“Fifty-Year” Look Back At Lived History, 1963-2013

This essay is a summary of U.S. history, which I lived through from 1963 to 2013 (primarily during the 1960s and 1970s). This essay is simply a combination of two of my items published by Swans (now gone) in 2013. I wrote them for the benefit of younger people. In writing these essays, I did make an effort (research) to verify my statements of fact. I am posting this compendium here because 2018 is the half-century mark after 1968, which I consider the most consequential year in U.S. history since 1945.

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part I: 1963-1968
18 November 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci75.html

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part II: 1968-2013
2 December 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci76.html

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“Fifty-Year” Look Back At Lived History, 1963-2013
(Part I, 1963-1968)

(November 18, 2013)   November 22, 2013, is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We can expect many commentaries on, remembrances of, and uses and misuses made of this anniversary during this month of November. My contribution to that chatter is this look back at the last fifty years in American history, from my personal perspective. I make no claims of scholarship, inclusiveness, balance, or attitudinal and interpretive “correctness,” only that the following characterizes how I remember what I’ve chosen to focus on with respect to the “big picture” of American history that I have lived through.

Before 1963

The America of November 1963 was a country that had seen the collapse of European colonialism in Asia and Africa during the post World War II period of 1945-1960. America’s own imperialistic Monroe Doctrine presumptuousness was sorely tried by the Cuban Revolution of 1959, which openly declared itself communist in 1961. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 had brought the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Russia) dangerously close to nuclear war, but was fortunately defused, and subsequent diplomacy led to a treaty limiting nuclear weapons testing.

There had been about 100 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, primarily by the U.S. and the USSR, during the period 1951-1956 (there had been about 9 between 1945 and 1950). The annual number of nuclear tests jumped to over 40 in 1957, and over 100 in 1958. There was a voluntary halt to testing during 1959-1960 (except for a few tests by France) in response to public fears about the radioactive fallout contamination of the milk supply. The peace symbol, which is now an icon of our culture, was designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958, and first popularized as a badge by Eric Austen, both nuclear disarmament advocates in Britain. In 1961 — John Kennedy’s first year as US president — the USSR launched a major series of over 30 nuclear tests, and the U.S. mounted about half that number. This weapons race accelerated wildly to a frenzied peak in 1962, with 140 tests performed (over 90 for the U.S. and nearly 40 for the USSR). Except for 1958 and 1962, there have never been more than about 90 nuclear tests in any year (and from 1971 usually under 60), and only very few since 1992, the last year of US testing (post 1992 testing has been by France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea). The numbers I quote for nuclear tests in a given year are read off a chart and rounded. (1)

The environmental movement was born on September 27, 1962, with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, on the ecological devastation caused by pesticide pollution.

In 1963

The negotiations initiated in October 1962 to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis blossomed into the crafting of, signing (August 5, 1963), US ratification (September 24, 1963), and implementation (October 10, 1963) of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.

The Civil Rights (anti-apartheid or anti-segregation) movement for black Americans had been very vigorous in the southern U.S. from the beginning of John Kennedy’s presidency in 1961. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream speech” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.

From 1961, John Kennedy had sent US military advisors to aid the anti-communist Ngô Ðình Diêm regime of South Vietnam in its fight against a communist insurgency (the will of the peasantry) allied with communist North Vietnam. By late 1962, there were 12,000 US soldiers in South Vietnam. Disappointed with Diem as an anti-communist unifier for North and South Vietnam, Kennedy approved a CIA program to aid Diem’s generals in a coup to produce new leadership, which occurred on November 2, 1963, with the deposed Diem summarily executed.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a disaffected American seeking glorious recognition as a leftist hero, acted as a freelancing James Bond (the world’s favorite fictional Tory) to impress the Dirección General de Inteligencia de Cuba (DGI, the Cuban intelligence service) by assassinating President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The DGI had been locked in a battle with the CIA to keep Fidel Castro from being assassinated, a project pushed hard by the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert. Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Kennedy’s successor, stopped the CIA’s Fidel assassination program shortly after taking office. The Soviet Russian intelligence service (KGB) had found Oswald too unstable to rely on as an agent, and happily let him return to America from his self-imposed exile in Russia (October 1959 to June 1962). The DGI had the difficulty of being a much less powerful organization situated far closer to its small nation’s overwhelmingly superior enemy. Thus, the DGI unlike the KGB might be willing to exploit the improvisations of a volunteer useful idiot. Oswald spent the last week of September 1963 in Mexico City, visiting the Cuban and Russian consulates seeking a visa to travel to Cuba, and as a consequence met DGI agents. The DGI was too professional to compromise itself by inducting a delusional American outcast into its ranks, but the DGI seems to have been either gutsy enough or desperate enough to allow Oswald to imagine he would be welcomed in Cuba should he accomplish something of significant value for the Cuban Revolution. Oswald returned to Dallas on October 14, 1963. (2)

During 1964-1968

1964:

The Beatles conquer America by capturing the hearts of its teenage girls. We boys had no choice but to follow.

Lyndon Baines Johnson wins a landslide electoral victory over conservative Republican Barry Goldwater (Au-H2O), who had said in his nomination acceptance speech, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” The Johnson campaign exploited Goldwater’s strident public image with the most explosive political advertisement ever devised, the famous Daisy commercial. (3)

The Johnson administration bequeathed America the national tragedy experienced as the Vietnam War (between 1964 to 1968, after which the Republican administration continued it till 1975), but also the towering civil rights triumphs codified by three laws:

– Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin by federal and state governments as well as some public places.

– Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits states and local governments from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

– Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, creed, and national origin.

1965:

Unsafe At Any Speed, Ralph Nader’s book about deficiencies of automotive design as regards passenger safety, launches the consumer product safety movement.

President Lyndon Johnson sends American troops into South Vietnam; by July there are 75,000. On July 28, Johnson announces he is increasing the troop level to 125,000 and doubling the monthly draft calls (from 17,000 to 35,000). A gradual and sustained aerial bombardment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), Operation Rolling Thunder, had begun on March 2, 1965, and would continue until November 2, 1968.

1967:

Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valves, which are simple pollution control devices, are mandated for internal combustion engines. This was the first regulation for automobile exhaust pollution control. Since Silent Spring in 1962, numerous concerns had combined into a broad environmental movement: the flooding of Glen Canyon on the Colorado River in 1963 behind the new Glen Canyon Dam, the logging of old growth redwood trees, air pollution — smog — caused by auto and truck exhaust gases, river and coastal pollution from industrial and farm wastes, and the danger of ecological damage by oil spills from offshore drilling platforms, which infamously occurred at Santa Barbara, California, in 1969.

The Six Day War, between Israel and the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, takes place in early June. Israel is victorious, and the present Palestinian crisis of Israeli occupation begins.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara is captured and executed on October 9, 1967, by the Bolivian military aided by the CIA. One of many blows by a perpetually petulant US establishment vainly seeking a satisfying vengeance for the Kennedy hit.

1968:

The Tet Offensive, launched by the Communist Party of Vietnam on January 30, stuns the Johnson administration as well as the US public. It was now clear that the American war for South Vietnam was futile, but nevertheless it would continue till 1975.

On March 31, Lyndon Baines Johnson announces that he will not seek reelection; it is a presidential election year. Robert F. Kennedy (John Kennedy’s younger brother and attorney general) was a senator at that time, and had announced his own bid for the presidency on March 16.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated on April 4, in Memphis, Tennessee. Major rioting breaks out in many cities. Because of the extensive damage and fires caused during these urban riots, and the deployment of National Guard troops to restore order, the television images of these scenes on US soil had an eerily disquieting resemblance to images of Stalingrad in 1943, Berlin in 1945, and Hue and other Vietnamese cities besieged during the previous three months during the Tet Offensive. Many Americans became very frightened, and a diversity of Americans had their various prejudices deepened.

Robert Kennedy is assassinated after a campaign speech in Los Angeles on June 6 by a resentful Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship, Sirhan Sirhan, who is still serving a life sentence for that crime. Robert Kennedy had captured the imagination of liberals, especially young ones, who were ignorant of his earlier political career (as a McCarthy-type commie chaser, and the zealous prosecutor of the Fidel assassination project) and crushed by his loss. Robert Kennedy had been deeply affected by John Kennedy’s death and the politics behind it, and as a result he had undoubtedly become much more sympathetic to the aspirations and suffering of marginalized populations, like the Mexican-American farm workers that Cesar Chavez was organizing in California’s Central Valley. However, the degree to which Robert Kennedy had become more “revolutionary,” or “socialist,” or just moral after 1963, and how such a presumed deepening of compassion and conviction might express itself politically, are matters of pure speculation mooted by his death. Hubert Humphrey, the vice president and eventual 1968 Democratic nominee for President, was the quintessential mainstream liberal politician of the 1960s.

Richard Milhous Nixon, a Republican from California, wins the 1968 presidential election with a campaign promoting “law and order” and appealing to anti-civil rights southern white resentment (Dixiecrats become Republicans). Nixon’s winning concept was called “the southern strategy.” It would become the formula applied by all subsequent Republican presidential contenders to this day, very effectively by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, who vastly increased the formula’s content of rhetoric and cant on fiscal soundness and the evils of taxation, but unsuccessfully by Willard Mitt Romney in 2012 because of the changed demographic composition of the American electorate since 1968 and 1988.

Notes to Part I

1.  Nuclear Weapons Testing,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_testing

2.  Manuel García, Jr.,
“Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
Swans, 23 April 2012,
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html

Some Words About JFK,
see the section “Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/11/20/some-words-about-jfk/

3.  Daisy Commercial (1964),
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Id_r6pNsus

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“Fifty-Year” Look Back At Lived History, 1963-2013
(Part II, 1968-2013)

(December 2, 2013) This two-part series is a look back at the last fifty years in American history, from my personal perspective. The thread of my historical narrative begins in Part I (1963-1968). (1)

Enjoy the show.

The Vietnam War and the US Presidential Election in 1968

On January 30, the Communist Party of Vietnam launched its stunning though costly and ultimately stymied Tet Offensive across all of South Vietnam. For the Vietnamese Communist Party, the Tet Offensive was a propaganda victory and foreign relations coup; for the Johnson administration and the American public it was a crippling blow to self-confidence about the conduct of the war. The number of American troops in Vietnam peaked at 543,482 in late April.

The year was the most expensive in the Vietnam War with America spending US$ 77.4 billion (US$ 519 billion in 2013) on the war. The year also became the deadliest of the Vietnam War for America and its allies with 27,915 South Vietnamese (ARVN) soldiers killed and the Americans suffering 16,592 killed compared to around two hundred thousand of the communist forces killed. The deadliest week of the Vietnam War for the USA was during the Tet Offensive, specifically February 11-17, 1968, during which 543 Americans were killed in action and 2,547 were wounded. (2)

On March 31, Lyndon Johnson announced in a nationally televised address that he would not seek reelection as US president in the November election. That same month, to encourage the North Vietnamese to begin negotiations, he halted the aerial bombing of the northern portion of North Vietnam, which includes those regions surrounding the capitol city Hanoi but not those areas bordering the 10 kilometer-wide 1954 treaty line — the DMZ or demilitarized zone — marking the separation into North and South Vietnam. The parties agreed to conduct the negotiations in Paris, and met for the first time on May 10. However, the North Vietnamese were adamant in demanding the Americans halt all aerial bombing in the North before discussing anything else, which Johnson finally acceded to on October 31, after which serious negotiations began. (3)

On November 5th, Richard Milhous Nixon, a Republican from California, won the 1968 presidential election with a campaign promoting “law and order” and appealing to anti-civil rights southern white resentment (Dixiecrats become Republicans). Nixon’s winning concept was called “the southern strategy.” It would become the formula applied by all subsequent Republican presidential contenders to this day, very effectively by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, who vastly increased the formula’s content of rhetoric on fiscal soundness and cant on the evils of taxation, but unsuccessfully by Willard Mitt Romney in 2012 because the demographic composition of the American electorate had changed significantly since 1968, and 1988.

The Arc Of American Liberalism

The years 1964 through 1980 spanned the arc of American liberalism, arising out of the optimism of the Kennedy administration and plunging into the sour witless eruption of neo-liberalism: Thatcherism (1979) and Reaganism (1981)
.
The legislative triumphs of civil rights occurred during the same years as the vast expansion of the Vietnam War, 1964 to 1968. The accumulating costs of that war combined with the growing costs of social welfare programs to cause fiscal problems and a mild recession in late 1969 through 1970, and a monetary crisis in 1971 (the Nixon Shock, the end of the Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange, and the beginning of the present situation of freely floating currencies).

The Oil Crisis of 1973 (the Arab Oil Embargo in retaliation for the US support of Israel during its October 1973 war with Egypt and Syria) introduced Americans to the energy crisis: shortages of gasoline and fuel oil, with a quadrupling of prices. The recession triggered by the 1973 oil crisis lasted until 1975. By that time, American economic productivity (or profitability) had fallen from its peak levels during the previous thirty years of the post World War II boom (Les Trente Glorieuses), in part because advanced automation could now replace more human labor, and in part because of increased foreign competition, since the post WWII recovery of Europe and Japan had advanced rapidly though the 1950s and matured in the 1960s.

The reductionist quest for profitability led to the “outsourcing” and “offshoring” practices of seeking minimum cost foreign labor (with minimum investment in foreign health, safety, environment, and taxation) to produce products for sale and consumption in the United States. The inflation of the 1970s coupled with slow economic growth (“stagflation”) spurred the intensification of well-financed campaigns by corporate interests to acquire political influence, which could be used to lower corporate taxes, eliminate or loosen government regulations on business practices, and break unions. This neo-liberal ideology of corporatism above all considerations of social democracy became the American paradigm with the arrival of the Reagan administration (1981-1988), and continues to the present despite its destruction — catastrophically in 2008 — of the American economy for over 90% of the population.

