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The Problem is Washington, Not North Korea April 17, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in History, North/South Korea, Nuclear weapons/power, Trump, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: I am old enough to remember that the Korean War is not officially a war, but rather a “police action.”  And that the police action that was really a war is still not over, there is only a cease-fire that has been in place since 1953, with the United States not interested in a permanent peace treaty with North Korea.

The article below is written by an American but from the North Korean point of view, not an easy task and one that most Americans are unwilling to even consider.  We have been brainwashed (and I mean that literally) to believe that the United States is a world power only for the purpose of maintaining peace (that’s a joke), democracy (joke two) and stability (I’m running out of jokes).

Even many of those who are serious critics of U.S. foreign policy are of the opinion that the U.S. government “makes mistakes” as opposed to committing crimes.  One needs to step back, as a citizen of the world and as a human being, to see that the United States of America is a criminal empire bent on world domination for the sake of its military establishment and its giant corporations.

In the last few days, as Trump has escalated the bellicose rhetoric towards North Korea, which some are beginning to compare to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and in light of the launching of 59 missiles into Syria, and not to mention that Trump is a certifiable sociopath; I cannot help but thinking that petitions, and traditional marches, and electing Democrats to Congress may not be enough to save ourselves from actual annihilation.

I picture tens of millions of American taking direct action in Washington and all other American cities, surrounding the White House, the Capital, the Pentagon, government offices, the offices of Congress members, etc.

By whatever means necessary.  SNL aside, Trump is no joke.

By   

Screen-Shot-2017-04-12-at-4.09.21-PM

Photo by Stefan Krasowski

Washington has never made any effort to conceal its contempt for North Korea. In the 64 years since the war ended, the US has done everything in its power to punish, humiliate and inflict pain on the Communist country. Washington has subjected the DPRK to starvation,  prevented its government from accessing foreign capital and markets, strangled its economy with crippling economic sanctions, and installed lethal missile systems and military bases on their doorstep.

Negotiations aren’t possible because Washington refuses to sit down with a country which it sees as its inferior.  Instead, the US has strong-armed China to do its bidding by using their diplomats as interlocutors who are expected to convey Washington’s ultimatums as threateningly as possible.  The hope, of course, is that Pyongyang will cave in to Uncle Sam’s bullying and do what they are told.

But the North has never succumbed to US intimidation and there’s no sign that it will. Instead, they have developed a small arsenal of nuclear weapons to defend themselves in the event that the US tries to assert its dominance by launching another war.
There’s no country in the world that needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea. Brainwashed Americans, who get their news from FOX or CNN, may differ on this point, but if a hostile nation deployed carrier strike-groups off the coast of California while conducting massive war games on the Mexican border (with the express intention of scaring the shit out of people) then they might see things differently. They might see the value of having a few nuclear weapons to deter that hostile nation from doing something really stupid.

And let’s be honest, the only reason Kim Jong Un hasn’t joined Saddam and Gadhafi in the great hereafter, is because (a)– The North does not sit on an ocean of oil, and (b)– The North has the capacity to reduce Seoul, Okinawa and Tokyo into smoldering debris-fields.  Absent Kim’s WMDs,  Pyongyang would have faced a preemptive attack long ago and Kim would have faced a fate similar to Gadhafi’s.  Nuclear weapons are the only known antidote to US adventurism.

The American people –whose grasp of history does not extend beyond the events of 9-11 — have no idea of the way the US fights its wars or the horrific carnage and destruction it unleashed on the North.  Here’s a short  refresher that helps clarify why the North is still wary of the US more than 60 years after the armistice was signed.  The excerpt is from an article titled “Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea”, at Vox World:

“In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to fight the war. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry….

According to US journalist Blaine Harden:  “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops……

“On January 3 at 10:30 AM an armada of 82 flying fortresses loosed their death-dealing load on the city of Pyongyang …Hundreds of tons of bombs and incendiary compound were simultaneously dropped throughout the city, causing annihilating fires, the transatlantic barbarians bombed the city with delayed-action high-explosive bombs which exploded at intervals for a whole day making it impossible for the people to come out onto the streets. The entire city has now been burning, enveloped in flames, for two days. By the second day, 7,812 civilians houses had been burnt down. The Americans were well aware that there were no military targets left in Pyongyang…

The number of inhabitants of Pyongyang killed by bomb splinters, burnt alive and suffocated by smoke is incalculable…Some 50,000 inhabitants remain in the city which before the war had a population of 500,000.” (“Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea“,  Vox World)

The United States killed over 2 million people in a country that posed no threat to US national security. Like Vietnam, the Korean War was just another  muscle-flexing exercise the US periodically engages in whenever it gets bored or needs some far-flung location to try out its new weapons systems. The US had nothing to gain in its aggression on the Korean peninsula, it was mix of imperial overreach and pure unalloyed viciousness the likes of which we’ve seen many times in the past. According to the Asia-Pacific Journal:

“By the fall of 1952, there were no effective targets left for US planes to hit. Every significant town, city and industrial area in North Korea had already been bombed. In the spring of 1953, the Air Force targeted irrigation dams on the Yalu River, both to destroy the North Korean rice crop and to pressure the Chinese, who would have to supply more food aid to the North. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.10 Only emergency assistance from China, the USSR, and other socialist countries prevented widespread famine.” (“The Destruction and Reconstruction of North Korea, 1950 – 1960”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus)

Repeat: “Reservoirs, irrigation dams, rice crops,  hydroelectric dams, population centers” all napalmed, all carpet bombed,  all razed to the ground. Nothing was spared. If it moved it was shot, if it didn’t move, it was bombed. The US couldn’t win, so they turned the country into an uninhabitable wastelands.   “Let them starve. Let them freeze.. Let them eat weeds and roots and rodents to survive. Let them sleep in the ditches and find shelter in the rubble. What do we care? We’re the greatest country on earth. God bless America.”

This is how Washington does business, and it hasn’t changed since the Seventh Cavalry wiped out 150 men, women and children at Wounded Knee more than century ago. The Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge got the same basic treatment as the North Koreans, or the Vietnamese, or the Nicaraguans, or the Iraqis and on and on and on and on. Anyone else who gets in Uncle Sam’s way, winds up in a world of hurt. End of story.

The savagery of America’s war against the North left an indelible mark on the psyche of the people.  Whatever the cost, the North cannot allow a similar scenario to take place in the future. Whatever the cost, they must be prepared to defend themselves. If that means nukes, then so be it. Self preservation is the top priority.

Is there a way to end this pointless standoff between Pyongyang and Washington, a way to mend fences and build trust?

Of course there is. The US just needs to start treating the DPRK with respect and follow through on their promises. What promises?

The promise to build the North two light-water reactors to provide heat and light to their people in exchange for an end to its nuclear weapons program. You won’t read about this deal in the media because the media is just the propaganda wing of the Pentagon. They have no interest in promoting peaceful solutions. Their stock-in-trade is war, war and more war.

The North wants the US to honor its obligations under the 1994 Agreed Framework. That’s it. Just keep up your end of the goddamn deal. How hard can that be?   Here’s how Jimmy Carter summed it up in a Washington Post op-ed (November 24, 2010):

“…in September 2005, an agreement … reaffirmed the basic premises of the 1994 accord. (The Agreed Framework) Its text included denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a pledge of non-aggression by the United States and steps to evolve a permanent peace agreement to replace the U.S.-North Korean-Chinese cease-fire that has been in effect since July 1953. Unfortunately, no substantive progress has been made since 2005…

“This past July I was invited to return to Pyongyang to secure the release of an American, Aijalon Gomes, with the proviso that my visit would last long enough for substantive talks with top North Korean officials. They spelled out in detail their desire to develop a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a permanent cease-fire, based on the 1994 agreements and the terms adopted by the six powers in September 2005….

“North Korean officials have given the same message to other recent American visitors and have permitted access by nuclear experts to an advanced facility for purifying uranium. The same officials had made it clear to me that this array of centrifuges would be ‘on the table’ for discussions with the United States, although uranium purification – a very slow process – was not covered in the 1994 agreements.

Pyongyang has sent a consistent message that during direct talks with the United States, it is ready to conclude an agreement to end its nuclear programs, put them all under IAEA inspection and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the ‘temporary’ cease-fire of 1953. We should consider responding to this offer. The unfortunate alternative is for North Koreans to take whatever actions they consider necessary to defend themselves from what they claim to fear most: a military attack supported by the United States, along with efforts to change the political regime.”

(“North Korea’s consistent message to the U.S.”, President Jimmy Carter, Washington Post)

Most people think the problem lies with North Korea, but it doesn’t. The problem lies with the United States; it’s unwillingness to negotiate an end to the war, its unwillingness to provide basic security guarantees to the North, its unwillingness to even sit down with the people who –through Washington’s own stubborn ignorance– are now developing long-range ballistic missiles that will be capable of hitting American cities.

How dumb is that?

The Trump team is sticking with a policy that has failed for 63 years and which clearly undermines US national security by putting American citizens directly at risk. AND FOR WHAT?

To preserve the image of “tough guy”,  to convince people that the US doesn’t negotiate with weaker countries,  to prove to the world that “whatever the US says, goes”?   Is that it?  Is image more important than a potential nuclear disaster?

Relations with the North can be normalized,  economic ties can be strengthened, trust can be restored, and the nuclear threat can be defused. The situation with the North does not have to be a crisis, it can be fixed. It just takes a change in policy, a bit of give-and-take, and leaders that genuinely want peace more than war.

 

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

 

 

2016: The Year the Americans Found out Our Elections Are Rigged May 15, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in 2016 election, bernie sanders, Democracy, donald trump, Hillary Clinton, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: this may be the year that Americans found out, but of course, in the sense of capital in the form of corporations and military limiting and controlling candidacies and choices, US elections have always been rigged.  The Trump and Sanders phenomena are somewhat unique challenges to the two-party oligarchy (Republicrats), with the difference being that the Republicans did not have the degree of entrenchment that the Democrats have in Hillary Clinton (although I admit that at first I was almost sure that Jeb Bush would in the nomination), thereby allowing the tide of populist support for Trump to sweep away the Republican establishment.  Probably only the indictment of Clinton for her blatant email security breaches would give Sanders a fighting chance to win the Democratic nomination in spite of his overwhelming grass roots popularity, the negatives about Clinton, garden variety misogyny, and polls hat show him dong better against Trump (I surf Instagram and find literally dozens of pro Bernie sites, a handful of right wingers, and absolutely not one Hillary Clinton supporter).

And by all means don’t miss George Carlin’s video at the end of this piece.  It is brilliant.

march_of_tyranny

“Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. senators and congress members.” – Former President Jimmy Carter

By Nick Bernabe

Source: AntiMedia

The 2016 election has been a wild ride, with two insurgent grassroots campaigns literally giving the political establishment a run for its money. But as the events of this presidential primary season play out, it’s becoming clear the U.S. election — and even more so, the presidential race — is a big scam being perpetrated on the American people.

Events from the last week have exposed the system as an illusion of choice and a farce. They have reinforced at least one study showing the U.S. is an oligarchy rather than a democratic republic.

The Wyoming democratic caucus took place on Saturday, purportedly to allow voters to have their voices heard in the race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Sanders lost the Wyoming caucus by winning it with a 12 percent margin.

Wait, what?

How does one lose by winning 56 percent of the votes? This happens when the political process is, according to the New York Post, “rigged” by superdelegates. The Postsummed up this “strange” phenomenon:

“[U]nder the Democratic Party’s oddball delegate system, Sanders’ winning streak — he has won seven out of the past eight contests — counts for little.

“In fact, despite his win, he splits Wyoming’s 14 pledged delegates 7 to 7 under the caucus calculus.

