaries. On September 2, 1985, however, Herb Sussan passed
away. His final request to his children: Would they scatter his ashes at ground
zero in Hiroshima?

In the mid-1990s, researching Hiroshima in America, a book I would
write with Robert Jay Lifton, I discovered the deeper context for suppression of
the US Army film: it was part of a broad effort to suppress a wide range of
material related to the atomic bombings, including photographs, newspaper
reports on radiation effects, information about the decision to drop the bomb,
even a Hollywood movie.

Then, in 2003, as chief adviser to a documentary film, Original Child
Bomb
, I urged director Carey Schonegevel to draw on the atomic footage as
much as possible. Original Child Bomb went on to debut at the 2004
Tribeca Film Festival, win the top Silverdocs award, and debut on the Sundance
cable channel. After sixty years at least a small portion of that footage
reached part of the American public in the unflinching and powerful form its
creators intended.

Americans who saw were finally able to fully judge for themselves what
McGovern and Sussan were trying to accomplish in shooting the film, why the
authorities felt they had to suppress it, and what impact their footage, if
widely aired, might have had on the nuclear arms race—and the nuclear
proliferation that plagues, and endangers, us today. But only small parts of the
movie have been used (see the video below), only a small number of Americans
have seen any of it. A major documentary on the footage, and the suppression,
should still be made.

 

Greg Mitchell is the former editor of Editor &
Publisher and author of nine books

Are Presidents Afraid of the CIA? December 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, History.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Published on Tuesday, December 29, 2009 by CommonDreams.orgby Ray McGovern

In the past I have alluded to Panetta and the Seven Dwarfs.  The reference is to CIA Director Leon Panetta and seven of his moral-dwarf predecessors-the ones who sent President Barack Obama a letter on Sept. 18 asking him to “reverse Attorney General Holder’s August 24 decision to re-open the criminal investigation of CIA interrogations.”

Panetta reportedly was also dead set against reopening the investigation-as he was against release of the Justice Department’s “torture memoranda” of 2002, as he has been against releasing pretty much anything at all-the President’s pledges of a new era of openness, notwithstanding.  Panetta is even older than I, and I am aware that hearing is among the first faculties to fail.  Perhaps he heard “error” when the President said “era.”

As for the benighted seven, they are more to be pitied than scorned.  No longer able to avail themselves of the services of clever Agency lawyers and wordsmiths, they put their names to a letter that reeked of self-interest-not to mention the inappropriateness of asking a President to interfere with an investigation already ordered by the Attorney General.

Three of the seven-George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden-were themselves involved, in one way or another, in planning, conducting, or covering up all manner of illegal actions, including torture, assassination, and illegal eavesdropping.  In this light, the most transparent part of the letter may be the sentence in which they worry: “There is no reason to expect that the re-opened criminal investigation will remain narrowly focused.”

When asked about the letter on the Sunday TV talk shows on Sept. 20, Obama was careful always to respond first by expressing obligatory “respect” for the CIA and its directors.  With Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation, though, Obama did allow himself a condescending quip.  He commented, “I appreciate the former CIA directors wanting to look out for an institution that they helped to build.”

That quip was, sadly, the exception to the rule.  While Obama keeps repeating the mantra that “nobody is above the law,” there is no real sign that he intends to face down Panetta and the Seven Dwarfs-no sign that anyone has breathed new life into federal prosecutor John Durham, to whom Holder gave the mandate for further “preliminary investigation.”  What is generally forgotten is that it was former Attorney General Michael Mukasey who picked Durham two years ago to investigate CIA’s destruction of 91 tapes of the interrogation of “high-value detainees.”

Durham had scarcely been heard from when Holder added to Durham’s job-jar the task of conducting a preliminary investigation regarding the CIA torture specialists.  These are the ones whose zeal led them to go beyond the already highly permissive Department of Justice guidelines for “harsh interrogation.”

Durham, clearly, is proceeding with all deliberate speed (emphasis on “deliberate”).  Someone has even suggested-I trust, in jest-that he has been diverted to the search for the money and other assets that Bernie Maddow stashed away.

In any case, do not hold your breath for findings from Durham anytime soon.  Holder appears in no hurry.  And President Obama keeps giving off signals that he is afraid of getting crosswise with the CIA-that’s right, afraid.

Not Just Paranoia

In that fear, President Obama stands in the tradition of a dozen American presidents.  Harry Truman and John Kennedy were the only ones to take on the CIA directly.  Worst of all, evidence continues to build that the CIA was responsible, at least in part, for the assassination of President Kennedy.  Evidence new to me came in response to things I included in my article of Dec. 22, “Break the CIA in Two.”

What follows can be considered a sequel that is based on the kind of documentary evidence after which intelligence analysts positively lust.

