Tuesday, 5 September 2017

DRESDEN - HUMAN FOLLY AND RESILIENCE

     Human Folly and Resilience have co-existed from the beginning and are often displayed, and
remembered, in single locations. Today’s examples are numerous and worldwide, yet we continue to
treat the symptoms rather than the human-made root causes.  Belated progress is growing. The fear is
great that it is not soon enough nor sufficient.  So, while I still can, let me concentrate on Dresden
because, back in 08-09 February 1945, I was there.
     I had stumbled into a travel agency that I cannot recommend.  I had been locked into a very
crowded boxcar that offered a single view of the outside world through a small slit in its wooden frame.
     We were a mixed lot of aircrew of the Royal Air Forces whose activities had led us into captivity
by the Luftwaffe.  We and our German captors were now hapless migrants fleeing the Soviet advance, having left the relative comfort of the famed Stalag Luft III, in Sagan, Silesia, home of the Great
Escape.  My group was the last to leave the 5 compounds that had housed 11,000 Allied POWs, mainly aircrew.  We had tramped in the snow and cold for a day and a night before reaching, late at night, a railroad siding that contained the last train and driver left.
     For two weeks before we were ordered to evacuate, I had been in the camp hospital that also
contained Soviet prisoners and the camp doctors, one South African and one Luftwaffe.  So, we were
the last POWs to hit the road.  Our tramping column was followed by a lone young woman carrying a
baby. We inferred she was the Luftwaffe doctor’s wife.  All family members of our guards had been
ordered to remain behind to face the mercies of the oncoming Soviet troops. She had followed for a last view of her husband up ahead.
     The 73-year-old German guard for my section of about 100 POWs discarded his heavy rifle, so I
picked it up to carry it for him with others taking turns. Reaching the siding, the German officers were ordered into the first carriage as it had seats, the rest were all boxcars. The tearful girl gave a last hug to her husband as he boarded the carriage, then she stood all alone in the falling snow while the rest of  us were being herded into boxcars with one Luftwaffe guard per boxcar of 54 POWs.
     My group gave our guard his rifle back, then cautiously swarmed out in the dark to surround the
girl and baby, shove an RAF greatcoat over her shoulders and an RAF hat over her head while pushing her and the baby into our boxcar that had a floor-covering layer of straw and a pail in one corner for  a toilet. We POWs were all amazed at how docile the Germans were in obeying orders.
     Our engine, old with many aches and pains, protested loudly at being called out of retirement.  It
needed frequent stops for repairs, one of which was an overnight stop in Dresden.  Our tired driver,
whose family lived in Dresden, grumbled that engine repairs prevented him from visiting them.
     In the morning our guard unlocked the boxcar door to allow us to talk to our driver and view the
immaculate station crowded with civilians, mostly women. We saw no one in a military uniform.
     That night, having pulled out of Dresden, we heard the wail of air-raid sirens then the terror of
exploding bombs. They seemed to be all around us.  But these were Soviet attacks.
     Later, we learned that the Commonwealth Bomber Command, followed the next day by the USAAF had devastated Dresden. This, plus all the other devastation we saw en route to eventually reach Munich and Nürnberg, made us ashamed of being humans.  For several days the only one of us not starving was the breast-fed baby. The war was, in fact, over, so we could assume that the only reason our heartless leaders had to cremate so many thousands in Dresden was to impress Joe Stalin with our might, so that he would not bring communism too far into capitalist Europe.
     Much later we learned Dresden’s statistics. We had known from German newspapers that, on the
night of 25 July 1944, Bomber Command had created an inferno in Hamburg that took 37,000 lives (the atomic bomb on Nagasaki took 40,000 lives). Dresden lost 35,000. Over 8 months in the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe killed 39,000.
     From 13 to 15 February 1945,  722 RAF, RCAF, RAAF, etc night bombers followed by 527
USAAF day bombers dropped 39,000 tons of bombs on Dresden, Germany’s 7th largest city. They
created a firestorm that rose to 1,500 degrees centigrade, demolishing 12,000 homes, 640 shops, 39
schools, not to mention 26 pubs. The Dresden story is well told by two POWs who survived the
slaughter and helped with rescue work. Victor Gregg, a British paratrooper captured at Arnhem,
describes the 7 hours it took his team to dig into an air-raid shelter that had held 1,000 civilians. No
survivors. Bodies had all melted into a huge green-brown slimy liquid with a few bones in it.
American Kurt Vonnegut, who became a novelist, claims he is the only one who benefited from the
bombing as he made a profit selling the book he wrote about it.
     Many of us Bomber Command veterans still suffer a painful guilt complex as scruples vanished with the difficulties of finding at night and bombing only military targets. Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command, after a more humane start, embraced area bombing. We called him “Butcher” Harris. Many crews risked taking extra time amid the flak and fighters to attempt to visually distinguish well-concealed military targets. Our electronic navigational aids were all jammed by German counter measures. We did lose 55,573 of our 125,000 aircrew. At least 125 cherished friends remain vivid in my memory.  
     Today, Dresden is once again a charming city but you cannot appreciate it without knowing the
burned and mangled corpses everywhere, the immense piles of rubble, the blown-up sewer, water, and electrical lines - a fate endured by far too many cities.  Dresden survivors then endured Soviet
occupation, followed by being part of the Soviet-sponsored East Germany that denied reconstruction in order to leave Dresden an example of Western brutality. After the fall of the Berlin wall and
Gorbachev’s benevolent rule, Dresden residents, including thousands of women, began rubble clearing.  In 1993 they started the rebuilding of the fabled Frauenkirche, finishing it in 2005.
Today, Dresden is again a tourist attraction with its old charm restored, but you must include the
museum to realize what a miracle of rebuilding has been accomplished. Of course we can say the same for cities elsewhere, even Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Human resilience is awesome, yet . . . .
     Homo the Sap remains with us in his millions. Those who suffered the most, including defeat,
oppose the return of military non-solutions. A few of the victors still waste billions if not trillions of
dollars on weapons of destruction, basking in the profits, but neglecting the real threats of man-made
over-population, global warming, income inequalities, nuclear extinction, control-resistant bacteria and viruses, and so on.
     Finally, Al Gore can now tell us that the train has left the station on the route to curbing global
warming but Donald Trump nullifies this by axing environmental laws, and insisting the “Western”
world devotes 2% of GDP to enriching those billionaires who control the arms industries.
     Yes, we do have enemies, but we created them, with the help of countries like Saudi Arabia, Israel,
and Egypt. Rather than addressing root causes like despotism, corruption, greed, ethnic hatreds, and
resistant bacteria and viruses, we build smart bombs and drones that, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and
Yemen, kill far more innocent civilians than do those we call Terrorists like the Taliban, Al Qaida, and Daesh. Even Kim Jong Un, a menace also to his own country, is a product of our senseless and
devastating bombing of North Korea. Who really deserves the sanctions?
     The pen still has a long way to go to replace the sword. But it must for our species’ survival.
   Most encouraging are: the co-operation and interchanges of personnel among universities worldwide, the Russia-West joint participation in space and in physics such as the new, world’s largest, X-ray facility hear Hamburg, the world-wide recruiting of talent by the Perimeter Institute of Waterloo, Ontario, now a world-leading theoretical physics centre, and all those famed world research centres.
     The outpouring from millions of help, money, foods, and goods to victims of droughts, fires, and
floods reveals what is best in our species which still needs to fully accept how delicately balanced our
atmosphere is. Much safer than devoting ever-more money to the military with no permanent solutions.