“Clinton, meanwhile, also gets the state’s four superdelegates — who had already pledged their allegiance to her in January. So despite ‘losing,’ she triumphs 11-7 in the delegate tally.”

Even media pundits on MSNBC openly called the process rigged:

The superdelegate process is complicated, as we’ve noted before, but they have one essential function: to prevent candidates like Bernie Sanders from winning the Democratic nomination.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a video of Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz explaining superdelegates:

Adding insult to injury, even when Sanders does win states (despite Hillary’s advantage in superdelegates), the media can be reliably counted on to discount Sanders’s wins asnothing more than prolonging the electoral process, which will inevitably elect the presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. This pervasive commentary continues despite the fact Sanders only trails her by several hundred pledged delegates.

Meanwhile, according to the same media, the non-establishment Trump campaign is threatened every time Ted Cruz beats him — even though Trump leads by a larger percentage of pledged delegates than Clinton does. When Clinton loses, it doesn’t matter because she already has the nomination locked up. When Trump loses, his campaign is in big trouble. Starting to see the problem with the media coverage?

When you examine these media narratives, a troubling pattern emerges that goes beyond the political establishment’s self-interest. You begin to see that American corporate media also functions as an arm of the political machine, protecting establishment candidates while attacking — or dismissing — candidates who seem non-establishment.

This brings us to the events that transpired during the Republican nomination process in Colorado on Saturday. The Republican Party of Colorado didn’t even bother letting people vote before using arcane rules to strip the democratic process of its democracy. According to the Denver Post:

“Colorado GOP leaders canceled the party’s presidential straw poll in August to avoid binding its delegates to a candidate who may not survive until the Republican National Convention in July.

“Instead, Republicans selected national delegates through the caucus process, a move that put the election of national delegates in the hands of party insiders and activists — leaving roughly 90 percent of the more than 1 million Republican voters on the sidelines.”

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s non-establishment campaign walked away with zero delegates. They were all “awarded” to Ted Cruz.

“How is it possible that the people of the great State of Colorado never got to vote in the Republican Primary? Great anger — totally unfair!” Trump said on Twitter. “The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians. Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!”

In an interview on Monday, Trump was even more frank. “The system is rigged, it’s crooked,” he said.

The Colorado GOP didn’t even bother hiding its intentions, tweeting — then quickly removing — what was possibly the most honest insight into the back-door dealing so far this election season:

colorado-gop

The Republican party chooses the nominee, not the voting public. Still in disbelief? Watch a Republican National Committee member explain it better than I can:

What we are witnessing — for the first time on a large scale — is the political establishment’s true role in selecting the president of the United States. The illusion of choice has become apparent. The establishment anoints their two picks for president, and the country proceeds to argue vehemently over the two candidates they are spoon-fed. This dynamic is reminiscent of a prophetic 1998 quote from philosopher Noam Chomsky:

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

Ahh, the illusion of choice. Sure, in reality there are third party candidates who should be given a fair shake, but in our mainstream media-augmented reality, third parties do not exist. They aren’t mentioned. They aren’t even included in presidential debates. This is another way the media stifles healthy debate, stamps out dissenting opinions, and preserves the status-quo.

We The People don’t choose our presidents; they are hand-picked by a powerful group of political party insiders — parties that have long since sold out to the highest bidders. What we have on our hands in America is a rigged oligarchy, and that’s not a conspiracy theory — it’s fact. Now, however, millions of Americans are becoming aware of it thanks to the populist campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. America’s elections are controlled by a big club, but unfortunately, “you ain’t in it!”

Under My Presidency, Chávez’s Revolution Will Continue April 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Venezuela has lost an extraordinary leader, but his democratic and socialist project of transformation is more alive than ever

 

A month ago Venezuela lost a historic leader who spearheaded the transformation of his country, and spurred a wave of change throughout Latin America. In Sunday’s election Venezuelans will choose whether to pursue the revolution initiated under Hugo Chávez – or return to the past. I worked closely with President Chávez for many years, and am now running to succeed him. Polls indicate that most Venezuelans support our peaceful revolution

 

.Supporters cheer Nicolás Maduro as he brings his election campaign to a close at a rally in Caracas. Photograph: Santi Donaire/ Santi Donaire/Demotix/Corbis

Chávez’s legacy is so profound that opposition leaders, who vilified him only months ago, now insist they will defend his achievements. But Venezuelans remember how many of these same figures supported an ill-fated coup against Chávez in 2002 and sought to reverse policies that have dramatically reduced poverty and inequality.

To grasp the scale of what has been achieved, it’s necessary to recall the state of my country when Chávez took office in 1999. In the previous 20 years Venezuela had suffered one of the sharpest economic declines in the world. As a result of neoliberal policies that favoured transnational capital at the expense of people’s basic needs, poverty soared. A draconian market-oriented agenda was imposed through massive repression, including the 1989 massacre of thousands in what is known as the Caracazo.

This disastrous trend was reversed under Chávez. Once the government was able to assert effective control over the state oil company in 2003, we began investing oil revenue in social programmes that now provide free healthcare and education throughout the country. The economic situation vastly improved. Poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced dramatically. Today Venezuela has the lowest rate of income inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean.

As a result our government has won almost every election or referendum since 1998 – 16 in all – in a democratic process the former US president Jimmy Carter called “the best in the world“. If you haven’t heard much about these accomplishments, it may have something to do with the influence of Washington and its allies on the international media. They have been trying to de-legitimise and get rid of our government for more than a decade, ever since they supported the 2002 coup.

We have also worked to transform the region: to unite the countries of Latin America and work together to address the causes and symptoms of poverty. Venezuela was central to the creation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), aimed at promoting social and economic development and political co-operation.

The media myth that our political project would fall apart without Chávez was a fundamental misreading of Venezuela’s revolution. Chávez has left a solid edifice, its foundation a broad, united movement that supports the process of transformation. We’ve lost our extraordinary leader, but his project – built collectively by workers, farmers, women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and the young – is more alive than ever.

The media often portray Venezuela as on the brink of economic collapse – but our economy is stronger than ever. We have a low debt burden and a significant trade surplus, and have accumulated close to $30bn in international reserves.

There are of course many challenges still to overcome, as Chávez himself acknowledged. Among my primary objectives is the need to intensify our efforts to curb crime and aggressively confront inefficiency and corruption in a nationwide campaign.

Internationally, we will continue to work with our neighbours to deepen regional integration and fight poverty and social injustice. It’s a vision now shared across the region, which is why my candidacy has received strong support from figures such as the former Brazilian president Lula da Silva and many Latin American social movements. We also remain committed to promoting regional peace and stability, and this is why we will continue our energetic support of the peace talks in Colombia.

Latin America today is experiencing a profound political and social renaissance – a second independence – after decades of surrendering its sovereignty and freedom to global powers and transnational interests. Under my presidency, Venezuela will continue supporting this regional transformation and building a new form of socialism for our times. With the support of progressive people from every continent, we’re confident Venezuela can give a new impetus to the struggle for a more equitable, just and peaceful world.

Nicolás Maduro

Nicolás Maduro was Venezuela’s vice-president and foreign minister under Hugo Chávez, and was made interim president after the death of President Chávez on 5 March 2013. Maduro was the ruling party’s candidate for the presidency in the elections of April 2013.

Troy Davis’s Execution Will Be a Judicial Lynching September 18, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Racism.
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Despite evidence that he’s innocent, Troy Davis faces
execution on September 21. With a culture that cheers Rick Perry’s execution
record, what chance does he have?
September 16, 2011  |  Amy Goodman

Death brings cheers these days in America.

In the most
recent Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Florida
, when CNN’s Wolf
Blitzer asked, hypothetically, if a man who chose to carry no medical insurance,
then was stricken with a grave illness, should be left to die, cheers of “Yeah!”
filled the hall. When, in
the prior debate, Governor Rick Perry was asked
about his enthusiastic use
of the death penalty in Texas, the crowd erupted into sustained applause and
cheers. The reaction from the audience prompted debate moderator Brian Williams
of NBC News to follow up with the question, “What do you make of that dynamic
that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew
applause?”

That “dynamic” is why challenging the death sentence to be carried out
against Troy Davis by the state of Georgia on
21 September is so important. Davis has been on Georgia’s death row for close to
20 years, after being convicted of killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail
in Savannah. Since his conviction, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have
recanted their testimony, alleging police coercion and intimidation in obtaining
the testimony. There is no physical evidence linking Davis to the murder.

Last March, the US
supreme court ruled
that Davis should receive an evidentiary hearing, to
make his case for innocence. Several witnesses have identified one of the
remaining witnesses who has not recanted, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, as the
shooter. US District Judge William T Moore Jr refused, on a technicality, to
allow the testimony of witnesses who claimed that, after Davis had been
convicted, Coles admitted to shooting MacPhail. In his August
court order, Moore summarised
, “Mr Davis is not innocent.”

One of the jurors, Brenda Forrest, disagrees. She told CNN
in 2009, recalling the trial of Davis
, “All of the witnesses – they were
able to ID him as the person who actually did it.” Since the seven witnesses
recanted, she says: “If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on
death row. The verdict would be not guilty.”

Troy Davis has three major strikes against him. First, he is an African
American man. Second, he was charged with killing a white police officer. And
third, he is in Georgia.

More than a century ago, the legendary muckraking journalist Ida
B Wells
risked her life when she began reporting on the epidemic of
lynchings in the Deep South. She published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All
its Phases in 1892 and followed up with The Red Record in 1895, detailing
hundreds of lynchings. She wrote:

“In Brooks County, Georgia, 23 December, while this Christian country was
preparing for Christmas celebration, seven Negroes were lynched in 24 hours
because they refused, or were unable to tell the whereabouts of a colored man
named Pike, who killed a white man … Georgia heads the list of lynching
states.”

The planned execution of Davis will not be at the hands of an unruly mob, but
in the sterile, fluorescently lit confines of Georgia diagnostic and
classification prison in Butts County, near the town of Jackson. The state
doesn’t intend to hang Troy Davis from a tree with a rope or a chain – to hang,
as Billie Holiday sang, like a strange fruit:

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the
root
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from
the poplar trees.”

The state of Georgia, unless its board of pardons and paroles intervenes,
will administer a lethal dose of pentobarbital. Georgia
is using this new execution drug
because the federal Drug Enforcement
Administration seized its supply of sodium thiopental last March, accusing the
state of illegally importing the poison.

“This is our justice system at its very worst,” said Ben Jealous, president
of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Amnesty International has called on the state board of pardons and paroles to
commute Davis’ sentence. “The board stayed Davis’ execution in 2007, stating
that capital punishment
was not an option when doubts about guilt remained,” said Larry Cox, executive
director of Amnesty International USA. “Since then, two more execution dates
have come and gone, and there is still little clarity, much less proof, that
Davis committed any crime. Amnesty International respectfully asks the board to
commute Davis’ sentence to life and prevent Georgia from making a catastrophic
mistake.”

It’s not just the human rights groups the
parole board should listen to. Pope Benedict XVI and Nobel peace prize laureates
President Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others,
also have called for clemency. Or the board can listen to mobs who cheer for
death.

• Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column

The Fascist Moses September 10, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in History.
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Roger’s note: A stroll down Memory Lane for those of us who lived through and survived the 60s, 70s, etc.

By David Glenn Cox

(about the author)
www.opednews.com, September 10, 2011

Let’s kick Richard Nixon, its great fun; we all did it at parties back in the 1970s. But that was the previous generation and this generation has missed out on the fun, like Woodstock. Unbeknownst to this current generation there would have been hundreds of fistfights and stabbings at Woodstock had it not been for three little words, “f**k Richard Nixon!”

