SUMMER ISSUE--Myth America

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Censorship and Myth-Making Enshrined Ignorance of Hiroshima and the Bomb

 by John LaForge
A man looks over the expanse of ruins left by the
explosion of the atomic bomb on in Hiroshima, Japan.

The official myth that “the bombs saved lives” by hurrying Japan’s surrender can no longer be believed except by those who love to be fooled.

The U.S. atomic destruction of 140,000 people at Hiroshima and 70,000 at Nagasaki was never “necessary” because Japan was already smashed, no land invasion was needed and Japan was suing for peace. The official myth that “the bombs saved lives” by hurrying Japan’s surrender can no longer be believed except by those who love to be fooled. The long-standing fiction has been destroyed by the historical record kept in U.S., Soviet, Japanese and British archives — now mostly declassified — and detailed by Ward Wilson in his book Five Myths about Nuclear Weapons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).

Greg Mitchel’s Atomic Cover-Up (Sinclair Books, 2011) also helps explain the durability of the “saved lives” ruse. Wartime and occupation censors seized all films and still photos of the two atomic cities, and the U.S. government kept them hidden for decades. Even in 1968, newsreel footage from Hiroshima held in the National Archives was stamped, “SECRET, Not To Be Released Without the Approval of the DOD.” Photos of the atomized cities that did reach the public merely showed burned buildings or mushroom clouds — rarely human victims.

In Hiroshima in America: 50 Years of Denial, (Grosset/Putnam, 1995) Robert Lifton and Mitchell note that Gen. Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, “left nothing to chance.” Even before Hiroshima, he prohibited U.S. commanders from commenting on the atomic attacks without clearance from the War Department. “We didn’t want MacArthur and others saying the war could have been won without the bomb,” Groves said.

 In fact, MacArthur did not believe the bomb was needed to end the war, but he too established a censorship program as commander of the U.S. occupation of Japan. He banned reporters from visiting Hiroshima or Nagasaki, expelled reporters who defied the ban and later said that those who complained that censorship existed in Japan were engaged in “a maliciously false propaganda campaign.”

That most people in the United States still believe the “saved lives” rationale to be true is because of decades of this censorship and myth-making, begun by President Harry Truman, who said August 6, 1945, “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. … That was because we wished this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.” In fact, the city of 350,000 had practically no military value at all and the target was the city, not the base three kilometers away.

Taking President Truman at his word, the 140,000 civilians killed at Hiroshima are the minimum to be expected when exploding a small nuclear weapon on a “military base.” Today’s “small” Cruise missile warheads, which are 12 times the power of Truman’s A-bomb, could kill 1.68 million each.

Official censorship of what the two bombs did to people and the reasons for it has been so successful, that 25 years of debunking hasn’t managed to generally topple the official narrative. In 1989, historian Gar Alperovitz reported, “American leaders knew well in advance that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not required to bring about Japan’s surrender;” and later, in his 847-page The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (Random House, 1995), “I think it can be proven that the bomb was not only unnecessary but known in advance not to be necessary.” The popular myth “didn’t just happen,” Alperovitz says, “it was created.”

Kept hidden for decades was the 1946 U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey’s conclusion that Japan almost certainly would have surrendered in 1945 without the atomic bombs, without a Soviet invasion, and without a U.S. invasion. Not long after V-J Day in 1945, Brig. Gen. Bonnie Feller wrote, “Neither the atomic bombing nor the entry of the Soviet Union into the war forced Japan’s unconditional surrender. She was defeated before either of these events took place.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a five-star general and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said in his memoirs he believed “that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.”

Adm. William Leahy, the wartime Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in 1950, “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material success in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender….” Feller’s, Ike’s and Leahy’s opinions were conspicuously left out of, or censored from, the Smithsonian Institution’s 1995 display of the atomic B-29 bomber “Enola Gay.”