georgesweanor@comcast.net                                                                      www.yeoldescribe.com

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

MY INUIT FRIENDS

“That is an impressive list of instructions, boss, but there is a problem - I cannot read.”
My cherished Inuk friend, Ed Ruben, had just been presented with a long list of typed duties, mainly janitorial, at Cape Parry, one of the 8 main stations of the Distant Early Warning Line (Dewline) along the Arctic Ocean coast where, for 13 months 1962-63, I happened to be the military commander. The code name for this 500-mile long (750 km) sector was PIN, so I was known as Pinhead which suited my situation.  I did feel like our Queen. She was head of state but it was parliament who ran the show.  Likewise, I had the authority, but it was Federal Electric Corporation of Paramus, New Jersey, a unit of the ITT electronic warfare giant that did the hiring, firing, and maintenance of the main station and its 4 satellites, two east and two west of Cape Parry.  Our resupply consisted of a weekly lone Douglas Dakota (C-47) aircraft whose stewardesses would claim that, for every mile they flew north of Winnipeg, the more attractive they became. We also had summer resupply by barge down the Mackenzie River and east along the Arctic coast to our sandy beach at the tip of the peninsula.
FEC would hire men on 18-month contracts for 54-hour-weekly shifts.  Salaries were good and the food, served 5 times per day, was varied and excellent.  My military staff was 4 RCAF and 2 USAF officers.
This boondoggle of short-lived radar lines, demanding amazing and expensive efforts in hostile environments  were all due to imagined, but well publicized, threats from the Soviets, those people whose enormous sacrifices were a major factor in winning WWII for us.  We were told that Soviet bombers, might sneak over the North Pole with nuclear bombs to devastate the USA whose congress in 1947 voted $161 million to build the Pinetree Line of radar-detection sites across the northern USA and persuading Canada to join in with southern Canada sites. I was to serve briefly at the Bird, Manitoba, site that became operational in Apr 1957. Then came The Mid-Canada Line, known as the McGill (University) Fence of 8 manned and 90 unmanned stations along the 55th parallel, operational in January 1958.  That cost $225 million.  In 1954 the USAF contracted with Western Electric to build, in a mere 3 years, 63 radar stations along 10,000 km of Arctic Ocean coasts from Alaska to Greenland.   Western Electric did it with 3 months to spare.  Their reward was watching ITT get future contracts. 
Ed was one of six Inuit, whom we called Eskimos back then, hired for our main station.  Nearby housing was built for their families who, in spite of overcrowding, kept them neat and tidy.  They had trekked north from the Inuit hamlet of Paulatuk, 95 km (59 miles) south.  They were followed by a score of relatives who built 10 shacks in what we called the “The village” 2 miles south of PIN Main.      The only true building there was Jim Stephen’s  Hudson Bay Store where furs could be exchanged for food, clothing, and utensils.  Father Leon DeHurtevant had also moved his church there, but it now was a small building.  To say mass he would fold up his bed and move in benches that were stacked outside in the snow.  He was allowed home to his native France for a month every 5 years.           He did miss the trees and greenery so, when a generous Winnipeg donor flew us in a score of Christmas trees that fire regulations prevented me from allowing into our modules, Bill Cann, one of my RCAF officers, and I loaded them into our truck when we knew “Papa Leon” was sleeping and planted them in the snowdrifts around his home.  The dogs who watched us had never seen a tree, but knew what trees were for, so were quick to use them.   When he awoke, Father Leon was amazed and delighted with his miraculous forest but gradually surrendered all but two to villagers to use as firewood for which I scolded him for being too generous for his own good.   
The name “Eskimo”, meaning “Eaters of raw flesh”, is not considered polite by the Inuit who have been in the North American Arctic since at least 1000 AD.  It took us southerners until the 1980s to realize our ignorance.   While meaning well we did make numerous mistakes as we used “our” north for short-lived mining and military operations, leaving quite a mess behind.  I had first encountered the Inuit in 1946-49 when I flew three B-29s, one C-54, and one C-47 out of Edmonton and Fairbanks to test fly over vast distances up to the Pole and down to Bermuda, plus many days of ground monitoring at isolated airstrips, the chain of Low Frequency Loran stations installed along the Arctic coast.   I learned to criticize the Canadian policy of collecting children from remote locations and flying them to residential parochial schools for an Alberta-style  curriculum, then on graduation dumping them back home, fit for neither culture as there was no southern-type employment.  During the summer, school-free, months I enjoyed the company of many of these teenagers.