All one had to do was simply step between the adversaries and say, “Come on now, guys, hey, look. f**k Richard Nixon!” Instantly the opponents would separate and begin to smile and agree, “Yeah, you’re right, man. f**k Richard Nixon!” The potential warriors would depart as buddies and would exchange bong hits until their eyeballs melted in their sockets and they would forget all about their conflicts.

That was in the twilight’s last gleaming of American democracy, when a President could still be removed from office for malfeasance. Let me rephrase that, Richard Nixon could be removed from office for malfeasance; it’s doubtful whether anyone else could be. I know all about George W. Bush and Bush was a drunken, coke-snorting, mean-spirited, frat boy. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the truest definition of a sociopath, but Nixon was just plain crazy.

Nixon had paranoid delusions that people were out to get him and so he responded with bile, tirades, enemy lists and dirty tricks. Because of his paranoid delusions he alienated everyone around him until even members of his own party would walk all the way across the street just to piss on Richard Nixon. Eventually these self-fulfilling, paranoid delusions gave to Richard Nixon a kind of an Eeyore quality.

Nixon’s most trusted advisor was Henry Kissinger and Nixon only trusted him while he was in the room. Kissinger’s first government job was as a translator for the head of the CIA, Allen Dulles. Kissinger was his protege and it was Dulles who helped to plan the Bay of Pigs invasion and Dulles who told Kennedy that he needed to launch an unprovoked, full-scale military attack on Cuba. Kennedy fired Dulles and his Deputy Director Charles Cabell, whose brother Earl Cabell changed the presidential motorcade route in Dallas.

Nice folks. It was Dulles who proposed a plan to fake an aircraft hijacking and to blame it on Cuba. This is where this cast of unknowns began their rise into the halls of corporate fascism. George Bush, E. Howard Hunt, Porter Goss were all operatives under Dulles, and after Dulles was fired their futures were in question. But when Richard Nixon chose Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State their meal tickets became safe and secure. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, CIA operative General Richard Secord was moving heroin on military aircraft in Vietnam and depositing the profits in banks in Australia. Then Secord began to sell pilfered US military hardware to friend and foe alike, and when this was discovered Secord was promoted!

Nixon ran for the presidency with the promise of a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. His secret plan, as it turned out, was this: get Richard Nixon elected President and then fight the North Vietnamese until they give up. Nixon authorized the secret bombings of neutral countries, as well as illegal invasions. Cambodia’s President Norodom Sihanouk was playing both sides so the CIA had him overthrown. Sihanouk had signed a secret pact with China in 1965 but was playing footsie with the CIA, so when the CIA disposed of him, China said, “Good riddance!”

Kennedy wouldn’t expand the Vietnam War, and well, he had an accident. So when Richard Nixon ended the Vietnam War without a victory he, well, he had an accident, too. After invading and bombing civilian areas in neutral countries and bombing civilian and humanitarian targets in North Vietnam, Nixon was removed from office because of a bungled burglary and financial campaign irregularities, and Americans with a straight face say the Catholic Church is in denial!

With Spiro Agnew’s departure due to racketeering conviction two chief executives of the country are removed from office within ten months and no one suspects anything is amiss. No one suspects levers behind the throne but Gerald Ford is elected President by one vote, Richard Nixon’s vote. Ford’s lone claim to fame was to pardon Richard Nixon to end the long national nightmare of Watergate. Nightmare is a good synonym for the coup d’etat that happened while America slept. Two attempts were made on Ford’s life in little more than two years and who was the director of the CIA then? Anyone? Why, it was good old George H. W. Bush.

The first Witch says, “When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”

The second Witch, “When the hurlyburly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won.”

The third Witch says, “That will be ere the set of sun.”

The first Witch, “Where the place?”

The second Witch, “Upon the heath.”

The third Witch, “There to meet with Macbeth.”

All, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air.”

Gerald Ford was lampooned in the press as a buffoon and even though he was a buffoon he never shot his friend in the face on a drunken hunting excursion or played golf with a Supreme Court Judge who might have to hear cases involving his administration. So either you’re in or you’re out. James Earl Carter was elected with on strong anti-Washington sentiment and Washington responded with a strong Anti-Carter sentiment. For four years Carter and his staff complained of phone calls not being returned and policies not being carried out. Riots and demonstrations were happening in Tehran; did anyone think of reducing the embassy staff or closing the embassy? That’s the job the CIA is supposed to do, and when the Iranians took Americans hostage, who took the fall?

When the military rescue mission failed, who took the fall?

The hostages were released twenty minutes after the swearing in of Ronald Reagan, but the story goes that no deals were struck. Sure, I believe. Somehow the Reagan camp came into possession of Carter’s national security briefings and even Carter’s debate notes. Richard Allen was Reagan’s foreign policy chief during the campaign and he said that he was told to report to Theodore Shackley. Shackley had been fired from the CIA by the Carter administration and it was Theodore Shackley who was the station chief in Miami during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the senior agent was E. Howard Hunt.

So who did the Carter administration suspect had been leaking the classified documents? Two national security officials named Donald Gregg and Robert Gates. That’s somewhat illuminating considering Gates was the lone holdover from the Bush administration. Shackley reported to Bush Senior on the campaign and Gregg reported directly to Shackley.

So Reagan gets elected and hell comes to breakfast: tax cuts for the rich, education cuts for the poor. The giveaways of national resources to coal and timber interests. Drug smuggling in South America, the looting of the savings and loans. For the CIA it was glory days until something went horribly wrong just sixty-nine days into Reagan’s first term. Another of America’s oh so famous lone nuts with a gun shot Reagan as he walked out the front door of the hotel where he was speaking.

I’ll repeat that, the President of the United States walked out the front door of the hotel. Does that sound like good security policy to you? Reagan and aide James Brady were hit with bullets and the hospital was immediately notified, but Reagan’s limo showed up at the hospital almost fifteen minutes after Brady’s and no stretcher was waiting. The excuse given was that the driver, a highly-trained ten year veteran of the Washington Secret Service, got lost in his own hometown. If you had told me that he got lost in Omaha, maybe I’d believe it. If you pulled a stunt like that in Stalin’s Russia, you and your family would be chopping wood in Siberia for generations to come.

During his short tenure as Secretary of State, Al Haig had complained that someone within the administration had been trying to undermine him in the eyes of the President. After hearing that the President had been shot it was Haig’s staff who notified Vice President Bush who was away giving a speech in Fort Worth. It was Haig who convened the cabinet for a status report and began an investigation into the shooter or shooters and then made his famous “I am in charge” statement, which meant that he was in charge of the White House until Bush returned. He later said that Bush had agreed to this over the phone.

When Bush returned to the White House he cancelled the investigation into the shooter or shooters and Haig was then vilified in the press. Al Haig had been hired by Henry Kissinger to serve in the Nixon administration in 1969. Secretary of state George Schultz was also a Nixon/Kissinger protege as were Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Bremer. Nixon begat Reagan, Reagan begat Bush, Bush begat son of Bush.

In the first one hundred and seventy-four years of American history there were three assassination attempts on chief executives and candidates, with only two being successful. Since 1963 there have been six assassinations or attempts: John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Gerald Ford (twice), George Wallace and Ronald Reagan. Interestingly when Wallace ran in 1968 he ran as a Democrat and was seen as taking votes away from Democrats. When he ran again in 1972 he ran as an independent and was expected to take votes from Republicans and was shot by yet another lone nut with a gun.

In one hundred and seventy-four years only one chief executive was ever impeached. Since 1968 one President was impeached, one President stepped down to keep from being impeached and one Vice President resigned upon conviction for racketeering.

It is tied and twisted like a Gordian Knot; the fiascos and failures of a generation of political leadership can all be tied to the tail of one delusional paranoid, but the names and numbers speak for themselves. It is impossible to say that it all happened because of Richard Nixon, but Nixon hired Kissinger and in doing so made himself the Fascist Moses.

We have wandered in the political desert for forty years and we cannot seem to find our way home. Maybe defense secretary Robert Gates knows the way; He was a Kissinger protege. Maybe Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner knows; he worked for Kissinger, too. Maybe CIA Director Panetta knows. He, too, worked in the Nixon administration. Funny, isn’t it? Defense, Treasury and CIA.

Cuba in the Crosshairs: A Near Half-Century of Terror August 15, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, History, Imperialism, Latin America, War on Terror.
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the intelligence assessment eliminated a danger that had been identified by the Mexican ambassador in 1961, when he rejected JFK’s attempt to organize collective action against Cuba on the grounds that “if we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing.”

Monday 15 August 2011
by: Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch                 | News Analysis

Editor’s Note: This excerpt from Noam Chomsky’s book, Hegemony or Survival, was first posted on Tomdispatch.com in October 2003. Tom Engelhardt writes that his decision to repost this in the summer of 2011 is to, “take a little plunge into the world of terror before ‘terror’ became an American byword.” – TO/sg

The Batista dictatorship was overthrown in January 1959 by Castro’s guerrilla forces. In March, the National Security Council (NSC) considered means to institute regime change. In May, the CIA began to arm guerrillas inside Cuba. “During the Winter of 1959-1960, there was a significant increase in CIA-supervised bombing and incendiary raids piloted by

exiled Cubans” based in the US. We need not tarry on what the US or its clients would do under such circumstances.

Cuba, however, did not respond with violent actions within the United States for revenge or deterrence. Rather, it followed the procedure required by international law. In July 1960, Cuba called on the UN for help, providing the Security Council with records of some twenty bombings, including names of pilots, plane registration numbers, unexploded bombs, and other specific details, alleging considerable damage and casualties and calling for resolution of the conflict through diplomatic channels. US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge responded by giving his “assurance [that] the United States has no aggressive purpose against Cuba.” Four months before, in March 1960, his government had made a formal decision in secret to overthrow the Castro government, and preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion were well advanced.

Washington was concerned that Cubans might try to defend themselves. CIA chief Allen Dulles therefore urged Britain not to provide arms to Cuba. His “main reason,” the British ambassador reported to London, “was that this might lead the Cubans to ask for Soviet or Soviet bloc arms,” a move that “would have a tremendous effect,” Dulles pointed out, allowing Washington to portray Cuba as a security threat to the hemisphere, following the script that had worked so well in Guatemala. Dulles was referring to Washington’s successful demolition of Guatemala’s first democratic experiment, a ten-year interlude of hope and progress, greatly feared in Washington because of the enormous popular support reported by US intelligence and the “demonstration effect” of social and economic measures to benefit the large majority. The Soviet threat was routinely invoked, abetted by Guatemala’s appeal to the Soviet bloc for arms after the US had threatened attack and cut off other sources of supply. The result was a half-century of horror, even worse than the US-backed tyranny that came before.

For Cuba, the schemes devised by the doves were similar to those of CIA director Dulles. Warning President Kennedy about the “inevitable political and diplomatic fall-out” from the planned invasion of Cuba by a proxy army, Arthur Schlesinger suggested efforts to trap Castro in some action that could be used as a pretext for invasion: “One can conceive a black operation in, say, Haiti which might in time lure Castro into sending a few boatloads of men on to a Haitian beach in what could be portrayed as an effort to overthrow the Haitian regime,… then the moral issue would be clouded, and the anti-US campaign would be hobbled from the start.” Reference is to the regime of the murderous dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier, which was backed by the US (with some reservations), so that an effort to help Haitians overthrow it would be a crime.

Eisenhower’s March 1960 plan called for the overthrow of Castro in favor of a regime “more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S.,” including support for “military operation on the island” and “development of an adequate paramilitary force outside of Cuba.” Intelligence reported that popular support for Castro was high, but the US would determine the “true interests of the Cuban people.” The regime change was to be carried out “in such a manner as to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention,” because of the anticipated reaction in Latin America and the problems of doctrinal management at home.