Admiral Leahy’s 1950 myth- and censor-busting about the Bomb could be an epitaph for the nuclear age: “I was not taught to make war in that fashion,” he said of Hiroshima’s incineration, “and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

John LaForge writes for PeaceVoice, is co-director of Nukewatch—a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group—and lives at the Plowshares Land Trust out of Luck, Wisconsin.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Missile Takes Down Airliner

290 civilians killed
(26 years ago -- and it was a U.S. missile)

Iran Air Flight 655 was an Iran Air civilian passenger flight from Iran's southwestern city of Bandar Abbas to Dubai that was shot down by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes on 3 July 1988. The attack took place in Iranian airspace, over Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, and on the flight's usual flight path. The aircraft, an Airbus A300 B2-203, was destroyed by SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles fired from the Vincennes.

All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, died.This attack ranks ninth among the deadliest disasters in aviation history, the incident retains the highest death toll of any aviation incident in the Persian Gulf and the highest death toll of any incident involving an Airbus aircraft anywhere in the world.

Commanded by Captain William C. Rogers III, the ship fired two SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles at the plane, killing passengers from Iran, Italy, the UAE, India, Pakistan, and the former Yugoslavia in a tragic accident, ranked the seventh deadliest airliner fatalities.

U..S officials at the time claimed their naval officers had mistaken the Iranian civilian airliner for attacking Iranian F-14 Tomcat fighter.

They also said that the Vincennes crew had tracked the oncoming plane electronically, warned it to keep away and when it did not attack it with two missiles.

U.S. ship in Iranian territorial waters feared attack from commercial jetliner.

U..S officials also claimed that the Vincennes crew had been under a simultaneous psychological condition called 'scenario fulfillment', and had therefore confused their training scenario with reality and responded accordingly.

The then U.S. president said in a statement that the cruiser had fired “to protect itself against possible attack."

Ronald W. Reagan said the Vincennes had shot down the jetliner "in a proper defensive action" and that the Iranian aircraft "was headed directly for the Vincennes" and had "failed to heed repeated warnings."

In a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Reagan said his country regarded the incident as closed.

“…although U.S. forces will remain prepared to take additional defensive action to protect our units and military personnel, we regard this incident as closed,” his letter read.

The U.S. President also promised to conduct "a full investigation" to find out why the Vincennes mistook the bulky Airbus A300 for a F-14 fighter barely a third of the twin-jet airliner's size.

The investigation board directed by Rear Admiral William M. Fogarty delivered their final report to the Navy on July 28, which included various human narrations mostly in contrast with what was reported by the SPY-1A computers.

The report showed that the decision to fire was taken on the basis of personal advice passed from junior officers to the Anti-Air Warfare Commander (AAWC) and from the AAWC to the CO, based on the contradictory evidence from the radar and electronic gear aboard.

Independent investigations and international organizations, however, presented a different perspective of the story.

John Barry and Roger Charles of Newsweek said in a report that Commander Rogers had acted recklessly, accusing the U.S. government of a cover-up.

The International Strategic Studies Association said using an AEGIS cruiser in the area had been irresponsible, while the International Court of Justice said the U.S. Navy's actions in the Persian Gulf at the time had been against the law.

Despite the claims made by Captain Rogers and government reports, the United Arab Emirates records showed that the Vincennes was inside Iran's territorial waters and not forty miles south, where it was ordered to stay.

In 1991, three years after the tragic incident, Admiral William Crowe, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan, finally admitted on ABC Nightline that the U.S. warship was actually inside Iranian territorial waters when the incident happened.

Iran declared the tragedy an international crime, saying that even if the warship crew had mistaken the Airbus for an F-14, the incident was the result of the U.S. Navy's negligence and reckless behavior.

Tehran further argued that the aircraft was flying within the Iranian airspace and did not have an attack profile, and as the warship crew were fully trained to handle 'simultaneous attacks' by enemy aircrafts, they could have handled the situation in a manner that would not claim civilian lives.