The long, horrible, drawn-out bleeding of the Vietnam War was totally unnecessary. The 1973 Oil Crisis was never addressed as it should have been, by the development of sustainable, non-nuclear energy and power sources not based on fossil fuels (or combustion). I think of how much better off Americans and the world would be today if these two problems had been solved compassionately and intelligently. The successors of the Vietnam War have been briefer, more streamlined, and far too numerous. The newest American wars are now carried out as computer games of automated assassination, equipped with real remotely-controlled unmanned bomber aircraft and missiles, and programmed directly from the White House. The energy crisis that erupted in 1973 has now metastasized into the anthropogenic global warming problem. To my mind, the way to move the United States beyond its present glut of drone wars and military adventurism and wastefulness, as well as most effectively address the energy and global warming dilemma, is to be found by abandoning neo-liberalism and embracing its exact opposite, social democracy.

Vietnamization For “Peace With Honor,” Mega-Death For “Credibility”

For Americans, the Vietnam War had a slow buildup. It began during the Harry S. Truman administration with the behind-the-scenes provisioning with military equipment for, and the financing of, the French colonial forces in Indochina in 1945-1952. The Dwight D. Eisenhower administration (1953-1960) continued this support after the French defeat in 1954, with the propping up of anti-communist regimes in the southern half of Vietnam, and supporting anti-communist factions in Laos.

The forces of communist North Vietnam completed the north-south Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1959, along the eastern margins of the countries west of Vietnam: Laos in the north, and Cambodia in the south. This route for the clandestine re-supply of communist forces in South Vietnam would be the key to the eventual communist victory in 1975. The trail was camouflaged to evade aerial surveillance and bombardment. American aerial bombardment along the Ho Chi Minh Trail between 1964 and 1973 was so intense that Laos has the sad distinction of being the most bombed country on a per capita basis.

During the Richard M. Nixon administration (1969-1974), the American bombardment of North Vietnamese military activities in eastern Cambodia was secretly expanded to include an invasion with ground forces (in 1970). The officially neutral Cambodian government, led by Prince Sihanouk, had publicly protested the violations of its territory in the east, but quietly accepted both: the North Vietnamese infiltration, in order to maintain the possibility of good relations with the Vietnamese communists who Sihanouk saw as the inevitable victors; and Sihanouk accepted some of the American bombardment of the North Vietnamese in Cambodia’s east so as to placate the Americans, discourage the Vietnamese communists from openly invading and occupying Cambodia, and to keep the small Cambodian communist factions from gaining popular support. Unfortunately, the American bombardment was so massive, unrelenting, and deadly, that many survivors among the rural population in both Laos and Cambodia became radicalized and joined the communist forces in their countries, who all swept to victory in 1975.

Richard Nixon knew the Vietnam War was a lost cause, and his plan to gain “peace with honor” and extricate the United States from the meat grinder of war-making was to build up the military forces of the anti-communist regime in South Vietnam while simultaneously withdrawing American personnel. This was called “Vietnamization.” From a certain distance, Nixon’s plan had a reasonable cast to it. The idea was to prosecute the war by substituting well-trained and amply equipped South Vietnamese troops for American troops, and in so doing show the world that the United States “kept its promises” to allies, and it would thus retain its “credibility.”

You have to hear Henry Kissinger’s leaden intonation of “American credibility” to understand why an additional 21,257 deaths of Americans in Vietnam, and over a million Vietnamese deaths, and hundreds of thousands of combined Laotian and Cambodian deaths had to be sustained between 1969 and 1975. The arc of American mortality because of the Vietnam War, grouped by presidential administration, was a follows: 9 Eisenhower (1956-1960), 191 Kennedy (1961-1963), 36,756 Johnson (1964-1968), 21,195 Nixon (1969-1974), 62 Ford (1975-1976), and 7 during 1987-2006. (4)

The Vietnamization process to retain “American credibility,” that is to say the international reputation of the American foreign policy-making elite, was based on thinking in which individual American lives were mere ciphers to be churned in the calculations of force projection to gain diplomatic advantage for elite geo-strategic gamesmen, while the individual lives of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians were not even considered up to the level of ciphers. A ceasefire, truce, declaration of defeat, withdrawal of American forces, and less violent consolidation of communist power in Indochina could have been accomplished much sooner, with the stated goal of stopping bloodshed and limiting casualties by accepting the inevitable. That course of action would have lost the United States one form of “credibility” but it would have gained it another I think far more valuable.

The Nixon-Kissinger Vietnamization policy was an egotistical face-saving crime of genocidal proportions. Thinking back to it leaves me wondering if human history is farcical tragedy or a tragic farce.

Some Incidents In The History Of My Times

The following incidents made impressions on me, for one reason or another.

20 July 1969. Neil Armstrong lands on the Moon, and a gesture is fulfilled. The other side of the coin was the CIA-sponsored killing of Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia on 9 October 1967. The American Gods must be propitiated. (5)

1 December 1969. The first Draft Lottery, and the beginning of the end for antiwar protests in the U.S. For my little story about that see (6).

22 April 1970. The first Earth Day, the environmental movement at its height, the most radiantly hopeful day I ever had dreaming about the future. It was pure bliss, and I was also in love.

7 November 1972. Richard M. Nixon wins a landslide presidential electoral victory against antiwar Democrat George Stanley McGovern. I liked McGovern.

11 September 1973. Chile’s Marxist president, Salvador Allende, dies and his government falls in a very violent coup led by a fascist Chilean general, Augusto Pinochet, aided by the CIA as directed with disgusting enthusiasm by Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor to Richard Nixon, and then Secretary of State (from 22 September 1973).

17 June 1972 – 9 August 1974. The Watergate scandal unfolds, Nixon resigns, and his former vice president, Gerald Ford, advances to the presidency and pardons Nixon, immunizing him from all Watergate-related prosecution, making Ford unelectable in 1976.

20 November 1975. Francisco Franco, the pseudo-fascist monarchist-authoritarian Spanish dictator, dies, and Spain carefully emerges out of its enforced medieval slumber of 36 years.

1977-1980. The Jimmy Carter administration is the twilight of American political liberalism (the unifying concept being the social welfare state), which effectively ends in 1978 as Carter’s initiatives became more militarized.

18 April 1977. Jimmy Carter addresses the nation on energy. This could have been the start of the sustainable and solar energy revolution in America, but it wasn’t. Think of how much better served and secure we would be today if it had.

28 March 1979. Three Mile Island nuclear accident, a partial meltdown of a commercial nuclear reactor at a power station in Pennsylvania. The worst such accident in the U.S.

15 July 1979. President Jimmy Carter addresses the nation on its “crisis of confidence” during its 1979 energy crisis (oil and gasoline shortages and high prices, consequences of the Iranian Revolution). This address would become known as the “malaise speech,” though Carter never mentioned “malaise.”

August 1979. Paul Volcker is appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve by President Jimmy Carter, and his monetary policies cure the persistent inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s.

1979. Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, initiates the covert transfer of billions of dollars in arms to the Afghan mujahideen militants opposed to the Soviet military forces that had invaded in support of the allied central government, which itself faced insurrection. Osama Bin Laden, from Arabia, led one such mujahideen group in the ensuing Afghan War prosecuted by the Soviets. That war proved to be a quagmire for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and drained sufficient resources and caused enough human suffering and resentment among Russians that it initiated the political instability that eventually led to the collapse of communism in the USSR.

4 November 1980. Ronald Reagan is elected president, and the neo-liberal shredding of the 1945 postwar social contract begins. My heart sank that day, and of Americans I thought: “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” (An anonymous ancient proverb wrongly attributed to Euripides. This variant is spoken by Prometheus, in The Masque of Pandora (1875) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.)

1980-1988. The Shah of Iran is deposed by the Shiite theocratic Iranian Revolution of 1979, and American embassy personnel are held as hostages for 444 days, being released shortly after Reagan’s inauguration. Iraq under the control of its dictator, Saddam Hussein, attacks Iran in 1980, initiating an eight year Iran-Iraq War during which the United States government aides Iraq by providing satellite reconnaissance information about Iran to the Iraqis, and eases the transfer of materials and technology that Iraq uses to fabricate and then deploy chemical weapons against Iranian troops, and later dissident Iraqi populations. It is estimated one million lives were lost in the Iran-Iraq War.

1981-1989, The Reagan Administration launched proxy wars against the peasantry in Central America (Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras). The underlying conflicts between an impoverished peasantry and a wealthy land-owning elite that sponsored the national military and police establishments had erupted into armed struggle (again) after 1959, becoming ferocious by the late 1970s. Using the excuse of fighting communism putatively infiltrated into Central America by Cuba, the Reagan administration supplied and funded local anti-communist and reactionary militias as proxy military forces, to destroy popular social democracy by despicable terrorism. These proxy militias, or “contras” (“against” the revolutions), were usually police and army personnel acting out of uniform in Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras, or in Nicaragua they were former police and army personnel of the Somoza regime, which had been deposed by the Sandinista Revolution of 1979. The savage cruelty inflicted on the ethnic Mayan peasantry by the contra forces reached their crests of genocidal magnitude under Reagan Administration sponsorship. These Central American Wars all trailed off in the 1990s.

20 August 1985 – 4 March 1987. Iran-Contra Scandal. (7)

26 April 1986. A nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power station in the Ukraine explodes, spewing radioactivity far and wide, and the fuel core melts down. The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident until the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011. Also during 1986, Ronald Reagan has the solar hot water system removed, which had been installed on the roof of the White House during the Carter Administration. The spirit of Earth Day 1970 had been executed.

17 October 1987. “Black Monday” stock market crash. The Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced a drop of 22%. Alan Greenspan had just been appointed as chairman of the Federal Reserve by Ronald Reagan, replacing Paul Volcker. This crash occurred during the midst of the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s.

23 June 1988. In testimony before the US Senate, NASA scientist James Hansen stated that anthropogenic global warming had begun.

22 November 1988. Twenty five years since the assassination of John Kennedy, and twenty five years before today [2013].

9 November 1989. The Berlin Wall falls, communism in Eastern Europe crumbles. I was elated and exhausted. I believed nuclear disarmament was now immanent, as well as a revamping of the US war economy (Defense Department funding) into a robust “peace” and “green” economy. Clearly, I was naively delusional.

2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991. The Gulf War (Persian Gulf War, First Iraq War) is successfully prosecuted by a NATO combined force under US direction, acting to reverse the annexation of Kuwait by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. America’s ally to punish Iran during 1980-1988 had since fallen out of favor. The chemical and biological weapons, and some nuclear technology held by the Saddam Hussein regime were now seen as intolerable threats to American interests.

26 December 1991. The USSR formally ceased to exist. The twelve republics that had comprised the USSR were declared independent.

Into The 21st Century

William Jefferson Clinton Administration (1991-2000)

Bill Clinton is a 1960s center-right Republican dressed up as a 1960s liberal Democrat. He went along with deregulating the banks (repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933) and financial industry (signing the Commodity Futures Trading Act of 2000, allowing easy trading in derivatives), which together set up the casino environment that would lead to the publicly-damaging financial collapse of 2008.

George Walker Bush Administration (2001-2008)

G. W. Bush spent profligately on tax cuts for the rich, and the Iraq War (20 March 2003 – 15 December 2011), using the 11 September 2001 attacks as an excuse. The loose money policy of Alan Greenspan, chairman at the Federal Reserve, fed a housing bubble that peaked in 2006, deflating into an expanding financial crisis in late 2007, and a catastrophic banking collapse in October 2008.

Barack Hussein Obama Administration (2009-2016)

Barack Obama is a corporatist Democrat in the Clinton mold, and shepherds the financial industry’s interests by managing the economy with a bias for public austerity maintained to preserve speculator (a.k.a. investor) accumulations (gains), and the continuing regime of insufficient regulations and taxes on trading. Keynesianism to lift the economy out of its chronic joblessness is denied. The current official unemployment rate (based on definitional sophistry) is about 7%, the real unemployment rate is about 23%. (8)

Obama is a master of symbolism, and much of a wishful-thinking public allows that symbolism to distract them from reality.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, today’s [2013] leading Democratic Party contender for president

Hillary Clinton is the presumed frontrunner in the race to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in the 2016 election. She has already captivated the attention of those Americans for whom the symbolism of “the first female US president” overwhelms all rational considerations. So, perhaps the underwriting of her presidential campaign will pay off for corporate America, in giving the first female president the historic privilege of privatizing Social Security, and staking multi-millionaire Wall Street gamblers with an abundance of other people’s money they can play with risk-free. The symbol-awed will never notice.

Notes to Part II

1.  Fifty Year Look Back 1963-2013,
(Part I: 1963-1969)
 [above here]

2.  1968 in the Vietnam War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_in_the_Vietnam_War

3.  Paris Peace Accords
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Peace_Accords

4.  Statistical Information about Fatal Casualties of the Vietnam War
U.S. National Archives
http://www.archives.gov/research/military/vietnam-war/casualty-statistics.html

5.
“Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
Swans, 23 April 2012,
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html

Some Words About JFK,
see the section “Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/11/20/some-words-about-jfk/

6.  The Promise Of Remembered Soundtracks
7 October 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci72.html

7.  Iran-Contra Affair
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Contra_affair

8.
“Official” US Unemployment Rate
http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000

“Real” US Unemployment Rate
http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts

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Why I Am Leftist (Vietnam War)

Tet Offensive
Phase 1: 30 January – 28 March, 1968
Phase 2: 5 May – 15 June, 1968
Phase 3: 17 August – 23 September 1968.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
assassinated in Memphis, TN
4 April 1968
Riots broke out in about 100 US cities and towns over many weeks.

Robert F. Kennedy
assassinated in Los Angeles, CA
6 June 1968
RFK had won the CA primary election for DP presidential nominee that day.

Richard M. Nixon
elected US president
5 November 1968

In the fall (October-November) of 1968 during his election campaign as the Republican Party’s nominee for US president, Richard Nixon sabotaged the Paris Peace Talks between the Johnson Administration and the Communist Party of Vietnam (“North Vietnam”), by using Anna Chennault (of the deposed Nationalist Chinese regime) as a secret agent to contact the South Vietnamese regime of Nguyen Van Thieu and have him renege on his commitment to send a delegation to the scheduled Paris peace negotiations (Nixon promised Thieu a better deal, if Nixon became President), so the peace talks failed by not even starting.

This was an act of treason by Nixon during a time of war.

Nixon used the “failure” of the Johnson Administration to either “win the war” (militarily) or bring the four combatants (North Vietnam and the ‘Viet Cong’ versus South Vietnam and the U.S.A.) into serious armistice and peace negotiations, as an electoral issue justifying voting for him. Nixon won (over the DP’s Hubert Humphrey) by less than 1% of the popular vote.