Operation Mongoose

The Bay of Pigs invasion came a year later, in April 1961, after Kennedy had taken office. It was authorized in an atmosphere of “hysteria” over Cuba in the White House, Robert McNamara later testified before the Senate’s Church Committee. At the first cabinet meeting after the failed invasion, the atmosphere was “almost savage,” Chester Bowles noted privately: “there was an almost frantic reaction for an action program.” At an NSC meeting two days later, Bowles found the atmosphere “almost as emotional” and was struck by “the great lack of moral integrity” that prevailed. The mood was reflected in Kennedy’s public pronouncements: “The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong . . . can possibly survive,” he told the country, sounding a theme that would be used to good effect by the Reaganites during their own terrorist wars. Kennedy was aware that allies “think that we’re slightly demented” on the subject of Cuba, a perception that persists to the present.

Kennedy implemented a crushing embargo that could scarcely be endured by a small country that had become a “virtual colony” of the US in the sixty years following its “liberation” from Spain. He also ordered an intensification of the terrorist campaign: “He asked his brother, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy, to lead the top-level interagency group that oversaw Operation Mongoose, a program of paramilitary operations, economic warfare, and sabotage he launched in late 1961 to visit the ‘terrors of the earth’ on Fidel Castro and, more prosaically, to topple him.”

The terrorist campaign was “no laughing matter,” Jorge Dominguez writes in a review of recently declassified materials on operations under Kennedy, materials that are “heavily sanitized” and “only the tip of the iceberg,” Piero Gleijeses adds.

Operation Mongoose was “the centerpiece of American policy toward Cuba from late 1961 until the onset of the 1962 missile crisis,” Mark White reports, the program on which the Kennedy brothers “came to pin their hopes.” Robert Kennedy informed the CIA that the Cuban problem carries “the top priority in the United States Government — all else is secondary — no time, no effort, or manpower is to be spared” in the effort to overthrow the Castro regime. The chief of Mongoose operations, Edward Lansdale, provided a timetable leading to “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime” in October 1962. The “final definition” of the program recognized that “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention,” after terrorism and subversion had laid the basis. The implication is that US military intervention would take place in October 1962 — when the missile crisis erupted.

In February 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a plan more extreme than Schlesinger’s: to use “covert means . . . to lure or provoke Castro, or an uncontrollable subordinate, into an overt hostile reaction against the United States; a reaction which would in turn create the justification for the US to not only retaliate but destroy Castro with speed, force and determination.” In March, at the request of the DOD Cuba Project, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted a memorandum to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara outlining “pretexts which they would consider would provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba.” The plan would be undertaken if “a credible internal revolt is impossible of attainment during the next 9-10 months,” but before Cuba could establish relations with Russia that might “directly involve the Soviet Union.”

A prudent resort to terror should avoid risk to the perpetrator.

The March plan was to construct “seemingly unrelated events to camouflage the ultimate objective and create the necessary impression of Cuban rashness and responsibility on a large scale, directed at other countries as well as the United States,” placing the US “in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances [and developing] an international image of Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere.” Proposed measures included blowing up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay to create “a ‘Remember the Maine’ incident,” publishing casualty lists in US newspapers to “cause a helpful wave of national indignation,” portraying Cuban investigations as “fairly compelling evidence that the ship was taken under attack,” developing a “Communist Cuban terror campaign [in Florida] and even in Washington,” using Soviet bloc incendiaries for cane-burning raids in neighboring countries, shooting down a drone aircraft with a pretense that it was a charter flight carrying college students on a holiday, and other similarly ingenious schemes — not implemented, but another sign of the “frantic” and “savage” atmosphere that prevailed.

On August 23 the president issued National Security Memorandum No. 181, “a directive to engineer an internal revolt that would be followed by U.S. military intervention,” involving “significant U.S. military plans, maneuvers, and movement of forces and equipment” that were surely known to Cuba and Russia. Also in August, terrorist attacks were intensified, including speedboat strafing attacks on a Cuban seaside hotel “where Soviet military technicians were known to congregate, killing a score of Russians and Cubans”; attacks on British and Cuban cargo ships; the contamination of sugar shipments; and other atrocities and sabotage, mostly carried out by Cuban exile organizations permitted to operate freely in Florida. A few weeks later came “the most dangerous moment in human history.”

“A Bad Press in Some Friendly Countries”

Terrorist operations continued through the tensest moments of the missile crisis. They were formally canceled on October 30, several days after the Kennedy and Khrushchev agreement, but went on nonetheless. On November 8, “a Cuban covert action sabotage team dispatched from the United States successfully blew up a Cuban industrial facility,” killing 400 workers, according to the Cuban government. Raymond Garthoff writes that “the Soviets could only see [the attack] as an effort to backpedal on what was, for them, the key question remaining: American assurances not to attack Cuba.” These and other actions reveal again, he concludes, “that the risk and danger to both sides could have been extreme, and catastrophe not excluded.”

After the crisis ended, Kennedy renewed the terrorist campaign. Ten days before his assassination he approved a CIA plan for “destruction operations” by US proxy forces “against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships.” A plot to kill Castro was initiated on the day of the Kennedy assassination. The campaign was called off in 1965, but “one of Nixon’s first acts in office in 1969 was to direct the CIA to intensify covert operations against Cuba.”

Of particular interest are the perceptions of the planners. In his review of recently released documents on Kennedy-era terror, Dominguez observes that “only once in these nearly thousand pages of documentation did a U.S. official raise something that resembled a faint moral objection to U.S.-government sponsored terrorism”: a member of the NSC staff suggested that it might lead to some Russian reaction, and raids that are “haphazard and kill innocents… might mean a bad press in some friendly countries.” The same attitudes prevail throughout the internal discussions, as when Robert Kennedy warned that a full-scale invasion of Cuba would “kill an awful lot of people, and we’re going to take an awful lot of heat on it.”

Terrorist activities continued under Nixon, peaking in the mid-1970s, with attacks on fishing boats, embassies, and Cuban offices overseas, and the bombing of a Cubana airliner, killing all seventy-three passengers. These and subsequent terrorist operations were carried out from US territory, though by then they were regarded as criminal acts by the FBI.

So matters proceeded, while Castro was condemned by editors for maintaining an “armed camp, despite the security from attack promised by Washington in 1962.” The promise should have sufficed, despite what followed; not to speak of the promises that preceded, by then well documented, along with information about how well they could be trusted: e.g., the “Lodge moment” of July 1960.

On the thirtieth anniversary of the missile crisis, Cuba protested a machine-gun attack against a Spanish-Cuban tourist hotel; responsibility was claimed by a group in Miami. Bombings in Cuba in 1997, which killed an Italian tourist, were traced back to Miami. The perpetrators were Salvadoran criminals operating under the direction of Luis Posada Carriles and financed in Miami. One of the most notorious international terrorists, Posada had escaped from a Venezuelan prison, where he had been held for the Cubana airliner bombing, with the aid of Jorge Mas Canosa, a Miami businessman who was the head of the tax-exempt Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF). Posada went from Venezuela to El Salvador, where he was put to work at the Ilopango military air base to help organize US terrorist attacks against Nicaragua under Oliver North’s direction.

Posada has described in detail his terrorist activities and the funding for them from exiles and CANF in Miami, but felt secure that he would not be investigated by the FBI. He was a Bay of Pigs veteran, and his subsequent operations in the 1960s were directed by the CIA. When he later joined Venezuelan intelligence with CIA help, he was able to arrange for Orlando Bosch, an associate from his CIA days who had been convicted in the US for a bomb attack on a Cuba-bound freighter, to join him in Venezuela to organize further attacks against Cuba. An ex-CIA official familiar with the Cubana bombing identifies Posada and Bosch as the only suspects in the bombing, which Bosch defended as “a legitimate act of war.” Generally considered the “mastermind” of the airline bombing, Bosch was responsible for thirty other acts of terrorism, according to the FBI. He was granted a presidential pardon in 1989 by the incoming Bush I administration after intense lobbying by Jeb Bush and South Florida Cuban-American leaders, overruling the Justice Department, which had found the conclusion “inescapable that it would be prejudicial to the public interest for the United States to provide a safe haven for Bosch [because] the security of this nation is affected by its ability to urge credibly other nations to refuse aid and shelter to terrorists.”

Economic Warfare

Cuban offers to cooperate in intelligence-sharing to prevent terrorist attacks have been rejected by Washington, though some did lead to US actions. “Senior members of the FBI visited Cuba in 1998 to meet their Cuban counterparts, who gave [the FBI] dossiers about what they suggested was a Miami-based terrorist network: information which had been compiled in part by Cubans who had infiltrated exile groups.” Three months later the FBI arrested Cubans who had infiltrated the US-based terrorist groups. Five were sentenced to long terms in prison.

The national security pretext lost whatever shreds of credibility it might have had after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, though it was not until 1998 that US intelligence officially informed the country that Cuba no longer posed a threat to US national security. The Clinton administration, however, insisted that the military threat posed by Cuba be reduced to “negligible,” but not completely removed. Even with this qualification, the intelligence assessment eliminated a danger that had been identified by the Mexican ambassador in 1961, when he rejected JFK’s attempt to organize collective action against Cuba on the grounds that “if we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing.”

In fairness, however, it should be recognized that missiles in Cuba did pose a threat. In private discussions the Kennedy brothers expressed their fears that the presence of Russian missiles in Cuba might deter a US invasion of Venezuela. So “the Bay of Pigs was really right,” JFK concluded.

The Bush I administration reacted to the elimination of the security pretext by making the embargo much harsher, under pressure from Clinton, who outflanked Bush from the right during the 1992 election campaign. Economic warfare was made still more stringent in 1996, causing a furor even among the closest US allies. The embargo came under considerable domestic criticism as well, on the grounds that it harms US exporters and investors — the embargo’s only victims, according to the standard picture in the US; Cubans are unaffected. Investigations by US specialists tell a different story. Thus, a detailed study by the American Association for World Health concluded that the embargo had severe health effects, and only Cuba’s remarkable health care system had prevented a “humanitarian catastrophe”; this has received virtually no mention in the US.

The embargo has effectively barred even food and medicine. In 1999 the Clinton administration eased such sanctions for all countries on the official list of “terrorist states,” apart from Cuba, singled out for unique punishment. Nevertheless, Cuba is not entirely alone in this regard. After a hurricane devastated West Indian islands in August 1980, President Carter refused to allow any aid unless Grenada was excluded, as punishment for some unspecified initiatives of the reformist Maurice Bishop government. When the stricken countries refused to agree to Grenada’s exclusion, having failed to perceive the threat to survival posed by the nutmeg capital of the world, Carter withheld all aid. Similarly, when Nicaragua was struck by a hurricane in October 1988, bringing starvation and causing severe ecological damage, the current incumbents in Washington recognized that their terrorist war could benefit from the disaster, and therefore refused aid, even to the Atlantic Coast area with close links to the US and deep resentment against the Sandinistas. They followed suit when a tidal wave wiped out Nicaraguan fishing villages, leaving hundreds dead and missing in September 1992. In this case, there was a show of aid, but hidden in the small print was the fact that apart from an impressive donation of $25,000, the aid was deducted from assistance already scheduled. Congress was assured, however, that the pittance of aid would not affect the administration’s suspension of over $100 million of aid because the US-backed Nicaraguan government had failed to demonstrate a sufficient degree of subservience.