"I'll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever, I don't care what the facts are."
--George H.W. Bush

When the matter was taken to the United Nations Security Council in July 1988, the then U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush defended the Vincennes crew's action saying that given the situation the officers in question had acted appropriately.

In August 1988, George H.W. Bush was quoted by Newsweek as saying, "I'll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever, I don't care what the facts are."

Eventually, the UN Security Council Resolution 616 was passed, which expressed "deep distress" over the downing, "profound regret" for the loss of life, and stressed the need to end the Iraq-Iran war.

On February 22, 1996, the U.S. agreed to pay Iran and the 248 Iranian victims of Flight 655 US$61.8 million in compensation to discontinue a case brought by Iran against the U.S. in the International Court of Justice in 1989.

The compensation was, however, characterized as being on an "ex gratia" basis and the U.S. never shouldered any responsibility for the incident.

The U.S. government has to date neither admitted any wrongdoing or responsibility, nor apologized for the fatal incident.

The Vincennes crew was all awarded the combat-action ribbon and Lieutenant Commander Scott Lustig, air-warfare coordinator on the Vincennes, won the navy's Commendation Medal for "heroic achievement" and "ability to maintain his poise and confidence under fire" which had enabled him to "quickly and precisely complete the firing procedure."

Captain Rogers and Lieutenant Commander Lustig were granted the Legion of Merit for their performance in the Persian Gulf on 3 July 1988.

Insidious Myth Prevents Peace in Gaza

Our summer print issue (click below right) explores some of the mythology that leads us into war and helps maintain our culture of militarism. Erin Niemela of Peace Voice continues our theme with this essay.

From the Peace Voice editors: We've seen plenty of myth-busting articles on the conflict in Gaza in the past several weeks. Yet, these same articles perpetuate a more sinister, under-the-radar myth that ultimately hinders peace processes. Erin Niemela, a Master's Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University, urges us to address this insidious, underlying myth immediately to support conflict resolution in Gaza - and beyond. 

by Erin Niemela

Media frame violent conflict to reinforce certain biases and myths, emphasizing some facts and omitting others to produce compelling, narratives. Good guys and bad guys are crafted and re-crafted in media discourse, and this is especially the case with the protracted Israel-Palestine conflict. Unfortunately, many of these myths enter the public discourse, on both sides, to the detriment of peace.

What’s even worse, well-intentioned authors hoping to dispel these harmful myths also degrade peace efforts by perpetuating harmful assumptions. Chiefly, that violence could be justifiable, depending on who the real victim is. This myth is dangerous, perpetuates violent conflict and seriously hinders peacemaking efforts on both sides.

Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, addressed five myths about “militant Islamist organization” Hamas in a July 18th Washington Post article.  Brown argued that although Hamas may have some capacity to provoke fear in Israel leadership, it is “absolutely true that Hamas does not pose an existential threat to Israel.” The existential threat of Hamas: myth-busted.

Kim Sengupta and Khan Younis, Belfast Telegraph reporters, exposed the myth of Hamas’ human shields in Gaza in a July 21, 2014 article. They wrote, “Some Gazans have admitted that they were afraid of criticizing Hamas, but none have said they had been forced by the organization to stay in places of danger and become unwilling human-shields.” The use of human shields by Hamas: myth-busted.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America published a report July 21st on the “top nine Gaza media myths” in current circulation. Among them, in a chicken-and-the-egg analysis, that Hamas’ rockets are not simply responses to Israel’s embargos: “Missiles are not the answer for the embargo, they are the cause for the embargo.” Hamas rockets as retaliation for Israeli blockages: myth-busted.

The problem with these and many other myth-busting analyses, from both sides, is that they impose some under-the-radar assumptions on readers that may seriously hinder conflict resolution and peace processes. If Hamas does not pose an existential threat to Israel, as Brown argued, then Israel’s actions in Gaza are not justified. In other words, if Hamas did pose an existential threat, Israel’s actions would be justified. The Sengupta and Younis argument is similar: If Hamas isn’t actually using human shields in Gaza, then Israel’s actions aren’t justified. Therefore, if Hamas did use human shields, Israel’s actions would be justified.  Per the Committee, if Hamas is firing rockets as a response to Israel embargos on Palestine, then Hamas may be justified. Get the picture?

