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- the last of the doughboys, has died. He'd turned 110 earlier this month.
Florence Green, the last Great War veteran living in Britain, turned 110 last week. Claude Stanley Choules, Royal Navy Great War vet, will reach that milestone this week. They're the last known surviving veterans of the conflict that shaped the modern world.
Here's Frank's Americans at War interview, back when he was only 106:
Visit the Frank Buckles web page here. (Bio of this remarkable man here - with an even younger looking in-uniform photo. If he "fooled" a recruiter, the recruiter was already a fool...)
We over-rate the significance of World War Two, which was undeniably the bloodiest result (though an argument can be made for continuation) of the first. From Lawrence in Arabia to the birth of the Soviet Union to the emergence of the US as a (reluctant) global military power, it was this horrific event that made the 20th Century - and thus far the 21st - what it was. Besides national borders, its shaping influence on the men who fought it, from mid-grade officers like Churchill (who also held high government office) and MacArthur to junior officers like Eisenhower and Patton (and many others) - and even young enlisted troops (Corporal Hitler - though he isn't typical) is undeniable.
In America (and elsewhere), the doughboys - born at the closing of the American frontier - came home to raise families, not in post-war prosperity, but in the Great Depression. In the 1940s, when not building the industry that won the war they listened to the radio (they didn't need TV images) for news of their sons who fought it. I'd make the case that theirs was the American generation of which more was asked and from which more delivered than any other.
Whether I'm right or wrong in that, I hope there are many American generations to come that never need compete for the honor. But the less we know of this one, the less likely I believe that will be.
When I first saw this picture of General Caldwell (center) briefing two US Senators in Afghanistan...
...I thought someone had just "gone native" a little too much.
But now I'm rethinking that. I'm not sure who all has been completely and totally brain-controlled by bazillion dollar supersoldier psyops powers (like Blackfive and Andrew Exum and Jonn Lilyea and Bruce McQuain and Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman and Andrew Exum again and the American Legion and Small Wars Journal and everyone they link have - ignore them all!), but obviously when America's actual most influential national security news source reveals a threat to democracy this shocking, President Obama has no choice but to do the same thing he had to do last time - immediately fire the two in that picture, at least.
I mean fast - this story is totally super popular!
And President Obama should also make it totally illegal for soldiers in Afghanistan to ever tell anybody - especially Congress - what they are doing, ever.
Also, check out this week's issue:
Does Justin Bieber look totally badass or what? I hope he gets to be president next. (I wonder if he'd make the Jonas Brothers the Joint Chiefs of Staff?)
Update - from comments: "Looks like Levin thinks he's holding a gun. Has anyone else seen The Manchurian Candidate?"
Good point! Not sure about Michigan, but citizens of Minnesota have been alerted to the threat.
Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan has uncovered disturbing proof. I hope he sticks to this story with the same fearless tenacity he's applied to other serious matters in the past. (He even worked an Abu Ghraib reference into his post - though he hasn't tied the whole thing to Sarah Palin's pregnancy yet.)
Update 2: If anyone tries to get you to watch this video, don't do it (unless you want to end up just like them).
(Really, I remember thinking his constant rhythmic hand motions were just distracting when I first saw it, but now I'm rethinking that, too.)
...or, at least not while the camera's were going. "Protesters at the Wisconsin Capitol disrespectfully have taped signs on and piled junk against the Veterans Memorial. Meade and I confront them, and we're told we're the first people who've had a problem with it." Story and video here.
Maybe the protesters (including one who "makes memorials for a living" - I suppose there's a union for that...), just like the veterans of World War Two, are fightin' the Nazis, man! - and look forward to a day when their war is won and such memorials are all gone, no longer needed, 'cause everyone just naturally respects their sacrifice just as much as they do.
Or "I don't need your civil war." (And don't fret over those foreign sounding names; the characters in this story are as American as apple pie...)
"One hundred and fifty years and one day later," the New York Times reported from Montgomery earlier this week, "the South did it again."
Now don't panic, dear Gotham readers - here's all that the yokels were up to:
Before a cheering crowd of several hundred men and women, some in period costume and others in crisp suits, an amateur actor playing Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy on the steps of the Alabama Capitol on Saturday, an event framed by the firing of artillery, the delivery of defiant speeches and the singing of "Dixie."
The participants far outnumbered the spectators, but it was to be the largest event of the year organized by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and one in a series of commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Confederacy and the War for Southern Independence. (Referring to the Civil War as anything other than an act of unwarranted Northern aggression upon a sovereign republic was rather frowned upon.)
The Sons' principal message was that the Confederacy was a just exercise in self-determination that had been maligned by "the politically correct crowd" through years of historical distortions. It is the right of secession that they emphasize, not the cause...
In short - the sort of ignorant, racist, historical revisionism common to the unenlightened folk who dwell beyond the boundaries of Manhattan.
New York is a city. Montgomery is a mere village. I discovered a way to distinguish one from the other in an old biography of Boss Tweed (that most eminent of New Yorkers) I stumbled upon not long ago: "It is the fortieth maxim of Adjutant and Ensign Morgan O'Doherty, that 'you may always ascertain whether you are in a city or a village by finding out whether the inhabitants do or do not care for, or speak about, ANY THING, three days after it has happened.' In cities they don't." (Politicians in cities, adds Tweed's biographer, even those who've never heard of O'Doherty, know this to be true, "and make it the guide to their faith and practice in public affairs*.")
If today's New York City was a mere provincial village like Montgomery, residents would have commemorated the 150th anniversary of what happened in their metropolis this week, and missed the opportunity to sit back and sneer at the rubes. Had they deemed to lower themselves to such base amusements, however, they absolutely could have lent an air of metropolitan dignity to the event (and one-upped the gomers!) by paying one of their many fine professional actors (a modern-day Ed Forrest or Bill Macready) to play the lead role.
Since they didn't, here's how New Yorker Walt Whitman, a combat nurse and - rare for New York City - Lincoln admirer (who referred throughout his lecture to the recently concluded conflict as "the Secession War," but also considered "the Union War" before concluding "whatever called, it is even yet too near us...") recalled the event in a speech twenty-five years later. (For the benefit of modern New Yorkers I've added explanatory links to some of the outdated terms): "I shall not easily forget the first time I ever saw Abraham Lincoln," Whitman began. "It must have been about the 18th or 19th of February, 1861..." ...
It was a rather pleasant afternoon in New York City, as he arrived there from the West, to remain a few hours and then pass on to Washington to prepare for his inauguration. I saw him in Broadway, near the site of the present post office. He came down, I think from Canal Street, to stop at the Astor House.
The broad spaces, sidewalks, and street in that neighborhood and for some distance were crowded with solid masses of people -- many thousands. The omnibuses and other vehicles had all been turned off, leaving an unusual hush in that busy part of the city. Presently two or three shabby hack barouches made their way with difficulty through the crowd and drew up at the Astor House entrance.
A tall figure stepped out of the center of these barouches, paused leisurely on the sidewalk, looked up at the granite walls and looming architecture of the grand old hotel -- then, after a relieving stretch of arms and legs, turned around for over a minute to slowly and good-humoredly scan the appearance of the vast and silent crowds.
There were no speeches, no compliments, no welcome -- as far as I could hear, not a word said. Still, much anxiety was concealed in that quiet. Cautious persons had feared some marked insult or indignity to the president-elect -- for he possessed no personal popularity at all in New York City and very little political. But it was evidently tacitly agreed that if the few political supporters of Mr. Lincoln present would entirely abstain from any demonstration on their side, the immense majority -- who were anything but supporters -- would abstain on their side also. The result was a sulky, unbroken silence, such as certainly never before characterized a New York crowd...
It's unfortunate that New York doesn't commemorate the occasion. A reenactment of the event, with tens of thousands of citizens, dressed in period costumes and gaping mutely at the railsplitter from out West, on his way to Washington to become president - at least of all those states of which Jeff Davis was not - would be a sight to see.