US economic warfare against Cuba has been strongly condemned in virtually every relevant international forum, even declared illegal by the Judicial Commission of the normally compliant Organization of American States. The European Union called on the World Trade Organization to condemn the embargo. The response of the Clinton administration was that “Europe is challenging ‘three decades of American Cuba policy that goes back to the Kennedy Administration,’ and is aimed entirely at forcing a change of government in Havana.” The administration also declared that the WTO has no competence to rule on US national security or to compel the US to change its laws. Washington then withdrew from the proceedings, rendering the matter moot.

Successful Defiance

The reasons for the international terrorist attacks against Cuba and the illegal economic embargo are spelled out in the internal record. And no one should be surprised to discover that they fit a familiar pattern — that of Guatemala a few years earlier, for example.

From the timing alone, it is clear that concern over a Russian threat could not have been a major factor. The plans for forceful regime change were drawn up and implemented before there was any significant Russian connection, and punishment was intensified after the Russians disappeared from the scene. True, a Russian threat did develop, but that was more a consequence than a cause of US terrorism and economic warfare.

In July 1961 the CIA warned that “the extensive influence of ‘Castroism’ is not a function of Cuban power. . . . Castro’s shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change,” for which Castro’s Cuba provided a model. Earlier, Arthur Schlesinger had transmitted to the incoming President Kennedy his Latin American Mission report, which warned of the susceptibility of Latin Americans to “the Castro idea of taking matters into one’s own hands.” The report did identify a Kremlin connection: the Soviet Union “hovers in the wings, flourishing large development loans and presenting itself as the model for achieving modernization in a single generation.” The dangers of the “Castro idea” are particularly grave, Schlesinger later elaborated, when “the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes” and “the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living.” Kennedy feared that Russian aid might make Cuba a “showcase” for development, giving the Soviets the upper hand throughout Latin America.

In early 1964, the State Department Policy Planning Council expanded on these concerns: “The primary danger we face in Castro is . . . in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries. . . . The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the US, a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half.” To put it simply, Thomas Paterson writes, “Cuba, as symbol and reality, challenged U.S. hegemony in Latin America.” International terrorism and economic warfare to bring about regime change are justified not by what Cuba does, but by its “very existence,” its “successful defiance” of the proper master of the hemisphere. Defiance may justify even more violent actions, as in Serbia, as quietly conceded after the fact; or Iraq, as also recognized when pretexts had collapsed.

Outrage over defiance goes far back in American history. Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson bitterly condemned France for its “attitude of defiance” in holding New Orleans, which he coveted. Jefferson warned that France’s “character [is] placed in a point of eternal friction with our character, which though loving peace and the pursuit of wealth, is high-minded.” France’s “defiance [requires us to] marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation,” Jefferson advised, reversing his earlier attitudes, which reflected France’s crucial contribution to the liberation of the colonies from British rule. Thanks to Haiti’s liberation struggle, unaided and almost universally opposed, France’s defiance soon ended, but the guiding principles remain in force, determining friend and foe.

[Note that this passage (pages 80-90) is fully footnoted in Hegemony or Survival. Chomsky’s discussion of the Cuban missile crisis itself can be found elsewhere in the same chapter of the book.]

Reprinted by permission of Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Copyright C by Aviva Chomsky, Diane Chomsky, and Harry Chomsky. All rights reserved.

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Noam Chomsky’s most recent book, with co-author Ilan Pappe, is “Gaza in Crisis.” Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

 


Roger’s note: with two friends and a rented Lada, I set off to Playa Girón (what the Americans call the Bay of Pigs) in the early 80s.  The previous year I had had the good fortune to be vacationing in Cuba at the same time and on the same beach that the Cuban veterans of the battle were celebrating its 20th anniversary.  Driving through miles of banana groves the first sign that you have arrived at Playa Girón is a huge billboard that exclaims: “Playa Girón: primer derrota de imperialismo en las Americas” (Playa Girón: first defeat of imperialism in the Americas).  Our goal was a visit to the museum, and you can imagine our disappointment when we discovered that the museum was closed on Mondays.  We managed to contact the caretaker and told him that we were three socialists who came all the way from Canada to visit the museum.  Thanks to this little white lie (the appelation socialist applied only to one of the three of us) we were given a personal tour by the guardian.  What I remember most from that visit is a plaque with the names of the Miami based, US trained and armed Cubans who were captured during the aborted invasion.  Next to each name was the person’s “affiliation.”  These, it turns out, were the brothers, sons, cousins, and uncles of the owners of the Barcardi’s and other corporations, who along with the Mafia and Batista’s henchmen, had for generation carried out a regime of terror and repression against the Cuban people.

 

By Mimi Whitefield  | The Miami Herald

Freshly released CIA documents on the Bay of Pigs  invasion provide new details on the confusion, mixed messages and last-minute  changes in plans that ultimately doomed the mission.

The documents also underscore the extremes the United  States went to maintain “plausible denial’’ of Washington’s role in the April  1961 invasion by CIA-trained Cuban exiles.

“These documents go to the heart of what runs through the whole official  history of the Bay of Pigs — the issue of plausible deniability,’’ said Peter  Kornbluh, senior analyst at the National Security Archive, a Washington-based  nonprofit research organization that had sought the documents for years and was  instrumental in gaining their release.

Concerned that Washington’s hands could be traced to the invasion, the  Kennedy administration kept scaling it back, said Kornbluh. It cut back on  planned air raids on Cuban airfields and insisted on a problematic night-time  landing of the invasion force.

The result: the defeat of the exile brigade in less than 72 hours, 114 men  killed and another 1,100 captured.

Previously released documents show that while Kennedy never abandoned the  notion that the Bay of Pigs invasion should remain covert, planners of the  operations had begun to have their doubts about the operation’s success as a  secret mission at least five months before the April invasion.

The declassified documents are among a set of five volumes on the invasion  prepared by Jack Pfeiffer, a CIA historian who died in 1997.

Among the revelations:

Grayston Lynch, a CIA operative who had helped mark Playa Giron for the  landing of Brigade 2506, reported an instance of friendly fire. After marking  the beach, Lynch returned to the Blagar, a U.S. transport boat that was under  attack by Cuban aircraft off and on until late on the afternoon of April 17.

The Blagar was equipped with eleven .50 caliber machine guns and two 75 mm  recoilless rifles but because the U.S. planes had been painted with the insignia  of Cuban aircraft, Lynch and the exiles aboard were having trouble  distinguishing their targets.

“We sent a message very early on the first morning… [asking] those planes to  stay away from us, because we couldn’t tell them from the Castro planes,’’ according to Lynch’s account. “We ended up shooting at two or three of them. We  hit some of them…’’

The U.S. aircraft were supposed to be painted with blue stripes around the  wings, Lynch said, but “they were impossible to see when they were coming at  you.’’

Juan Clark, a paratrooper during the invasion and now a professor emeritus of  sociology at Miami Dade College, remembers a green stripe on the underside of  the U.S. planes.

“I had heard of friendly fire during the invasion,’’ he said Monday, “but not  in that context.’’ Instead, he said, it was a Brigade combatant injured by  friendly fire.

The CIA, with the support of the Pentagon, requested a series of large-scale  sonic booms over Havana that would coincide with a preliminary air strike on  April 14.

The rationale, according to Richard D. Drain, a top-level CIA invasion  planner: “We were trying to create confusion and so on. I thought a sonic boom  would be a helluva swell thing, you know…. Let’s see what it does…. Break all  the windows in downtown Havana… distract Castro.’’

But, Drain said in an interview with Pfeiffer that Assistant Secretary of  State Wymberly Coerr rejected the plan. Drain said he wasn’t sure why. Another  State Dept. official later said that Coerr could not approve the operation  because it was “too obviously U.S.’’

During the fighting, American pilots were authorized to fly planes over Cuba  but secret instructions warned that such flights must not be traced to the  United States. “American crews must not fall into enemy hands,’’ according to  the instructions. In the event they did, the instructions said, the “U.S. will  deny any knowledge.’’ Four American pilots and their crews were killed when  their planes were shot down over Cuba.

On April 14, the 50th anniversary of the invasion, the National Security  Archive filed suit asking for the declassification of all five volumes on the  invasion prepared by Pfeiffer. In response, earlier this month the CIA released  four of the five volumes in the Pfeiffer report and made them available on its  Freedom of Information Electronic Reading Room. The National Security Archive  posted the documents on its website Monday.

A box containing hundreds of pages from Volumes I, II and IV of Pfeiffer’s  report also arrived at The Miami Herald, which had filed a Freedom of  Information request in August 2005 to obtain them.

Volume III was released in 1998 and arrived at the National Archives Kennedy  Assassination collection and sat around for seven years before Richard Barrett,  a Villanova University political scientist, discovered it in 2005.

He found it in a box marked “CIA miscellaneous.’’

“It’s important for the study of the Bay of Pigs that these are available,’’ Barrett said. But he was disappointed there weren’t new revelations on  high-level White House interactions with the CIA.

The fifth volume in the Pfeiffer report remains classified. Kornbluh said the  National Security Archive planned to be in court in September arguing for  release of Volume V.

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/08/16/120829/more-bay-of-pigs-documents-declassified.html#ixzz1VFovNr8O

Religion and Women January 19, 2010

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NYT  – January 10, 2010
Op-Ed Columnist
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Religions derive their power and popularity in part from the ethical compass they offer. So why do so many faiths help perpetuate something that most of us regard as profoundly unethical: the oppression of women?

It is not that warlords in Congo cite Scripture to justify their mass rapes (although the last warlord I met there called himself a pastor and wore a button reading “rebels for Christ”). It’s not that brides are burned in India as part of a Hindu ritual. And there’s no verse in the Koran that instructs Afghan thugs to throw acid in the faces of girls who dare to go to school.

Yet these kinds of abuses — along with more banal injustices, like slapping a girlfriend or paying women less for their work — arise out of a social context in which women are, often, second-class citizens. That’s a context that religions have helped shape, and not pushed hard to change.

“Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified,” former President Jimmy Carter noted in a speech last month to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia.

“The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God,” Mr. Carter continued, “gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.”

Mr. Carter, who sees religion as one of the “basic causes of the violation of women’s rights,” is a member of The Elders, a small council of retired leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela. The Elders are focusing on the role of religion in oppressing women, and they have issued a joint statement calling on religious leaders to “change all discriminatory practices within their own religions and traditions.”

The Elders are neither irreligious nor rabble-rousers. They include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and they begin their meetings with a moment for silent prayer.

“The Elders are not attacking religion as such,” noted Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and United Nations high commissioner for human rights. But she added, “We all recognized that if there’s one overarching issue for women it’s the way that religion can be manipulated to subjugate women.”

There is of course plenty of fodder, in both the Koran and the Bible, for those who seek a theology of discrimination.

The New Testament quotes St. Paul (I Timothy 2) as saying that women “must be silent.” Deuteronomy declares that if a woman does not bleed on her wedding night, “the men of her town shall stone her to death.” An Orthodox Jewish prayer thanks God, “who hast not made me a woman.” The Koran stipulates that a woman shall inherit less than a man, and that a woman’s testimony counts for half a man’s.

In fairness, many scholars believe that Paul did not in fact write the passages calling on women to be silent. And Islam started out as socially progressive for women — banning female infanticide and limiting polygamy — but did not continue to advance.

But religious leaders sanctified existing social structures, instead of pushing for justice. In Africa, it would help enormously if religious figures spoke up for widows disenfranchised by unjust inheritance traditions — or for rape victims, or for schoolgirls facing sexual demands from their teachers. Instead, in Uganda, the influence of conservative Christians is found in a grotesque push to execute gays.