Nixon and Henry Kissinger (National Security Advisor, then Secretary of State) then expanded the war (into Laos and Cambodia), and only in 1973 – 5 years later – were they able to get the Hanoi government (the Communist government of North Vietnam, and their allied popular forces in South Vietnam: the ‘Viet Cong’) back to the negotiating table in Paris, with the Communists finally agreeing once again to the concessions they had originally made in 1968.

During the interim, 22,000 additional Americans had died in the war, and perhaps a million more people of Vietnam (north and south) as well as Laos and Cambodia. This is all described in Episode 7 of Ken Burns’ 10 episode TV series, “The Vietnam War” (2017).

It was 50 years ago this month (during Phase 1 of the Tet Offensive) that I registered for the draft. My college deferment was cancelled at the end of 1968, and I was 1-A all of 1969. Bureaucratic delaying tactics and luck kept me from being inducted, and I drew a very high number in the Draft Lottery of December 1969, and so was passed up.

A tense time, and one that ensured I would forever be some kind of leftist.

The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21768668

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Some Words About JFK

Some Words About JFK

JFK grave site, April 1964.

November 22, 2017, is the fifty-fourth anniversary of the assassination of US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

At 12:30 PM Central Standard Time on the 22nd of November 1963, three shots rang out in rapid succession over President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s motorcade gliding along Elm Street through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. The first bullet pierced the right side of the back of John Kennedy’s neck with a downward slant, emerging at his throat and then boring diagonally downward through the right side of the torso of John Connally, the Governor of Texas, who was seated in front of Kennedy. The second bullet struck Kennedy in the back of the skull, exploding the right side of his head. The third shot followed closely on the second, shattering against the curb of Elm Street and sending chips of lead and concrete flying so that one scratched the right cheek of James Tague, a spectator, sufficiently to draw flecks of blood. The president’s limousine began accelerating immediately after the first shot, and it raced full speed to Parkland Hospital, arriving at about 12:38 PM. Despite the frantic efforts of the trauma room doctors and surgeons to save John Kennedy’s life, within twenty minutes that life had gone, and John Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 PM. Lyndon Johnson, now constitutionally the president, delayed a public announcement of the death until 1:33 PM, so he could first leave the hospital and order an immediate defensive operation to protect government leaders including himself should the Kennedy assassination be part of a larger conspiracy that was still unfolding. At 3:01 PM CST, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote a memo to his assistant directors in which he stated: “I called the attorney general [Robert Kennedy] at his home and told him I thought we had the man who killed the President down in Dallas, at the present time.” That man was Lee Harvey Oswald. Why did he do it? I’ll offer an explanation by the end of this article.

This article/posting presents a few items about JFK and his time as President. They are taken – as excerpts and mixed here – from several of my published/posted articles.

Before 1963

The America of November 1963 was a country that had seen the collapse of European colonialism in Asia and Africa during the post World War II period of 1945-1960. America’s own imperialistic Monroe Doctrine presumptuousness was sorely tried by the Cuban Revolution of 1959, which openly declared itself communist in 1961. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 had brought the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Russia) dangerously close to nuclear war, but was fortunately defused, and subsequent diplomacy led to a treaty limiting nuclear weapons testing.

There had been about 100 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, primarily by the U.S. and the USSR, during the period 1951-1956 (there had been about 9 between 1945 and 1950). The annual number of nuclear tests jumped to over 40 in 1957, and over 100 in 1958. There was a voluntary halt to testing during 1959-1960 (except for a few tests by France) in response to public fears about the radioactive fallout contamination of the milk supply. The peace symbol, which is now an icon of our culture, was designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958, and first popularized as a badge by Eric Austen, both nuclear disarmament advocates in Britain. In 1961 — John Kennedy’s first year as US president — the USSR launched a major series of over 30 nuclear tests, and the U.S. mounted about half that number. This weapons race accelerated wildly to a frenzied peak in 1962, with 140 tests performed (over 90 for the U.S. and nearly 40 for the USSR). Except for 1958 and 1962, there have never been more than about 90 nuclear tests in any year (and from 1971 usually under 60), and only very few since 1992, the last year of US testing (post 1992 testing has been by France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea). The numbers I quote for nuclear tests in a given year are read off a chart [wikipedia] and rounded.

It is important to know that the overwhelming fraction of the Allied war effort against Nazi Germany [1939-1945] was provided by the Soviet Union (Russia and its union of socialist republics), and they suffered the greatest losses as a result. The Soviet Union lost nearly 14 percent of its population (every 7th person) in the war, and this mortality amounted to almost one third of the entire WW2 dead. The United States’ WW2 dead amounted to a fifty-fifth (1/55) of the Soviet total, and the 1939 national populations were comparable, the Soviet population being 29 percent higher.

It would be very beneficial to the world if Americans, commemorating their Memorial and Veterans’ Days, would try imagining their feelings if they had suffered war as deeply as the Soviet people (every 7th person instead of every 172nd person lost). The impact of a WW2 experience like that of the Soviets will imprint a dread of war far more deeply into the national consciousness than a WW2 experience like that of the United States.

We now know that “a guy named Arkhipov saved the world” during the Cuban Missile Crisis [October 1962]. “During a naval skirmish between an American destroyer and a Soviet B-59 submarine off Cuba on Oct 27, 1962,” where “the destroyer dropped depth charges near the submarine to try to force it to surface, not knowing it had a nuclear-tipped torpedo…that the submarine was authorised to fire it if three officers agreed. The officers began a fierce, shouting debate over whether to sink the ship. Two of them said yes and the other said no.”

This was no failure of Russian military training (which like that in the arts and sciences is of unparalleled rigor), but instead the operation of vivid historical consciousness. I fear that the culture of the United States is so shallow and immature that thorough military training can transform any callow youth into a robot soldier attuned to his or her assigned functions, and unlikely to have the psychological depth and historical consciousness to question orders and training under conditions of extreme danger, urgency and confusion, or to recognize moments of pivotal importance.

In 1963

The negotiations initiated in October 1962 to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis blossomed into the crafting of, signing (August 5, 1963), US ratification (September 24, 1963), and implementation (October 10, 1963) of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.

The Civil Rights (anti-apartheid or anti-segregation) movement for black Americans had been very vigorous in the southern U.S. from the beginning of John Kennedy’s presidency in 1961. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream speech” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.

From 1961, John Kennedy had sent US military advisors to aid the anti-communist Ngô Ðình Diêm regime of South Vietnam in its fight against a communist insurgency (the will of the peasantry) allied with communist North Vietnam. By late 1962, there were 12,000 US soldiers in South Vietnam. Disappointed with Diem as an anti-communist unifier for North and South Vietnam, Kennedy approved a CIA program to aid Diem’s generals in a coup to produce new leadership, which occurred on November 2, 1963, with the deposed Diem summarily executed.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a disaffected American seeking glorious recognition as a leftist hero, acted as a freelancing James Bond (the world’s favorite fictional Tory) to impress the Dirección General de Inteligencia de Cuba (DGI, the Cuban intelligence service) by assassinating President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The DGI had been locked in a battle with the CIA to keep Fidel Castro from being assassinated, a project pushed hard by the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert. Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Kennedy’s successor, stopped the CIA’s Fidel assassination program shortly after taking office. The Soviet Russian intelligence service (KGB) had found Oswald too unstable to rely on as an agent, and happily let him return to America from his self-imposed exile in Russia (October 1959 to June 1962). The DGI had the difficulty of being a much less powerful organization situated far closer to its small nation’s overwhelmingly superior enemy. Thus, the DGI unlike the KGB might be willing to exploit the improvisations of a volunteer useful idiot. Oswald spent the last week of September 1963 in Mexico City, visiting the Cuban and Russian consulates seeking a visa to travel to Cuba, and as a consequence met DGI agents. The DGI was too professional to compromise itself by inducting a delusional American outcast into its ranks, but the DGI seems to have been either gutsy enough or desperate enough to allow Oswald to imagine he would be welcomed in Cuba should he accomplish something of significant value for the Cuban Revolution. Oswald returned to Dallas on October 14, 1963.

http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci75.html
[2013]

https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/08/10/will-a-russo-american-nuclear-war-happen-soon/
[2008]

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Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate

The Castros and the Kennedys were the kings on this chessboard; the CIA and the DGI were the knights, bishops, and queens; and the Miami Cubans, Lee Harvey Oswald and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, were the pawns. Fidel Castro’s wayward pawn checkmated the Miami Cubans’ king before John Kennedy’s knights and bishops could secure the field and kill his opponent; then the Kennedy brothers’ discredited knights eliminated Fidel’s gaudiest pawn, an early strike in an unending and pointless revenge. The petulance of an imperial state that has lost its game can last a long time.

In their article on April 10, 2012, “The CIA and Castro: an Undying Obsession,” Saul Landau and Nelson P. Valdes review a recent book by Brian Latell (Castro’s Secrets: The CIA And Cuba’s Intelligence Machine) about Latell’s involvement in the CIA project to overthrow Fidel Castro. It is clear from this review that Latell has delusions of grandeur, believing that Fidel Castro viewed him personally as a great adversary because of the CIA attempts to assassinate the Cuban leader. Landau and Valdes easily show that Latell’s fantasies can be dismissed.

However, when it comes to suggesting a motive for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Landau and Valdes repeat an old piece of “perception management” originally introduced into public discourse by Soviet Russian and Cuban intelligence services (“agit-prop”) to shield the two communist nations from culpability in the mind of the US public:

Finally, for possible smoking guns in the Kennedy assassination, Latell should look at his Cuban exile friends and former CIA colleagues. They believe Kennedy betrayed them at the Bay of Pigs, during the Missile Crisis, and by paying ransom for Brigade 2506. When Kennedy died, more than a few right-wing Cuban exiles celebrated.

It is certainly true President Kennedy abandoned the Bay of Pigs invasion, and ransomed the survivors back; and it is true that some of the embittered Miami Cubans celebrated John Kennedy’s demise. This despite the Kennedy brothers (John and Robert) being the best friends the Miami Cubans ever had. But, it is not really reasonable to assume that the CIA would then assassinate the American president, or that it would allow Miami Cubans (whom it obviously had under close observation) to do so.

A much better explanation is that the Cuban diplomats and intelligence officers in Mexico during the summer of 1963 allowed Lee Harvey Oswald to imagine he was a freelance secret agent of the Cuban Revolution, on the off chance he might actually do something useful for them. Oswald had gone to Mexico specifically to push himself onto the Cubans as a volunteer secret warrior. A failure and a misfit in the U.S., Oswald wanted to be a hero of the Cuban Revolution because he could imagine success there bringing him the companionship and adulation he craved. To sell himself to the Cuban intelligence service, he offered a vague plan as grandiose as his ambition, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The case for this scenario explaining the motivation behind the assassination of John Kennedy has been presented in great detail in a 2008 book.

A great deal of insight about Cuban-American relations in the years 1959 to 1968, and the personal and visceral US motives behind the killing of Che Guevara on 9 October 1967 (see Paul Buhle’s “Who Killed Che?” in Swans, April 9, 2012), can be gained from the book Brothers in Arms: The Kennedys, the Castros, and the Politics of Murder, by Gus Russo and Stephen Molton, on the Kennedy Administration’s secret campaign to assassinate Fidel Castro and topple the Cuban Revolution. See:

http://jfkfiles.blogspot.com/2008/10/brothers-in-arms-kennedys-castros-and.html

 

After reading the Russo and Molton account, one realizes why the U.S. maintains such a furious animus toward Cuba, when it has long since forgotten other deadly enemies of the same period, like Vietnam. The unrelenting campaign by the Kennedy brothers to kill Castro (to have the specific person of Fidel Castro assassinated) and to topple the Cuban Revolution (the traditional anti-communist project stretching back to the Wilson Administration) made it logical and necessary that the Cuban communist government counterattack as a means of personal protection for Fidel Castro, and defense of the communist revolution in Cuba.

Lee Harvey Oswald was too unstable for the cautious intelligence services of a now settled and secure nation like the USSR to have any reliance on, but the young and much more vulnerable Cuban Revolution was willing to calculate its risks with smaller margins. It was natural for them to let Oswald act on his inclinations independently, with only a bit of careful encouragement. That Oswald succeeded was a surprise and immediate relief to the Cuban intelligence service, and was almost instantly followed by terror should the U.S. find evidentiary links from Dealey Plaza to the Cuban DGI (Dirección General de Inteligencia).

Lyndon Johnson came to realize (after he was told many of the facts in 1964, and recalling the 1963 assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, with US fingerprints) that the only way to stop this Godfather-type tit-for-tat presidential assassination madness was to shut down the CIA’s Castro project. Also, Johnson realized he had to suppress public knowledge of the US efforts to assassinate Castro because exposure of the Cuban link to the Kennedy assassination might cause a national uproar leading to war with Russia (the Cuban and Russian intelligence services had many intimate links, and while the Russians had passed up on using Oswald they had mentioned him to the Cubans, and followed developments).

So, the logical and amorally justifiable reason for John F. Kennedy’s assassination was kept from the public and out of the Warren Commission Report by the combined efforts of the Johnson Administration to avoid war with Russia (inevitable after a US invasion of Cuba), Robert Kennedy to keep the family name untarnished, and the Cuban and Russian governments to keep from being attacked.

However, the great wisdom Johnson acted on to end the presidential assassination spiral did not extend far enough to reverse official US hostility toward the Cuban Revolution. Since then, there has always been a seething desire for revenge against the Cubans for the “Kennedy hit.” This animus would find expression in the continuing allowance for Miami Cuban operations against Cuba and its people both on the island and elsewhere in Latin America, as well as in CIA sponsorship of terror and counterinsurgency schemes like the Bolivian operation that resulted in the killing of Che Guevara. Che died because of John and Robert Kennedy’s assassination sins, and for the Cuban DGI’s successful effort to shield Fidel Castro from them.