Jessie Green was an 83-year-old Inuk who told me, after I got to know her well, that she was adopting me and would be my mother while I was in her country.  I was fortunate in being able to host frequent tours of scientists, politicians, and the like, from the deep south.  I introduced many to Jessie.  One of them, noticing that Jessie spoke only Eskimo (now Inuktitut) to her Inuit associates, asked her why she did not speak English.
I was proud of Jessie when she retorted in perfect English, “If I were an English woman I would speak English.  I am an Eskimo woman!”  Jessie loved corncob pipes, Hers was old and blackened when I met her, so I had my wife, Joan, mail me a packet of six new ones much to Jessie’s delight.         Jessie was sharp and took a keen interest in politics.  When a sealed voting box for the federal election arrived, Jessie was too sick to allow me to fetch her to vote, so I took it in my truck and got most of the way before stopped by several huge snowdrifts, forcing me to lug the box over them to allow Jessie to deposit her vote.
With the connivance of Doc Roche whom we shared with the Cambridge Bay sites, a remedy was found for Jessie’s age-related ills.  To avoid disastrous fires, alcohol was restricted to 6 cans of beer per person per week.  The doctor and I smuggled in a bottle or rye whiskey from which we filled smaller bottles labelled as “Medicine” for Jessie.  This actually helped her considerably and she thanked us frequently but she was sharp enough to know what we had done, so kept our secret that she was the only one at Cape Parry allowed liquor.
Returning to Ed Ruben who never complained:  In his tiny duplex that he shared with the Kuptana family, 13 people were dependent on him  His first wife died giving birth to their 5th child, the eldest of which was unmarried but had 3 children.  His second daughter, Sarah, at age 15, gave birth to twins while I was there.  Both soon died in spite of Doc Roche and my help.  Ed’s eldest son was working for FEC at a distant site.  Ed had remarried.  Pretty, and likeable, Mable had a child when Ed married her and she had 3 more by Ed.  I got to babysit them to permit Ed and Mabel to attend movies and bingo games on the base.  Ed and Mable also took responsibility for 3 people living in a shack in the village: Mary the dwarf and her two normal children.
Ed would take his annual leave to bundle Mabel and some children up on his dog sled to hunt caribou south of Paulatuk, cover the carcasses with rocks, then return at intervals throughout the winter to fetch still-fresh meat from his Arctic refrigerators.   Ed also tried to teach me how to build an igloo.  I was not a very adept pupil.  Inuit have some 50 words for snow of different consistencies and Ed would take me hunting for the right one for igloos.  With sure strokes from his snow knife he could cut slanted snow blocks and erect a crack-free igloo in two hours while alongside I would struggle to build a smaller one with numerous cracks requiring me to stuff them with snow.  For 3 weeks, using seal-oil lamps, temperatures inside igloos were quite warm until the snow became cold ice and a new home had to be built, but the material was just outside and free.
  Villagers, in their shacks made from surplus lumber discarded by FEC, had oil heat.  They used empty FEC oil drums that were everywhere and always containing a residue of oil that failed to get pumped out.  Draining the oil from many drums into one to set aside, they would make smaller stoves from retained drums for heat and cooking.   
There were 4 dog teams tethered side by side in an area of the village.  To me they always seemed hungry, being fed by seal meat.  Each day I drove to the village I would first stop at our kitchen to collect the many scraps of meat and bones. When I got within a mile of the village the dogs would set up a chorus of howls to greet me.  They then sat patiently as I passed down each row with a tasty gift for each dog.  The Inuit tolerated me doing this, but I was to learn that the starved Inuit dogs lived longer than the well-fed and pampered RCMP  dogs.  Nevertheless I continued the habit as I did bask in the love shown by the dogs.
Relations between the military and FEC were excellent but I did have to submerge my anger one day when several dogs got loose and trotted up to our station to wander about our buildings.  The FEC manager shot 4 of them.  For several weeks thereafter I ate my meals at the table reserved for the Inuit rather than with him, but I did avoid verbal rebuke.  The Arctic was no place for anger.
The Inuit were typically a reserved lot - very respectful but remote - a behaviour that changed dramatically with time.  A good example was 5-year-old Renee Ruben.  When I would arrive she would run up to me with “Squadron Leader George!’  She knew that I carried oranges in my parka pockets and would reach in to extract one.  Yet she remained silent as we strolled across the tundra, eating oranges.  One day we passed an outboard motor left in the snow for the winter.  When I called it an outboard motor, she corrected me with: “That’s a kicker!”  What an immediate change!  When she discovered there was something she could teach me she became quite verbose and our subsequent walks became full of enjoyable conversations.  