Certainly more than a few of the big city folk present that day were convinced he wouldn't be their president for very long. Mayor Fernando Wood (a Democrat who hadn't been on hand to greet America's first-ever Republican president-elect on his arrival) had delivered a defiant speech calling for New York City to follow South Carolina's lead and secede from the Union just one month before. ("With the aggrieved brethren of the slave states we have friendly relations and a common sympathy. ... Why should not New York City, instead of supporting by her contributions in revenue two-thirds of the expenses of the United States become also equally independent?") He hadn't gained much public support for his stand, but in private many New Yorkers thought it might be the only way to escape the military and (more importantly in their view) financial conflagration that now seemed inevitable to all but the most optimistic citizens - town and country, factory and farm, North and South alike. Lincoln and Wood did meet the day after Lincoln's arrival, but for more on the mood in New York the day of we return to Whitman's account.
From the top of an omnibus (driven up on side, close by, and blocked by the curbstone and the crowds) I had, I say, a capital view of it all and especially of Mr. Lincoln: his looks and gait; his perfect composure and coolness; his unusual and uncouth height; his dress of complete black, stovepipe hat pushed back on his head; dark-brown complexion; seamed and wrinkled yet canny-looking face; black, bush head of hair; disproportionately long neck; and his hands held behind, as he stood observing the people.
He looked with curiosity upon that immense sea of faces, and the sea of faces returned the look with similar curiosity. In both there was a dash of comedy, almost farce, such as Shakespeare puts in his blackest tragedies. The crowd that hemmed around consisted, I should think, of thirty to forty thousand men, not a single one his personal friend, while, I have no doubt (so frenzied were the ferments of the time) many an assassin's knife and pistol lurked in hip- or breast-pocket there -- ready, soon as break and riot came.
But no break or riot came. The tall figure gave another relieving stretch or two of arms and legs; then, with moderate pace, and accompanied by a few unknown-looking persons, ascended the portico steps of the Astor House, disappeared through its broad entrance -- and the dumb-show ended.
The riots came a few years later (but unlike Honest Abe they were a familiar sight to New Yorkers - Whitman's concern was well-founded) but this would be a memorable non-violent moment, and if New Yorkers wanted, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to end their reenactment of it by having Lincoln ask a band to play "Dixie," as he is reported to have (here in the New York Times) on the day he died.
To really capture the true New York flavor the tune would have to be performed by white musicians in blackface, to wild whoops and cheers in response from the previously silent crowd...
After all, the song was launched to acclaim not from way down South in Dixie, but from New York City's wildly popular minstrel shows just two years before (though it might have been stolen property...):
Authorship is credited to Daniel Decatur Emmett, a native of Mount Vernon, Ohio, who was a member of a group called Bryant's Minstrels. But some believe "Dixie" was really a tune passed on to Emmett by a pair of African-American brothers born to parents who were slaves.
Emmett wrote such early American standards as "Turkey in the Straw" and "Blue-Tail Fly." Johnston reports that in 1859, while Emmett was living and performing in New York City, he was asked to write a new song. "Dixie" was the result. A hit in New York, it caught on across the country within a year.
"Dixie" wasn't meant to be serious. It was a minstrel tune, performed in blackface...
Or perhaps they'd rather not examine their history so closely in New York City, as most of it happened more than three days ago.
But Mudville's a village, so we'll do it here - though for the second day's events, we'll return to the archives of the New York Times...
Meanwhile Mayor WOOD, the Common Council and members of the Press, had been admitted to the Governor's Room, and were eagerly awaiting the arrival which was at length announced by the shouts of the crowd on the stairs, reverberating through the building like a miniature thunder storm.
Escorted by Alderman CORNELL, Mr. LINCOLN entered, hat in hand, and advanced to where Mayor WOOD was posted, behind WASHINGTON'S writing desk, and immediately in front of Gov. SEWARD'S portrait. The bustle of the Aldermanic and Councilmanic rush for good places having in a measure subsided, Mayor WOOD, in a voice that seemed for moment slightly tremulous, spoke as follows...
No doubt the view across Washington's desk of the mayor of the nation's largest city was quite intimidating for the out of towner. But this was merely a prologue, and that's a story for part two.
For now, a more modern theme song, dedicated here from hizzoner Fernando Wood, the long forgotten "first modern Mayor of New York City" (the model mayor, even) to his guest from Illinois (did it have a nickname then? It's "Land of Lincoln" now...) that day long ago.
The story continued: No Mean City
* I believe this three day rule applies to many bloggers, too - at least, to those who've devoted their lives to politicians.
This week in history - on February 23, 1998 Osama bin Laden gave his answer to the question in the headline above:
...despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded 1 million... despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation.
So here they come to annihilate what is left of this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors.
The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it...
The "here they come again to annihilate what is left of this people" comment was a reference to the military strike force President Clinton had dispatched to what we used to call "the Persian Gulf region" to put a smack down on Saddam Hussein, who - in the words of Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger - would "use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983" - unless we did something.
The rest of the story is here, though I suppose I should add this comment to it, from General Hugh Shelton's memoirs:
As if taking a page right out of Barry Levinson's 1997 film Wag the Dog, the President instructed Secretary Cohen and me to set the wheels in motion to bomb Iraq - massive strikes of such scope that the TV networks would have no choice but to preempt the hearings with live feeds from Baghdad as the city was destroyed. There was only one problem. Despite the torrent of conservative's accusations that Clinton had orchestrated his own personal Wag the Dog by ordering the bombings to begin on Impeachment Day, there was not one scrap of truth to it.
The president, he says, just wanted to get the bombing over with before Ramadan, so as not to offend Muslims. So, now you know.
Judge Leander Stillwell was only 64 years old when he retired from the bench...
On September 1, 1907, more than a year before the expiration of his last term, Judge Stillwell resigned on account of the protracted and dangerous illness of his wife. He felt that his duty was to his invalid wife, and accordingly sent his resignation to Governor Hoch on August 10, 1907, to take effect September 1, 1907.
As bearing on his judicial career, it is deemed permissible to state the following circumstance: A short time before his resignation a case was tried before him and was taken by the defeated party on petition in error to the Supreme Court. That court, some months after Judge Stillwell's resignation had gone into effect, affirmed the judgment, and at the close of the opinion the court, speaking by Mr. Justice Graves, said: "For more than twenty years this court has been reviewing the decisions of the eminent judge before whom this case was tried, and it has noted with satisfaction the vigilant care and patient industry given by him to the official discharge of his duties. His thorough knowledge of legal principles and clear perception of natural justice made him peculiarly fitted for judicial service, and contributed in a large measure to the success which gave him prominence as a jurist, and caused him to be recognized as an able and impartial judge. In view of his recent voluntary retirement from the bench by resignation, thereby severing his long continued relations with this court, we deem it proper to make this reference thereto."
A few years later he compiled his memoirs - not of his years on the bench, but rather of his youthful experiences as an enlisted soldier during the Civil War. His book begins...
I was born September 16, 1843, on a farm, in Otter Creek precinct, Jersey County, Illinois. I was living with my parents, in the little old log house where I was born, when the Civil war began. The Confederates fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and thus commenced the war. On April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 men, to aid in putting down the existing rebellion. Illinois promptly furnished her quota, and in addition, thousands of men were turned away, for the reason that the complement of the State was complete, and there was no room for them. The soldiers under this call were mustered in for three months' service only, for the government then seemed to be of the opinion that the troubles would be over by the end of that time. But on May 3, 1861, Mr. Lincoln issued another call for volunteers, the number specified being a little over 42,000, and their term of service was fixed at three years, unless sooner discharged. The same call provided for a substantial increase in the regular army and navy. I did not enlist under either of these calls. As above stated, the belief then was almost universal throughout the North that the "war" would amount to nothing much but a summer frolic, and would be over by the 4th of July. We had the utmost confidence that Richmond would be taken by that time, and that Jeff Davis and his cabinet would be prisoners, or fugitives. But the battle of Bull Run, fought on July 21, 1861, gave the loyal people of the Nation a terrible awakening. The result of this battle was a crushing disappointment and a bitter mortification to all the friends of the Union. They realized then that a long and bloody struggle was before them.Which - I was surprised to read - he thought was all in all a good thing.
But Bull Run was probably all for the best. Had it been a Union victory, and the Rebellion then been crushed, negro slavery would have been retained, and the "irrepressible conflict" would have been fought out likely in your time, with doubtless tenfold the loss of life and limb that ensued in the war of the sixties.
The "your time" reference was to his son, who had requested the Judge set down his story in writing. But that certainly brings to mind a great historical "what if" - one that hadn't occurred to me before. It also serves to remind that while the South indeed went to war to preserve slavery, the North did so to preserve the Union. Few of those who felt "that it was the duty of every young fellow of the requisite physical ability to "go for a soldier," and help save the Nation" would do so for reasons other than that.