Cubans continue to suffer the US embargo (and many other forms of harassment) because the US governing elite is still unable to publicly admit its role in setting the conditions that rebounded as the “blowback” of the Kennedy assassination. So long as the U.S. maintains this sense of wounded pride, the Cuban people will be forced to suffer a revenge covering for a shameful denial.

http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html
[2012]

https://manuelgarciajr.com/2012/04/23/castro-and-the-kennedy-image-after-the-checkmate/
[2012]

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The War On The Poor

The most significant political development in the United States occurred between 1854 and 1968 — from Lincoln to LBJ — during which the Republican Party switched from being anti-slavery to pro-slavery, while the Democratic Party switched from being pro-slavery to anti-slavery.

After 1991 — from W. Clinton through Obama to H. Clinton, almost — the Democratic Party steadily regressed back in the direction of its original pro-slavery orientation. This regression is a part of the grand bipartisan War On The Poor, which continues today. The Republicans are the leading force in this war, with the Democrats reactively following.

Today’s efforts at political organization by the anti-slavery movement are vigorously opposed by the bipartisan pro-slavery powers, and their War On The Poor is structured as organized white supremacy-dominated greed claiming to defend the rights of unorganized individual greed — called “freedom” — against the supposed slavery that organized sharing — called socialism — would impose against “individual initiative.”

Many of the naïve victims of the War On The Poor are hampered in defending themselves by their political immaturity, which is a consequence of their ignorance, biases and wishful thinking.

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Will a Russo-American Nuclear War Happen (Soon)?

(1 September 2008; still topical on 9 August 2017)

Introduction

The first, and also previous, nuclear war consisted of two atomic bomb attacks that destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, on August 6 and August 9 of 1945. These attacks by the United States of America against an utterly defeated and prostrate Japan occurred in the last month of the Pacific War (which occurred between December 7, 1941 to August 15, 1945 for the USA) and were demonstrations of remorseless American power intended to deflate the triumphant spirit of a Soviet Union victorious against Nazi Germany (May 8, 1945), and to check the Soviet leadership from advancing its forces into Japan (despite being implored to do so by the Allies at the Yalta Conference six months earlier).

Tsarist Russia had lost its 1904-1905 war with Imperial Japan for control of Manchuria (northern China) and Korea, both of which Japan occupied until 1945. During World War 1 (1914-1918) and the Russian Civil War (1917-1923), a dozen nations invaded Russia, occupying many regions and fielding troops that supported the pro-tsarist, anti-Bolshevik White forces between 1918 and 1920. Japan supplied 37 percent of the troops in this Allied Intervention, 70,000 of the 188,000 total and by far the single largest contingent; they were all deployed in the Vladivostok (northwestern Pacific) region and were the last to leave, in 1922. A series of Soviet-Japanese border wars occurred between 1938-1945, primarily a 1938 war along the Siberian-Manchurian border (western-eastern) just northeast of Korea, a 1939 war along the Mongolian-Manchurian border (eastern-western), northwest of Korea, and the Russian invasion of Manchuria on August 8, 1945.

With the demise of the Japanese Empire, the Russians and Chinese consolidated their adjoining domains of control spanning the Eurasian landmass east of the Baltic and north of the Black Sea, Caucasus and Himalayas, for over four decades until the breakup of the Soviet Union. Over the last twenty years, the United States has actively sought to encircle Russia with military forces implanted in client states that are former Soviet Republics or Eastern European Socialist Republics, now independent, whose compliance has been bought. A similar policy applies to China and its surrounding south and central Asian states. This US policy is often personified by Zbigniew Brzezinski (the Carter Administration National Security Advisor credited with funding the advanced militarization of the Afghani mujahideen that included Osama Bin Laden), who characterizes it as geostrategic dominance radiating from the control of Caucasus and Central Asian republics, several rich in oil.

In recent weeks, US commentators (e.g., P. C. Roberts and W. S. Lind) on Russia’s intervention into the Republic of Georgia (a US client state in the South Caucasus Mountains) to reverse the Georgian invasion of breakaway region South Ossetia, believe the blundering belligerence of US policy toward Russia could escalate to the point of armed confrontation, and this would erupt into a nuclear war.

The logic assumed is that the U.S. would have to rely on missile-borne tactical nuclear warheads launched by air and naval forces to counter Russian troops and armor in the Caucasus, since the U.S. is too distant to transport its troops quickly, and many of them are bogged down in Iraq, Afghanistan, and who knows, maybe also Iran by that time. The Russians could be assumed to use their tactical nuclear weapons to compensate for their possible disadvantage of having less technically sophisticated weapons systems relative to the ”smart bomb” precision-guided munitions and “stealth” delivery vehicles of the US military. Once a shooting war starts, the natural tendency is to reach for your biggest guns and fire away before the other guy can clear his holster.

So, is a new nuclear war possible? Let’s muse on this. After all, the time necessary for rationality to work its good is only available before the shoot-out, or after the killing is done and the survivors are ready to move on to the burials.

The purpose of war is to increase your degree of control OVER OTHERS. This is usually equated to having acquired greater political and military power. This is true even if the war is conducted as nothing beyond brigandage and piracy: plunder, profit and wealth are seen as increasing your power to control events. Using this metric, it is easy to judge if you have won or lost a war.

We proceed by inquiring about the psychological and technical enabling factors, and the political and diplomatic restraining factors for the outbreak of a nuclear war:

1, psychology: are the prospective belligerents easily inclined to war?

2, technology: are their military establishments ready for nuclear combat?

3, politics: can the ruling class be assured of maintaining control of its own population?, could there be a revolution if the war fares badly?

4, diplomacy: is the potential estrangement of and isolation from European states, and other allies, a significant restraint?; is it possible that in a mid-war or post-war weakened condition your state becomes unable to control new rebellions by imperial subject states, or to stop encroachments into your domain of influence by imperial rivals?

We can contract the previous four major questions in these two: have we identified all possible contingencies and devised alternative plans for each?, does the cost-benefit ratio for the war outweigh that of diplomatic alternatives, and after what period of time? We consider the four factors in turn.

Psychology: Remembering World War Two

It is important to know that the overwhelming fraction of the Allied war effort against Nazi Germany was provided by the Soviet Union (Russia and its union of socialist republics), and they suffered the greatest losses as a result. Consider the following numbers. The combined 1939 population of the fifty-five countries involved in World War Two (WW2) was 1.962 billion; the total number of war dead was 72.8 million, which was 3.7 percent of the 1939 population of participants. Of course, many of these countries bore only a slight to moderate burden in carrying on the war, while a small number provided the greatest efforts and made the greatest sacrifices (see “World War II casualties” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties).

The combined human losses of the Soviet Union, China, Germany and Japan were just under 73 percent of the total deaths for WW2. The Asian theater of WW2 was essentially the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945, while the European theater of WW2 was essentially the Russo-German War of 1941-1945.

Let us look at the impact of WW2 on five selected countries, by using three ratios for each country, where these ratios are defined as follows.

Country:

the percentage of its 1939 population killed in WW2;
the ratio of its 1939 population to the 1.962 billion WW2 participants;
the ratio of its WW2 dead to the total WW2 dead;
(all ratios below are expressed as percents).

Soviet Union: 13.7; 8.6; 31.7.

China: 3.9; 26.4; 27.5.

Germany: 10.5; 3.6; 10.

Japan: 3.8; 3.6; 3.7.

USA: 0.3; 6.7; 0.6.

The Soviet Union lost nearly 14 percent of its population (every 7th person) in the war, and this mortality amounted to almost one third of the entire WW2 dead. China was three times as populous as the Soviet Union, so its loss of nearly 4 percent of its people (every 26th person) amounted to over one quarter of the entire WW2 dead. Germany lost over a tenth of its population (every 10th person), which amounted to 10 percent of the WW2 dead; and Japan’s loss of just under 4 percent of its people (every 26th person) amounted to nearly 4 percent of the WW2 dead.

Notice that the United States’ WW2 dead amounts to a fifty-fifth (1/55) of the Soviet total, and the 1939 national populations were comparable, the Soviet population being 29 percent higher. It would be very beneficial to the world if Americans, commemorating their Memorial and Veterans’ Days, would try imagining their feelings if they had suffered war as deeply as the Soviet people (every 7th person instead of every 172nd person lost). Now, we never trivialize the real pain of war veterans, their relatives and and friends, however small a portion of a nation’s population they may happen to be. But, clearly, the impact of a WW2 experience like that of the Soviets will imprint a dread of war far more deeply into the national consciousness than a WW2 experience like that of the United States.

Another interesting numerical result is that the combined losses of Germany and Japan amount to only 13.7 percent of the WW2 dead, and the combined population of these two Axis powers amounted to only 7.2 percent of the WW2 participating population. Advanced industrialized nations hell-bent on war can drag in a multitude of victims vastly more numerous than themselves. A reasonable assumption for today is that the state planners and popular historical memories in both Russia and China viscerally appreciate the importance of this point, but that it may be dimly perceived in US popular imagination, and even dismissed by US policy-makers. This is probably the type of caution introduced by European allies when the U.S. engages them in multilateral diplomacy and planning, and which is so annoying to US unilateralists.

So, the U.S. may have a more casual attitude about bellicose posturing and nuclear war threatening bravado, while the Russians and Chinese are likely to be very circumspect and deliberate about threatening nuclear war; if they do, pay attention!

Technology: The Military Is A Hungry Robot

The US military is a brainless stomach that always wishes to be fed, it is the very definition of fiscal cancer. It has no other goal beyond immediate ingestion of capital drained from the US treasury, so all its pronouncements, papers, studies, proposals and testimony are devoid of meaning beyond their role as advertisements aimed at the audience of policy-makers heading the capitalist, government and propaganda ministries of the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC). The purpose of these advertisements is to induce as many of these directorate-class individuals as possible to put their influence behind the many schemes for larding the military. So, we can expect any part of the military that sees initiating a nuclear war as an instant benefit to itself by calling its services into action, to lobby for it. A brainless stomach has no concept of consequences, or of others. “More” fills the conceptual space, and all the frenzied, convoluted babble is a drone of incantations intended to materialize that “more.”

While the hardware for nuclear war is complex, both the US and Russian military establishments have decades of experience with it, and they have maintained their training. These military forces could use their nuclear weapons as ordered without a significant number of technical or personnel failures. Some of the warheads launched might be duds, in that their detonation would be flawed and their full explosive yield would be unrealized; and some of the personnel might crack under the pressure of actual combat — either as a blind panic or an intentional rebellion — and fail at their posts. However, we can expect a low incidence of such failure in either the U.S. or Russian forces.

This is unfortunate from the point of view of preventing nuclear war. We now know that “a guy named Arkhipov saved the world” during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “During a naval skirmish between an American destroyer and a Soviet B-59 submarine off Cuba on Oct 27, 1962,” where “the destroyer dropped depth charges near the submarine to try to force it to surface, not knowing it had a nuclear-tipped torpedo…that the submarine was authorised to fire it if three officers agreed. The officers began a fierce, shouting debate over whether to sink the ship. Two of them said yes and the other said no.”

This was no failure of Russian military training (which like that in the arts and sciences is of unparalleled rigor), but instead the operation of vivid historical consciousness. I fear that the culture of the United States is so shallow and immature that thorough military training can transform any callow youth into a robot soldier attuned to his or her assigned functions, and unlikely to have the psychological depth and historical consciousness to question orders and training under conditions of extreme danger, urgency and confusion, or to recognize moments of pivotal importance.

Military establishments are intended to be robotic performers, reliable agents implementing commands abstracted and codified from the political directives of the national leadership. So, we should assume that by far the best way to prevent the military from proceeding with a nuclear war is by influencing the policy that it operates under, so that it is one of restraint.

Still, let me make a direct plea to any US soldier or sailor who finds themselves charged with launching a nuclear weapon: don’t do it, mutiny, revolt. Think, the more and sooner the better. Be Arkhipov. I think the Russians will be more restrained than the Americans about first use, but will have zero hesitation about second use.

Politics: Popular Loyalty Or Popular Revolt?

Because Russia is a lesser power than the United States, and because of the many and obvious provocations made by the US against Russia as part of its encirclement strategy, as well as the shameless advantage US capitalism took of Russia during the immediate post-soviet period of political fragmentation and economic reorganization, the Russian people will have no trouble supporting their government regardless of how any potential war with the U.S. transpires; they will always see themselves as the defenders, not the aggressors. This will be especially true if the U.S. fires first, which it delights in boasting it feels free to do; and we can be sure that if Russia does fire the first nuclear shot, it will be an evidently defensive preemptive strike. The expectation of popular loyalty, won by the robust revival of the Russian economy under Vladimir Putin’s administration, as well as a reaction to US belligerence, frees the Russian leadership of any fear about revolution erupting in reaction to possible reverses in a potential Russo-US war, even a nuclear one. Russia is united.

The US public is unprepared for the sacrifices attendant to a nuclear war, no matter how “tactical” and “limited.” Every nuclear munition carries the destructive power of many conventional bombs or cannons, and shot for shot every fall of a nuclear munition will produce proportionately many more casualties. US soldiers and sailors will fill coffins or dematerialize at rates not experienced since the Civil War. The American public has been protected, shielded and distracted from the impact of war, especially since the Vietnam War, but the number of casualties to be expected from even a limited tactical nuclear war would be impossible to hide (as the casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan are hidden today), and the mollycoddled American viewing public would be traumatized on apprehending the magnitude and pace of the carnage.

The reactions to this fright would be varied, but in all cases they would contribute to the agitation of the public, a loss of placidity and thus an increased difficulty of social control. This triggers the primary anxiety of the ruling class. It is nearly inconceivable that US public agitation over the number of military casualties from a foreign nuclear war would rise to the same intensity as the Parisian public’s agitation about starvation in 1789, but the great fear of the US ruling class would be that it had become of the same type. Today’s paycheck-dependent US Americans are disunited by their fearful prejudices and diminishing expectations in an eroding economy, while the Russian people are experiencing historically significant economic growth and political stability. At what point of disaffection would the US public unite into storming its own Bastilles, at what level of unsatisfied wants — in a population indoctrinated to be self-governed by wants — would the US public acquire the motivational rage of a Cindy Sheehan and become the 21st century sans-culottes whose pikes were now the subject of the 2nd amendment?

We should not let such florid rhetoric carry us on flights of fancy of Phil Gramm (‘let them whine for cake’) types arriving at their Sidney Carton moment, but neither should we underestimate the potential for outbreaks of real social unrest in the U.S. as a consequence of losing people to a nuclear war of imperialistic hubris.