    Later I was to walk back to the kicker with 16-year-old Adam Ruben.  I warned him he would never get that neglected kicker to work again.  And it did not.  Unperturbed, Adam took the engine apart with bits and pieces strewn over the hard tundra.  I said, “Adam, if you ever get that mess to work again I will pay you $10.”  For an hour I watched in amazement as Adam cleaned and re-oiled every small bit and then reassembled it all.  It worked!  He was happy with my $10 and bought cigars from the HBC to advertise his affluence.    He then put the kicker onto his sled to take to the Listers, another Inuit family who had a small boat they were getting ready to take them on a visit to Paulatuk. 
On another occasion our dentist was making his annual visit to us.  An Inuit with a severe toothache ache came in for a drilling and filling.   Two Inuit friends accompanied the patient.  While drilling away the dentist was call away, returning in 20 minutes to discover one of the Inuit using his equipment to continue the drilling.  After the dentist finished the job, he got quite the ribbing from us, telling him he did not need all that expensive training to be a dentist as just being an Inuit would suffice.
One summer day a Norwegian-Canadian FEC employee and an Inuk rushed in to report a sub surfaced in Franklin Bay off our western shore.  I sped to our airstrip to scramble my entire air force - one Dehavalland Beaver - but the sub had submerged and fled before I could see it.  I could not resist matching famous terse war communiques with “Sub sighted, Beaver Scrambled. Sub Fled”.  Yes, I followed it up with a detailed report but I never got a word back from either HQ: ADC in St Hubert, Quebec, or Norad in Colorado Springs.  Who knows, or cared, whether it was one of ours or one of theirs?  
A lone Inuit family drifted into the village to build their own shack. The husband was caught stealing from  other families so we called in an RCMP corporal to arrest him.  Waiting for return airlift the corporal took his prisoner to a movie on base.  Mounting the steps the Inuk turned and disabled the corporal by kicking him where it hurts the most.  The lightly-clothed Inuk then took off into the bitterly-cold night.  Justice was now my responsibility.  I called Bob Hornal, a fellow RCAF officer, and we raced in our lone truck to the village, believing the escapee would head there.  We alerted the villagers then borrowed two shotguns from the HBC store and spread out to begin a foot search of the intervening tundra.  Eight hours later I stumbled across a bleeding, sobbing, shivering, and totally-exhausted Inuk.  I called to Bob and both of us carried him back to the HBC store where we stripped and washed him to dress him in warm clothing, taken from the HBC shelves.  By this time the corporal had recovered and handcuffed his prisoner for the first time.  Two days later he was flown to Inuvik to a warm jail with good food for the winter while the government footed the bill to feed his family.  He was released in the spring on the promise to never steal again.  He did become a worthy resident of the village.
This, and the submarine incident, emphasized the fact that we Dewline military had zero defences, so I sent a request to headquarters for some token weapons.  A year after I left the Dewline, a few WWII Lee Enfield rifles arrived.  If all militaries were so armed there would be no wars!
      When missiles replaced bombers as threats, the US in 1958 invested $28 billion in BMEWS (Ballistic Missile Early Warning Sites) and most Dewline sites were abandoned, leaving messes to be cleaned up, complicated by global warming and melting tundra.  The original target date of 2011 has been extended to 2018.  Cape Parry Inuit returned to Paulatuk where, among the 300 residents, Rubens and Kuptanas remain among the executives.
The future of the Inuit as an equal participating partner in Canada shows great promise, yet many problems persist.  There are 700 Inuit owned and operated businesses including airlines such as Air Inuit that has a fleet of 26 aircraft of 5 different types. On 01 April 1999. Canada carved Nunavut out of its Northwest Territories.  Cape Parry and Paulatuk remain in the NWT.  Nunavut in Inuktitut means “Our Land”.  It is a huge area.  With 1,750,000 sq km it is the size of Western Europe, but it has a population of only 36,000, 85% of it Inuit.  It has 3 official languages: Inuktitut, English, and French.  Its capital is Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay) with a population of 7,740.  Prince Charles had visited Iqaluit in 1970. His second was with Camilla 29 June 2017.
I knew of no suicides while at Cape Parry but the current Inuit rate has leaped to 11 times the Canadian average, especially among young women.  Vast cultural changes, the dramatic warming, increased traffic in the Northwest passage, lack of sufficient infrastructure and unemployment all contribute.  For a nation of 36 million, huddled in the south, the north is a very expensive burden, but one that must be enthusiastically embraced.
The $188 million Canadian High Arctic Research Station at Cambridge Bay to be operational in 2018 is encouraging - and look at all that geology to study such as 4.5 billion year old (bya) lava when we thought our crust did not form until 4.3 bya.  The North has much to teach us.