"It doesn't matter how you feel about the war. It doesn't matter how you feel about fighting," said Maschek. "There are bad men out there plotting to kill you." Sadly, the Ynevskaya children of this world (and he was addressing one such group) - repeatedly assured of the superiority of their imagination - never notice the real world or imagine themselves in their ultimate role of Professor Kolchanov (or echoing Bukharin's final plaintive wail); the pleasant view from the veranda never extends that far.
Based on their response ("Several students laughed and jeered the Idaho native, a 10th Mountain Division infantryman who spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington recovering from grievous wounds..."), Columbia students aren't used to having their prejudice and bigotry challenged - nor are they familiar with Orwell, who 70 years ago demonstrated that Butler needed a simplified updating: The nation that insists on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its thinking done by fools. If the goal of the faculty of Columbia is to produce graduates unfit for doing the rough work of a workaday world, they're demonstrably good at what they do. (I'm not sure why anyone, much less the military, should view their product as desirable employees.)
As you might glean from those links, there are worthy groups out there doing good things for young Americans. You're donating to Columbia whether you like it or not, if they've left you with spare change you might consider sending some to those who deserve it, too.
Time once again to dust off this old photoshop from 2005:
The Real True History of the War in Iraq
Even though it only happened a few months ago a lot of folks are already forgetting and denying the real true history of the war in Iraq. Thus, as a service to our readers, The Mudville Gazette presents excerpts from my upcoming book, The Real True History of the Iraq War before all that forgetting and denying gets any worse. The book will be academic yet accessible - and the first balanced, non-partisan look at the reality of Bushitler Chimpymonkey's neocon oil war for Cheney's Haliburton cronies ever.
Here's a post from 2008 that I believe is the last time I used it. For all you folks born yesterday: the event depicted above never happened. No matter how many times people like Chris Matthews tell you otherwise, "average Americans" aren't that stupid. They (we, my friends) were well aware that the only person who knew with certainty the current status of Saddam Hussein's many WMD programs was Saddam Hussein. Here's how much we cared about the current status of those WMD programs precisely at the time we rendered the question moot:
According to a May 1 Gallup poll for CNN and USA Today, 79 percent of Americans said the war with Iraq was justified even without conclusive evidence of the illegal weapons, while 19 percent said discoveries of the weapons were needed to justify the war. An April Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 72 percent supported the war even without a finding of chemical or biological weapons. Similarly, a CBS News poll found that 60 percent said the war was worth the blood and other costs even if weapons are never found.
One way of looking at those results: If Bush lied, no one cared. Like all Americans, the participants in those polls (some of whom were undoubtedly caught up in the excitement of an apparent "easy win") would be fully entitled to change their opinions of whether the war was "worth it." In fact, Democrats did so quite rapidly. (The original May 17, 2003 Washington Post report is no longer available on their web site, but it's archived here, and its real focus was on why Democrats - other than party bellwether Dennis Kucinich - hadn't already started running with the "Bush lied" ball. The best answer was obvious: he hadn't, and no one cared.) While opinions can change, deciding later that Bush (or anyone else) tricked enough people to matter by lying about WMD in Iraq isn't a matter of changing opinion, it's an example of rewriting history.
And it's one of many damned effective examples to come from the last eight years of war in Iraq. As far as media/political campaigns go, this one was a smashing success. Every appearance of some new report/evidence that Iraq had no WMD (true) brought concurrent claims we were misled into war (false). But notable responses followed, most claiming that either Saddam did have such weapons (false, but immaterial) or that Bush wasn't lying - he was simply as wrong as anyone else about something that he was right to be very concerned about in the first place. That last bit is true but immaterial, but for years "Bush's defenders" have made both those immaterial arguments vigorously, and thus helped grow the fiction that it really mattered in the first place. That the Bush administration thought it mattered in 2003 is obvious - they did make their case. That this was a mis-read of contemporary American (if not global) public opinion is obvious from the results above. Equally obvious from the linked story is that Democrats were attuned to that public opinion in May, 2003, as they were the year before when they voted to authorize the war - or to a then-lesser (but perceived as political necessity) extent the (election) year after, when the media campaign (legitimized by the administration and its defenders' response, enhanced by a bit of reliable American "forgetfulness" - willing or otherwise - it facilitated, and weighted by ongoing bloodshed in Iraq) had at least succeeded to the point where candidates other than Dennis Kucinich could embrace the notion without fear of facing political extinction, and with some hope (forlorn as it turned out to be) of gaining the White House as reward for doing so. That they didn't is further proof not of ongoing delusion on the part of voters, but that on that issue a majority of them still didn't care.
That certainly didn't end the campaign. If in 2003 there were few Americans stupid or gullible enough to believe the immediate status of Saddam Hussein's various WMD programs mattered, by 2005 - a mere two years later - there were a few more than that number insisting that their fellow Americans had been duped two years before, and had been behaving as depicted in my photoshop effort above. Conversely, in 2005 there were none who recognized the need to point out the obvious: they had not. In 2011 no one (yes, Chris Matthews is an exception) wants to hear about it anymore - that's been true for a few years now. Beyond 2053 its entirely likely that young scholars examining news accounts of the day will conclude that the world back in Grandpa Gullible's time was exactly as depicted in my photoshop (and why shouldn't they?) - its journey from satire to reality will be complete.
That it mattered was only half the myth, but enough for this post. (My way of saying "more to follow.")
But here's one more picture - no photoshop this time...
Just a small part of the Greyhawk collection.
Hundreds of black-clad riot police officers, some in bullet-proof vests, deployed in key locations in central Tehran on Monday to thwart an Iranian opposition march in solidarity with the uprising in Egypt, news reports and witnesses' accounts from Iran said.
I acknowledge "the latest" is a perishable term. But bear with me as I recount some personal ancient history to set the stage for what follows.
August, 1990 - Iran had experienced over a decade of the Mullahs' rule (begun with massive street demonstrations against the Shah and followed immediately by something we called the hostage crisis...). In more recent events, Jihaddis (including the then-unknown Osama bin Laden) supported by the US (though few details of that were known at the time) had cast the armies of the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan just over a year before. The Berlin Wall had fallen just a few months after that. (Reagan had asked Gorby to do it, but ultimately it was chopped to pieces by a crowd of demonstrators.) The Baltic Republics were in the process of declaring their independence from the Soviet Union. ("On August 23, 1989, the fiftieth anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the People's Fronts of all three Baltic countries held a huge demonstration of unity - the "Baltic Way". A 600 km (373 mi) long human "chain" from Tallinn through Riga to Vilnius was assembled. This was a symbolic demonstration of the people's call for independence from the Soviet Union.") Polish elections were scheduled for November; Solidarity's Lech Walesa would win. Back in the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev was trying to reform his government as fast as he could. (Not fast enough, as it turned out, but its collapse was still a year away.) The German band Scorpions was about to release a new album that would include the song "Wind of Change." Inspired by their 1989 Moscow visit ("Scorpions became only the second Western group to play in the Soviet Union - the first being Uriah Heep in December, 1987 - with a performance in Leningrad. The following year the band returned to perform at the Moscow Music Peace Festival...) it was destined to be a big hit.
And that was the world as it was the month Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait (Global opinion expressed here) just over two decades ago. To put that in perspective, most folks under 40 years old will have little personal recall of what all that was like - other than perhaps memories of whistling along with that Scorpions song on the radio (or changing the channel if they didn't like it). Those under 30 will have none. Barack Obama was a student at Harvard Law; Sarah Heath - journalism degree in hand - had married Todd Palin and left her TV news career to start a family. As for me, in August 1990 I was a low-ranking USAF enlisted guy with six years service. As such I was attending the second level of USAF Professional Military Education - then called NCO Leadership School - at Yokota Air Base in Japan. At such schools you learn various aspects of leadership, management, supervision, military history, national security and other topics relative to your next level of responsibility.