There’s really only one myth that needs busting around here and it’s this: “Violence is justifiable.” Violence is never justifiable.

That’s the only myth that needs dispelling right now. The philosophical tradition of “Just War,” which serves to perpetuate this myth, is an additional fallacy that needs further dispelling.  However, what we have to immediately address, if we want to prevent another 666 human deaths and sleepless, fearful nights for children, is the practical limitations of the “violence is justifiable” myth on conflict resolution processes.

 If the authors of myth-busting analyses, as well as the original myth-perpetuating journalists, had a foundation in conflict resolution – practical or theoretical – they’d know that arguing over violence justification – who’s good, who’s bad and who “deserves it” – is devastating to peace. It’s the direct violence from both sides, no matter the proportion, that perpetuates the conflict and degrades peace efforts in Gaza, Syria, Ukraine and beyond. Unless the direct violence ends, civil society may not be able to address the actual issues or create a sustainable resolution. Violence only creates additional grievances on all sides and perpetuates a conflict spiral.

Furthermore, what many analysts call “myths” are actually perspectives. These perspectives – such as who the victims and aggressors are and when violence may be justified or legal – are held by people all over the world and, most importantly, by people on the ground coping with the violence on a day-to-day basis.  

Myth-busters need to know what conflict scholars already know: Everyone believes their in-group is the real victim, and everyone is correct.  Trying to convince someone that their reality is false, that they should adopt the reality of their perceived enemy, is conflict resolution-suicide. In peace processes, accepting multiple realities by listening to one another through sustained, mediated dialogue is a more productive force for resolution than any violence, ever.

We must demand that both Israel and Hamas immediately cease all violence (even if one side isn’t very effective in this regard). At the same time, we must reject this assumption that violence can be justifiable. Peacemakers in Gaza need our support in breaking the cycle of violence - listening. Listening leads to dialogue, dialogue leads to transformation, transformation leads to sustainable peace, and it’s really, really hard to hear over the sounds of rocket fire.

Erin Niemela (@erinniemela), PeaceVoice Editor and PeaceVoiceTV Channel Manager, is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University, specializing in media framing of violent and nonviolent conflict.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Glenn Greenwald sets Fox News straight

on terrorism and government spying

Monday, June 30, 2014

Stop Calling the Iraq War a 'Mistake'

"The painful, unvarnished fact is that we were lied to."

by Dennis Kucinich 

As Iraq descends into chaos again, more than a decade after "Mission Accomplished," media commentators and politicians have mostly agreed upon calling the war a "mistake." But the "mistake" rhetoric is the language of denial, not contrition: it minimizes the Iraq War's disastrous consequences, removes blame, and deprives Americans of any chance to learn from our generation's foreign policy disaster. The Iraq War was not a "mistake" -- it resulted from calculated deception. The painful, unvarnished fact is that we were lied to. Now is the time to have the willingness to say that.
In fact, the truth about Iraq was widely available, but it was ignored. There were no WMD. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. The war wasn't about liberating the Iraqi people. I said this in Congress in 2002. Millions of people who marched in America in protest of the war knew the truth, but were maligned by members of both parties for opposing the president in a time of war -- and even leveled with the spurious charge of "not supporting the troops."
I've written and spoken widely about this topic, so today I offer two ways we can begin to address our role:
1) President Obama must tell us the truth about Iraq and the false scenario that caused us to go to war.
When Obama took office in 2008, he announced that his administration would not investigate or prosecute the architects of the Iraq War. Essentially, he suspended public debate about the war. That may have felt good in the short term for those who wanted to move on, but when you're talking about a war initiated through lies, bygones can't be bygones.