georgesweanor@comcast.net                   www.yeoldescribe.com




Friday, 28 July 2017

RESCUING HOMO THE SAP

     In its 300,000-year history, Homo the Sap, self-named Homo sapiens, has existed for a large part of it in self-made troubled times.  Quite understandable, as all of us are trapped in a world we do not understand.  The curious among us are making amazing progress but we have a very long way yet to go  Throughout my previous 174 blogs I have dwelt on this, based on what I have gleaned over my 98 tours around the Sun.
My own observations have been accompanied by the writings of thousands of curious, dedicated, and investigative minds.  As we are almost out of time to save ourselves from extinction, let me choose for this blog one of them that you may, and should, know:  In my large library I have Naomi Klein’s July 2017 book “No Is Not Enough”, as well as her earlier books “The Shock Doctrine” and “This Changes Everything”.  Also I have watched her numerous appearances on Amy Goodman’s PBS  “Democracy Now!” and interviews with such as the UK’s Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party.  She is co-author of The Intercept, and a frequent contributor to many magazines.  Her books have been translated into over 30 languages.
      Before I go any further, I want to say that I admire you, Naomi, for leaving your comfortable Vancouver Island home to travel in December 2016 to the cold and snowy North Dakota to join the protectors at Standing Rock - a total of over 10,000 protectors that included members of other US and Canadian tribes and, heart warmingly, 2,000 US Veterans of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq who had come to stand with the Sioux and to apologize for all the wrongs their country had done and is continuing to do to them.   This pipeline was originally designed to go under the city of Bismark but the residents objected, so the builders nibbled further on dwindling Sioux treaty lands to re-route it to go under Lake Oahe, the sole source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux.  The joyous feeling of success when Obama halted the digging, insisting on further study, was dashed when Trump nullified Obama’s efforts and the oil is now flowing.  Again, profits won over people.
But, Naomi, you do have itchy feet, chasing around the globe, interviewing and investigating. You have jogged my failing mind with so many well researched happenings, putting them all together in books, loaded with facts and figures I had lived through but have forgotten or dimly remember.           Gratifying, Naomi, is the fact that there is a growing number of individuals and organizations joining you in pushing us into a new world beyond war (and a so-named organization is thriving) into those broad sunlit uplands envisaged by Winston Churchill, by Buddha’s awareness, by the poets of WW1, and by so many troubled minds over the centuries.  
Can we ever achieve this without the leap you envisage?  We must get beyond Pax Romana, The League of Nations, The United Nations, to a mindset where the world has the will and ability to prevent atrocities, highlighted currently by the crimes in Syria and Yemen where those who suffer most had little to do with the violence.  
Naomi, your Shock Doctrine that, in many countries, produced oligarchies of billionaires exploiting the rest of us, also produced Donald Trump whom we must thank for giving you the incentive for your recent book and for uniting a host of organizations that have struggled with limited, and often short-lived success, but now are finally joining in persistent resistance.
Your so-typical example is that of the four arrested protestors, finding themselves in the same paddy wagon en route to jail, discovering that each belonged to an organization unknown to the other three, but all opposing the same political actions.     
I applaud your leading role in the two Toronto conferences that produced “The Leap Manifesto” - a call for Canada based on caring for the Earth and for Each Other.  It includes totally renewable energy, mass affordable transit, racial and gender equality, fewer work hours, respect for indigenous rights, innovative and democratic ownership. energy-efficient homes, localized and ecological agriculture, welcome for refugees and migrants, reduced military offensiveness, town hall meetings, education and justice reform. Numerous like-minded organizations have been quick to join your unifying call. 
Actually, Canada is a good place for starting foundations.  With a population that rose from 7 to 11 million between World Wars I and II and in which Canada punched well above its weight and did accomplish amazing infrastructure gains in a huge country. It has gone from a top belligerent to a top peacekeeper. For instance in WWI, of the top 45 air aces, 17 were German, 8 Canadian, 6 UK, 5 French.  In WII Canada trained 137,739 aircrew, provided a quarter of the D-Day invaders and got the furthest inland.  Yet, post war,  Canada led in peacekeeping roles, offering 5,000 troops to start a UN standing force that never materialized.  But Canada, now with 36 million, has slipped from first place to 67th as the UN now relies on poorly-paid-and-trained troops from poorer countries.  I also suspect that some Canadian generals prefer to hobnob with wealthy US generals rather than with generals from poorer countries that are much less influential.  But, much of this slippage can be blamed on oil and munition industries promoting turmoil, thus nullifying UN efforts. 