In one of the classes - which are mostly designed for open discussion - I questioned (briefly - I knew it was a no-win) an instructor's statement that "Communism is THE GREATEST threat we face in the world today." A repeat of those eleven words was the only response to my various alternative threat scenarios (including Saddam Hussein) and predictions that the USSR couldn't last; after about the third I saluted smartly and said "roger that." He, of course, was sticking to an official script - I mention this only to point out that the US military is slow to change official scripts. I finished that course and returned to Korea - where I was actually stationed and where we were (and still are) actually confronting Communism. But I had to fly commercial - there were no military transport aircraft available in theater because it had all been diverted to delivering our response to the lesser threat posed by Saddam Hussein*.
Flash forward a few months - to exactly twenty years ago this week. We'd been bombing the hell out of Iraq for a month. (But the US wasn't going alone - we'd put together a big coalition to eject Saddam. Egypt was in, even Poland played a part.) Ground war seemed imminent - but on February 15, 1991...
...President of the United States George H. W. Bush announced on the Voice of America radio saying: "There is another way for the bloodshed to stop: And that is, for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside and then comply with the United Nations' resolutions and rejoin the family of peace-loving nations."
That didn't happen. Instead, in the last week of February Iraqi forces were ejected from Kuwait and Saddam's army was crushed in a 100-hour ground campaign. The end of it was almost as big a surprise as the fall of the Berlin Wall - Saddam Hussein was left in charge of Iraq (though he pledged to open his country to UN inspections...). As was then explained to confused Americans (myself among them), the goal had been simply to liberate Kuwait (per UN resolutions). So, mission accomplished, one might say. And as America welcomed her troops home, construction and expansion of our long-desired permanent bases in Saudi Arabia got underway. Only in hindsight can we recognize that our two-decade war with Saddam - and Osama bin Laden - had also just begun.
Which brings us to one of those key moments in history - one that begs the question "what if we'd handled that differently?" - and the one that recent events in Tunisia and Egypt (and Iran, maybe?) reminded me of in the first place. In the immediate aftermath of Desert Storm, Iraqi Shiites and Kurds revolted against Hussein's dictatorship. Even if they'd never heard President Bush's radio message, given that we were living in an era when self-liberation of citizens of police states was common, and theirs was controlled by a global pariah, they might have expected American aid - several forms of which were still close by. But if so their hopes (and their revolution) were swiftly crushed. But before that final crush, the American media weighed in.
The Boston Globe was convinced Bush was behind the revolt - and that he should stay the hell out: "The Americans took out Saddam's communications with smart bombs; they are now trying to take out his regime with Iraqi proteges, subsidized proxies and professional hit squads. The present struggle for power in Iraq holds two dangers for the U.S.: that Saddam will prevail, or that he will be replaced by forces equally inimical to peace and human rights. Washington has little control over the battlefield on which this political war is fought."
The LA Times reported the Iraq people were behind the uprising, and that America should stay the hell out: "...if disorders should give way to chaos and foreign armed intervention does become necessary, U.S. and Western forces should make sure they stay well out of it."
The Washington Times believed the US should stay the hell out: "Iraqi dissidents would like U.S. and other allied forces, now occupying most of southern Iraq west of the Euphrates, to intervene on their behalf, but they won't and they shouldn't."
And the Baltimore Sun believed the US was responsible for the revolt - but should stay the hell out: "The U.S.-led coalition has unleashed forces it cannot control. Wars do that."
Somewhere, perhaps, there's a counter-example of a media outlet urging otherwise. If so, I'm not ignoring it - I just don't know where it is. But six years would pass before this update appeared in the Wall Street Journal:
In late March 1991, shortly after the Gulf War, Iraqis were in open revolt. Fighting erupted in all but three of Iraq's provinces, and Saddam's army was left with two days' worth of ammunition. A desperate Saddam sent one of his highest-ranking officers as a "defector" with information that Iraq's senior military leaders were on the verge of a coup but hesitated as long as they faced the threat of a revolution. Accordingly, the U.S. signaled to Saddam that he could use his air power, grounded under the terms of the cease-fire, to crush the revolt. No coup followed.
Unsourced, but plausible. Following that we had a decade of misadventures, the surface of which is scratched here. (Here's a detail-rich account of one episode from Scott Ritter. Believe of it what you will, but this: "The failed June 1996 coup attempt had largely been determined by domestic American political considerations. Like President George HW Bush before him, Clinton and his political handlers were sensitive to public perception in a presidential election year. This shaped both the coup's mission (get Saddam) and its timing (early summer, before the Republicans had nailed down their candidate). Not only was the 1996 plot chiefly a "wag the dog" scenario, but once again, any chance of Iraq disarming under UN supervision had been cynically undermined by the larger US objective of regime change..." is certainly true. Bill Clinton, however, would find himself rather glad to still have Saddam Hussein to kick around some more later. Speaking of which - here's another anniversary this week - hard to believe that one was thirteen years ago...)
Enough memory lane for now. Or almost enough. I'll close by dedicating this golden oldie to all you groovy guys and gals in Tunis, Cairo, and Tehran....
...everyone just whistle along if you know don't know the words.
(And Happy Valentine's Day, y'all. XXOOXX).
*footnote: I pointed out this lack of air assets to someone else when I got back. "You know, if the North decides to make a move now, we can't get the back-up boys over here," I said.
"We'd nuke 'em," he responded, "and they know it."
I chuckled, in the nervous way you do when you hear something like that from someone who actually knows what they're talking about, and you aren't sure if they're kidding or not.
...the redistribution of wealth:
See also the fate of Toma, who "got my Father's cutaway" for another example.
Euphrosinia (or Eufrosinia) Kersnovskaya didn't know it at that time, but she herself had embarked on a journey that would take her to exile and the Gulag. Over two decades would pass before she could tell her tale in words and pictures - and even then (1964) she would do so only in secret and at tremendous personal risk.
I discovered her work only after I'd completed (at least thought I'd completed) this little tale of the birth of the cold war, which I'd referred to from the beginning as a graphic novel, filled with elements from comic books, science fiction and movies, and concluded with a reference to fairy tales. When I found the web site devoted to her work I knew I wanted to weave a few of these stunning examples of the reality of life in the Soviet Union into the tale. When I read that she "envisioned the text and illustrations as an indivisible whole, a genre that perhaps lies somewhere between traditional Russian lubok engravings and the modern graphic novel" I had no doubt. One cannot consider the impact of the efforts of the many useful idiots of the West (in the Trinity example, atomic spies) without having a true picture of the world they supported and facilitated. Compared to the documentation of the evils of Nazi Germany, very few such first-hand accounts of the Soviet hell exist. (And once he had the atomic bomb at his disposal, no one was going to loosen Stalin's iron grip.)
And this rare example is both comprehensive and readable. Kersnovskaya's drawings aren't rendered in any of the usual bleak styles artists choose to depict the world wherein jackboots smash the human face forever, for that reason (along with the fact that they're from memory rather than the imagination) they are all the more effective. A more "realistic" depiction would be hard to take; to view more than a few images without turning away would be difficult for most. As they are, and accompanied by the few words of text needed to complete each vignette, the full path is more easily traveled by anyone with the time to venture along it.
Excerpts from her work were first published in 1990 by the Soviet magazine Ogonek, and in translation by The Observer (Great Britain). Portions of her work have also appeared in German and in French. A complete version of the Russian text appeared in 2001. A complete version of the Russian text and illustrations appeared in 2006.
And there's another notable point - as far as I can tell, there's little knowledge of the existence of this treasure in the West. The image at the top of this post should be iconic, but it is not. Little interest? Ancient history, perhaps. No threat now, a point furthered by the eternal mantra of (to use the once again in-vogue term) the "Progressive": "of course, we all know now that (insert once-widely supported, now demonstrably failed cornerstone of leftist wisdom here) was wrong - but today (insert new widely accepted version of 'truth')." But the shallow falsehood of that claim is the best reason to make time to visit the site, an illustrated travelogue along the path to the Gulag. To argue that "since we know where that path leads we can walk it without getting there" is an absurdity - exactly the sort of absurdity to which Euphrosinia Kersnovskaya responded with surely this can't be happening in the twentieth century? - even as she experienced it herself. But that absurd argument is made to this day; indeed, as this thought-provoking comment on "socialism in gestation" explains, even in the twenty-first century we haven't progressed (and here I mean that word in non-Orwellian context) far enough beyond that deadly type of absurdity as many would like to believe. We can indeed trot swiftly and merrily onward down that trail now for the same reason so many Russians (or Germans, or others) did in the previous modern century - because fewer people every day would recognize it, or even believe that it could exist. (Or that they, of all people, would be foolish enough to travel it.)