Diplomacy: Consolidating Conquest, Or Chaotic Collapse?

The imperialist imagination sees conquest as the method of consolidating power. The emperor projects a conception of order onto the world, and then seeks to subject each actual state and population into fulfilling an assigned role. Every country is a tile that fits into the grand mosaic of the imagined empire, adding its unique hue to the overall image and easing the interconnectedness of all others into a consolidated structure. Conquest is accomplished by force, bribery or inequitable alliance.

However, every tile of the world mosaic has its own conception of itself and its role in the world, so there is always opposition to empire. Most people call this freedom.

Imperialistic thinking assumes that power, the ability of superior force to hold sway, is the only dimension along which international relations operate. It ignores chaos, the ability of nature and reality to erupt with surprises, and entropy, the tendency of all structure to dissipate, as other dimensions of international relations. It is impossible to predict all possible outcomes of present situations, so it is impossible to devise perfect systems of control. While we are always free to take action, we can never be certain of all its possible consequences. Aside from our common-sense plans for managing the practicalities of our lives, the overall contingency plan that comes closest to perfection is to “go with the flow.” This is zen. The only thing we can ever really control is our own behavior. Because all known previous empires have collapsed, chaos and entropy being prominent in their demise, we can anticipate a similar fate for the American empire.

The Russian economy is booming in part because Russia is a major supplier of oil and gas to Europe. Russia is also a leading supplier of military and nuclear power technology. Many people easily ascribe the various conflicts occurring in Eurasia to rivalries over the control of oil and gas fields and the routing of pipelines. China’s exploding economy would love to plunge its straw — direct trans-border pipelines — into Iran’s oil pools and drain them without interference; Iran would love China to monetize its oil bonanza, so it wants to power itself with nuclear energy to maximize its oil profits. Russia is eager to supply Iran the nuclear power technology it wants, because it is a profitable business venture, and because they want the security of controlling the fuel cycle of a close neighbor, for the purpose of nonproliferation (of nuclear weapons).

However, these logical commercial synergies fail the most important acceptance criterion of US capitalism, “what’s in it for me?” The U.S. would prefer a compliant Iran drained to its benefit, such as in the days of the Shah, it would prefer Central Asian oil to flow south through Afghanistan and east through the Caucasus, Black Sea and Turkey, and it would prefer Europe to limit its energy dependency on Russia. It is not just a matter of increasing the oil supplied to the U.S., it is about throttling the sources of Russia’s and China’s growing economic power; it is about control.

We can expect the Europeans to try soothing the neo-con fevered Bush Administration, quietly behind closed embassy doors, from working itself into a rabid lather for nuclear war with Russia, initially in the Caucasus. This will have some influence, because the failure of Europe to join in a diplomatic demonization campaign against Russia, like the earlier campaigns against Iraq, would make it more difficult for the U.S. to proceed to war. Also, the U.S. is mindful that were it to be seriously weakened by a unilateral nuclear war with Russia, an unscathed Europe would easily step into control of its empire. After all, this is what Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman did to Winston Churchill’s British empire.

Also, Europe would worry that a nuclear war in the Caucasus might spread, war usually does when one side becomes desperate. If Russia were being “bombed back to the stone age” it would most certainly bomb the US bases in the Central Asian republics along its southern border. These would be legitimate military targets, and would no doubt be actively involved in the US war against Russia (why else are they there?). This would draw the Central Asian republics into the war and probably topple their ruling classes, which Russia would see as their just deserts. A similar catastrophe might happen to Poland and other Eastern European states hosting US missile systems. For Europe, the thought of the disruption of their oil supplies from Russia and Central Asia, along with the possibility of sustaining casualties from nuclear bombardment, should be enough to propel them into vigorous and sustained diplomatic action to restrain US belligerency. They will probably say all manner of nasty things about Russia, to mollify their infantile US emperor, and do as little as possible to disrupt their existing commercial arrangements with Russia.

Analogous to the situation of the US public, if Europe and American “allies” were to suffer directly and severely from the war, they might unite in revolt and then use their military forces against the U.S., or Russia, or both as they guessed would offer the best relief. What is that level of “direct and severe suffering” that would trigger a European military response? Good question.

There are many other possibilities for mischief once the US is embroiled in a nuclear war and inattentive to its empire. Other nations could decide it was an opportune time to settle their own scores with each other, independent of the US-Russia war. China and India fought a border war in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is believed to have erupted because the U.S. was completely preoccupied elsewhere. One can imagine Israel finding it opportune to accelerate its liquidation of the Palestinians, expand into Lebanon, attack Iran or a variety of its neighbors, or all of these, while the US was absorbed in a nuclear war radiating from the Caucasus.

Of course, a restraining consideration here is that the U.S. might not be capable or willing to assist and even fund Israel during the course of its own major war with Russia, unless Israel were a full-fledged partner in that war. If Israel were so blinded by its own ambition that it did join the war against Russia, then Russian arms would quickly and forcefully be turned against it, and this would almost certainly be joined by military actions from many states in the Middle East. The intelligent course for Israel would be to stay out of a US war against Russia (which will really look dirty to the US public as they see their own forces being nuked), but even then it might have to accept a diminished level of support from its great protector, and consequently a more successful opposition from its many subjects and neighbors.

Conclusion

Once the chaotic dimension of reality is realized, it becomes easy to envision any number of disastrous developments for each of the initial combatants, and even the initial bystanders. From any perspective, it is easier to imagine a negative cost-benefit ratio to this war than a positive outcome. For this reason, I think it less likely to occur. However, one must not underestimate the stupidity of imperialists, if war does break out then I think the Russians will have a clearer view of how to proceed, and this will mean painful losses for the U.S., its allies and enablers.

The great fallacy of the imperialistic mind is that the threat of destruction is equated with the power to control. Control is an illusion, chaos is the reality. A successful warrior dances with chaos, and success means simply that one is still alive.

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Originally published as:

Will a Russo-American Nuclear War Happen (Soon)?
1 September 2008
https://www.counterpunch.org/2008/09/01/will-a-russo-american-nuclear-war-happen-soon/

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Reflections on the Wen Ho Lee Case

Reflections on the 61st Birthday of Wen Ho Lee

21 December 2000

Manuel García, Jr.

Previous Address (2000-2004)>> http://www.wenholee.org/WHLreflect.htm

On Thursday evening, 21 December 2000, I attended a birthday celebration for Dr. Wen Ho Lee, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City, on the San Francisco peninsula in California. I had been active in the campaign to gain the release of Wen Ho Lee (WHL) during his imprisonment, a result of the politically motivated nuclear weapons espionage hysteria of 1999. The overarching political story must be told — and argued — elsewhere, of how the Republican Party initiated the affair in an effort to undermine the current administration led by President Clinton of the Democratic Party [1], and how in turn the Clinton administration pounced upon the the plebeian victim selected by its political opponents, as a mutually convenient scapegoat. Suffice it to say that in the thick of the fighting in 1999 and 2000 in that ancient and unending struggle of “money to buy power, power to protect money,” two political clubs — as they would have been called by Thucydides — sunk to their base instincts, their “embedded programming.” One club sought to crest a wave of hysteria by inciting the public with a xenophobic demonizing invective of similar strain to the “yellow peril” of the Gilded Age, and the “commie” paranoia of the Tailfin Era, while the other club was dismissive of the rights and dignity of politically naïve and trusting classes, relying on the submissiveness of government workers generally and Chinese-Americans in particular, to carry the weight of its oppressive display of resolve. This pattern of political dueling, with incitement by Republicans and force displays by Democratic administrations, runs through the last half century of American history — Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and Iran are painful examples. But enough of these soulless generalizations, this is to be a personal rambling. I think it impossible to influence others by exhortation, people act in accord with the tendencies they have allowed themselves to be conditioned to — “character is fate” [2]. By this point, readers will have either forgiven me my biases sufficiently to allow themselves to drift along this stream of consciousness till the entertainment fails, or they will have left to protect their sensitivities from my irreverence. I have no interest in debate, merely a need to arrive at personal truth from which to chart personal action.

I decided to attend the event quite late. I had wanted to put the WHL campaign behind me because I felt that I had become too annoyingly visible — and isolated — from my professional colleagues in physics and engineering, from the employee population at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and even from the members of the more-or-less pro-union group of LLNL employees, the Society of Professional Scientists and Engineers (SPSE) [3]. Also, I wanted to relax in the company of my family during the holiday season, without any obligations or schedules. I was persuaded to attend by Sue Byars, who had earlier persuaded me to become active in the campaign for WHL. It was with Sue, John Hobson, and few if any others, that I went to the WHL rally in San Jose on 31 May 2000 [4], and the 8 June 2000 rally in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco [5]. Sue said the birthday event “would bring closure” to the WHL chapter in our lives. I realized that I wanted to see the faces that went with the names I had seen so often in distribution lists on e-mail messages. It was to see Sue and the other veterans from my theater of action, in a congenial atmosphere, that I decided to attend. I wanted to feel victory, and be surrounded by comradeship.

The Crowne Plaza is a hotel of modern commercial elegance, and the staging of this event was another demonstration of the marketing skill of Cecilia Chang, who had so effectively put all her capabilities and energy into organizing public resistance to the government persecution of WHL. Cecilia was in full flight all night, keeping the ten thousand and one evolving details all in balance. Three hundred $30 tickets had been sold prior to the event, but one hundred people came and bought tickets at the door, an amazing surge. Cecilia was scrambling to ensure enough tables and food would be on hand. All went well, the volunteers of WenHoLee.org produced a well-run event. Cecilia is a tiger, you feel the electricity she exudes when she speaks about her outrage at the persecution of WHL. You can also feel the power of her convictions when she describes her frustration during the last two years with the timid response of the organized Chinese-American patriarchy to the plight of WHL. They ought to get Michelle Yeoh to play Cecilia in the movie to be made of the WHL affair. Cecilia Chang is a martial artist of the highest order. She went after the mightiest of Goliaths and triumphed, because she had the biggest spirit and she held nothing back. I would like to be equally successful, to use what I know in a good cause and triumph. I have concluded that making the connection between one’s training and skills, and a worthy application of them, is one of life’s greatest challenges. People who do this well make it look so easy, and they add such a luster to living experience. Their example encourages us to keep trying, to work toward having a life of meaning, purpose, and beauty, rather than letting it slip away thoughtlessly, as a waste of awareness.

At 6:30 pm the no-host bar opened for its half-hour run. By then at least one third of the attendees had arrived, and crowded the hotel lobby in front of the ballroom. I found Diane Chin, the director of Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), of San Francisco. Diane was one of the organizers of the 8 June 2000 rally, and a forceful speaker there. I spoke at this rally also, and was chained between Cecilia and Diane as I remember, in a photogenic piece of street-theater protest. I imagine Diane led CAA’s effort to produce the editorial advertisements on behalf of WHL, which appeared in the New York Times (NYT) during the presidential campaign. Sue Byars, John Hobson and I attended a fundraising dinner in San Francisco’s Chinatown hosted by CAA last fall, for the NYT ads. Diane is a person of granite resolve, and her speeches strike me as the workings of deep principles shining through keen intellect. The other impression I’ve gained of her is that her character is an alloy of discipline, persistence, and loyalty. She has a wonderful smile, and I imagine that she is warm and quite witty in a family setting. I was quite impressed by the many women of character, verve, insight, moxie, and determination who took up the cause of WHL. In general, I met more women than men who displayed these traits and joined this cause.

My tickets and those of the others in the Livermore contingent were in the group sponsored by CAA, which took up two tables. The other Livermians [6] were Dick Ling, Kalina Wong and her husband, and Sue Byars and her husband. Dick and Kalina are part of a group of nine Asian-American Livermians joined in a class-action race discrimination suit against LLNL, which is to say against the University of California (UC) as it is the contractor managing LLNL for the Department of Energy (DOE). This group had been restrained by their attorney from taking too active a role in the WHL movement. Dick and Kalina were active compared to most other Livermians, and I only saw one or possibly two other Livermian Chinese-Americans take any part in the WHL movement. It is true I cannot know who among the Livermians may have sent money to CAA or to the legal defense fund initiated by Cecilia Chang and WenHoLee.org, and similarly I cannot know who may have gone to rallies and stayed in the crowd, which was usually outnumbered by the press corps. It is also true that in late summer the Livermian Chinese-American association began to circulate the petition written by Luisa Hansen in April 2000, and for which she gathered about sixty employee signatures, while I gathered almost forty. Luisa sent this petition on behalf of WHL, with one hundred and three signatures, to Attorney General Janet Reno just after Memorial Day (31 May 2000), later she mailed an additional twenty-two names collected by the Chinese-American employee group.

A large press corps had gathered by this time: print, TV, radio, for both English language and Chinese languages markets. WHL was scheduled to give an interview in an adjacent room, and reporters were queuing up to get credentials permitting them access. I saw many reporters, photographers, and camera operators I’d spoken with or seen at prior events during the last year and a half. My contact with the press had shown me both the great value of independent journalism toward the dissemination of truth and the preservation of freedom, and also the relentless voraciousness of the twenty-four hour news cycle and the need to fill the air time and print space between ads with anything even remotely passable as news stories. My impression of this industry is that the frontline reporters by and large try their best to be probing, accurate, substantive, and fair, but information is filtered, massaged and diluted as it travels up the editorial and commercial hierarchy that finally issues “news.” I also think that successful careers in this business are made in the same way as in any other line, when you figure out how to deliver what the front office really wants, they turn on their money spigot for you. This is the most subtle and effective control of the news at its source, as has been so exquisitely detailed by Noam Chomsky (in particular Herman and Chomsky) [7]. I met Glenn Roberts, of the Tri-Valley Herald, a Livermore paper. He was to do an article on WHL for the weekend edition. I had spoken to Glenn quite a number of times during the last two years, among the topics were: Mike Campbell’s resignation as the Associate Director for Lasers at LLNL (and head of the National Ignition Facility, being built), the drive towards mass polygraph screening of DOE lab employees, the Hansen petition drive, and a variety of labor issues. I thanked Glenn for covering the labor stories involving SPSE, and the WHL movement stories involving Livermians. His news stories helped our message to reach a wider audience. I kidded him about being so “fair,” in that he never used my most inflammatory rhetoric when quoting me — which is why I used it, so there would be something with punch left in what he would choose to quote. I know that in covering LLNL, Glenn used me as the ‘extreme left’ voice to counterbalance the soporific ‘conservative’ PR of LLNL media handlers. I could see no occasion in the future where I would be in a knowing position on a lab news story, and I told Glenn I did not anticipate we would converse again, except by chance. I thanked him, expressing my gratitude for his work, which helps to bring some openness into an organization deformed by its obsession with control. I have learned a few things about “using” the media, and foremost among them are that seeking personal publicity is counterproductive, and that identifying and advancing the fundamentals of your cause is essential. You cannot control the telling of a story, but you can create it. Create something of value, that you can take pride in, and whatever stories get told about it will, to some degree, reflect well on you and help advance your cause.