Naomi, your books give me ample statistics of the ill-gotten wealth of Trump and his associates, how brand names can reap fortunes without investments, how great wealth influences politicians, the media, and the common voter who believes those endless TV ads that insult true intelligence but watched by so many who lack the time or will to dig deeper. To return the US to democracy we must eliminate donated money to politicians and their parties.  I still get a daily dozen of repeated e-mail-donation-requests from politicians plus another lot of requests from worthy charities I much prefer to help.  The politicians ask for a mere $3 but, if you activate the donate button, you find that what they are asking for is a recurring monthly donation of $35 or more plus a tip.  
It is essential that electioneering be financed only by fixed grants to contesting parties paid for by taxation, permitting politicians to govern rather than spending half their salaried time fund raising.   The 2012 US election cost $6.3 billion, the 2016 one $6.5 billion.  In 2016 Hillary spent $768 million while Trump got away with $398 million due to the free time the media gave him as his antics were making profits for them. Bernie Sanders, who covered the most issues, raised a surprising $234 million from small donations.
Another huge waste of money, but also lives, is in the military reactions to reactions to initial aggressions, both real and inferred.  Our smart bombs and finely-tuned drones have killed more civilians than have our enemies that we created: Taliban, Al Qaida, and Daesh.  Death statistics may be highly inaccurate but the known numbers are frightening.  Between August 2014 and March 2017 the US admits causing 352 civilian deaths while the UK-based “Airwars” tabulates 3,100 and estimates thousands more from Russian air strikes.
These deaths, added to the immense destruction of homes, utilities, and infrastructure, provide huge recruitment incentives for never-ending bloody strife.  This only speeds the decline of the US Empire with so many other nations finding other associations including a world currency to supplant the US Dollar.
Awareness:  Has our media drowned us in so many dire warnings of imminent disasters, from global warming to a hunk of outer-space rock colliding with us, that millions in islands of prosperity around the globe have shut their ears and eyes to the woes of others?   
Several weeks ago I was alone in a booth at Village Inn when a young man approached me, surprising me with “Do you believe in God?”  I pushed my plate aside and asked him to sit down. For fifteen minutes we had a wide-ranging conversation.  He had returned from duty in Iraq, thoroughly disillusioned.  He had gone there to serve his country and to help the Iraqi people.  Instead he found his sole duty was to guard the oil with no regard or time to help the suffering people.  Losing faith in country and God, he told me his main goal in life was now to protect his two male friends and the woman he hoped to make his permanent girlfriend.  He returned to them in another booth at the opposite end of the room where they finished their meals, but before leaving all four came over to my booth to give me hugs.  Somehow, I had helped a troubled youth.
For a decade after the Cold War democracy had its best flourishing.  Over the past decade this has turned into a steady decline.  Freedom House (a think tank founded in 1941 by Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie) assessed 195 countries, finding 87 were free, 59 partly free, and 49 not free. Sadly, their 2017 report reveals civil-rights setbacks in 67 countries and gains in only 36.  Voters in free countries, impatient with the slow, bickering progress, have turned to strong autocratic leaders, a course that always proves disastrous.
We (Canada, UK, US, etc) impose sanctions on Russia and Iran when we should impose sanctions on ourselves for our crimes such as lack of concern for common people when we support, and sell arms to, oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia who is now in its 3rd year of using US aircraft and US/UK bombs for indiscriminate bombing of Yemen, a poor country where 20 million of its 28 million people need humanitarian aid.  This infrastructure destruction has caused, among other criminal woes, a massive cholera outbreak with, to date, 1,818 killed and 400,000 infected.   Meanwhile we excuse nuclear-armed Israel’s continued theft of Palestinian land and continuing its unbearable jail of 2 million in Gaza.  
So, Naomi. You are a big wave among many others that are forming the tsunamis necessary to sweep away from our beaches entrenched opposition, but, tsunamis can be destructive so this one also needs to be regulated. 
     It is a daunting, but essential, task.