There are a number of points of comparison and contrast throughout the Trinity series, left for the reader to notice, but one which I'll point out here. In 1954, globally celebrated artist/Stalin fan/Gulag supporter Pablo Picasso was doodling sketches of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to commemorate the one-year anniversary of their execution (martyrdom, as he and his fellow travelers would have it) for their part - meager as it might have been - in delivering that atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Building that nuclear capability in the USSR made the Gulag even worse (if that's possible) by creating a demand for massive amounts of slave labor to achieve and sustain it - including those whose fate was death in the Uranium mines, pick and shovel in hand. Achieving that nuclear capability ensured not just perpetuation but expansion and spread of the Gulag, as the bulk of any influence the West might have had in reform or containment of the Soviet Union vanished in the mushroom cloud that signaled Stalin's success. Nevertheless (or because of that, even) a significant number of western scientists and artists - all aware to some degree of what the Soviet Union really was - welcomed that event.
But even as Picasso & company were admiring his courageous doodles, artist Nikolai Getman was experiencing "freedom" (as they would have it for us all)...
From the very day I was released, I began to implement my plan to paint a series of pictures on the theme of the Gulag, but because this was a forbidden topic, I had to do my civic duty in secret. And so, in complete secrecy, beginning in 1953, I painted pictures about camp life that I recreated from memory. I told no one about this work--not even my wife--because this sort of activity was punishable by imprisonment or even death.And in another remarkable coincidence, his fellow artist Euphrosinia Kersnovskaya completed her sentence that same year:
After her release she settled in Yessentuki, a town in the Northern Caucasus, and penned her memoirs, which eventually comprised 12 notebooks and 680 illustrations. She made several copies (including the illustrations) by hand and entrusted them to others for safekeeping.
Remarkably they survive to this day, and while perhaps not as sought after as a Picasso, you can view them (in much larger format than the thumbnails I've presented, along with an English translation of her writing) here.
And (added postscript) - here's another bit of contrast to bring this story up to date. Euphrosinia Kersnovskaya passed away in 1994, having lived long enough to witness the collapse of the Soviet Union and at least portions of her work published.
In contrast, the happy ending of US (and Soviet) Army veteran/Soviet atomic spy George Koval:
Koval described his post-spy life as "uneventful". His family knew he had done work for the GRU, but the subject was never discussed. He did not receive any high awards upon his return, a fact that bothered him. Bigger awards went to "career men", he told Kramish. However, he ended his correspondence by saying that he was not protesting his treatment; "[I am thankful] that I did not find myself in a Gulag, as might well have happened". Koval died in his Moscow apartment on January 31, 2006, at the age of 92.
Koval's activities as a spy began to emerge after the publication of a 2002 book, The GRU and the Atomic Bomb, which mentioned Koval by his code name and listed him as one of a handful of spies who evaded counterintelligence groups. On November 3, 2007, he received the posthumous title of Hero of the Russian Federation [the highest honorary title that can be bestowed on a citizen] bestowed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. When Koval was honored, the Russian presidential proclamation stated, "Mr Koval, who operated under the pseudonym Delmar, provided information that helped speed up considerably the time it took for the Soviet Union to develop an atomic bomb of its own".
A court in Pakistan has issued an arrest warrant for Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler, in connection with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
He resides in London these days - if Pakistan really wants him they could pressure the Brits, who are (of course) in Afghanistan, and like us somewhat reliant on Pakistan in that regard. But the real explanation for the warrant might be that they don't want him: "The warrant could end his plans to return to Pakistan to contest elections."
Meanwhile, over in Turkey:
A Turkish court ruled Friday that 133 current and former military officers must be jailed pending the outcome of their trial on charges of plotting to overthrow the government and issued warrants for the arrests of 29 other officers... The officers, including several high-ranking generals, are on trial accused of conspiring to topple Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government in 2003.
And oh by the way (more apropos of story #1), this.
... President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned his post and turned over all power to the military... In Tahrir Square, the focal point of the uprising, many protesters were overcome with the emotion... Parents were seen putting their children on the tanks to have their photos snapped with the soldiers ... In a show of solidarity in at least lower levels of the army, three Egyptian officers shed their weapons and uniforms and joined the protesters...And...
The United States at times seemed overwhelmed trying to keep up with the rapidly changing crisis, fumbling to juggle its advocacy of democracy and the right to protest, its loyalty to longtime ally Mubarak and its fears of Muslim fundamentalists gaining a foothold.
Let's hope the mood in paragraph one prevails. As to the second, well, chaos management is no easy task; such events are rightfully compared to storms - a nod to their potential for violence and unpredictability. Beyond that, Egypt is for the Egyptians - or at least should be - and while the President of the United States has been accused of being many things, I haven't heard "Egyptian" among them.
If that sounds like a defense of the current US administration, perhaps it is. I think "explanation" is the better term. Explanation leads to understanding, understanding is the foundation for the future, and the future is what we ("we" being a part of that big, chaotic system) make of it. With that in mind, more explanation follows.
If you really want to understand our president, you must first understand the function of a community organizer. In simplest terms, he or she is a person who helps the less fortunate master the required skills to accomplish the various tasks necessary to improve their lot in life. In other words, whether it's food, shelter, clothing, money or other sundry items, the organizer will ensure they properly fill out all the right government forms so each can get according to their need. (Example: if you have a good community organizer in your community they've already explained the benefits you'll reap from the new health care bill - you may even have filled out some forms.) If no forms are available for some newly identified need they might even go so far as to organize protests or demonstrations demanding they be created.
So, no one should be surprised that when such a person becomes President of the United States he'll be a bit lost when looking around for the proper forms to fill out to overcome some challenge - i.e. do his job. (Though the Obama administration might be the first in history to organize protests against whoever he designates as responsible for that shortfall.) On the other hand, those things he is most able to accomplish will be form-related. The new START Treaty is a good example, a treaty being the ultimate "form" and such weapons among the biggest issues (for those who think long-term) in the world today. (Though many such forms are often viewed by those who fill them out as mere scraps of paper anyway.) For a second example, look no further than Afghanistan. While he was unable to get that nation or Pakistan to fill out forms, members of his own executive branch can't say no. So at the end of his first year in office once the president decided on his plan for the conduct of the war there - and discovered there was no available form to make it happen - he created a six-pager (dubbed a "terms sheet") for use by the US military.
But when it comes to potential crisis-level events like those in Egypt this past week (even though it involves a protest) there aren't any helpful forms available for President Obama's use. Ironically that same lack applies to most aspects of the job of being at the top of the US government, the world's largest form factory - so expect plenty more examples of overwhelming fumblejuggling in the years to come.
How many years? See comments about the future above. In less than two you'll get another chance to fill out a form.
Update: ...and credit taken (albeit through "sources" and "one official" and not for the president himself but for "the White House and Obama administration in general"). I didn't expect that 'til tomorrow. But here's an email from "A Democratic official" that lays it on even thicker. They must be at least a little optimistic at 1600 Pennsylvania, I sincerely hope that's justified. (Related: a list worth reading.)
And a piece from Fred Kaplan at Slate includes some insightful pondering on what a military government might mean for Egypt's future. One possible interpretation: the folks in the square could be celebrating the departure of the personification of their troubles with the real source of their troubles. Kaplan's analysis isn't entirely gloomy (in many ways it's optimistic), but the point that those smiling kids having their pictures taken with the protesters aren't really what anyone means by "military in charge" has Allahpundit concerned. His multi-updated post is a great single-source recap of recent developments.
Yeah... this is wrong in just about every possible way.
...Zeyad, an Iraqi doctor whose "Healing Iraq" blog was promoted by war-blogger Glenn Reynolds and others in the run up to the Iraq war, and then abruptly dropped when Zeyad's cousin was murdered by US troops and he had the bad taste to make a big deal about it.
In addition to Glenn's point, I'll offer this observation:
This is my first post. A bit about myself; My name is Zeyad. I'm 24, male. I live in Baghdad, Iraq. Also lived in the UK prior to the first Gulf war. I work as a dentist.