The unwillingness to confront the truth about the Iraq War has induced a form of amnesia which is hazardous to our nation's health. Willful forgetting doesn't heal, it opens the door to more lying. As today's debate ensues about new potential military "solutions" to stem violence in Iraq, let's remember how and why we intervened in Iraq in 2003.
2) Journalists and media commentators should stop giving inordinate air and print time to people who were either utterly wrong in their support of the war or willful in their calculations to make war.
By and large, our Fourth Estate accepted uncritically the imperative for war described by top administration officials and congressional leaders. The media fanned the flames of war by not giving adequate coverage to the arguments against military intervention.

President Obama didn't start the Iraq War, but he has the opportunity now to tell the truth. That we were wrong to go in. That the cause of war was unjust. That more problems were created by military intervention than solved. That the present violence and chaos in Iraq derives from the decision which took America to war in 2003. More than a decade later, it should not take courage to point out the Iraq war was based on lies.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Francis Boyle comments on Iraq and Obama

Francis Boyle, one of the key authors of the War Powers Resolution, is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. NextNewsNetwork interviews him about the War Powers Resolution, the situation in Iraq, the decision by Obama to send troops back into Baghdad, and the possible impeachment of Barack Obama.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Save a war's worth of lies! Click below to help.

This billboard is now outside the U.S. State Department, saying "don't wait until thousands more have died, before you tell the truth..."

Help put this billboard in other key locations, reaching thousands of employees at places like the Pentagon, intelligence agencies, contractors, the Justice Department, Congress and the White House. To do that, click here.

A "whistleblower" in sports is an official who recognizes a violation and immediately stops the action to prevent injury and further abuse of the rules. In war and foreign policy, the stakes are much higher--life and death. 

Let the world know that -- a new organization led by respected independent journalists and brave whistleblowers -- is open for truth-telling business. The ExposeFacts motto: "Whistleblowers Welcome Here."

Guidelines for submissions to WCT

The ideal article for the quarterly print version of The War Crimes Times: 600 to 1200 crisply-written words on a topic relevant to our mission.

We also welcome high resolution photos, cartoons, poetry, and letters to the editor.

Third party material will be considered only with the express permission of the copyright holder.

The WCT editorial team will consider all submissions. If your submission is selected for publication, we will notify you. If your submission is rejected, please do not be discouraged. Many criteria — such as timeliness, style, freshness, relevance to the WCT mission or the particular issue's theme, and content of recent issues — are used to determine WCT content.

Submissions are due no later than the 1st of the month that the paper is printed: March, June, September, and December. EARLY SUBMISSIONS HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF BEING CONSIDERED.

Send, in electronic format (preferred), to or to Editor, WCT/VFP, PO Box 10664, Greensboro, NC 27404. (Note: due to size constraints, all submissions may not be used in the print edition, but all will be considered for posting on this blog.)

War Crimes Times Statement of Purpose (revised 06/2011)

The War Crimes Times provides compelling, ongoing information on war and the war crimes that invariably accompany war, the many costs of war, the effects of our war culture on our national character and international reputation, and the need to hold accountable those who initiate and conduct illegal wars. Additionally and importantly, we also report on the efforts of the many people who sacrifice their time, money, and comfort to work for peace.

When national leaders initiate hostilities they create the conditions—the extreme use of force coupled with limited accountability—for the war crimes which invariably follow. War crimes are therefore an inherent part of war. The suffering caused and the enmity aroused by war crimes must be regarded as costs of war. Since these and other costs far exceed any benefits of war, we seek to end war as a tool of international policy.

Towards this goal, we believe that holding war criminals accountable will send a strong message to all current and future heads of state to very carefully weigh all the consequences of the decision to go to war. While we recognize that United States has long relied on unlawful military force to further its foreign policy goals, we are particularly concerned with the blatant and egregious violations of international law committed by the United States beginning with the Administration of George W. Bush and now continued and expanded under President Obama.

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