Unfortunately for the CIA operatives who were involved in the past activities outlined below, the temptation to ask Panetta to put a SECRET stamp on the documentary evidence will not work.  Nothing short of torching the Truman Library might conceivably help.  But even that would be a largely feckless “covert action,” copy machines having long since done their thing.

In my article of Dec. 22, I referred to Harry Truman’s op-ed of exactly 46 years before, titled “Limit CIA Role to Intelligence,” in which the former President expressed dismay at what the Central Intelligence Agency had become just 16 years after he and Congress created it.

The Washington Post published the op-ed on December 22, 1963 in its early edition, but immediately excised it from later editions.  Other media ignored it.  The long hand of the CIA?

Truman wrote that he was “disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment” to keep the President promptly and fully informed and had become “an operational and at times policy-making arm of the government.”

The Truman Papers

Documents in the Truman Library show that nine days after Kennedy was assassinated, Truman sketched out in handwritten notes what he wanted to say in the op-ed.  He noted, among other things, that the CIA had worked as he intended only “when I had control.”

In Truman’s view, misuse of the CIA began in February 1953, when his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, named Allen Dulles CIA Director.  Dulles’ forte was overthrowing governments (in current parlance, “regime change”), and he was quite good at it.  With coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) under his belt, Dulles was riding high in the late Fifties and moved Cuba to the top of his to-do list.

Accustomed to the carte blanche given him by Eisenhower, Dulles was offended when young President Kennedy came on the scene and had the temerity to ask questions about the Bay of Pigs adventure, which had been set in motion under Eisenhower.  When Kennedy made it clear he would NOT approve the use of U.S. combat forces, Dulles reacted with disdain and set out to mousetrap the new President.

Coffee-stained notes handwritten by Allen Dulles were discovered after his death and reported by historian Lucien S. Vandenbroucke.  They show how Dulles drew Kennedy into a plan that was virtually certain to require the use of U.S. combat forces.  In his notes Dulles explains that, “when the chips were down,” the new President would be forced by “the realities of the situation” to give whatever military support was necessary “rather than permit the enterprise to fail.”

Additional detail came from a March 2001 conference on the Bay of Pigs, which included CIA operatives, retired military commanders, scholars, and journalists.  Daniel Schorr told National Public Radio that he had gained one new perception as a result of the “many hours of talk and heaps of declassified secret documents:”

“It was that the CIA overlords of the invasion, Director Allen Dulles and Deputy Richard Bissell had their own plan on how to bring the United States into the conflict…What they expected was that the invaders would establish a beachhead…and appeal for aid from the United States…

“The assumption was that President Kennedy, who had emphatically banned direct American involvement, would be forced by public opinion to come to the aid of the returning patriots.  American forces, probably Marines, would come in to expand the beachhead.

“In fact, President Kennedy was the target of a CIA covert operation that collapsed when the invasion collapsed,” added Schorr.

The “enterprise” which Dulles said could not fail was, of course, the overthrow of Fidel Castro.  After mounting several failed operations to assassinate him, this time Dulles meant to get his man, with little or no attention to what the Russians might do in reaction.  Kennedy stuck to his guns, so to speak; fired Dulles and his co-conspirators a few months after the abortive invasion in April 1961; and told a friend that he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds.”

The outrage was mutual, and when Kennedy himself was assassinated on November 22, 1963, it must have occurred to Truman that the disgraced Dulles and his outraged associates might not be above conspiring to get rid of a President they felt was soft on Communism-and, incidentally, get even.

In his op-ed of December 22, 1963 Truman warned:  “The most important thing…was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions.”  It is a safe bet that Truman had the Bay of Pigs fiasco uppermost in mind.

Truman called outright for CIA’s operational duties [to] be terminated or properly used elsewhere.”  (This is as good a recommendation now as it was then, in my view.)

On December 27, retired Admiral Sidney Souers, whom Truman had appointed to lead his first central intelligence group, sent a “Dear Boss” letter applauding Truman’s outspokenness and blaming Dulles for making the CIA “a different animal than I tried to set up for you.”  Souers specifically lambasted the attempt “to conduct a ‘war’ invading Cuba with a handful of men and without air cover.”

Souers also lamented the fact that the agency’s “principal effort” had evolved into causing “revolutions in smaller countries around the globe,” and added:

With so much emphasis on operations, it would not surprise me to find that the matter of collecting and processing intelligence has suffered some.”

Clearly, CIA’s operational tail was wagging the substantive dog-a serious problem that persists to this day.  For example, CIA analysts are super-busy supporting operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan; no one seems to have told them that they need to hazard a guess as to where this is all leading and whether it makes any sense.

That is traditionally done in a National Intelligence Estimate.  Can you believe there at this late date there is still no such Estimate?  Instead, the President has chosen to rely on he advice of Gen. David Petraeus, who many believe will be Obama’s opponent in the 2012 presidential election.