Unfortunately, there haven't been enough Iraqis running weblogs lately. There are only five of them as far as I know. I took it upon myself to start a weblog and introduce other Iraqis to this new (to us at least) and exciting world. Internet use in Iraq is very low, compared to other countries in the region. But it is growing daily. And more and more Iraqis will be able to post what they think about whatever is happening in their country and the rest of the world. Their voice will be heard at last, now that they have nothing to fear from doing so.
The date on Zeyad's first post is October 17, 2003 - so scratch "promoted by war-blogger Glenn Reynolds and others in the run up to the Iraq war" from the fact column, too. (And yes, that leaves it empty.) Salam Pax and Riverbend were the "big" Iraqi blogs in the "run up"/earliest days of the war - there were few others, if any. Neither of those two can be labeled either "pro-war" or "ignored" by bloggers who could be. In actual fact, something (nudge wink) must have happened in between "the run up to the Iraq war" and October, 2003 to lead Zeyad to predict (accurately) more would follow, adding "Their voice will be heard at last, now that they have nothing to fear from doing so." While I believe Iraqi bloggers were taking more than negligible risk in sharing their experiences with the world, that Zeyad went on to report a murder committed by US soldiers - and got results - reinforces his point.
As for links to Healing Iraq, here are mine (including to the finish on that particular story line and other "not good" news that followed). Glenn's provided his. And while not comparable to that assumed by Zeyad, for me - active duty at the time - or Andrew Olmsted or Chief Wiggles - guard members - to shine a light on that story at the time involved potential risk, too. (Note that none of us took the THIS CAN'T BE TEH Truth!!! position.) Raimondo's post is far removed from reality; it's an extreme example of the sort of damn the facts - I'm hammering this into my narrative re-write that's increasingly characterized much of the post-World War Two era "history." (His effort even encompasses WWII...) That sort of absurdity is part of my motivation for the america@war project, the Healing Iraq story is but one example of new media's immediate impact on the war (and Glenn Reynolds' contribution is an immeasurably large factor in that) - and this provides a minor coda. Besides increased odds of "truth will out," add "if you make up garbage out of thin air someone's going to call you on it" to the list.
None of that addresses Raimondo's questions: "what are we creating in Iraq? What have we created?" The first is indicative of his ignorance of Iraq, an assumption of the superiority of "we" - or both. While not washing our hands of it, "we" have had damn little influence in Iraq since summer 2009. That's due in equal part to the Bush-era timeline for withdrawal and a mutual lack of respect/trust between the current governments of Iraq and the US - but I'm not hand-wringing over that, either. While any hope for the future of Iraq is very much political, not military, we do still have 50,000 troops there. From time to time I offer glimpses of what they're doing. There are few Iraqi bloggers left, and few milbloggers (I suspect "not enough interest" is one reason for low motivation) but in addition to Zeyad, (who I'm not sure is in Iraq...) if you want a boots on ground report Chief Wiggles is back in Iraq and blogging, too.
What have we created? Opportunity, nothing more. As Zeyad demonstrates once again (and as people like Justin Raimondo overlook) the answer is still - for now - a place where people like Zeyad can write about Iraq, good or bad. Or to paraphrase Ben Franklin, a democracy, madam - if you can keep it.
Soviet intelligence officers in the United States regularly communicated with their superiors in Moscow via telegraphic cables... the United States, with the assistance of Great Britain, began to decrypt a good number of these messages. This program led to the eventual capture of several Soviet spies within the Manhattan Project...
Although only messages up to 1945 were vulnerable to decryption, and these messages were several years old by that point, they still contained references to spies who had never been detected... From 1948 to 1951, numerous Soviet spies were uncovered and prosecuted this way, including the atomic spies Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, Greenglass's handler Julius Rosenberg, and Rosenberg's wife Ethel.- The Venona Intercepts,
US Department of Energy web page
That Hall's information, if less detailed, equaled in importance the material from Fuchs was something best understood by the agents at 7 East 67th Street and by their superiors at Moscow Center who were collating it into summary memos for Lavrenti Beria, the chilling figure who was in charge of the NKVD... Beria was as cruel and suspicious as his master, Stalin. He suspected for a long time that American intelligence might be feeding these reports to his agents in New York in order to trick the Soviet Union into wasting prodigious resources trying to build a bomb that was a fantasy... [Soviet agents in New York and Moscow] knew that if they were being hoodwinked their lives would be forfeited. Beria had said to one of his senior intelligence officers as he was being handed a report: "If this is disinformation, I'll put you in the cellar." The cellar of the Lubyanka Prison was one of the places where torture and execution took place. Ted Hall made the difference. His was the sophisticated spying of another physicist and Fuch's information checked out against his...
[Stalin] also held out to the nuclear physicists and engineers the carrot of privileged living that he accorded those who were particularly useful to him. For a nation that supposedly celebrated the equality of its citizens, Stalin's Soviet Union had always been a society with inequality. Food, medical care, apartment space, clothing, and luxuries like imported goods were apportioned according to one's rank and position in the Party and the regime. The NKVD was particularly pampered, with higher salaries, the best housing, and special shops and canteens. Now Stalin was proposing, if it succeeded, to similarly reward the nuclear weapons community. "Our state has suffered very much," he said to Kurchatov, "yet it is surely possible to ensure that several thousand people can live very well, with their own dachas, so they can relax, and with their own cars." But there was peril in this promise of privileges, because the beneficent emperor who awarded them was also a hangman who rewarded failure with death. In this lay the second explanation for copying the American bomb. Kurchatov and Khariton knew that if they and their colleagues performed the task of copying well, the bomb they produced would go off. If they struck out on their own and sought a different design and it fizzled, the senior physicists and engineers involved would be shot.
- Sheehan, A Fiery Peace in a Cold War, 2009
... in the U.S.S.R. the principle of socialism is realized: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his work..."
- Sidney and Beatrice Webb, The Truth About Soviet Russia, 1942
Citizens of this country who betray their fellow-countrymen can be under none of the delusions about the benignity of Soviet power that they might have been prior to World War II. The nature of Russian terrorism is now self-evident. Idealism as a rationale dissolves . . .
I consider your crime worse than murder. Plain deliberate contemplated murder is dwarfed in magnitude by comparison with the crime you have committed. In committing the act of murder, the criminal kills only his victim. The immediate family is brought to grief and when justice is meted out the chapter is closed. But in your case, I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country.- Judge Irving Kaufman, Statement Upon Sentencing the Rosenbergs, 1951
Beria, 20 July 1953
Given the nature of Stalin's state, it was logical as well that he appoint Lavrenti Beria head of the committee to oversee the building of the atomic bomb. Stalin had installed Beria, a fellow Georgian whom he had spotted during a trip to the Caucasus in 1931, as head of the NKVD in 1938 when he removed and had shot its previous chief, Nikolai Yezhov, who had carried out most of the Great Purge for him... [The NKVD] also controlled one of the important economic resources of his state - the millions of prison laborers.
Hundreds of thousands of these labor camp inmates, called zeks in Russian slang, were now marshaled to create the atomic industry necessary for the bomb. ...Lev Al'tshuler, a physicist who arrived at Arzamas-16 at the end of 1946, described the sight in an interview... "The columns of prisoners passing through the settlement in the morning on their way to work and returning to the zones [prison camps] in the evening were a reality that hit you in the eyes. Lermontov's lines came to mind, about 'a land of slaves, a land of masters.'"
More, an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 were consigned to the new uranium mines opened in Soviet Central Asia... Some idea of the conditions can be obtained from those that were observed in the Soviet occupation zone in East Germany, where by 1950 the Russians had 150,000 to 200,000 conscripted German laborers toiling in newly opened uranium mines. Safety measures ...were nonexistent, there was no medical care, and the workers were housed in primitive barracks surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by NKVD troops. In what may have been the cruelest twist of all there are no memoirs of the Soviet prison laborers whose bodies built the atomic industry, because only a few were released at the end of the penal labor terms to which they had originally been sentenced. To preserve the secrecy of the various installations of the atomic complex, once construction was completed Stalin had them shipped to the Gulags worst camps, the gold mines of Kolmya in the Far East, where they died.
- Sheehan, A Fiery Peace in a Cold War, 2009
An Englishman codenamed ERIC also provided details of atomic research in 1943, as did an American source codenamed QUANTUM, who provided secret information relating to gaseous diffusion in the summer of 1943. Who QUANTUM was or what became of him after the summer of 1943 remains a mystery.