Wen Ho Lee, his daughter Alberta, his lawyer Mark Holscher and others entered the lobby with a cordon of cameras, lights and microphones. The principals and the press went into the interview room, and the media event proceeded as the celebrants mingled, met, and chatted in the lobby. I finally got to see some of the faces whose names I knew quite well. I spoke briefly with Marti Hiken and Merrilee Dolan. Merrilee was part of the New Mexico contingent, which included Nancy Crowe and Bill Sullivan. Merrilee is a neighbor of WHL, was quite active, and was involved in the welcome home barbecue for WHL. Like Wen Ho Lee, both Bill Sullivan and I have mechanical engineering degrees and studied fluid mechanics. Bill and Nancy organized the Albuquerque chapter of WenHoLee.org, and were active as witnesses to the legal proceedings in the WHL case, as speakers at events, letter writers to newspapers, and interviewees. We often tossed ideas into the internet stew watched over by the eclectic members of the WHL movement. More than once I shot down some of Bill’s suggestions, and I am glad that this never grew contentious, that is was all just part of the give-and-take of something much bigger on which we were all united. I did try to push the envelope of the collective imagination of the correspondents, to help produce effective tactics for the movement, basically to increase publicity and move people’s minds into our camp. The tactical objective was clear: find more money to pay for more lawyering — Uncle Sam gets to print money. Nancy Crowe is a firecracker, small and intense. She had framed pictures to give to WHL’s legal team, of the the emergence of WHL, Alberta, and the legal team from the Federal Courthouse in Albuquerque on the day of Judge James Parker’s amazing speech, and WHL’s release (13 September 2000).

Sue Byars and her husband Mike Perez emerged from the crowd smiling to greet me. They were elegantly attired, quite different from the usual workday clothes. Mike and Sue own a bison ranch — buffalo — and Sue hopes to eventually retire from LLNL to work full-time on this. Here we were, the core of Lab Employees For Freeing Wen Ho Lee — LEFFWHL — “leff-well,” the nom de guerre of the LLNL employees willing to band together for the cause of WHL. LEFFWHL was listed as one of the many co-sponsors of the 31 May 2000 rally organized by Cecilia Chang. Sue is quite an amazing woman. She is deeply committed to the cause of Leonard Peltier, the imprisoned American Indian activist, as is Mike, also an American Indian. Sue had been active in the LLNL Women’s Association in an effort to move LLNL management to address the issues of equal pay for equal work, and uniform access to promotions, so central to working women everywhere. She moved on to SPSE when the Women’s Association gave up its independence to become a lab-funded group. The only significant effort on pay equity for women at LLNL being pursued now is the class-action lawsuit by a group of current and former women employees, initiated by Mary Singleton. My use of the word “significant” rather then “independent” in the last sentence is clearly a value judgment (a bias if you don’t agree), it is possible that UC managers are making an effort to document and remedy any pay inequities — I simply discount this possibility. I realize that many would find my attitude unpleasant or worse, as the only evidence I rely on here is my own experience and observation, and my only commitment in this essay is to honesty. Pay equity for women, like hunger in America, is a non-problem — it could be solved in six months if desired. There is obviously enough food and money in America for everyone to live the life of Riley, so why is it otherwise? The reason the pay equity issues of women and minorities will drag on interminably at LLNL is the same reason hunger and other deprivations (most significantly day care for all children, worthy elementary and secondary education everywhere, and universal health care) will drag on interminably in the USA. The have-nots lack the resources to wrest these rights from the economic system, and the haves use all the resources of this system to maintain the exclusivity of their privileges — “other people’s money” — the commonwealth is not managed for the common good, but divided among narrow interests seeking gain. While Sue and I do not see eye to eye on all political and social matters, ours views are so far removed from that of the generally suburban homogeneity of established Livermian thought that we are, relatively speaking, identical mutants with respect to that population. To the extent we are noticed, we get about the same kind of respect as the 1950’s movie monsters that were called “mutants.” So it was most pleasant to be within an assembly of mutual appreciation because of the actions that had issued from our heretical philosophies during the campaign to free WHL. My purpose in writing this essay is to open a mental exploration for a personal perspective that will allow me to pass the unknown stretch of time left to me at LLNL, in what I find to be a socially arid environment largely devoid of appreciation, so I can keep earning a decent living and continue trying to advance my own creative scientific ideas. Sue and Mike had arrived at the hotel just before 7 pm, and they told me that they had heard news accounts over the car radio of WHL’s interview in the other room. Indeed, there were cameras everywhere taking crowd scenes, and my SPSE buddy Jeff Colvin told me later he had seen me in this way on the late night TV news — he knew my charcoal jacket. Earlier, a TV cameraman had poked a big lens and spotlight onto the picture Nancy Crowe was showing me, while I in turn was holding Jeff’s copy of The Nation with the WHL freedom picture on the front cover [8]. It was 7 o’clock, time to enter the ballroom, find a seat, and attack the food tables. The CAA tables were in front of the podium and the speaker’s table, next to us was a table sponsored by Professor Ling-chi Wang. We settled in for the show.

CAA was founded thirty years ago by Professor L. Ling-chi Wang of the University of California at Berkeley, head of the Ethnic Studies Department. I had met Ling-chi over the internet in March 2000, as a result of sharing comments in an evolving network of people drawn to the WHL story. We found much to agree with in each other. At that time Ling-chi was beginning to draw media attention and raise government concern to the public relations consequences of WHL’s imprisonment, then in its third month. Ling-chi had drawn up a resolution, passed by the Asian Pacific Association in Higher Education (APAHE), calling on Asian-Americans graduating from universities and colleges to boycott employment at DOE laboratories, such as LANL and LLNL. Bill Richardson hired Jeremy Wu as the DOE Ombudsman and placed him at the center of a DOE PR counterattack aimed at mollifying Asian-American sentiment both within the DOE complex and in the public domain. The lab-sponsored Chinese-American association at LLNL sought special raises for its members, to compensate for the historic underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in the lucrative management positions of the DOE labs run by the UC (LANL and LLNL). With a handful of exceptions, the lab Chinese-Americans did not participate in the campaign for WHL, so far as I could see. In this they were no different from the overwhelming majority of DOE lab employees. I wonder if Jeremy Wu’s solicitations towards Asian-American lab employees will end after the transfer of power to the Republican administration of George W. Bush. Even though these employees put great stock in this special attention and may be disappointed if it disappears, I wonder if it will ever amount to anything substantive. Ling-chi Wang is a phenomenon, a teacher, a scholar, an activist, a man of tremendous energy and of keen insights. In April of 2000 I acted as the SPSE host of a special presentation to LLNL employees by Ling-chi. This event was quite unusual. There was such turmoil in the labs over the arbitrariness of the punishment of WHL — especially in comparison to the treatment of John Deutch — and such distress among Chinese-American employees over the racial profiling aspect of the WHL case, as well as a general apprehension among employees over the impending mass polygraphing (lie detector intimidation) being pushed by the fascist [9] elements of the government, that SPSE was able to get publicity for the noontime event in both the Tri-Valley Herald and the lab’s internal paper Newsline. This was probably only the second time in the twenty-seven year history of SPSE that it was mentioned in Newsline [10].

Ling-chi spoke to a packed house [11], with reporters present. During the question-and-answer exchange at the end, Luisa Hansen suggested a petition for WHL be raised by LLNL employees, as a demonstration of support from a group of DOE scientists. She thought that support from such a group would carry great weight with scientists generally, as well as the government and the public. Within days, Luisa would write her petition and begin gathering signatures. She drafted me into this effort (which I tried to avoid), and I then began what would become a terminating experience as regards any illusions I may have had about my place in LLNL. I decided to display my copy of the petition at my lunch table during the lovely days of May. I made a folding sign, “Free Wen Ho Lee,” which I elevated above my table on salt shakers, and read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, while I sat in the middle of the cafeteria drawing a response akin to a drop of soap on a water surface sprinkled with talc. The chill of indifference was occasionally broken by the heat of hostility — all projected from a distance (except once) — and then almost once each day, a person approached, read, signed, and smiled. They always thanked me, glad someone was doing something, and for the opportunity to be a part of it. This was heaven. I had to pan through tons of sand, but in it were flecks of gold. Once, a group of people stopped by my table as one of its members wanted to sign. He urged his companions to do likewise, all demurred, one defending his stance to his colleague, and apparently to me as well, by saying in effect that he never allowed matters of principle to jeopardize his career. This paraphrase is my own, to erase any possible trace of an individual who was quite typical of Livermians and just happened to voice their attitude very succinctly. There it was, “a tyrant never has to fear his doctor or his engineer,” a saying I’ve heard goes back to the days of the Pharaohs (I would be grateful to learn the earliest source). I had so many existing differences with the Livermian norms, on creativity, on technical style, on labor issues, on the purpose of the labs, and now finally on the willingness to face matters of principle that so directly affected us and our colleague WHL. I realized there was nothing left for me, nothing I valued, in the company of the Livermians. I only had my connection to a paycheck (for which I am very grateful) and hopes for a pension, my access to some computers, and the use of the very nice library, to anchor me to the institution. Also, I do have a few friends here, but not that many as I am prickly. It’s one thing to be at odds politically, for instance by being a union man in conflict with management, but this was worse, I had reached the point where I just did not have any respect for Livermians. The lab is merely a very pleasant establishment of Republican welfare, a small link in a gilded chain of tax revenue consumption, a community of convenient patriotism, a servant to the needs of government power, a cocoon against the intrusion of social turmoil and new thinking, and a refuge from uncertain and organized independence when you become accepted within its hierarchy of patronage. I find that passion, enthusiasm, social idealism (socialism for you right wingers), character, analytical thinking, creativity, imagination, and a willingness to take technical and political risks are lacking at the lab. In their place I find shallowness of thought, absence of principle and vision, and a myopic obsession with minutia, position, self-image, and control. Lab people are well-trained in narrow disciplines, but they are badly educated in the main. They can produce work of depth in their field, but often lack the breadth to appreciate the wider social context within which they operate. Lunch hour is a good time to hear the painfully idiotic pontifications of many who erroneously imagine that the depth of their social and political insights match that of their technical specialty. No doubt someone else could find me equally guilty of all I’ve described here, and generally none of this matters anyway except for one thing. And that is this, when circumstances confront you with injustice within the normal arena of your life, then how you act to either help reduce it, or how you avoid this, determines the value of whatever “philosophy” you abide by. I have heard all kinds of involved jargon-laced babble from Livermians, but damn few of them did anything for the cause of WHL or any other noble principle without regard for the displeasure of the political rulers. The purpose of nuclear bombs is to defend American freedoms by the threat of retaliation if attacked. If we American citizens and scientists producing these bombs are so willing to acquiesce to the capricious and cruel denial of these freedoms to one of our own, then how is our entire enterprise to be justified to our fellow citizens? Do we just take their tax dollars to make a buck and screw the principles? If swastikas were raised on the lab flagpole tomorrow instead of the stars and stripes, would we just go on working? Yes, of course we would. People who cannot bestir themselves over a “minor” incident like the WHL affair will not miraculously develop courage in the face of a cataclysmic injustice. This realization has undermined any lingering belief — hope — I may have had in the lab’s social value.

WHL entered the ballroom with his daughter, Mark Holscher, and other close assistants, amid a rising tide of applause. His group broke free of the press corps at the doorway, made its way to the front of the room and took their seats. Cecilia Chang opened the proceedings by welcoming us all and describing the sequence of speakers and presentations. She made a personal statement describing her motivation to become involved in the defense of WHL, her passion and her outrage at injustice being so strong that she was often at the point of speechlessness. Cecilia narrated a short slide presentation of the highlights of the organizational efforts and protest rallies during the last year and a half. She also acknowledged the student chapters of WenHoLee.org, large ones being at MIT near Boston and another in Los Angeles. The movement was nationwide, and chapters were formed in New York, Seattle, Berkeley, Minnesota, New Mexico, and no doubt elsewhere, see [4]. What struck me about Cecilia as she spoke was that now she is a pro at political organization and protest management, whereas prior to the WHL affair, she was neither, nor had she seemed to be politically active. She had been turned on by a personal connection to the consequences of American realpolitik. Now she was a political buzz-saw, and she was sharpening the blades and cranking up the motors of Chinese-American youth. The APAHE boycott was the work of old men and the result of talk, and many dismissively criticized it as a paper tiger, though it did great service as a publicity tool. But this boycott may in fact take a deeper hold as the collective memory of a generation of Chinese-American and Asian-American students who staged vigorous rallies all across the nation — such as the large one in Los Angeles outside the Democratic convention. Who can doubt that some student taking part in the WHL rallies will be a future dynamic political leader in this country, and who can doubt that this new generation will be far more active than their parents, and far less subservient to arrogant power? I think a genie has been uncorked that is beyond the reach of any number of Jeremy Wus.