Fox Guarding Henhouse?

In any case, the well-connected Dulles got himself appointed to the Warren Commission and took the lead in shaping the investigation of JFK’s assassination.  Documents in the Truman Library show that he then mounted a targeted domestic covert action of his own to neutralize any future airing of Truman’s and Souers’ warnings about covert action.

So important was this to Dulles that he invented a pretext to get himself invited to visit Truman in Independence, Missouri.  On the afternoon of April 17, 1964 he spent a half-hour trying to get the former President to retract what he had said in his op-ed.  No dice, said Truman.

No problem, thought Dulles.  Four days later, in a formal memo for his old buddy Lawrence Houston, CIA General Counsel from 1947 to 1973, Dulles fabricated a private retraction, claiming that Truman told him the Washington Post article was “all wrong,” and that Truman “seemed quite astounded at it.”

No doubt Dulles thought it might be handy to have such a memo in CIA files, just in case.

A fabricated retraction?  It certainly seems so, because Truman did not change his tune.  Far from it.  In a June 10, 1964 letter to the managing editor of Look magazine, for example, Truman restated his critique of covert action, emphasizing that he never intended the CIA to get involved in “strange activities.”

Dulles and Dallas

Dulles could hardly have expected to get Truman to recant publicly.  So why was it so important for Dulles to place in CIA files a fabricated retraction.  My guess is that in early 1964 he was feeling a good bit of heat from those suggesting the CIA might have been involved somehow in the Kennedy assassination.  Indeed, one or two not-yet-intimidated columnists were daring to ask how the truth could ever come out with Allen Dulles on the Warren Commission.  Prescient.

Dulles feared, rightly, that Truman’s limited-edition op-ed might yet get some ink, and perhaps even airtime, and raise serious questions about covert action.  Dulles would have wanted to be in position to flash the Truman “retraction,” with the hope that this would nip any serious questioning in the bud.  The media had already shown how co-opted-er, I mean “cooperative”-it could be.

As the de facto head of the Warren Commission, Dulles was perfectly positioned to exculpate himself and any of his associates, were any commissioners or investigators-or journalists-tempted to question whether the killing in Dallas might have been a CIA covert action.

Did Allen Dulles and other “cloak-and-dagger” CIA operatives have a hand in killing President Kennedy and then covering it up?  The most up-to-date-and, in my view, the best-dissection of the assassination appeared last year in James Douglass’ book, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.  After updating and arraying the abundant evidence, and conducting still more interviews, Douglass concludes the answer is Yes.

This article first appeared on Consortiumnews.com.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). 

U.S. Threat to Atom Bomb North Korea Never Forgotten May 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, History, North/South Korea, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Jay Janson

www.opednews.com, May 27, 2009

North Korea again in the news.

Ominously, President Obama has promised “action” after denouncing North Korea’s underground nuclear explosion on May 26th. This follows Obama’s recent successful call for increased UN sanctions after North Korea’s space rocket launch – which apparently sent the wrong message with counterproductive effect – that is, unless Obama wanted North Korea to feel threatened. 

Scary, because it should be of frighteningly serious concern that yet another nation comes to have nuclear weapon technology that could possibly be transferred to, or fall in the hands of terrorists seeking homicidal vengeance for the America,s predatory hegemony over the poorer and vulnerable nations of the world.

Where is this new diplomacy of open communication with enemy nations the electorate was promised and commercial media keeps announcing?

Shall we not best ponder whether the North Korean insistence that its tests of weaponry are intended  enhance its defensive strength in the face of US threats could be based on its perception of reality.

On November 30, 1950, President Truman at a press conference, remarked that the use of the atomic bomb was under active consideration. Koreans heard this as menacingly foreboding apocalypse, for U.S. forces were in retreat and had suffered some serious losses subsequent to China sending ‘volunteer’ forces to help the North Koreans defend as U.S. forces neared the Chinese border some 45 days earlier.

Originally, the civil war had been over, the North having won quickly and easily when the U.S. invaded, subsequently punishing Korea with millions of casualties.

North Korea was bombed to rubble by the U.S. which also leveled almost every town in South Korea to prevent the overthrow of the U.S. sponsored Rhee dictatorship (Rhee was forced to flee the country a few years after the war anyway).

The period immediately before the war was marked by escalating border conflicts at the 38th Parallel and attempts to negotiate elections for the entirety of Korea. The years befpre had seen rebellions in the South, one occasioning a terrible massacre of 30,000 on Cheju Island far off the southern tip of South Korea, under U.S. occupation.  Koreans, both North and South, are well aware of this turbulent history that predates the North’s successful invasion

Not many years ago, the president of a civilian government in South
Korea apologized to its people for the massacres that happened there even years after the U.S. ‘police action’ was over.