Robert Louis Benson, a senior officer in the code-breaking agency's Office of Security, noted that the Soviet spy cables decrypted in the Venona project showed more than 200 Americans had worked with Soviet intelligence during World War II. These included perhaps a dozen spies for the Soviet Union working inside the Manhattan Project and dozens more in the treasury Department, the Office of Strategic Services, and the State Department...
"Did the United States have any secrets? The answer would have to be no."
Here are three lingering questions: Who was "Fogel/Pers," and how much did he tell Moscow? ... How deeply did the KGB penetrate the Chicago operations of the Manhattan Project? ... Who were "Veksel" and "Guron," and did they ever hold a clandestine meeting in Chicago?...
- Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel
"The Youngest Spy", (Excerpt from Bombshell)
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Jan 1998
Hall, who hated wearing hats of any kind, took special umbrage at his Army cap... For one of the few times since his bar mitzvah Hall decided to begin wearing a yarmulke, and the base legal officer decided he was within his legal rights not to wear his regulation cap. "He was the least religious Jew you can imagine, but he found a way to tweak them at every opportunity," remembered his physicist colleage Sam Cohen.- Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel BOMBSHELL The Secret Story Of America's Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy , 1997
Soviet intelligence headquarters in Moscow pressured their various American residencies to develop sources within the Manhattan Project. Many of these early attempts at recruiting spies were detected and foiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Manhattan Project counterintelligence officials... The scientists in question were placed under surveillance and, when possible, drafted into the military so that they could be assigned away from sensitive subjects.
Cohen remembered Hall well and described him as "the most disheveled and eccentric GI in the camp. Most of them were out of uniform and a little peculiar, but Hall stood out."- Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, The Venona Secrets, 2000
Few aspects of the Manhattan Project remained secret from the Soviet Union for long... it seems highly unlikely in retrospect that penetrations of the Manhattan Project could have been prevented...
I was called up to join the Red Army, which was where the war found me... On Victory Day I was on the shores of Lake Balaton in Hungary, a lieutenant technician...
I returned home to Kharkov in October 1945 where I became one of the millions of Stalin's victims. My crime was meeting with other artists in Dnepropetrovsk, where I was visiting my father, and exchanging memories of what we had seen in the towns we liberated. Remnants of fascist propaganda, posters, leaflets, cartoons. One of the artists took a cigarette box and drew a caricature he had seen of Stalin with a play on the abbreviation SSSR (USSR): Skoro Smertrt' Stalinskomu Rezhimu (Sudden Death to the Stalinist Regime). An informer reported the sketch, and the whole group of us were arrested for anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation. I was arrested on October 12, 1945. In January 1946 I was convicted ... I spent about eight years in Siberia (Taishetlag) and Kolyma (Svitlag). Labor camps records show that I was held in custody for seven years, ten months and eighteen days. I was freed on August 30, 1953.
From the very day I was released, I began to implement my plan to paint a series of pictures on the theme of the Gulag, but because this was a forbidden topic, I had to do my civic duty in secret. And so, in complete secrecy, beginning in 1953, I painted pictures about camp life that I recreated from memory. I told no one about this work--not even my wife--because this sort of activity was punishable by imprisonment or even death. I undertook the task because I was convinced that it was my duty to leave behind a testimony to the fate of the millions of prisoners who died and who should not be forgotten.
The FBI learned of Hall's espionage in the early 1950s. Unlike Fuchs, however, under questioning Hall refused to admit anything. The American government was unwilling to expose the VENONA secret in open court ...so the matter was quietly dropped.
Soviet intelligence learned of the VENONA program in 1949 through its highly-placed British agent, Kim Philby.
- The Venona Intercepts, US DoE web page
...intellectual freedom is a deep-rooted tradition without which our characteristic western culture could only doubtfully exist. From that tradition many of our intellectuals are visibly turning away. They have accepted the principle that a book should be published or suppressed, praised or damned, not on its merits but according to political expediency. And others who do not actually hold this view assent to it from sheer cowardice. An example of this is the failure of the numerous and vocal English pacifists to raise their voices against the prevalent worship of Russian militarism. According to those pacifists, all violence is evil, and they have urged us at every stage of the war to give in or at least to make a compromise peace. But how many of them have ever suggested that war is also evil when it is waged by the Red Army? Apparently the Russians have a right to defend themselves, whereas for us to do [so] is a deadly sin. One can only explain this contradiction in one way: that is, by a cowardly desire to keep in with the bulk of the intelligentsia, whose patriotism is directed towards the USSR rather than towards Britain. I know that the English intelligentsia have plenty of reason for their timidity and dishonesty, indeed I know by heart the arguments by which they justify themselves. But at least let us have no more nonsense about defending liberty against Fascism...- George Orwell, The Freedom of the Press (an unpublished preface to Animal Farm), 1945
In 1913, one year before the First World War, H.G. Wells wrote a book, The World Set Free. In this book he describes the discovery of artificial radioactivity and puts it in the year 1933, the very year in which it was discovered. This is followed, in the book, by the development of atomic energy for peaceful uses and atomic bombs. The world war in which the cities of many nations are destroyed by these bombs Wells puts in the year 1956...
It seems that all of these predictions - even the dates - may prove to be correct; for now it appears that 1956 is the year most likely to see the advent of atomic war...
I am certain of one thing only: Unless we find the right answers soon, war will come; and maybe in the final analysis it will come because there was too much patriotism in the United States...- Leo Szilard, letter to the editor,
New York Times, February 1955
It took me over forty years to create this visual chronicle of the Gulag. My collection eventually grew to a total of fifty pictures, recording various aspects of camp life...
I am sometimes asked how I felt, or rather how anyone can feel in such unimaginable circumstances as loss of freedom, arrest, interrogation, trial, prison, labor camp. The human brain possesses a unique ability to adapt, and this ability is far greater than we can imagine in ordinary life.
I did not think about death at all because I did not believe in it. I did not live in permanent fear, but with an extremely heightened sense of danger. I was always on my guard, but the main thing is that I would not have survived without the belief, the absolute conviction that good would triumph over evil. Nothing could convince me that Bolshevism -- the plague of the 20th century -- would reign unchecked in Russia...
Some may say that the Gulag is a forgotten part of history and that we do not need to be reminded. But I have witnessed monstrous crimes. It is not too late to talk about them and reveal them. It is essential to do so. Some have expressed fear on seeing some of my paintings that I might end up in Kolyma again--this time for good. But the people must be reminded, as part of their education, and as a tribute to the memory of the more than 50 million who died as a result of one of the harshest acts of political repression in the Soviet Union. My paintings may help achieve this.
For all I know, by the time [Animal Farm] is published my view of the Soviet régime may be the generally-accepted one. But what use would that be in itself? To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance.- Orwell, The Freedom of the Press, 1945
Stalin's death changed little. Khrushchev's thaw and the denunciation of the personality cult did nothing to eliminate the system...
In [England] ...it is not so in the USA today - it is the liberals who fear liberty and the intellectuals who want to do dirt on the intellect: it is to draw attention to that fact that I have written this...- Orwell, The Freedom of the Press, 1945
"The world has moved on a lot since then, and certainly so have I. But in essence, from the perspective of my 71 years, I still think that brash youth had the right end of the stick."- Ted Hall, quoted in his obituary, November 1999
He enlisted in the Army in 2007, to try to give his life some direction and to help to pay for college, friends said.
He was granted a security clearance and trained as an intelligence analyst at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., before being assigned to the Second Brigade 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. ...his military career was anything but stellar. He had been reprimanded twice, including once for assaulting an officer... he wore custom dog tags that said "Humanist," and friends said he kept a toy fairy wand on his desk in Iraq...
"I would come in with music on a CD-RW labeled with something like 'Lady Gaga', erase the music then write a compressed split file," he wrote. "No one suspected a thing and, odds are, they never will."
"[I] listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga's 'Telephone' while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history," he added later.
(Continuing a tale begun here)
Can it be that Joseph Stalin was well informed about the American development of the atomic bomb long before President Harry Truman? Venona and other recently available sources tell us that Soviet intelligence was regularly reporting to the Kremlin on the top-secret British-American atom bomb project as early as 1941. Truman was not briefed on it until April 1945, shortly after he was sworn in as president.