Cecilia introduced Mark Holscher, the lead defense lawyer for WHL. Mark gave an excellent talk. He described how he was drawn to the case in the dark days when WHL was universally condemned in the Colosseum of public opinion, and how his law company superiors (O’Melveny & Meyers) supported his decision to become involved (pro bono). He noted more than once that he is a Republican, and some were initially suspicious of him, as the early supporters of WHL had to be either family or lefties. All such doubts dissolved as the members of the legal team found they were united by deeply held common principles. Mark used the majority of his talk to describe and laud his “dream team” legal colleagues, Nancy Hollander, Brian Sun, Professor Edward Gerjuoy (Ph.D, physics, and a lawyer), John Cline, Richard Myers, and other assistants. Mark had those of the team present join him onstage (Cline was absent). Mark gave a particularly touching description of Nancy Hollander, not a Republican as I gather from Mark’s description of his initial contact with her. He relates that Nancy, an Albuquerque defense lawyer, fought ferociously for WHL right from the start, even facing off with several large hulking federal marshals (court cops) trying to prevent WHL from waving (signaling in secret code) to his wife and daughter. Mark seemed to think she might end up in jail. Mark described how helpful it was to have Ed Gerjuoy on the team, able as he was to appreciate the full depth of any scientific or technical material under consideration, and to be equally capable of grasping its legal consequences and opportunities. Mark described how he and the team were committed to always being on time with judges’ deadlines, always being prepared, however the schedule shifted, and of never having to seek any extensions. This required many all-night and all-weekend sessions for both he and team’s staff of clerks (legal assistants) composing, printing, copying, and filing all manner of legal briefs. Despite the pressure-cooker atmosphere, they were united by a belief in their man and they were never impeded by dissension. They outclassed the competition with better lawyering and finer principles. “I tried to do everything that would be in the best interests of Dr. Lee.” Mark noted that there were certainly many issues others would want to pursue — the racial profiling, Chinese-American discrimination issues — but that he had focused on what was best for his man as a man, not as a political symbol, and he gently urged those building the political counterassault to the WHL affair to let WHL move on with his private life. I agree. Mark noted that he and the entire legal team have developed fond friendships with WHL, and I could see this quite palpably as he looked toward WHL when he spoke. He mentioned that he was moving on to other work, and that Brian Sun would be leading the charge on the civil, violation of privacy case for the Lee family (pro bono). He and Sun had similar backgrounds as former federal prosecutors, and Mark gave quite an extensive appreciation of Brian during his remarks. I was very impressed, these people love each other and it shows. They had applied their talents to a just and noble cause and triumphed. “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies,” Noam Chomsky, 1966 [12].

Cecilia introduced Ling-chi Wang, who was at the speakers’s table, and he gave an introduction to Henry Der, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, California State Department of Public Education. Henry was the original director of CAA, and he gave a spirited address, without mincing words, on the need for Chinese-Americans to become politically active, to fight against racial and ethnic stereotyping and discrimination, and to enter into a coalition politics with other groups — Latinos for example — with similar concerns and goals. I agree. I stated these same conclusions in my short commentary at the 8 June 2000 rally (see [4]). During the course of the WHL saga, many people must surely have arrived at the same conclusions as to what it all meant and what should be done about it. Those who act on these conclusions will spin anew the karmic wheel, first set in motion by political schemers to kill WHL. In a Judeo-Christian view of divine justice, this wheel would eventually come around to crush the evildoers. I certainly hope so.

Alberta Lee was beckoned to the podium by Cecilia. Here was a daughter to make a father proud. She saved his life. Her story will no doubt be showcased in the movie being made of WHL’s struggle. Alberta found Mark Holscher through a college chum then in law school, just after the FBI third-degree in which WHL was threatened with electrocution. She traveled and spoke tirelessly, raising consciousness and funds for her father’s defense. She sounds like any young American lady — like my own “California Girl” daughter, Marisa, now in college — and that must be a shock for many. You see, she is not the timid, mousy, quiet Chinese woman with broken English and a Chinese accent of the old stereotype. The shock would be the realization that here was a hip, modern, 100% full-blooded, real American woman whose family was being ripped apart by the horrific torture and imprisonment of her father by the US Government. How could this be? Alberta is looking forward to her wedding, which had been delayed by her father’s imprisonment. She expressed a touching gratitude toward her fiancé, for his steady support throughout her long ordeal. I had met Alberta at the 8 June 2000 rally when she introduced herself to me during the set-up of the speaker’s microphone. She was making an effort to see, encourage, and thank anyone who made any show of support for her father. During the rally, she would work the crowd, seeing people one-on-one, rather than just grandstanding in front of a microphone. In her I see the best of the ancient and the modern, filial devotion, and a determined, humane activism. If I may be permitted to modify the words of Jesus, just for a moment, I might say “Greater love hath no woman than she that would turn over her life to the defense of her father.” And wouldn’t it be better to arrange our public affairs to eliminate the call for such sacrifice?

The time had come for the star attraction. Cecilia introduced WHL, a man who “needs no introduction.” I wish I had a transcript of WHL’s address. It was short, clear, simple, thoughtful, and focused to perfection. WHL is a man in the eye of a hurricane, though he has been buffeted and swept along on a terrifying journey, he has observed much of this storm as a dizzying spectacle swirling around him at a distance. His words to us were the result of long and deep thinking out of the dark recesses of his isolated imprisonment. First off, WHL expressed his heartfelt gratitude to all the people who worked to restore his freedom — you could hear a pin drop, tears silently fell. He told his story. He is a simple man, born in Taiwan, seeking a good and interesting life by studying engineering and physics. Like many thousand others, he emigrates to the United States as part of the Taiwanese Invasion of graduate students and technical talent during the American boom of the go-go years [13]. I was in school with these students, at the University of Pennsylvania and then Princeton. WHL got a job, worked hard, got married, loves his wife, had children, tried being a good father, and did not concern himself with issues outside his home and job — precisely what one is encouraged to do by lab management and the higher political authorities, I may add. WHL was a good boy, the “model minority” so dear to the hearts of the nation’s managers. Then he is swept into the political controversy we all know about, and he finds himself contemplating the loss of everything, even life itself. He is alone, chained, in a lit cell with a guard outside watching through a window. Day and night have no meaning, privacy does not exist, the eye of vindictive government is upon him unceasingly. These were the conditions one year ago, on his 60th birthday. WHL then told a touching little Christmas story. The guard watching that day told WHL that he had heard news reports of the birthday party Cecilia had organized, and to which many had gone to commiserate, pray for succor, and encourage each other to action. That was 21 December 1999. WHL knew nothing about the outside world, he had no radio, TV, or newspaper, he was buried alive. The guard told WHL that he didn’t have a cake to give him for his birthday, but he did have a cookie. So WHL accepted this gift from a guard who seemed to think that everyone should be able to have birthday cake on their day. Though we celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, we don’t really know the exact date of the birth of Jesus. It is entirely possible that WHL is 1939 years younger to the day than Jesus Christ. This guard was touched by the Christmas spirit, and to his credit, he was capable of being touched by it. WHL described how he struggled to come to grips with what was happening and why. He felt he had followed all the rules and yet he had drawn a terrible wrath. He came to realize that just following the rules, doing a good job, and trying to do the best for his family, in so typical a Chinese-American way, was not enough. He had come to realize that the people in his ethnic community had to do more, they had to engage with others in the wider American community, they had to get “political.” Shrinking from power does not prevent others from using it against you, and having money and being obedient alone do not ensure that your freedom is secure. WHL said that he spent nine months in his cell, pondering what lesson could be drawn from his experience, and he came to this: “Before you can have others respect you, you must first respect yourself.”

The standing ovation for WHL was long and quietly emotional. All the speakers were well-received, Mark Holscher being the runner-up in the standing ovation competition. As I recall now, WHL had standing ovations bracketing his talk like weighty bookends. Cecilia was managing the shift in the program to its final phase, and many people took advantage of this break to visit each other, the food tables, or move about. As I went to get more decaffeinated coffee, I would catch glimpses of faces I recognized from previous occasions, often without knowing the name involved. I would also catch glimpses of people I had met briefly, or nametags I recognized of people I did not know. I happened to meet Lucky Lee, a jewelry wholesaler in San Francisco. Lucky is a small man, very old-world, and had introduced himself at the 8 June 2000 rally. He seemed so grateful that I would be involved, being from the Livermore Lab, obviously not Chinese-American [14], and speaking openly in public. I was doing little compared to so many others, and my motives were as impure as anyone else’s. I had hoped (note the tense) to attract the support of Asian-American lab employees to the labor cause championed by SPSE by showing my support to their cause, as our causes sprang from the same principle — fairness. By joining forces I thought we could accomplish much more (UC management HATES unions). I quickly gave up on lab Asian-Americans (and all the minority groups on the take at the lab, for that matter), but not the cause. So I know I told Lucky, at the CAA benefit where we had also met, that he was thanking me too much and it was Chinese-American community groups who really deserved any credit, they raised the money and did the work. He gave me his card, and someday I’ll buy jewelry at a good price. He is always so kind when he sees me that I feel embarrassed, because I don’t think I deserve such generous thanks. But I can imagine how happy he was that people outside his immediate Chinese-American circle would embrace his cause. One such person is a man I do not know, but whose nametag I saw floating by earlier that evening, “Sessler.” Andrew Sessler is a former director of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, and has long been active in the human rights activities of the American Physical Society. I mention Sessler, with whom I had no contact, because I want to emphasize that scientists of significant reputation, and knowledge about government security, could and did step forward to the defense of a colleague. As Sessler’s example showed, more scientists in the DOE complex could have and should have stepped forward “to speak the truth and to expose lies.” If Sessler and Garcia could do this, the alpha and omega of the DOE scientist spectrum, then certainly any of the staff scientists, group leaders, project leaders, program leaders, division leaders, associate directors, and directors could have done this as well. Where were you? WHL is any one of us.

Cecilia announced that it was time to wish WHL a happy birthday and to cut cake! This celebration was a world away from last year’s. She called for WHL’s brother to come up and lead the singing of “Happy Birthday,” because he likes to sing and has a good voice. And up steps Lucky Lee, can you beat that, I never knew. As four hundred people sang “Happy Birthday,” variously in English, and what I assume to be Cantonese and Mandarin, I reflected on the fact that here was a quiet, slightly-built, peaceful man who was surrounded by love, a love so powerful it could span the nation and even penetrate the heart of one of his jailers. His family loved him, his lawyers loved him, his neighbors loved him enough to pledge their homes and property for him, the Chinese people in this room loved him, and clearly, many others in this big wide country loved him. This love had shamed the conscience of a nation. This love had brought many people together to a higher purpose. Is there any greater patriotism?

The planned events had ended, and people all began moving at once, some to leave, others to meet, and many to schmooze with the stars. I had met my goals, and so I just listened to the chatting of my friends at the table, sipping decaf. Very shortly, Helen Zia pulled me over to meet Mark Holscher. I was surprised. I know that WHL, Alberta, Holscher, and the other stars of the drama are now continuously besieged with requests, greetings, and calls for attention, and I had committed myself to refrain from adding to this stress upon them. Helen and Holscher would surely have been well acquainted, as Helen is a leading member of CARES, so Helen interrupting herself to introduce me was very flattering. Helen had just gotten the job of writing WHL’s story for the book and movie to be premiered in the fall. I shook Mark’s hand, mentioned my affiliation most briefly, and thanked him for the excellent work he had done. I also told him that I was very appreciative of the fact that he chose to apply his training, his experience, and the resources and connections available to a man of his position, to a noble and humanitarian cause. I have great admiration and respect for him because of this. This is the Parable of the Talents, it is what you do relative to the opportunities given to you that determines your worth [15]. His wife was next to him, and I flatter myself in thinking that she was very satisfied to hear this. I told him what was in my heart, I hope he does well, he is a good man. Alberta Lee cruised by, surrounded by a twittering cordon of attention. I noticed her ever-patient fiancé standing by. Poor guy, if he only knew, this is the husband and father’s lot — to wait. He has glasses, slightly wavy hair, and looks the picture of a young English gentleman, he is not Chinese. I introduced myself and told him that I admired his selflessness and patience in helping Alberta through this long ordeal. It is not easy waiting and standing aside while someone you love is captured for long periods by adversity or, now, adulation. I also told him to make sure he and Alberta took a long honeymoon, to push the world and everything in it out of sight, and to relax in each other’s company without interruption. Alberta now appeared, and I mentioned that we’d first met at the 8 June 2000 rally. She was gracious, and I could tell tired. Despite my best intentions, here I was, dulling the shine of the stars. Brevity is the soul of wit. I said this to Alberta, “No father could wish for a better daughter than you have been. You are a credit to your family, a wonderful example, and very courageous. I wish you the best, a nice wedding, a happy marriage, and a quick return to a peaceful and private life.” What can one tell her, except “Well done, live happily ever after.”

Cecilia had conceived the idea of having WHL hand out a small batch of remaining WenHoLee.org tee shirts to major contributors (I forgot the exact criterion), but this rather quickly became disorganized. As people now swirled around WHL, I notice that the birthday cake, at the other end of the speaker’s table, was quite free, so I told my son, Erik, “Now’s our chance, let’s get some cake.” I had brought Erik, my second child and now 16, because in the complicated gyrations of the comings-and-goings of each of my family members during the Christmas season, this just turned out to be the easiest option for me that day. I had told Erik how to comport himself at a slow-paced, low-action, all-talk, boring-politics adult sit-a-thon that his father was forcing him to go to: “Be polite, listen first, talk as needed, and take every opportunity to hit the food tables. Youth is permitted any number of forays so long as they are discrete. Obvious gluttony is to be avoided. You are also permitted to learn something and have fun.” I don’t think the evening was as thrilling for him as spending it in front of Tokyo eXtreme Racer, his latest computer game, but I do this father thing every now and again and he has to go along with it. I remember telling Erik, earlier in the evening as we weaved our way between TV cameras, “You can see history in the making, a very tiny little part of it, but something of our times. You can learn something by comparing what you see, with how people report it and comment on it afterwards.” As Erik and I began to cut cake, Sue Byars came up and said “come on, meet the man.” I had caught glimpses of Kalina and then Sue talking to WHL, at least that is my memory now. In any case WHL had more or less backed up towards the cake, and we had drifted into the ruckus around him. Well, why not, we couldn’t possibly add to this stress. Alberta was near him at this time, as she and the family spokeswomen (a media blocker, and believe me this is needed), were trying to get WHL away, to peace, quiet and rest. It seemed to me that though he was obviously a strong introvert and would much prefer privacy and calm, he was determined to be visible and available to supporters who wanted some personal contact. He was showing his gratitude and probably working through fatigue. We stepped up, Alberta introduce me by telling her father “he’s from Livermore,” and he picked this up right away “oh yes, the petition.” Alberta had told him about the Hansen petition sometime during her prison visits. This would have had to be done obliquely, as WHL and his daughter talked through glass while under intense scrutiny for the outbreak of “secret code” [16]. Another avenue for the news may have been through WHL’s legal team. In any case, it was clear that though this petition did little to stir the hearts of the Justice Department or of the Livermian masses, it was one more little spark of hope helping WHL keep up his spirit in a very dark time of his life. For that I am immeasurably proud. We shook hands, he said kind words, and I told him, “I admire you as a man and as a father. You have raised very courageous children, and you have lived in such a way that your neighbors would offer their homes to free you. I cannot imagine any man doing better at the truly important things in life. I wish you the very best.” We parted, and then Alberta and the media-shield guardian angel whisked him away, to what is still at times an elusive peace.