                                                                                                     georgesweanor@comcast.net
                                                                                                 www.yeoldescribe.com


Saturday, 8 July 2017

NORTH KOREA

      Five thousand years of recorded history reveal that we, who do the suffering and dying, too often for the benefit of the few, are slow learners.  Strange, because we have the numbers and intermittent organization to do better.   Yet, some 4 billion of us have been sacrificed to major wars, not to mention minor conflicts.
Our gullibility is too massive for a single blog, so I will skip along through recent turmoils such as Palestine, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Tibet, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya where so many of our woes are self-inflicted and avoidable.
That brings us to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, China’s Xi Jinping, and somebody’s Donald Trump.
My interest in Korea started in 1952 during the Korean War when I was with 426 Squadron that flew North Star aircraft on the Korean Air Lift, making 600 casualty-free, round-trip, flights from Dorval (Montreal) loaded with supplies for our 26,000 airmen, sailors, and soldiers there, and often returning with wounded from the fighting.  There was a 5-day crew stopover in the Australian-run Marunuchi Hotel at  Haneda, Tokyo, airport.
The Koreans and Japanese that I was fortunate to meet were all friendly, efficient, and helpful.
Korean history starts in 2333 BC and is a long story of peace and turmoil with numerous invasions and takeovers leaving an enduring distaste for foreigners.
The 400-year “Golden age of art and literature” Chinese Han Dynasty embraced North Korea in 108 BC.  It is argued that those who consider themselves Han still think of others, like Tibetan, Yi, and Dai as somewhat retarded.   In 527 AD Buddhism was adopted, The Mongol invasion began in 1231. Paper currency was introduced in 1402.  The first Manchu invasion came in 1627.  It was the strangest and most frightening.  Considered barbarians, the Manchu numbered fewer than 250,000 yet developed military strategies that conquered the Chinese empire to establish the Qing Dynasty that faded into today’s minority of 3 million scattered in China.  This conquest by the uncouth Manchu was a huge humiliation to the Koreans and Chinese of Han persuasion.  It increased their isolationism.
The French campaign against Korea was an 1866 punitive expedition in retaliation for the earlier Korean execution of several French Catholic missionaries. The encounter over Ganghwa Island lasted nearly six weeks. The result was a French retreat and a check on French influence in the region. The encounter also confirmed Korea in its isolationism for another decade, until Japan forced it to open up to trade in 1876 through the Treaty of Ganghwa.
The first US intervention in Korea came in 1871 on Ganghwa Island.  Aboard two US warships, a diplomatic mission had been sent to open trade.  They were fired upon by Korean shore batteries of the isolationist Joseon Dynasty.  Ten days later the US landed 650 troops, captured several forts, and killed over 200 Koreans for a loss of 3 US marines.  Korea then refused to negotiate with the US until 1882. 
In 1895 China granted Korea independence.  Empress Myeongseong (Queen Min) urged closer ties with Russia to balance Japanese influence.  She was assassinated in 1895 at age 43 by the Japanese who considered her an obstacle to their overseas expansion after their victory in the first Sino-Japanese war.  Japan received international rebuke and Korea clung to it isolation.  Queen Min’s husband, King Gojong, spent 1 year of refuge in the Russian embassy.
In 1905 Japan made Korea a protectorate. And, in 1907, forced King Gojong to abdicate in favour of his son, Sunjong.  Unrest in Korea led to the assassination of the Japanese Resident-General, Japanese military invasion, an attempt on Emperor Hirohito’s life, and general unrest until Japan’s WWII surrender in 1945 when Korea was divided at the 38th parallel between USSR and USA occupation zones.  Opposition to a divided Korea was led by Kim Gu who was assassinated in his bed in 1949 by a South Korean.
  The 1950-53 Korean War was an episode in the Cold War between the USSR and USA each striving for world dominance without stumbling into a hot nuclear war.
The excuse was Syngman Rhee of South Korea boasting that he was going to invade North Korea.  In 1949, Kim II Sung of North Korea visited Stalin to persuade him that he, Kim, could conquer South Korea.   Stalin did not think that the US would get involved, so gave his consent.   Kim II Sung also went to see Mao Tse Tung, the leader of China, to get his support.
The US got involved because of Harry Truman’s belief in the Domino Theory.  If Korea fell so would Japan, a vital asset for US trade.  He also had the goal of containing Communism that was advancing in eastern Europe and Asia.  China adopted it in 1949.  In 1950 the US National Security Council advised abandoning containment in order to roll back Communism aggressively.
  The US remained in military control of South Korea until 1948 and repatriated 700,000 Japanese.
During the Korean War, six million men fought, half from China, Russia, and North Korea against half from 21 UN countries.  Casualty statistics are:  
For the North: China 900,000, North Korea 600,000
For the South: South Korea 984,400, USA 169,365, UK 5,017, Turkey 3,349, Australia 1,991, Canada 1,396, France 1,135, Thailand 913, Greece 715, Holland 704, Columbia 686, Ethiopia 656, Philippines 488, Belgium/Lux 453, New Zealand 115, South Africa 42.
     During the war the USAF bombed North Korea so heavily that there was nothing left to bomb so the idle bomber crews were allowed to breach the dams thus destroying huge acreages of rice and inducing starvation, thus increasing hatred of the US to the highest levels.
With help from Canada and France, South Korea developed a successful nuclear capability and toyed with a nuclear arsenal to deter North Korea’s.  Jimmy Carter warned that, if it did, it would lose all US support.
So, with that skimpy background, let us concentrate on the current impasse:
Christine Ahn, founder of Women Cross DMZ, criticizes the West for dragging its feet to prolong the dispute that provides an excuse to sell more armaments to a world with too many created tensions.  She reminds us that, in 2015, North Korea offered to halt its nuclear missile deterrent if the US and South Korea stopped their military maneuvers and anti-missile installations.  Repeated offers were rejected by both the Obama and Trump administrations.  Instead the US installed the THAAD anti-missile system against the wishes of South Korea.  Even Bill Perry, ex US Secretary of Defense, admits it is there to protect US bases, not people.  She claims that Germany, Australia, and France are among those supporting her arguments.
She also claims that, in 1999 and 2000 under the Clinton administration, we were very close to offering North Korea the assurance it needed to stop its missile program that is designed to bring the USA to the negotiating table.  In fact Bill Clinton had scheduled a visit to North Korea to do so when political priorities at home caused him to postpone it, never to be reinstated.  North Koreans argue that US lying in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya force them into spending more than they can afford on defense.  Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" has also been helpful in airing her views.
While its nuclear arsenal will always remain puny, North Korea has the insane right, as long as the US, Russia, UK, France, India, Pakistan, and Israel do, to maintain nuclear weapons.
Of course in our highly-unsafe and accident-prone world, it is essential that all nuclear weapons be banned.  We can start with listening to North Korea’s worries before it develops a missile that can hit the USA other than Alaska. (no slight, Alaska, you are also loved)
That, Donald, is now your vital responsibility.   Do remember that War is not the Answer,