Yet paradoxically, the churches in Africa that have done the most to empower women have been conservative ones led by evangelicals and especially Pentecostals. In particular, Pentecostals encourage women to take leadership roles, and for many women this is the first time they have been trusted with authority and found their opinions respected. In rural Africa, Pentecostal churches are becoming a significant force to emancipate women.

That’s a glimmer of hope that reminds us that while religion is part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. The Dalai Lama has taken that step and calls himself a feminist.

Another excellent precedent is slavery. Each of the Abrahamic faiths accepted slavery. Muhammad owned slaves, and St. Paul seems to have condoned slavery. Yet the pioneers of the abolitionist movement were Quakers and evangelicals like William Wilberforce. People of faith ultimately worked ferociously to overthrow an oppressive institution that churches had previously condoned.

Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior. The Elders are right that religious groups should stand up for a simple ethical principle: any person’s human rights should be sacred, and not depend on something as earthly as their genitals.

Religion and Women January 11, 2010

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NYT  – January 10, 2010
Op-Ed Columnist
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Religions derive their power and popularity in part from the ethical compass they offer. So why do so many faiths help perpetuate something that most of us regard as profoundly unethical: the oppression of women?

It is not that warlords in Congo cite Scripture to justify their mass rapes (although the last warlord I met there called himself a pastor and wore a button reading “rebels for Christ”). It’s not that brides are burned in India as part of a Hindu ritual. And there’s no verse in the Koran that instructs Afghan thugs to throw acid in the faces of girls who dare to go to school.

Yet these kinds of abuses — along with more banal injustices, like slapping a girlfriend or paying women less for their work — arise out of a social context in which women are, often, second-class citizens. That’s a context that religions have helped shape, and not pushed hard to change.

“Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified,” former President Jimmy Carter noted in a speech last month to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia.

“The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God,” Mr. Carter continued, “gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.”

Mr. Carter, who sees religion as one of the “basic causes of the violation of women’s rights,” is a member of The Elders, a small council of retired leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela. The Elders are focusing on the role of religion in oppressing women, and they have issued a joint statement calling on religious leaders to “change all discriminatory practices within their own religions and traditions.”

The Elders are neither irreligious nor rabble-rousers. They include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and they begin their meetings with a moment for silent prayer.

“The Elders are not attacking religion as such,” noted Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and United Nations high commissioner for human rights. But she added, “We all recognized that if there’s one overarching issue for women it’s the way that religion can be manipulated to subjugate women.”

There is of course plenty of fodder, in both the Koran and the Bible, for those who seek a theology of discrimination.

The New Testament quotes St. Paul (I Timothy 2) as saying that women “must be silent.” Deuteronomy declares that if a woman does not bleed on her wedding night, “the men of her town shall stone her to death.” An Orthodox Jewish prayer thanks God, “who hast not made me a woman.” The Koran stipulates that a woman shall inherit less than a man, and that a woman’s testimony counts for half a man’s.

In fairness, many scholars believe that Paul did not in fact write the passages calling on women to be silent. And Islam started out as socially progressive for women — banning female infanticide and limiting polygamy — but did not continue to advance.

But religious leaders sanctified existing social structures, instead of pushing for justice. In Africa, it would help enormously if religious figures spoke up for widows disenfranchised by unjust inheritance traditions — or for rape victims, or for schoolgirls facing sexual demands from their teachers. Instead, in Uganda, the influence of conservative Christians is found in a grotesque push to execute gays.

Yet paradoxically, the churches in Africa that have done the most to empower women have been conservative ones led by evangelicals and especially Pentecostals. In particular, Pentecostals encourage women to take leadership roles, and for many women this is the first time they have been trusted with authority and found their opinions respected. In rural Africa, Pentecostal churches are becoming a significant force to emancipate women.

That’s a glimmer of hope that reminds us that while religion is part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. The Dalai Lama has taken that step and calls himself a feminist.

Another excellent precedent is slavery. Each of the Abrahamic faiths accepted slavery. Muhammad owned slaves, and St. Paul seems to have condoned slavery. Yet the pioneers of the abolitionist movement were Quakers and evangelicals like William Wilberforce. People of faith ultimately worked ferociously to overthrow an oppressive institution that churches had previously condoned.

Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior. The Elders are right that religious groups should stand up for a simple ethical principle: any person’s human rights should be sacred, and not depend on something as earthly as their genitals.

Neocon enemies, using diplomacy, reach deal for Shalit’s release June 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Glenn Greenwald, www.salon.com
Friday June 26, 2009 04:27 EDT

[updated below – Update II – Update III (Goldfarb’s reply)]

Last night, I noted the sudden and obviously hypocritical concern about detainee abuse emerging from The Weekly Standard‘s Michael Goldfarb now that the transfer of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by the Palestinians to Egypt appears imminent and it’s time to exploit his detention.  In service of that same mission, Goldfarb also tries to attribute this deal for Shalit’s release to the heroism of Benjamin Netanyahu, excitedly claiming that, if it happens, it will cause the Israeli Prime Minister’s “approval numbers [to] skyrocket, further undermining Obama’s leverage over him” (i.e., Israel will be able to continue to expand settlements on land that isn’t theirs).

But as Omooex points out in comments, the Haaretz article which Goldfarb himself cited makes clear that it was not Netanyahu, but numerous other parties — Jimmy Carter, Egypt, Syria and the Obama administration — who engineered the agreement to transfer Shalit from Gaza to Egypt (followed eventually by his release to Israel, pending the release by Israel of Palestinian prisoners):

The move is part of a new United States initiative that includes Egyptian and Syrian pressure on Hamas . . . The idea to transfer Shalit to Egypt in exchange for the release of Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians being held in Israeli prisons was raised about a year ago during a visit by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to Damascus, Jerusalem and Gaza. . . . Carter raised it again on his visit earlier this month, during which he met Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father. . . . The European source said Shalit’s transfer to Egypt was the first stage of the Egyptian-brokered agreement hammered out between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions, in coordination with the U.S. and with Syria’s support.

In other words, the deal for Shalit’s release was secured by some of the neocon’s most despised enemies (Jimmy Carter and Syria), with the help of a President they insist hates Israel (Barack Obama), relying on tactics they have long scorned (diplomacy, negotiating with Terrorists, including Hamas).  Of course, Jimmy Carter — who neocons endlessly smear as being Israel-hating and even anti-Semitic — did more to advance the interests of Israeli security than every neoconservative keyboard-tough-guy combined (indeed, more than virtually any single individual on the planet) when he engineered the 1979 Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt, which — even 30 years later — continues to pay dividends for Israel in the form of this apparent agreement for Shalit’s release.  Identically, the Shalit deal is possible only because, as Haaretz notes, Hamas knows that there is now an American administration willing to negotiate with hostile parties, rather than trying to feel “tough” by ignoring and/or threatening them:

Hamas, which controls Gaza, has increasingly tried to reach out to the Obama administration in recent weeks.

This is but one of the numerous inanities of neoconservatives:  as destructive for the U.S. as their obsession with Israel and mindless belligerence are, those fixations also do nothing for Isarel but jeopardize it further.  Years of neocon rule and moronic chest-beating in Washington did nothing to help Shalit.  But a deal is struck for his release — long a top priority of Israelis — only months into a new administration committed to engagement with Syria and other ostensible Enemies, as well as an emphatic rejection of neoconservative ideology at least when it comes to dealing with some Muslim states.  But even those clear and obvious facts — whereby this apparent success is possible only with them out of power, their ideology repudiated and their Enemies engaged — won’t stop them from claiming that this somehow vindicates their tawdry mindset.

[Along those same lines, Omooex also highlights what will be an overlooked part of the story:  namely, that Israel is imprisoning “Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians” (including, until his release this week, “Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Sheikh Aziz Dweik after three years in prison” who is “a leader of Hamas in the West Bank [and] espouses a moderate line in the organization”).  If this Shalit deal ends up being consummated (and that still remains to be seen), the American media narrative will undoubtedly dramatize the detention of Shalit, an actual Israel solider, even while Israel imprisons scores of “Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians.”]

Notably, Goldfarb seems to think that Obama’s leverage over Israel is dependent upon the domestic approval ratings of Netanyahu.  Actually, that leverage is grounded in the tens of billions of American dollars in aid to Israel, the supplying of American weapons for Israel’s various wars, and the multiple forms of diplomatic protection the U.S. extends to Israel.  At least preliminarily and from all appearances, the Obama administration has been using that leverage for U.S. interests by demanding that Israeli actions that harm the U.S. cease.  Ironically, despite all the right-wing rage about that (in both Israel and the U.S.), the refusal to cater to neoconservatives when it comes to  U.S. policy towards Israel just so happens — as demonstrated by this Shalit episode — to be benefiting Israel as well.

 

UPDATE:  From a Haaretz Editorial last year, entitled “Our Debt to Jimmy Carter” (h/t thomas c):

The government of Israel is boycotting Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, during his visit here this week. Ehud Olmert, who has not managed to achieve any peace agreement during his public life, and who even tried to undermine negotiations in the past, “could not find the time” to meet the American president who is a signatory to the peace agreement with Egypt. . . . Carter, who himself said he set out to achieve peace between Israel and Egypt from the day he assumed office, worked incessantly toward that goal and two years after becoming president succeeded – was declared persona non grata by Israel. . . .

The boycott will not be remembered as a glorious moment in this government’s history. Jimmy Carter has dedicated his life to humanitarian missions, to peace, to promoting democratic elections, and to better understanding between enemies throughout the world. . . .

Whether Carter’s approach to conflict resolution is considered by the Israeli government as appropriate or defeatist, no one can take away from the former U.S. president his international standing, nor the fact that he brought Israel and Egypt to a signed peace that has since held. Carter’s method, which says that it is necessary to talk with every one, has still not proven to be any less successful than the method that calls for boycotts and air strikes. In terms of results, at the end of the day, Carter beats out any of those who ostracize him. For the peace agreement with Egypt, he deserves the respect reserved for royalty for the rest of his life.

That all speaks for itself, and speaks volumes about our current Middle East predicaments and what to do about them.

 

UPDATE II:  Speaking of using leverage, the original road map “quartet” — the U.S., the EU, the U.N. and Russia — have now jointly adopted the Obama administration’s position that Israel must “freeze all settlement activity, including ‘natural growth’.”  Israel is long accustomed to ignoring worldwide consensus because the U.S. sides with them on those matters.  Where, as here, the U.S. is publicly and privately in favor of the consensus, Israel’s ability to defy it will depend upon how much leverage Obama is really willing to use.

 

UPDATE III:  Goldfarb replies here, with the full array of textbook neoconservative platitudes.  The only point worth noting is that he agrees with the observation I expressed last night that Goldfarb’s views (like those of most neonconservatives) “ultimately come down to nothing more complicated than: what we do is Good and Right because we are superior and because they are inferior.”  Goldfarb admits he thinks torture is tolerable when we do it to Them but not when They do it to us because — as he puts it — “Of Course We Are Superior and They Are Inferior ” (that, of course, is the very definition of “moral relativism,” which Goldfarb and his allies like to pretend they oppose even as they exemplify its core premise).  And — other than a view that Muslims generally are inferior — what possible ground is there for claiming moral superiority over the numerous detainees at Guanatnamo and elsewhere who, even by the Bush administration’s reasoning, were guilty of nothing?  Independently, it’s bizarre to hear someone proclaim themselves morally superior when, just a few months ago, they were celebrating the benefits of the wholesale slaughter of an entire extended family — including small children — in Gaza.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago:

The most predominant mentality in right-wing discourse finds expression in this form: “I am part of/was born into Group X, and Group X — my group — is better than all others yet treated so very unfairly” . . . . Here again we find the same adolescent self-absorption: the group into which I was born and was instructed from childhood to believe is the best [] is, objectively, superior. It is so much better than everyone and everything else that even to suggest that we have flaws comparable to others is to engage in “false moral equivalencies.” To do anything other than emphatically proclaim my group’s objective superiority is to treat my group unfairly.

