Thursday, 24 June 2010


Over the centuries military organizations have been renowned for their gripes: low pay, poor food, endless polishing, cleaning, and parading, harsh discipline, and years at sea or in distant lands without contact with families at home. Today’s military with high pay, undreamed of perks, instant communication home still finds much to gripe about. So, what do we old veterans have left to gripe about?

Well, we can feel forgotten. We RCAF, who were part of a huge Royal family that encompassed not only the Commonwealth but men and women from all occupied European countries and the United States, were thanked for our major role in settling the unpleasantries of WWII and Korea, then they retired our name, our flag, our ranks, and even much of our terminology. With high casualties we endured operations that they now call missions - a name that conjures up forcing our religion on others in far-off lands whereas we uncouth warriors used bombs instead of bibles. Our highest ranking officers wear maple leafs which they incorrectly call stars. We RCAF, along with the RCN, have been relegated to the seldom-read history books. ‘Twas ever thus. Reminds me of Danton, on his way to be guillotined, yelling at watching Robespierre who sentenced him, “You’ll be next, Robespierre!” He was right.
Having sympathized with so many having to learn English I long ago revolted at us having two languages - one we speak and one we write and too often we allow the same word to have different meanings. If we spell it Gloucestershire we should pronounce it that way, not Glostersheer. And Newfoundland should not be pronounced Noofunlan. I refuse to misuse gay and lesbian to describe homosexuals. I shy away from using “America” to describe only the United States as it implies arrogance at ignoring all the others in two continents who share the name, just as does the use of “England” when the United Kingdom is meant, thus insulting the Irish, Scots, and Welsh. And then it appears this is a highly unsanitary country. No one uses toilets. Instead they use bathrooms and restrooms. How distasteful to clean those bathtubs and sofas! There is widespread use of loos, johns, the poddy, and, in WWII Germany, Winston Churchills (His initials, WC, also stood for Water Closet). When Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet, he called it toilet. Others call it a crapper.

The misuse of history is also a gripe of mine. I enjoy a cup of tea so object to the recently formed Tea Party movement as a protest against government, misusing the Boston Tea party of 1773 which only later became an anti-British slogan. At the time it was simply a move by Sam Adams to protect his profitable dealership of smuggled Dutch tea which was threatened when an East India Company ship arrived laden with tea from Ceylon which the authorities were allowing in without the additional charge of custom duties as Ceylon was another part of the Empire. Sam got a bunch of cronies to dress as natives, board the ship, and throw the cheaper tea overboard. And then there is Hollywood with major distortions in scores of historical films from Egypt and Rome, to the Alamo and the Great Escape, far too many to enumerate here. Truth is usually stranger than fiction so why teach a gullible public false history? The Texas School Board has now joined Hollywood.

Admittedly, in a democracy, opposition and the facts of life prevent politicians from living up to their promises, but this old Arctic veteran who considers the area and the Inuit very important worries that he does not have the time to wait for contracts to be awarded for the ships, research centre, and bases promised so emphatically over three years ago.

On the other hand I should admit immense progress has been made since my first introduction to the Arctic in 1946 - and I should broadcast that governments sometimes do the right thing. A couple of examples:

In WWII Canadian pay was double UK pay so, for those of us overseas, the government withheld half our pay for a post-war nest egg. This prevented the friction that arose when US troops, with still-higher pay, arrived with full pay thus attracting the girls and forcing up prices in the pubs, leading to the UK complaint “The Yanks are overpaid, oversexed, and over here.” My RCAF pay for bombing Germany was $6.25 a day, reduced to $3.20 in the UK.

The Canadian government over the last decade has paid for 2,000 Research Chairs spread among all universities. Recently 19 of the world’s top scientists have moved to Canadian universities with sufficient funding to head up departments, select staff, and pursue their specialties. It is a tonic to see millions of dollars spent hiring scientists rather than baseball, football, basketball, or hockey stars. This brain influx is in addition to all those chairs for the likes of Stephen Hawking in the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo.