p.s. Do note that on 09 July 2017, when 122 UN countries voted to ban all nuclear weapons, North Korea was the only nuclear nation to vote yes.



Ye Olde Scribe

Friday, 16 June 2017

GARBAGE

     Scientists, studying such things, tell me that Canada leads the world in the per capita amount of garbage they donate to land fills (777 kgms annually vs the 578 average of the top 17 countries). It was not always thus.
      I fondly recall from the 1920s young relatives of the McGirr-Brodie-Sullivan half of my family in North Bay, Ontario, exchanging as Christmas gifts fancy peanut-butter jars, empty of course, having fulfilled their designed purpose. Why discard pretty glass jars?
       I also recall, while a boy living in Ontario cities and towns, following horse-drawn delivery carts, often disturbing feasting sparrows, as I scooped up manure for my Dad’s backyard garden.
       Canadians did become wasteful. One day in 1943 I was strolling across my POW compound with Luftwaffe Hauptmann Hans Pieber. Yes, I was violating protocol by fraternizing with the enemy, but I make no claim to being a good soldier. Pieber was a cheerful, likeable, Austrian who did a difficult job well - trying to keep 2,000 of us highly restless, intelligent, capable, active, and troublesome aircrew prisoners from 33 nations who flew in the five Royal Air Forces plus the Polish, Czech, and Free French, plus USAAF from creating too many problems for his small staff. He was the sort of man we would need in a post-war world.
     Well ahead of us we noticed a Canadian POW discard something. When we got up to it, Pieber was shocked at such wastefulness. The discarded item was a snot-filled handkerchief. Pieber picked it up, saying he would wash and use it. The mighty German Wehrmacht suffered many shortages. When we received UK, Canadian, or US Red Cross food parcels we ate better than our captors yet they never stole a single item from us. There was never a scrap of that food left uneaten. Nor did we possess any garbage cans. 
      At different times on different assignments I was to total about 5 years in the Arctic where waste from commercial and military sites was an eyesore. Rusting machinery, vehicles, oil drums, and buildings littered an otherwise pristine environment. Earning the trust of Inuit families is a slow process, but when I did I was impressed at how adaptable they were in scrounging and putting to good use our garbage. There was always a little oil left in each of the innumerable empty oil drums that littered our commercial and military sites. They would select a few drums into which they drained the remaining oil from other drums, some of which they made into efficient stoves to heat the wooden shacks they made from our discarded lumber.
    Official policy was not to destroy local economies by giving away discarded assets. We were supposed to destroy surplus equipment such as pushing off a cliff into the Arctic ocean a working truck. As commanding officer of a 500-mile stretch of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW line) I opposed this policy especially when the government itself was allowing the removal of Inuit children to distant boarding schools, then on graduation dumping them back into their remote communities, fit for neither world. I kept advising my Inuit friends not to allow us to steal their land and the way to beat us at our own game was to glean the best from our education and to get into politics. Some have and are flourishing in our now more enlightened policies that include asking the Pope to apologize for the decades of forced religious schools.
      In 1963 I was transferred to Colorado Springs, a growing, affluent city in a scenic location. It was amazing to see its high schools with large parking lots full of student-owned cars whose upkeep demanded part-time jobs after school thus dangerously limiting the time they could devote to homework. Our daughters walked several long blocks to their schools. They preferred to use the alleys rather than the streets because the overflowing garbage cans along the way held a wealth of tempting new or repairable articles that they often brought home.
     It was our first experience with a throw-away economy embracing entire families. 
    Historically, there are few records of garbage prior to 5,000 years ago. The first documentation of solid waste management was about 500 BC in Athens, where the first municipal dump in the Western world was organized. Regulations required trash to be dumped at least a mile outside city limits.
   Troy is said to have risen five feet per 100 years, due to 1.4 million tonnes accumulation per century of garbage thrown into the streets. That gives us ten layers of Troys to excavate.
      Waste in that era was easily biodegradable.  Crete cities had trunk sewers connecting homes as early as 2100 BC.    In the 5th century BC Greek municipalities began to establish town dumps  for garbage such as food waste.                          
   The first record of garbage collection is in the Egyptian city of Heracleopolis, founded 2100 BC. The waste created by elite and religious sections of the city was collected and disposed of, but waste created by non-elite sections of the city were ignored and left in the streets to degrade.
   Today, even though half the world’s population has no access to organized garbage collection. Waste management is a mammoth, and vital, task worldwide. It employs 382,000 people in the USA alone and 128,000 vehicles to move garbage to 1,754 landfills and 87 incinerators. Recyclable facilities exist in 8,660 communities sharing 545 facilities. Solid waste management costs $47 billion annually, a sum considered needed to triple - and soon.
     Of all trash, 50% ends up in Landfills, 33% is recycled, and 12% incinerated.
    From landfills, over 10 toxic gases escape, including methane, the biggest contributor to global warming, 21 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. Landfills emit 12% of the world’s methane supply, due to be surpassed by melting tundra. Some 83% of landfills have been detected emitting methane.
    It was massive blowouts of methane 12,000 year ago that hastened the death of the last ice age. Retreating glaciers in the Barents Sea off Norway exposed seabed pingos that gave a huge collective fart of methane.
    In 1958 the Mauna Loa Observatory measured the world’s carbon dioxide content as 310 parts per million. In April 2017 it was 410.
   James Hansen, ex-NASA, and now at Columbia University, argues we need to spend $100 billion for 80 years, plant many more trees, and increase soil fertility.
    In 2016 in Paris, 175 countries agreed to a voluntary pursuit to reduce warmings to 1.5ºC over pre-industrial levels. In 2017 the US government dropped out, yet US states, municipalities and industries vowed to remain committed. 
   Groundwater pollution from landfills remains a current danger from toxic leachates. This is not only harmful to humans but also to plants and animals.
  The EU enforces rules and regulations on waste disposal and has recently cracked down on Romania, Belgium, Slovenia, Poland, and Finland for violations or tardiness in complying. 
   The Pacific Ocean Trash Vortex is a huge floating and moving island of trash the size of Texas.
  China vs Taiwan: China’s gleaming symbols of growth have uncontrolled trash - like the 500 landfills that circle Beijing. Meanwhile, Taiwan forced residents to sort garbage, buy trash bags, and recycle. This gained a 40% drop in garbage output. Taipei now produces 0.37 kilograms of daily per capita waste compared to 3.2 for Hegang on the NE border with Russia. China’s average is 1.12.
  A sample of daily tons of garbage deposited in landfills: Sudokwon, South Korea, 20,000, Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico 12,000, Los Angeles 12,000, Lagos, Nigeria 10.000, Las Vegas, USA, 9,000. 
   The World Bank has, since 2000, contributed $4.5 billion to over 300 solid waste management programs around the world. 
    The annual generation of 1.3 billion tons of waste is expected to soar to 4 billion by 2100 with the top five producers being the USA, China, Brazil. Japan, and Germany. 
    Unregulated or illegal dumpsites serve 4 billion people and hold 40% of the world’s waste.   Scavengers find sustenance and livelihood in such dumps as the 100-foot-high Ghazipur landfill in India.
   Some grocery stores offered a 5-cent discount for each shopping bag used, only to drop the inducement and replace it with recycling bins that provide some relief as too few shoppers return their empty bags.
    According to Environmental Protection Agency research, between five hundred billion and one trillion disposable bags are used each year around the world. Plastic bags, while only used for an average of about twelve minutes, remain in landfills, oceans, and other places for thousands of years.
     Russia creates 60 million tons of garbage annually. The Ministry of Environment plans to increase recycling from the current 11% to 40%. Their current 243 recycling, 53 sorting, and 40 incinerator facilities are far from adequate. The Russian navy has disposed of nuclear waste at sea, making pars of the Barents, Kola, and Sea of Japan heavily contaminated.
    To end this parade of facts in an upbeat note I need to turn to Sweden that is processing its trash into heat and electricity and could even take trash from nearby countries.

 Ye Olde Scribe