Goldfarb’s reply is a pure expression of that warped and self-glorifying mentality.

FOOLING WITH DISASTER? Startling revelations about Three Mile Island disaster raise doubts over nuclear plant safety April 3, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Environment, Health.
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A special Facing South investigation by Sue Sturgis
www.southernstudies.org, April 2, 2009

Carter_TMI_4-1-79.gifIt was April Fool’s Day, 1979 — 30 years ago this week — when Randall Thompson first set foot inside the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pa. Just four days earlier, in the early morning hours of March 28, a relatively minor problem in the plant’s Unit 2 reactor sparked a series of mishaps that led to the meltdown of almost half the uranium fuel and uncontrolled releases of radiation into the air and surrounding Susquehanna River.



It was the single worst disaster ever to befall the U.S. nuclear power industry, and Thompson was hired as a health physics technician to go inside the plant and find out how dangerous the situation was. He spent 28 days monitoring radiation releases.

Today, his story about what he witnessed at Three Mile Island is being brought to the public in detail for the first time — and his version of what happened during that time, supported by a growing body of other scientific evidence, contradicts the official U.S. government story that the Three Mile Island accident posed no threat to the public.

“What happened at TMI was a whole lot worse than what has been reported,” Randall Thompson told Facing South. “Hundreds of times worse.”

Thompson and his wife, Joy, a nuclear health physicist who also worked at TMI in the disaster’s aftermath, claim that what they witnessed there was a public health tragedy. The Thompsons also warn that the government’s failure to acknowledge the full scope of the disaster is leading officials to underestimate the risks posed by a new generation of nuclear power plants.

While new reactor construction ground to a halt after the 1979 incident, state leaders and energy executives today are pushing for a nuclear energy revival that’s centered in the South, where 12 of the 17 facilities seeking new reactors are located.

Fundamental to the industry’s case for expansion is the claim that history proves nuclear power is clean and safe — a claim on which the Thompsons and others, bolstered by startling new evidence, are casting doubt.

An unlikely critic

randall_thompson_fire.jpgRandall Thompson could never be accused of being a knee-jerk anti-nuclear alarmist. A veteran of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine program, he is a self-described “nuclear geek” who after finishing military service jumped at the chance to work for commercial nuclear power companies.

He worked for a time at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant south of Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania’s York County, but quit the industry six months before the TMI disaster over concerns that nuclear companies were cutting corners for higher profits, with potentially dangerous results. Instead, he began publishing a skateboarding magazine with his wife Joy.

But the moment the Thompsons heard about the TMI incident, they wanted to get inside the plant and see what was happening first-hand. That didn’t prove difficult: Plant operator Metropolitan Edison’s in-house health physics staff fled after the incident began, so responsibility for monitoring radioactive emissions went to a private contractor called Rad Services.

The company immediately hired Randall Thompson to serve as the health physics technician in charge of monitoring radioactive emissions, while Joy Thompson got a job monitoring radiation doses to TMI workers.

“I had other health physicists from around the country calling me saying, ‘Don’t let it melt without me!” Randall Thompson recalls. “It was exciting. Our attitude was, ‘Sure I may get some cancer, but I can find out some cool stuff.'”

What the Thompsons say they found out during their time inside TMI suggests radiation releases from the plant were hundreds if not thousands of times higher than the government and industry have acknowledged — high enough to cause the acute health effects documented in people living near the plant but that have been dismissed by the industry and the government as impossible given official radiation dose estimates.

The Thompsons tried to draw attention to their findings and provide health information for people living near the plant, but what they say happened next reads like a John Grisham thriller.

They tell of how a stranger approached Randall Thompson in a grocery store parking lot in late April 1979 and warned him his life was at risk, leading the family to flee Pennsylvania. How they ended up in New Mexico working on a book about their experiences with the help of Joy’s brother Charles Busey, another nuclear Navy vet and a former worker at the Hatch nuclear power plant in Georgia. How one evening while driving home from the store Busey and Randall Thompson were run off the road, injuring Thompson and killing Busey. How a copy of the book manuscript they were working on was missing from the car’s trunk after the accident. These allegations were detailed in several newspaper accounts back in 1981.

Eventually, after a decade of having their lives ruled by TMI, the Thompsons decided to move on. Randall Thompson went to college to study computer science. Joy Thompson returned to publishing and writing.

Today they live quietly in the mountains of North Carolina where, inspired by time spent seeking refuge with a traveling circus, they have forged a new career for themselves as clowns — or what they like to call “professional fools.” As Joy Thompson wrote in the fall 2001 issue of Parabola, a journal of myth, the role of the fool is to help people “perceive the foolishness in even … the most powerful institutions,” noting the medieval court jester’s role of telling the King what others dare not.

That conviction has led the Thompsons to tell their story today.

“They haven’t told the truth yet about what happened at Three Mile Island,” says Randall Thompson. “A lot of people have died because of this accident. A lot.”

Anomalies abound

That a lot of people died because of what happened at Three Mile Island, as the Thompsons claim, is definitely not part of the official story. In fact, the commercial nuclear power industry and the government insist that despite the meltdown of almost half of the uranium fuel at TMI, there were only minimal releases of radiation to the environment that harmed no one.

For example, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying group for the U.S. nuclear industry, declares on its website that there have been “no public health or safety consequences from the TMI-2 accident.” The government’s position is the same, reflected in a fact sheet distributed today by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency charged with overseeing the U.S. nuclear power industry: TMI, it says, “led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of the nearby community.” [The watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert offers their take on the NRC factsheet here.]

Those upbeat claims are based on the findings of the Kemeny Commission, a panel assembled by President Jimmy Carter in April 1979 to investigate the TMI disaster. Using release figures presented by Metropolitan Edison and the NRC, the commission calculated that in the month following the disaster there were releases of up to 13 million curies of so-called “noble gases” — considered relatively harmless — but only 13 to 17 curies of iodine-131, a radioactive form of the element that at even moderate exposures causes thyroid cancer. (A curie is a measure of radioactivity, with 1 curie equal to the activity of one gram of radium. For help understanding these and other terms, see the glossary at the end of this piece.)

But the official story that there were no health impacts from the disaster doesn’t jibe with the experiences of people living near TMI. On the contrary, their stories suggest that area residents actually suffered exposure to levels of radiation high enough to cause acute effects — far more than the industry and the government has acknowledged.

Some of their disturbing experiences were collected in the book Three Mile Island: The People’s Testament, which is based on interviews with 250 area residents done between 1979 and 1988 by Katagiri Mitsuru and Aileen M. Smith.

It includes the story of Jean Trimmer, a farmer who lived in Lisburn, Pa. about 10 miles west of TMI. On the evening of March 30, 1979, Trimmer stepped outside on her front porch to fetch her cat when she was hit with a blast of heat and rain. Soon after, her skin became red and itchy as if badly sunburned, a condition known as erythema. About three weeks later, her hair turned white and began falling out. Not long after, she reported, her left kidney “just dried up and disappeared” — an occurrence so strange that her case was presented to a symposium of doctors at the nearby Hershey Medical Center. All of those symptoms are consistent with high-dose radiation exposure.

There was also Bill Peters, an auto-body shop owner and a former justice of the peace who lived just a few miles west of the plant in Etters, Pa. The day after the disaster, he and his son — who like most area residents were unaware of what was unfolding nearby — were working in their garage with the doors open when they developed what they first thought was a bad sunburn. They also experienced burning in their throats and tasted what seemed to be metal in the air. That same metallic taste was reported by many local residents and is another symptom of radiation exposure, commonly reported in cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.

Peters soon developed diarrhea and nausea, blisters on his lips and inside his nose, and a burning feeling in his chest. Not long after, he had surgery for a damaged heart valve. When his family evacuated the area a few days later, they left their four-year-old German shepherd in their garage with 200 pounds of dog chow, 50 gallons of water and a mattress. When they returned a week later, they found the dog dead on the mattress, his eyes burnt completely white. His food was untouched, and he had vomited water all over the garage. They also found four of their five cats dead — their eyes also burnt white — and one alive but blinded. Peters later found scores of wild bird carcasses scattered over their property.

Similar stories surfaced in The People of Three Mile Island, a book by documentary photographer Robert Del Tredici. He found local farmers whose cattle and goats died, suffered miscarriages and gave birth to deformed young after the incident; whose chickens developed respiratory problems and died; and whose fruit trees abruptly lost all their leaves. Local residents also collected evidence of deformed plants, some of which were examined by James Gunckel, a botanist and radiation expert with Brookhaven National Laboratory and Rutgers University.

“There were a number of anomalies entirely comparable to those induced by ionizing radiation — stem fasciations, growth stimulation, induction of extra vegetative buds and stem tumors,” he swore in a 1984 affidavit.

Scientists say these kinds of anomalies simply aren’t explained by official radiation release estimates.

Evidence of harm

wing_tmi_cancer_map.gifThe evidence that people, animals and plants near TMI were exposed to high levels of radiation in the 1979 disaster is not merely anecdotal. While government studies of the disaster as well as a number of independent researchers assert the incident caused no harm, other surveys and studies have also documented health effects that point to a high likelihood of significant radiation exposures.

In 1984, for example, psychologist Marjorie Aamodt and her engineer husband, Norman — owners of an organic dairy farm east of Three Mile Island who got involved in a lawsuit seeking to stop TMI from restarting its Unit 1 reactor — surveyed residents in three hilltop neighborhoods near the plant. Dozens of neighbors reported a metallic taste, nausea, vomiting and hair loss as well as illnesses including cancers, skin and reproductive problems, and collapsed organs — all associated with radiation exposure. Among the 450 people surveyed, there were 19 cancer deaths reported between 1980 and 1984 — more than seven times what would be expected statistically.

That survey came to the attention of the industry-financed TMI Public Health Fund, created in 1981 as part of a settlement for economic losses from the disaster. The fund’s scientific advisors verified the Aamodts’ calculations and launched a more comprehensive study of TMI-related cancer deaths led by a team of scientists from Columbia University. The researchers found an association between estimated radiation doses received by area residents and instances of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lung cancer, leukemia and all cancers combined. Crucially, however, the researchers decided there wasn’t “convincing evidence” that TMI radiation releases were linked to the increase in cancers in the area because of the “low estimates of radiation exposure.” The paper did not consider what conclusions could be drawn if those “low estimates” turned out to be wrong.

By the time the Columbia research was published in the early 1990s, a class-action lawsuit was underway involving about 2,000 plaintiffs claiming that the radiation emissions were much larger than admitted by the government and industry. (The federal courts eventually rejected that suit, though hundreds of out-of-court settlements totaling millions of dollars have been reached with victims, including the parents of children born with birth defects.)

Consulting for the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the Aamodts contacted Dr. Steven Wing, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in Chapel Hill to provide support for the plaintiffs. Dr. Wing was reluctant to get involved because — as he wrote in a 2003 paper about his experience — “allegations of high radiation doses at TMI were considered by mainstream radiation scientists to be a product of radiation phobia or efforts to extort money from a blameless industry.” But impressed with the Aamodts’ compelling if imperfect evidence, Wing agreed to look at whether there were connections between radiation exposure from TMI and cancer rates.