The Clinton administration expressed regret to Koreans for the massacres of civilians by U.S. troops, which South Koreans were finally permitted to talk about.

But no American president has seen fit to apologize for similar massacres which occurred as the US conquered North Korea.  The United States apologizing to an announced ‘enemy’ in today’s climate of empire would be unheard of, especially within conglomerate owned war promoting media.  After all, whatever damage done to an designated enemy must be advantageous. Our United States is not about to apologize for what we did to Korea or any other country even before it was designated an enemy. President Wilson signed on to the Japanese occupation of Korea and Truman’s divided Korea in two, once the Japanese surrendered.

Heartlessly, most political leaders in the world dominating industrialized nations insist that the death a couple of million Koreans was worth preventing a unified Korea under communist government. Communist Russia eventually evaporated, and communist, in name only, China and Vietnam are now welcomed trading partners. A permitted communist Korea might have just as likely evolved into an acceptable near capitalist society as well.

North Koreans have the memory of the most brutal of bombings, protracted war, the U.S.  invasion which included UN documented massacres, the further devastation incurred in expelling the U.S. Army and Navy with the aid of the Chinese, plus threats of atomic bombing and terrifying cautions and warnings  of U.S. bacteriological warfare.

North Koreans, have also experienced terrible suffering during the postwar rebuilding of their scorched land while under duress of strict U.S. sanctions. Progressives in the West attribute some of the responsibility for the severity of the government in the North, and the lack of freedom of its people, to the effects of the merciless and vindictive foreign policy of the U.S., which has kept tens of thousands of troops near its border all these years, while decrying the North’s massive buildup of its military.

 Of course all this is justified in U.S. commercial media with an American shrug of the shoulders and, ‘The North attacked the South first,’ and the North was a communist dictatorship.  It still is, but a lot more intense about the strength of its military.

Russia and China are for finding a solution in the six party negotiations. Obama is again for increasing punishment, while  certainly knowing that this is merely heating up the confrontation between the  massive American Empire and a diminutive, by comparison, North  Korea, once pulverized by U.S. air power.

Seems like candidate Obama’s promise of talking to one’s ‘enemies’ is being replaced by threats and punishments, rather openly in the case of North Korea,  and Iran, while setting stern preconditions for lifting the economic blockade on Cuba.

North Korea is going to a lot of expense to acquire nuclear capability. Is it possible that America has fueled this paranoid impulse with its past threat to nuke North Korea, and its subsequent efforts to isolate and vilify its government as Evil.

Note: For further background on North Korea’s perhaps understandable fears or dangerous paranoia see articles below:
   
More than 100,000 massacred by allies during Korean War, Telegraph Co.,UK, by Richard Spencer in Seoul, 29 Dec 2008
“More than 100,000 South Korean civilians were massacred by allied troops fighting alongside Britain and the US in the Korean War, an official investigation has revealed.

Obama Calls on U.N. to Punish North Korea Over Rocket, but WHO PUNISHES THE U.S.?  April 6, 2009, OpEdNews
Commercial media feeding frenzy on the space missile launch by North Korea at the same time whipping up fear of Iran. Obama has harsh words for North Korea, as earlier for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Venezuela and Iran, which received a kind invite to talk mixed in with such severe public criticism as to make the invitation unacceptable. So far, Obama, both as president and as commander-in-chief belies change to serious diplomacy.

April 17, 2009, OpEdNew

On the Need for Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in America

“In 2005, in keeping with its maturation as a constitutional democracy, the South Korean National Assembly established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to seek to “reveal the truth behind civilian massacres during the Korean War and human rights abuses during the [South Korean] authoritarian period and recent evidence of U.S. and South Korean responsibility for the massacre of civilians before and during the Korean War.”

Feb. 27, 2008, OpEdNews
NY Phil Plays in a Korea Once Destroyed by U.S. Invasion, Flattened by U.S. Bombers
“Beautiful telecast. Koreans interviewed spoke of avowed resolve to protect their country,they knew Americans were their enemies, spoke softly, politely, with calm pleasant countenance. Americans can go on thinking they were good guys doing good. But they might like to remember that ‘good’ was done in Korea, to Koreans, all of whom were not in agreement that it was for their own good. Picasso’s Cheju Massacre Painting sobering”

No One’s Falling for Big Health’s Bogus Promise to “Reform” May 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted May 13, 2009.

Corporate Dems are fawning over the industry’s “promise” to hold down costs. A broad progressive coalition is pushing for a real solution.This week, the health care lobby scored a cunning propaganda victory by feigning interest in fixing the perennial rip-off we call a health care system.