Truman met Stalin for the first time at the Potsdam Conference... The closely guarded secret of the bomb could now be shared with our Soviet ally. Churchill was standing nearby. The president later recounted the incident: "On July 24, I casually mentioned to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive force. The Russian Premier showed no interest. All he said was that he was glad to hear it and hoped we would make 'good use of it against the Japanese.'"
Stalin exhibited no surprise because he already knew about the American atom bomb test from Soviet intelligence. Two weeks earlier, an NKVD message to Beria reported that the Americans had scheduled the first atomic bomb test. The message identified the spies who provided the information by their Venona code names "Mlad" and "Charles." The latter was Klaus Fuchs, a German refugee who was part of the British team sent to work on the A-bomb. "Mlad" was a teenage employee at Los Alamos named Theodore Hall...
- Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, The Venona Secrets, Exposing Soviet Espionage and America's Traitors, 2001
As was later written abroad, at that moment Churchill fixed his gaze on Stalin's face, closely observing his reaction. However, Stalin did not betray his feelings and pretended that he saw nothing special in what Truman had imparted to him. Both Churchill and many other Anglo-American authors subsequently assumed that Stalin had really failed to fathom the significance of what he had heard.
In actual fact, on returning to his quarters after this meeting Stalin, in my presence, told Molotov about his conversation with Truman. The latter reacted almost immediately. "Let them. We'll have to talk it over with Kurchatov and get him to speed things up."
I realized that they were talking about research on the atomic bomb.
- Georgii Konstantinovich Zhukov, The memoirs of Marshal Zhukov, 1971
Because Fuchs had arrived at Los Alamos but was not yet reporting, the Soviets apparently first learned about the principle of implosion and its implications from a report Hall passed to Sax during a rendezvous in Albuquerque in December 1944 ... the information reached Igor Kurchatov, the Soviet physicist who was heading Stalin's atomic bomb project, in Moscow in March 1945. Implosion was an idea that had not occurred to him, Kurchatov said in his memorandum commenting on the intelligence report, "but the implosion method is undoubtedly of immense interest, is fundamentally correct, and should be subjected to close scrutiny both theoretically and experimentally."
When Sax returned to Harvard in early 1945, Hall acquired a new courier...
One of the more famous wartime Superman stories actually appeared after the war ended thanks to the Department of Defense. "Battle of the Atoms" was originally going to appear in late 1944, but finally appeared in Superman #38 (January-February 1946) and featured a classic battle with Luthor save for the fact that Luthor's new weapon was an "Atomic Bomb". Since the Manhattan project, which gave rise to the first two American nuclear weapons, was in full swing in 1944, the Defense Department wanted nothing tipping off the Germans that America was even considering work on an atomic bomb, not even from a comic book. While the weapon used by Luthor looked nothing like the actual weapon, and was not anywhere near as destructive as the real bomb, government agents came to DC's offices and demanded that the story not be printed until official clearance was given, citing the need for a unified national defense. Obviously, the people at DC were confused, realizing that they must have come up with something more than their normal fantastic story.- Wallace Harrington, Superman and the War Years
When Sax returned to Harvard in early 1945, Hall acquired a new courier, Lona Petka Cohen, an attractive Polish-American woman, then in her early thirties, who, along with her husband, Morris, was to become a legendary operative in the Soviet secret service... Her second trip to New Mexico occurred after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, when the secret of what had been going on at Los Alamos was out and the laboratory had become a much publicized place. The Army Counter Intelligence Corps and the federal Bureau of Investigation had greatly increased security in the whole area. As soon as Hall passed her his report at a rendezvous on the campus of the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, she hurried back to a boardinghouse in the New Mexico town of Las Vegas, about eighty miles away, where she had been staying to avoid the attention she might have attracted by putting up at a hotel in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. She stuffed the papers Hall had given her under the top tissues in a box of Kleenex, grabbed her suitcase, and headed for the railroad station.
At the station, she discovered that plainclothes security men were questioning everyone getting on the train and searching their baggage...
At the station, she discovered that plainclothes security men were questioning everyone getting on the train and searching their baggage. She waited inside until just before the train was due to depart, then walked up to two agents on the platform next to one of the cars. She put down her suitcase and began to play the helpless female who was late for her train, fumbling at the zipper on the handbag in which she had placed her ticket. Making believe she needed to free her hands to work the zipper, she passed the Kleenex box holding the fruits of Hall's atomic espionage to one of the agents. After the handbag had been opened, she displayed her ticket and answered the agents' questions. They searched her bag and suitcase. She then picked up the suitcase and proceeded toward the steps into the car, deliberately leaving the Kleenex box behind with one of the agents. She shrewdly assumed he would think she had forgotten it and be gallant enough to call this to her attention and hand it to her, which is precisely what he did. Back in New York she joked with her NKVD handler from the consulate on East 67th Street that Hall's report had been "in the hands of the police."
As amazing as it sounds, during the later years of World War II, DC had several other instances where the Defense Department demanded that their stories not appear in print considering them a threat to national defense. In April, 1945, Alvin Schwartz wrote a story for the syndicated Superman newspaper strip, which involved the use of an atom smasher, or cyclotron. At the time, this concept was still science fiction, but Schwartz's story was close enough to reality that agents from the Defense Department demanded that the sequence not be run to eliminate the possibility of leaks. In an interview with Schwartz, he said, "I'd gotten my material about cyclotrons from a 1935 issue of Popular Mechanics, so I didn't have any idea about the bomb. I never even knew that the FBI got involved until years later when I saw an article in the New York Post which said, "Superman had it first," in other words, the bomb. The FBI had actually gone to Jerry Siegel who was in the armed forces at the time, but nobody mentioned it to me until years later."
Jack Schiff, an editor of the Superman comics and newspaper features, recalled in an interview that, "A pair of FBI agents visited DC Comics publisher Harry Donenfeld in early 1945. They insisted we get rid of the cyclotron, and bring the story to a quick conclusion. I refused to make the changes, so Donenfeld arranged for someone else to ghost the changes."
Once the war ended, there were several stories in Time and Newsweek mentioning the censorship of the Superman comic strips. In 1948, Harper's published a previously confidential memo written in 1945 by Lt. Col. John R. Lansdale, Jr, that outlined the War Department's discomfort with the information in these stories...- Wallace Harrington, Superman and the War Years
In Russia the Nazi invasion had interrupted the already very limited fission research program. Facilities and personnel were transferred to Kazan and other industrial cities beyond the Urals and scientists diverted to more urgent defense projects... However, in early 1942 a sharp-eyed physicist, twenty-eight-year-old Georgii Flerov, had noticed that the names of all the well-known scientists understood to have been working on atomic fission had disappeared from international academic journals. Personally and passionately convinced of the feasibility of constructing a nuclear weapon and suspicious about "dogs that did not bark," Flerov wrote to Stalin, urging that the Soviet Union should build the Uranium bomb without delay...
Diana Preston, Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima, 2005
I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb.
Its production and its use were not lightly undertaken by this Government. But we knew that our enemies were on the search for it. We know now how close they were to finding it. And we knew the disaster which would come to this Nation, and to all peace-loving nations, to all civilization, if they had found it first.
That is why we felt compelled to undertake the long and uncertain and costly labor of discovery and production.
We won the race of discovery against the Germans.
Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.
We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan's power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.
The atomic bomb is too dangerous to be loose in a lawless world. That is why Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, who have the secret of its production, do not intend to reveal that secret until means have been found to control the bomb so as to protect ourselves and the rest of the world from the danger of total destruction.- President Truman announces the development and first use of the atomic bomb (Radio Report to the American People on the Potsdam Conference) August, 1945 (Press release here)
"This publication was produced at the request of the Assistant Manager for Public Education, Oak Ridge Operations Office, Atomic Energy Commission."- Adventures Inside the Atom, 1948
(US Department of Energy web page)
We have evidence that within recent weeks an atomic explosion occurred in the U.S.S.R...
Nearly four years ago I pointed out that "scientific opinion appears to be practically unanimous that the essential theoretical knowledge upon which the discovery is based is already widely known. There is also substantial agreement that foreign research can come abreast of our present theoretical knowledge in time." And, in the three--nation declaration of the President of the United States and the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and of Canada, dated November 15, 1945, it was emphasized that no single nation could, in fact, have a monopoly of atomic weapons.- President Truman announces the Soviet A-bomb, September 1949