Now I was left with myself, to think about my next chapter, and wonder how I would approach work at the lab in the New Year. What have I learned, and what do I do about it?

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Neither the lab nor its people can be as I can imagine, and it is pointless for me to wish otherwise. Projecting anger on these people and their institution because they fail to live up to my standards will neither help them nor change them. And it doesn’t do me any good either.

The lab can learn nothing from the WHL affair. People who block an awareness, avoid an experience, and evade a responsibility cannot possibly learn anything from it. Those who studiously inoculated themselves against the WHL affair are immune from drawing lessons from experiences they did not have. This is the general case at the lab. Lab PR will broadcast words about security, improvements, awareness, diversity, and other related phrases, primarily as a systemic vibration to radiate away its own stored tension, and to have a soothing hypnotic effect on its patron, in the same way that male spiders ever so gingerly vibrate the webs of females they are compelled to court. The lab exists to convert DOE money into UC pension fund. Any path deviating from this short circuit is one of high resistance. Anything else, whether it be from my overblown idealistic rhetoric (unions, principles, freedom, all that) or the lab’s stolid equivocal pronouncements (directorate, security, programs, and hyphen-based self-praise) is either a distraction, an impediment, or a mandatory hurdle to the true course of Livermian aspiration. They live to retire.

I have not reached Buddhahood nor the level of the Christian ideal set by Jesus, where I look upon the world and its people with a sense of compassion — turn the other cheek — and forgive them all the failings I judge them to have. “Judgment is mine sayeth the Lord.” A fully realized Bodhisattva reenters the world of fallible, suffering, and predatory beings — sinners — and offers his life as a selfless example of peace, so as to inspire others to awaken to a similar compassionate realization. We can only create peace within the compass of our personal worlds, recall the Parable of the Talents. I can enact peace within myself, and transmit peace as a tangible and direct experience to people in my family, my place of work, and around my village [17]. My compass is quite small, not like that of people of great means, great power, and great renown. Merely becoming angry because I cannot mandate “peace” outside my compass only diminishes peace within it. Converting the unfocused energy of this anger into a calm resolve can propel new action on my part to expand my circle of peace — to act, to be an activist. However, I have not reached this plane, I am still somewhat mired in selfishness. I don’t really want to make any effort for lab people. I don’t wish to be hostile or unfriendly, quite the contrary in fact, but I don’t really want to make any efforts for them; I don’t feel like summoning up the compassion. Puncturing their logic bubble [18] is just too unrewarding. As I don’t want to share their fears, and I refuse to dilute my character and defocus my perspective to acceptably mirror them, I have little choice but to devise a role that remains in the background, and may permit me to pursue my own thoughts unnoticed during the course of my work. I won’t find this easy because I thrill to bring passion and enthusiasm to work. But I have been hurt by the defensive hostility, ridicule, scorn, and condescension from utterly fatuous hypocrites that have greeted my innocent passion and enthusiasm at the lab. Jesus may forgive you, Buddha may forgive you, Garcia is not ready. Having rejected compassion for others, I can hardly expect sympathy in return. Neither can I expect my alienation, anger, and isolation to be emulated by others as an attractive alternative to submission within a politically organized hierarchy. I must rely on poetic truth, independent of other people. My criticisms of lab people may seem cruel, but I think they are accurate. I also think these criticisms are of no importance whatsoever. They are of no interest to the concerns of the political rulers, they are opaque to lab people by and large, and they are inconsequential in comparison to the ocean of public apathy. The lab is a bubble of illusion and privilege, withdrawn from a vast sea of ignorance and indifference, behind a skin tension of fear. The WHL affair backlit the labs for a brief while, revealing their usually cloaked inner workings. But this has passed and all are returning to their former, narrow pursuits. Lasting consequences are most likely to emerge as the political choices made by young people whose eyes have been opened by this struggle.

Notes

[1] The WHL affair began as a tactical maneuver in the Republican assault on the Clinton administration. The Cox committee was a US House of Representatives committee led by Christopher Cox, Republican of California. It originally investigated Clinton administration approved sales of satellite technology to China, which it claimed involved the “loss” of sensitive computer technology, and as that story evaporated it began investigating the supposed loss of classified US nuclear weapons information to Chinese espionage. This committee was initiated after the 1996 election as part of the general Republican attack on Clintonian credibility, claiming that foreign money — specifically Chinese — had entered the Democratic Party coffers and tainted the legitimacy of their administration. The fundraising excesses of 1996 were both scandalous and bipartisan. One senses that the Republicans were piqued by the adroitness the Democrats displayed in what was taken to be an exclusively Republican specialty. Also, the Republicans were probably covetous of the commercially valuable Chinese political connections being made by financial backers of the Clintonian Democrats, who opened the Chinese market to US investor penetration with the passage of the legislation granting China normal trading status with the United States — “It’s the economy, stupid,” “Follow the money.” A story circulating among Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) employees was that when Bill Richardson, Secretary of the US Department of Energy (DOE), called LANL Director John Browne in March 1999, ordering him to fire Wen Ho Lee, who had been branded a spy two days before in a New York Times (NYT) article tailored to the aims of the Cox committee, Senator Shelby of Alabama, a visiting Republican present in Browne’s office, exclaimed “Great! This is the best thing since Monica Lewinsky!” Putsch lust trumps nuclear nightmares.

[2] Herakleitos (romanized as Heraclitus), 540—480 BC, “ethos is man’s daimon,” as translated by Guy Davenport in Herakleitos and Diogenes, San Francisco: Grey Fox Press 1994, ISBN 0-912516-36-4 pbk.

[3] SPSE, http://www.spse.org

[4] WenHoLee.org, http://www.wenholee.org, Cecilia Chang’s organization. This web site has many documents — letters, speeches, news stories, e-mail chatter — produced by members of the WHL movement. I hope that this documentary evidence can be stored in a convenient and compact electronic form, because I am sure it will eventually be of interest to those who study the history of the public’s response to the WHL affair. I told a young Asian-language US reporter at the CAA fundraiser last fall that there were three stories woven through the WHL affair: the personal story of WHL and his family (akin to those Jean Valjean, Edmund Dantes, and Alfred Dreyfus), the political story in which WHL was merely a pawn, and the “people’s story” — clear to any reader of Howard Zinn [A People’s History of the United States (Revised and Updated Edition) NY: HarperCollins Publishing, Inc., 1980, 1995] — the story of how people reacted, some awakening to activism, others hiding in fear, all together a mirror of our society and our times. The personal story will no doubt be showcased in a TV miniseries planned for the fall of 2001, while the political story will be massaged, diluted, and even possibly illuminated, by writers, historians and reporters of sanctioned importance (of PBS Newshour and New York Times acceptability, for example). Anyone interested in the potential impact on American politics by young Chinese-Americans would do well to research the third story. Any Chinese-Americans interested in building greater political influence for their community would do well to study its response during the WHL affair.

[5] CARES, Coalition Against Racial & Ethnic Stereotyping, an effort of the Asian Law Caucus of San Francisco, California.

[6] Livermians, ‘Livermians’ is my phrase, without apology, because I dislike all the single-word alternatives I’ve heard for Livermore Lab employees: Livermorians, Livmorians, Livermorons, labbers. Livermorians is grammatically correct, but it indicates all residents and natives of the city of Livermore — too broad.

[7] Chomsky, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media, NY: Pantheon Books, 1988.

Other Chomsky titles to consider:

The Chomsky Reader, edited by James Peck, NY: Pantheon Books, 1987. Every Ph.D should read the essay “On the responsibility of intellectuals,” in the same way that every M.D. takes the Hippocratic Oath.

Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, South End Press (116 St Bodolph St, Boston MA 02115; 617.266.0629 or 800.533.8478), 1989.

Deterring Democracy, Verso (29 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001; 212.244.3336), 1990; updated edition, NY: Hill & Wang, 1991.

What Uncle Sam Really Wants (compiled from talks and interviews), Odonian Press (Box 32375, Tucson, AZ 85751; 602.296.4056 or 800.REAL.STORY; odonian@realstory.com), 1992.

The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many, (compiled from talks and interviews), Odonian Press, 1993.

For an excellent “beginners documentary comic book” see

Chomsky for Beginners, David Cogswell, illustrated by Paul Gordon, Writers and Readers Publishing, Inc. (P.O. box 461, Village Station, New York, NY 10014), 1996.

Go ahead, live a little, “To confront a mind that radically alters our perception of the world is one of life’s most unsettling, yet liberating experiences,” writes James Peck in his introduction to The Chomsky Reader.

[8] I…was holding Jeff’s copy of The Nation with the WHL freedom picture on the front cover …and a good Robert Scheer article inside with precisely the thesis I advanced in a 13 September 2000 broadcast e-mail to the WHL network and my LLNL audience (some of it reluctant), on the probable motivation of WHL in compiling the information at the heart of the case — job insecurity in a time of threatened downsizing (1993), and the struggle to devise some tangible evidence of prior intellectual achievement held captive in classified work, the loss of ‘resumé-ability.’

[9] fascism, “a system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of opposition, private economic enterprise under centralized government control, belligerent nationalism, racism, and militarism,” Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, 2nd College Edition. Corporate ownership of the political duopoly as a method of controlling government is the modern equivalent of 1930’s fascism. Without the resistance of the citizens who would demonstrate in the streets against the World Trade Organization (WTO), are active in the labor movement, or are involved in the many progressive (liberal!, yeah!) groups that tend to coalesce during national elections, our “compassionate conservatives,” would slide effortlessly over the ice of American political apathy toward becoming a fascist elite worthy of the court of Darius the Great, or Saddam Hussein.

[10] SPSE in Newsline. The mention of SPSE in Newsline prior to the announcement of Ling-chi Wang’s talk was the previous September, when SPSE members spoke out vigorously against mass polygraphy, in a DOE Public Hearing held at Livermore; another possible mention was the reporting on employee comments to Jeremy Wu in an open meeting at LLNL during Wu’s introductory tour. The staff at Newsline are excellent journalists and writers, but they don’t own the paper.

[11] Ling-chi Wang’s LLNL talk. A detailed account of Ling-chi’s talk was written by Cheryl Remillard, the SPSE Office Manager, and is available.

[12] The responsibility of intellectuals. Chomsky goes on to say what the alternative is, which is basically to never allow principles to jeopardize career:

“It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies. This, at least, may seem enough of a truism to pass without comment. Not so, however. For the modern intellectual, it is not at all obvious. Thus we have Martin Heidegger writing, in a pro-Hitler declaration of 1933, that “truth is the revelation of that which makes a people certain, clear, and strong in its action and knowledge”; it is only this kind of “truth” that one has a responsibility to speak.”

Here in a nutshell is the genesis of all our ‘policy institutes,’ issuing made-to-order propaganda disguised as objectivity. See “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” in American Power and the New Mandarins, NY: Pantheon Books, 1969, or most conveniently in The Chomsky Reader, edited by James Peck, NY: Pantheon Books, 1987.

[13] 1960’s. I believe it was Garry Trudeau, the artist of the Doonesbury cartoon strip, who described the American 1960’s as that period of time between the assassination of John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963, and the onset of the Arab oil embargo in 1973. The party really ended in 1971, when President Nixon dismantled the Bretton Woods agreement, ending the convertibility of US dollars to gold among regulated currency trading partners. There was a recession, quite severe in aerospace — I decided to go on to graduate school.

[14] Chinese-American me. The I Ching is my guide.

[15] Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25, 14—30; “For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from he who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

[16] Secret code. There was in fact a secret code used between WHL and Alberta during the prison visits. In this way some minimal news was conveyed to WHL, and some privacy snatched from captivity. The contents of these messages had everything to do with a family united in struggle, and nothing to do with classified data. I hope this detail finds its way into the movie. “Code” of this type is minimal, and only works because it is linking two closely united minds. Another similar story would be that of the code devised by Maria Von Wedemeyer to convey messages to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, her fiancé, who was imprisoned by the Gestapo during April 1943 to April 1945. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a theologian and minister, executed by the Nazis during the last month of the war in Europe, for his part in the plot to kill Hitler.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, edited by Eberhard Bethge, NY: Touchstone, 1997, ISBN 0-684-83827-3

Bonhoeffer, Agent of Grace, a motion picture shown over PBS television stations in 1999 and described in detail at a site linked to http://www.pbs.org

[17] Being Peace. Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace, Parallax Press (P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707), 1987, ISBN 0-938077-00-7

[18] lateral thinking. Edward DeBono, New Think, The Use of Lateral Thinking in the Generation of New Ideas, (NY): Avon (Books), 1967. DeBono talks about the “logic bubble,” the forgotten complex of assumptions within which people restrict their thinking and thus can find themselves stymied by apparently unsolvable paradoxes. He also describes “movement value,” where ideas may not in themselves be correct, but may be valuable in moving us to consider what later emerges as the solution to the problem being addressed.

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The above is still posted on my abandoned website, at:

http://www.idiom.com/~garcia/whl.html

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Remembering Lived History 1963-2013

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part II: 1968-2013
2 December 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci76.html

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Part I of the two-part “Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013,” was published two weeks ago:

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part I: 1963-1968
18 November 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci75.html

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Four earlier articles connect to the above to form a “remembrance” series:

The Promise Of Remembered Soundtracks
7 October 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci72.html

Overtones Of Awareness
8 September 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci70.html

Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate
23 April 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html

Libya 2011: The Human Right To Political Freedom
3 May 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/05/libya-2011-the-human-right-to-political-freedom/