With much fanfare, Big Health trotted out a six-month old “promise” — a toothless, non-binding pledge lacking any specifics — to make various nips and tucks that would slow the rate at which health costs grow to “only” 4.7 percent annually. It was hailed by the Obama administration and many observers as a breakthrough in the battle for reform.

Until recently, the health care industry has been dead-set on preserving a disastrous but profitable status quo (The U.S. spends close to twice as much per person on care than other wealthy countries, and gets consistently poorer results; among residents of 30 rich countries polled by Gallup, Americans came in 18th in terms of satisfaction with their care). But now the “disease care” industry is portraying itself as an agent of change. Fearful of a growing movement towards real, substantive reform, it’s trying to co-opt the process under the guise of “getting a seat at the table.” That they’ve given up, for now, their oppositional stance is what has so many tongues wagging about the significance of the proposal.

But it’s nothing new — “voluntary” codes  of conduct, self-regulation and industry-driven initiatives for the private sector to address complex policy issues have long been a standard tactic for heading off real regulation and deeper systemic reforms. The Brookings’ Institution’s Henry Aaron, a former official in the Carter administration told the New York Times that when he heard of the proposal, “I had a Rip van Winkle moment, as if I had fallen asleep in 1977 and woke up again this morning.” According to the Times, Carter’s pledge to do something about out-of-control health care costs “prompted the industry to undertake a short-lived ‘voluntary effort.’” The growth of health care costs also slowed briefly after Bill Clinton’s failed attempt to fix the system.

But while the industry’s proposal is light on substance, it is a game-changer to some degree. Instead of simply opposing reform, which is a more dangerous proposition today — with 47 million uninsured and health care eating up 17 percent of the country’s economic output — than it was when Clinton mounted his fight, Big Health is trying to kill the most important and progressive elements of Obama’s promised reforms from the inside — from its “seat at the table.”

But while health lobbyists are trying to maintain the industry’s grip on trillions of dollars of business, Health Care for America Now, a broad coalition of groups including ACORN, the AFL-CIO, Campaign for America’s Future and MoveOn.org, is fighting for the inclusion of a public-insurance option that would add to the current mix of employer-based insurance and government programs for the needy — one of the centerpieces of Obama’s health care proposals during the campaign. According to The Hill, “Organizers believe their efforts will pressure centrist Democrats and Republicans to line up behind Obama’s health care proposal, which calls for all Americans to have the choice of a public insurance plan.”  This week, the group launched a series of ads targeting wishy-washy Dems by name.

The Public Option 

The creation of a public health insurance option is what the insurance industry fears most. The idea is to allow businesses and individuals to continue purchasing coverage from private insurance companies if they desire, while also establishing a public insurance program modeled on Medicare as an alternative. The government would subsidize the premiums paid by low-income families, but anyone could buy in. “Choice” is the key word.

With a very large pool of insured, a greater emphasis on prevention and a reduction in paperwork and administrative costs, advocates contend that the public option would prove more attractive for most employers and families, and its membership would grow, leading in turn to greater cost reductions. Eventually, gradually, most people would switch from private health insurance, and we would end up with a national insurance plan. 

The idea of creating a choice of a public-insurance plan is a bit of political jujitsu intended to get the U.S. to something approaching a single-payer system incrementally and without taking on the powerful insurance lobby head-on (Over the past 10 years, the insurance industry has ranked second in dollars spent lobbying Congress and the White House. The top spot is held by the pharmaceutical-and-health-products industry. Big insurance is one of the most influential lobbies in Washington, and it has trillions of dollars at stake in the health care battle.)

Although the proposals put forth during the primaries by presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton differed in the specifics, both had a public-insurance option at their hearts; it was one of the promises that helped get Democrats elected. And this is where the fight will be — a coalition of “free-market” advocates led by the Heritage Foundation put a public insurance option at the top of its list of six health care “deal-killers.” And all of the health care lobbyists behind this week’s “proposal” have signalled their intention to fight against the inclusion of a public health option. Again, from the inside.

On the outside, we can look forward to the corporate-right’s network of media outlets, think tanks and PR firms calling any substantive reform “socialism.” The New York Times reported that Rick Scott, a veteran of the Bill Clinton-era health care fight whom the Times describes as a “conservative investor willing to spend freely on a political cause,” started a group called “Conservatives for Patients Rights,” which has already launched a multimillion-dollar campaign attacking the Obama administration on health care before the White House even endorsed any specific legislation.

Scott is a controversial figure; the former CEO of Columbia/HCA, then the world’s largest health care company, was “ousted by his own board of directors in 1997 amid the nation’s biggest health care fraud scandal.” According to the Times, Scott’s new group hired the right-wing PR firm behind the “Swift Boat” attacks on Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in 2004 to scare the public about the “perils of socialized medicine.” 