Wing reanalyzed the Columbia scientists’ data, looking at cancer rates before the TMI disaster to control for other possible risk factors in the 10-mile area. His peer-reviewed results, published in 1997, found positive relationships between accident dose estimates and rates of leukemia, lung cancer and all cancers. Where the Columbia study found a 30 percent average increase in lung cancer risk among one group of residents, for example, Wing found an 85 percent increase. And while the Columbia researchers found little or no increase in adult leukemias and a statistically unreliable increase in childhood cases, Wing found that people downwind during the most intense releases were eight to 10 times more likely on average than their neighbors to develop leukemia.

Dr. Wing reflected on his findings at a symposium in Harrisburg marking the 30-year anniversary of the Three Mile Island disaster last week.

“I believe this is very good evidence that releases were thousands of times greater than the story we’ve been told,” he said. “As we think about the current plans to open more nuclear reactors, when we hear — which we hear often — that no one was harmed at Three Mile Island, we really should question that.”

Documenting discrepancies

Randall and Joy Thompson couldn’t agree more. If anything, they think Dr. Wing’s findings understate the impact of Three Mile Island because they’re based on low-ball estimates of radiation releases.

“Given what he was allowed to know or could figure out, he did a slam-bang job of it,” Joyce Thompson says.

In 1995, the Thompsons — with the help of another health physics expert who was also hired to monitor radiation after the TMI disaster, David Bear (formerly Bloombaum) – prepared a report analyzing the Kemeny Commission findings. Their research, which hasn’t been covered by any major media, documents a series of inconsistencies and omissions in the government’s account.

For example, the official story is that the TMI incident released only 13 to 17 curies of dangerous iodine into the outside environment, a tiny fraction of the 13 million curies of less dangerous radioactive gases officials say were released, primarily xenon. Such a number would seem small compared with, for example, the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl, which released anywhere from 13 million to 40 million curies of iodine and is linked to 50,000 cases of thyroid cancer, according to World Health Organization estimates.

But the Thompsons and Bear point out that the commission’s own Technical Assessment Task Force, in a separate volume, had concluded that iodine accounted for 8 to 12 percent of the total radioactive gases leaked from Three Mile Island. Conservatively assuming the 13 million curie figure was the total amount of radioactive gases released rather than just the xenon portion, and then using the Task Force’s own 8 to 12 percent estimate of the proportion that was iodine, they point out that “the actual figure for Iodine release would be over 1 million curies” — a much more substantial public health threat.

In another instance, the Kemeny Commission claimed that there were 7.5 million curies of iodine present in TMI’s primary loop, the contained system that delivers cooling water to the reactor. But a laboratory analysis done on March 30 found a higher concentration of iodine in the reactor water, which would put the total amount of iodine present — and which could potentially leak into the environment — at 7.65 million curies.

“Thus, while the apparent difference between 7.5 and 7.65 seems inconsiderable at first glance,” the Thompson/Bear report states, “this convenient rounding off served to ‘lose’ a hundred and fifty thousand curies of radioactive Iodine.”

They also offer evidence of atmospheric releases of dangerously long-lived radioactive particles such as cesium and strontium — releases denied by the Kemeny Commission but indicated in the Thompsons’ own post-disaster monitoring and detailed in the report — and show that there were pathways for the radiation to escape into the environment. They demonstrate that the plant’s radiation filtration system was totally inadequate to handle the large amounts of radiation released from the melted fuel and suggest that the commission may have arbitrarily set release estimates at levels low enough to make the filtration appear adequate.

Shockingly, they also report that when readings from the dosimeters used to monitor radiation doses to workers and the public were logged, doses of beta radiation — one of three basic types along with alpha and gamma — were simply not recorded, which Joy Thompson knew since she did the recording. But Thompson’s monitoring equipment also indicated that beta radiation represented about 90 percent of the radiation to which TMI’s neighbors were exposed in April 1979, which means an enormous part of the disaster’s public health risk may have been wiped from the record.

Finally, in a separate analysis the Thompsons point to discrepancies in government and industry accounts of the disaster that suggest the TMI Unit 2 suffered a scram failure — that is, a breakdown of the emergency shutoff system. That would mean the nuclear reaction spiraled out of control and therefore posed a much greater danger than the official story allows.

The Thompsons aren’t the only ones who have produced evidence that the radiation releases from TMI were much higher than the official estimates. Arnie Gundersen — a nuclear engineer and former nuclear industry executive turned whistle-blower — has done his own analysis, which he shared for the first time at a symposium in Harrisburg last week.

“I think the numbers on the NRC’s website are off by a factor of 100 to 1,000,” he said.

Exactly how much radiation was released is impossible to say, since onsite monitors immediately went off the scale after the explosion. But Gundersen points to an inside report by an NRC manager who himself estimated the release of about 36 million curies — almost three times as much as the NRC’s official estimate. Gundersen also notes that industry itself has acknowledged there was a total of 10 billion curies of radiation inside the reactor containment. Using the common estimate that a tenth of it escaped, that means as much as a billion curies could have been released to the environment.

gundersen_pressure_spike_slide.jpgGundersen also offered compelling evidence based on pressure monitoring data from the plant that shortly before 2 p.m. on March 28, 1979 there was a hydrogen explosion inside the TMI containment building that could have released significant amounts of radiation to the environment. The NRC and industry to this day deny there was an explosion, instead referring to what happened as a “hydrogen burn.” But Gundersen noted that affidavits from four reactor operators confirm that the plant manager was aware of a dramatic pressure spike after which the internal pressure dropped to outside pressure; he also noted that the control room shook and doors were blown off hinges. In addition, Gundersen reported that while Metropolitan Edison would have known about the pressure spike immediately from monitoring equipment, it didn’t notify the NRC about what had happened until two days later.

Gundersen maintains under the NRC’s own rules an evacuation should have been ordered on the disaster’s first day, when calculated radiation exposures in the town of Goldsboro, Pa. were as high as 10 rems an hour compared to an average cumulative annual background dose of about 0.125 rems. No evacuation order was ever issued, though Gov. Dick Thornburgh did issue an evacuation advisory on March 30 for pregnant women and preschool children within 5 miles of the plant. The government also did not distribute potassium iodide to the public, which would have protected people from the health-damaging effects of radioactive iodine.

Lessons for the future?

When asked by Facing South to respond to these allegations, a spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not address them directly, instead stating that it continues to stand by the Kemeny Commission report. The NRC further insists that the radiation releases from Three Mile Island had only “negligible effects” on the physical health of humans and the environment, citing other reports from federal agencies [For a PDF of the NRC’s response to Facing South, see here.]

But Gundersen and the Thompsons argue such claims don’t address new findings at odds with the government’s account.

“I believe [the] data shows releases from TMI were significantly greater than reported by the federal government,” Gundersen says.

They also say their findings that releases were potentially much larger have important ramifications for current plans to expand the nuclear power industry.

With more than $18 billion in federal subsidies at stake, 17 companies are seeking federal licenses to build a total of 26 nuclear reactors across the country, the first applications since the 1979 disaster. The Atlanta-based Southern Co. plans to begin site work this summer for two new reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia, where state lawmakers recently approved legislation forcing ratepayers to foot the bill for those facilities up front. Florida and South Carolina residents have also begun paying new utility charges to finance planned reactors, USA Today reports. Plans are in the works as well for new reactors in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Harold Denton, a retired NRC official who worked in Three Mile Island during the crisis, recently told Greenwire that changes made after the 1979 disaster “significantly reduced the overall risks of a future serious accident.” But the Thompsons and Gundersen point out that the standards the NRC is applying to the new generation of nuclear plants are influenced by assumptions about what happened at Three Mile Island. They say the NRC’s low estimates of radiation exposure have resulted in inadequate requirements for safety and containment protocols as well as the size of the evacuation zones around nuclear plants.

Other nuclear watchdogs have also raised concerns that the NRC’s standards for protection against severe accidents like TMI remain inadequate. In a December 2007 report titled “Nuclear Power in a Warming World,” the Union of Concerned Scientists notes that the worst accident the current generation of reactors was designed to withstand involves only partial melting of the reactor core but no breach of containment. And the NRC requires operators of plants found to be vulnerable to severe accidents to fix the problem “only if a cost-benefit analysis shows that the financial benefit of a safety backfit – determined by assigning a dollar value to the number of projected cancer deaths that would result from a severe accident – outweighs the cost of fixing the problem,” the report states.

Given their personal experiences, the Thompsons warn that we may be fooling ourselves into believing nuclear power is safer than evidence and history suggest.

“Once you realize how deep and broad the realignment of facts about TMI has been, it becomes really pretty amazing,” Randall Thompson says. “I guess that’s what it takes to protect this industry.”

(Images from top: Photo of President Jimmy Carter leaving Three Mile Island for Middletown, Pa. on April 1, 1979 from the National Archives and Records Administration; photo of Randall Thompson swallowing fire by William Mosher; map showing increases in cancer rates in the TMI area after the disaster courtesy of Dr. Steve Wing; graph showing dramatic spike in pressure inside the TMI containment on March 28, 1979 courtesy of Arnie Gundersen.)

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NUKE-SPEAK: Glossary of terms used in this story

Cesium – an element occurring naturally in rocks, soil and dust. The breakdown of uranium fuel in nuclear reactors produces radioactive forms including cesium-134 and cesium-137, exposure to which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding and death.

Curie – a measure of radioactivity, with 1 curie equal to the activity of one gram of radium.

Erythema – redness of the skin due to capillary congestion, it can be caused by radiation exposure.

Iodine-131 – a radioactive element produced in nuclear reactors. Absorbed into the body, it accumulates in the thyroid gland, which controls metabolism, and can cause cancer and other diseases.

Kemeny Commission – a panel created in April 1979 by President Jimmy Carter to investigate the Three Mile Island disaster. It was chaired by John G. Kemeny, president of Dartmouth College, and released its final report on Oct. 31, 1979.

Noble gases – a group of chemical elements that occur in nature in a number of isotopes, some of which are unstable and emit radiation.

Nuclear fission – the splitting of an atom accompanied by the release of energy. In a nuclear reactor, the fission energy is converted to heat used to generate electricity via steam turbines.

Nuclear meltdown – a severe nuclear reactor problem that occurs when there is a loss of control over the reactor core, causing the radioactive fuel to melt and release highly radioactive and other toxic elements.

Nuclear reactor core – the part of a nuclear reactor containing the nuclear fuel; it is where nuclear reactions take place.

Radiation, ionizing – subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves energetic enough to detach electrons from atoms or molecules. It includes alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays.

Radiation poisoning or sickness – damage to organ tissue due to excessive exposure to ionizing radiation. Acute symptoms include erythema, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss and internal bleeding.

Radium – an extremely radioactive chemical element that was at one time used in self-luminous paints for watch dials, leading to radiation-related illnesses in dial painters.

Rem —  an acronym that stands for “roentgen equivalent in man,” this is a unit for measuring absorbed doses of radiation equivalent to one roentgen of X-rays or gamma rays.

Roentgen — a unit of measurement for ionizing radiation.

Scram – an emergency shutdown of a nuclear reactor, also referred to as a “trip,” achieved by inserting neutron-absorbing control rods into the reactor core.

Strontium – a highly reactive chemical element whose radioactive isotope, strontium-90, is produced by nuclear fission. It takes the place of calcium in bones and can lead to bone disorders including cancer.

Three Mile Island Units 1 and 2 – the two reactors at the commercial nuclear power plant located south of Harrisburg, Pa. on an island in the Susquehanna River. TMI-2 suffered a partial meltdown on March 28, 1979 and is no longer in operation. Originally built by General Public Utilities Corp. and operated by Metropolitan Edison, TMI-1 is now operated by Chicago-based Exelon while Unit 2 is owned by Met-Ed.

Uranium – a radioactive element used by fuel in nuclear reactors.