The ideological stakes in the fight are high and go far beyond the bottom line of the insurance industry.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Peter Wehner, a former deputy in the George W. Bush administration, argued that a public option would make the conservatives’ one-size-fits-all economic policy — tax cuts — more difficult to enact.

“Once a large number of citizens get their health care from the state, it dramatically alters their attachment to government,” they wrote. “Every time a tax cut is proposed, the guardians of the new medical-welfare state will argue that tax cuts would come at the expense of health care — an argument that would resonate with middle-class families entirely dependent on the government for access to doctors and hospitals.”

Wavering Dems

The Obama administration insists that it is still intent on including a public option in thelegislation expected to make its way through Congress this year. But in recent weeks, key Senate Democrats, including Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana,  “Blue Dog” Ben Nelson of Nebraska and party newcomer Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania have signaled they would likely oppose the inclusion of a public-insurance option as part of a sweeping overhaul of our health care system. 

That’s why the importance of a broad grassroots movement pushing Democrats to stand up to the insurance industry can’t be overstated. The momentum is there. According to research cited by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake (PDF), 70 percent of Americans — including almost 2 out of 3 Republicans — want major reforms, with the choice of a public insurance plan open to everyone added to the current mix of Medicare, Medicaid and  private insurers.

But while the public overwhelmingly favors the public option now, history suggests that the insurance industry’s ability to shape the debate can’t be underestimated. The Christian Science Monitor noted, “when President Clinton first outlined his Health Security Plan, more than two-thirds of Americans initially supported the idea. Then the health insurance industry launched a massive advertising campaign opposing the plan. Within a year, support had plummeted, along with any chance of health care reform.”

When Harry Truman proposed a national health insurance plan in 1945, 75 percent of Americans favored it, but again, says the Monitor, “after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and medical groups attacked the plan as ‘socialized medicine,’ support sank” to almost nothing. 

If ordinary people don’t get engaged at the grassroots level and push for a public-insurance choice, then anything approaching real health care reform will likely face a similar fate. But with significant pressure on members of Congress and the Obama administration to challenge the status quo, we might just be able to avert a looming public policy disaster.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.

Obama’s War on Labor April 6, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Barack Obama, Labor.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Stephen Lendman

www.opednews.com, April 6, 2009

Voters expecting change keep getting rude reminders of what kind, none they can believe in reiterated again on March 30 in Obama’s remarks to the auto giants. While stating “We cannot….must not (and) will not let (this) industry vanish,” he laid down a clear marker. Labor, not business, is targeted. More on that below.

“We (won’t) excuse poor decisions,” he said. “We cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of taxpayer dollars.” In rejecting their aid request, he added: “These companies – and this industry – must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state….What we are asking is difficult. It will require hard choices by the companies. (Their plan doesn’t go) far enough to warrant the substantial new investments these companies are requesting.”

Imagine the hypocrisy – open-checkbook trillions for Wall Street criminals v. a thinly disguised war on organized labor by scolding the auto giants for not forcing their workers to make greater sacrifices.

They’re needed, said Obama. Their “best chance for success” is a “surgical” bankruptcy lasting for as little as 30 days – meaning workers will lose everything while CEOs get seven-figure compensation for betraying them.

A March 31 New York Times Michael de la Merced/Johathan Glater article suggested that Washington may seek a “controlled” bankruptcy – somewhere between “prepackaged (and) court chaos by persuading creditors to agree” to divide GM in two pieces, sort of like a good and bad bank to create a healthier company, free of its troubled assets and liabilities.

Under the plan, GM would declare a prearranged bankruptcy. Then, the bankruptcy code’s Section 363 would authorize selling off desirable assets to a new government-financed company. Details are being discussed so it looks like a done deal, either prepackaged or through a bankruptcy court, either way very worker-adverse with UAW bosses pressured to go along, take it or leave it.

The administration also decided Chrysler can’t survive alone. It was given 30 days to ally with Fiat SpA or with another automaker if that fails, even though such a deal may combine two dogs into a bigger one with even greater problems than going it on their own.

Obama drew a line in the sand for “workers who have already made painful concessions to make even more” through additional restructuring sacrifices, including:

– permanent job losses;

– lower wages;

– gutted work rules, including health and safety protection on the job;

– forfeited security through lost benefits and pensions, including for retirees, on top of everything given up in fall 2007 negotiations when the UAW leadership surrendered to management, then muscled the rank and file to go along; and

– more sacrifices the Bush $25 billion bailout demanded, unreported in the mainstream: banned GM and Chrysler strikes, meaning effectively on the big three; more wage and benefits cuts; ending the UAW’s “jobs bank” that provided help to furloughed workers and more.

It’s a dark age for US auto workers and a prelude for what’s coming – compared to earlier times when they earned substantial wages, got cost of living and productivity increases, and had impressive benefits, including medical coverage with defined extras, employer-funded pensions, improved safety and health benefits, paid vacations, and supplemental unemployment insurance guaranteeing up to 95% of pay if laid off.

Replacing them was a two-tiered wage and benefit package with new skilled hires getting little more half the previous arrangement and for a new non-core category even less.

Much more was lost as well:

– plant closures resulting in permanent job losses; for GM alone it meant 85% fewer production jobs than in 1990 over a period when high-paying manufacturing ones disappeared, offshored, or were replaced by machines;

– for new hires, an ill-conceived 401k arrangement replacing employer-paid pensions with one dollar invested in company stock for each hour worked that turned out to be worthless two years later as the companies head for bankruptcy;

– major health care concessions under a union-run VEBA (voluntary employee beneficiary association) putting UAW bosses in the healthcare business for potential big profits at the expense reduced worker benefits and companies relieved of their obligations after putting up an initially-funded amount;

– employee buyouts, early retirements and other downsizing efforts to replace high-wage workers with cheaper new ones; and

– Chrysler workers getting even less overall than their GM and Ford counterparts.

A final coup de grace is planned with disturbing implications for all workers – after decades of hard won gains. The UAW alone lost almost one million jobs from 1979 through 2007 (from 1.5 million to about 512,000). At yearend 2008, membership stood at 431,000, and tens of thousands more may now go given industry conditions and administration demands. In addition, more major concessions are coming through the back door – by a prepackaged bankruptcy or court-appointed judge to relieve Obama of responsibility.

If GM and/or Chrysler go down either way, prearrangers or the court will do the honors. The current union contract will be replaced by new demands, meaning 60 years of gains will be lost with the stroke of a pen, and no negotiations can mitigate them. It gets worse.

Whatever’s decided will be a model for all industry. The idea isn’t to end unions, just neutralize them, then leave workers out in the cold with poor wages, few if any benefits, self-funded only retirement plans if any, and other management-demanded concessions in a new dark age for labor heading it back to its earliest days when all gains gotten were hard won and few achieved until the mid-1930s under the Wagner Act.

Labor always struggled and learned the hard way that winning meant organizing, pressing their demands, taking to the streets, going on strike, holding boycotts, battling police and National Guard forces supporting management, and paying with their blood and lives to get results.

They were impressive – an eight-hour day, a living wage, generous increases, good benefits, and pensions because strong unions went head-to-head with management and won. It’s world’s different today with government in bed with business, Democrats as bad as Republicans, weak unions under corrupted bosses, millions of high-paying jobs already lost, and a global economic crisis stripping workers of all bargaining power and heading them for sweatshop serfdom under a leader even more anti-labor than his predecessor.

He appointed an auto task force (headed by Tim Geithner and Larry Summers) to be judge, jury and executioner, then let them (quietly) or a bankruptcy judge pull the switch to absolve him of responsibility, be able to declare victory, and apply the same terms across industry as every sector struggles to survive, the result of a Washington/Wall Street-created crisis.

Their scheme is to:

– crush world economies;

– recapitalize the IMF to entrap developing ones in perpetual debt bondage, neo-feudalism, a virtual dystopia;

– structurally adjust their populations to a living hell – impoverishment through “shock therapy” loss of employment, essential benefits, and democratic freedoms;

– tank financial markets;

– destroy competitors;

– use trillions of taxpayer dollars to consolidate the FIRE sector (finance, insurance and real estate);

– buy other assets on the cheap;

– toxic ones from each other, mostly with public money paying the cost and assuming the risk;

– declare war on labor; and

– force companies to downsize, then strip workers of their rights and futures.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are next to supply more funds for Wall Street, selected corporate favorites, and generous amounts for military adventurism, global imperialism, and a homeland police state apparatus to quell restive opposition when it erupts. Obama’s promised change is betrayal of the constituency that elected him. Looking ahead, things appear very grim.

Promised Hope from the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)

EFCA legislation was first introduced on November 21, 2003 in the 108th Congress as S. 1925 (with 37 co-sponsors) to: “amend the 1935 National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes.” It was referred to the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee but never passed.

It was reintroduced on April 19, 2005 in the 109th Congress as HR 1696 (with 215 co-sponsors) for the same purpose. It got as far as the Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee but not passed.

It was again introduced on March 1, 2007 in the 110th Congress as HR 800 for the same purpose. It easily passed in the House (241 – 185), then was blocked in the Senate when supporters couldn’t get the required 60 votes to end debate and bring it to a vote.

On March 10, the 111th Congress revived it for the fourth time as S. 560 (with 39 co-sponsors), again for the same purpose. It’s been read twice and referred to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee where it’s pending.

Facts about EFCA

Change to Win aims “to unite the 50 million workers whose jobs cannot be outsourced and who are vital to the global economy. (It represents) seven unions and six million workers united….to build a new movement of working people to meet the challenges of the global economy and restore the American Dream (for) a paycheck that supports a family, universal health care, a secure retirement, and the freedom to form a union to give workers a voice on the job.” It strongly backs EFCA and states:

“EFCA respects that the right to join a union is a fundamental freedom, just like freedom of speech or religion, and that employees should be able to do so without interference from management (or government).”

If enacted, it will change federal law for the better at a time worker rights are in tatters. Overall, it would be a boon for organizing with a free and fair “card check” system under which workers merely sign them in support of a union. They may do it openly or in secret, their choice free of company coercion or intimidation. If a majority do, companies must recognize it. Unlike current rules, they presumably can’t veto the decision, coerce or bribe employees to vote “no,” or fire those who do.

Current law requires good faith bargaining. But it’s eroded to near worthlessness and become a mere shadow of the landmark Wagner Act. It guaranteed workers the right:

“to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.” In other words, it leveled the playing field to let workers bargain on equal terms with management, but never easily.

From the start, its provisions were attacked, then severely restricted under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. In the “national interest,” it lets presidents stop strikes by court-ordered injunctions for 80 days, and it’s been done numerous times, 10 alone by Harry Truman who opposed the law but used it against labor.

It also allows stiff penalties for union violations but minimal ones for companies. It enacted a list of “unfair (union) practices prohibiting jurisdictional strikes (relating to worker job assignments), secondary boycotts (against firms doing business with others struck), wildcat strikes, sit-downs, slow-downs, mass-picketing against scabs, closed shops (in which employees must join unions), and more while legalizing employer anti-organizing interventions.

It eroded worker power that continues to this day. It’s so weak that employers can (illegally) fire union sympathizers with only minor fines if proved. They can fire workers for any reason or none at all, and, of course, offshore high-paid jobs, freely move to low-wage “right-to-work” law states that restrict organizing under Taft-Hartley, and use those threats to extract more concessions from unions, easily intimidated or coerced to go along.

The result is that union membership declined steadily from the 1950s, and since the 1970s, worker wages and benefits have eroded under rigged market-based rules against them.

EFCA aims to restore labor rights affirmed by the Supreme Court in decisions like Virginian Railway Co. v. Railway Employees (March 29, 1937) when it ruled that “employees (have) the right to organize and bargain collectively through a representative of their own selection, doing away with company interference and ‘company union.’ “

It reaffirmed the right in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation (April 12, 1937) by ruling: “the corporation (engaged in unfair labor practices by) discriminating against members of the union with regard to hire and tenure of employment, and was coercing and intimidating its employees in order to interfere with their self-organization.”

It added that:

“Employees have as clear a right to organize and select their representatives for lawful purposes as the respondent has to organize its business and select its own officers and agents. Discrimination and coercion to prevent the free exercise of employees to self-organization and representation is a proper subject for condemnation by competent legislative authority. Long ago we stated (that) labor organizations were organized (of necessity); that a single employee was helpless in dealing with an employer; that union (representation) was essential (to resist unfair treatment and) give laborers opportunity to deal on an equality with their employer.”

We’ve come a long way from a friendly High Court. The current Roberts one is “supremely” pro-business. It’s why passing EFCA is essential even given enough congressional votes to kill it and an anti-labor president who won’t mind.

Today, over 90% of employers oppose unions with government on their side. Nearly 50% threaten to close plants or other work sites. Many coerce, threaten and/or bribe workers to be union-free, and around 30% illegally fire pro-union employees and get away with it.

Current election law mandates secret ballots one month after organizers collect enough signatures, but in the interim, companies can discourage, threaten and/or coerce employees to vote “no.” They can also deny union recognition even if 100% of them want it.

EFCA turns the tables by enforcing fair collective bargaining under the following procedure. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) arbitrators get to write first contracts (for a two-year period) covering wages, benefits, and work rules. NLRB union certification will be based on “card check” majority votes. Employers must then make “every reasonable effort to conclude and sign a collective bargaining agreement” within 10 days of the union’s request. If none is reached in 90 days, either party may ask FMCS to intervene. If resolution fails after 30 days, an arbitration board “renders a decision settling the dispute” – binding for two years, unless both sides agree in writing to amend the contract.

The NLRB will be empowered to take legal action to immediately reinstate workers fired for union activity and enforce triple damages on companies.

EFCA levels the playing field by letting workers vote up or down on whether to form a union – freely by majority vote without fear of employer retribution. Overall, it’s the first pro-labor law since Wagner, if only a first step at a time their rights are greatly eroded. It’s high time Congress reinstated them, but don’t bet on it or that Obama will exert pressure to do it. Business fiercely opposes it with good reason. They’ve got it all their own way and resist change. EFCA will force it for the better at a crucial time for workers.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Center of Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday – Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 223 other followers