Saturday, 19 June 2010


Root causes are seldom mentioned when finger-pointing the blame for the Gulf Oil Spill, the slaughter of thousands in Mexican Drug Wars, and the like - problems that would not exist if we were to curtail our addiction to oil, drugs, guns, and money. The endless accumulation of wealth in a few hands is a human failure but provides us with villains. Drug cartels have filled rooms with billions of dollars and created lavish life styles that invite others to muscle in to the tune of thousands of bodies, bullet-ridden by weapons eagerly provided by unrestricted gun dealers. The hundreds of US factories operating in the Cuidad Juarez area pay a maximum of $75 per week so it is much more lucrative to get into the drug trade.
BP (40% British and 39% US owned) has amassed billions in profits by satisfying our craving for oil so is a natural target for blame when something goes wrong which is certain to happen when we go to the extremes of technology to extract the last drop of a finite resource instead of pursuing the logical course of mass transit, putting truck traffic back on the rails, and increasing the price of fossil energy to encourage more investment in green sources. Our oil addiction has blinded us. We forget the almost-identical Trans-Ocean spill of June 1979 in the Gulf when the same blowout preventer failed and only 2 relief wells stopped the escape 9 months later. That was in 200 feet of water, now it is 5,000 feet, and in the interim there has been no insistence or regulations that rescue techniques be improved.
Also, we are selfish. No one here seems to care about the plight of Nigerians who, since 1958, have endured 23 million gallons of oil spills that are increasing annually, mainly from Shell wells. Destitute Nigerians lack a president who cares enough to force restitution and reimbursement from oil companies.
For the foreseeable future we are restricted to one world that is heavily burdened with too many humans, creating an unsustainable consumption of finite resources and an unsustainable gap between rich and poor. Progress at closing this gap has occurred in places like Brazil and China, but much, much more is essential - and this will, at least for the time being, demand sacrifices from us who have been hogging more than our share of world resources.


OH, ISRAEL! It is sad that Israel, with so much to offer, is so paranoid about security that it is now considered a bully. But first a little, very sketchy history: Faith or fact? No historical account of Abraham exists other than what is found in scriptures that claim, about 1900 BC, Abraham, Sarah, family, and relatives left Ur, Iraq, for Canaan where they infiltrated and eventually controlled a nomadic group to be known as Hebrews, persuading them to renounce their female gods to embrace Yahweh. Abraham fathered children by 3 wives and died at age 175. Sarah gave birth to Isaac at age 90. Years passed and, during a famine, descendants of this group, following David’s lead, found refuge in Egypt where, over the next 645 years, they multiplied to the extent that a new pharaoh persecuted them leading to the exodus led by Moses. About 1250 they ended up back in Canaan where they smote the Philistines (Palestinians) to acquire the land promised them by Yahweh. Ownership was hotly contested by at least 11 distinct groups until Romans ousted most of the Jews in 135 AD. Significant return of Jews to Palestine began after 1831 when Mohammed Ali, an Ottoman provincial ruler, opened the area to the West and Edmond de Rothschild financed the move.

The current state of Israel was a dicey plan in the first place, as Winston Churchill warned in 1937. To create a new Jewish state, westernized, wealthy, and technologically-advanced in a small plot of land, much of it not arable, in an Arab and Muslim area that would necessitate the eviction (and killing) of thousands of Palestinians who were slowly emerging from 400 years of rural, seldom harsh, life as part of the Ottoman Empire, could lead to trouble requiring the best of minds and the best of behaviour to contain. At least the area was kept intact under Ottoman rule. Then came the vultures, many well-meaning, to share the spoils of their WWI victory. They divided the area into countries and gave League of Nation mandates to the UK and France to assist the emergence of a modern, Western-controlled, Middle East. The US refused an offered mandate but got involved economically. Russia, Italy, and Germany also developed interests. Immense sympathy for the Jews after the Holocaust led the WWII victors, hesitant to open their own borders to displaced survivors, to allow a Palestine homeland for them which, after all, was theirs historically, but this return of the Jews would be somewhat akin to us Caucasians reclaiming the Caucasus. Generations of Palestinians have now languished in refugee camps, helpless to resist but creating a simmering hatred of the occupiers. The newcomers, with considerable aid, especially from the USA and Germany, after defeating an attempt to oust them, did create a vibrant industrial nation that did benefit the world with contributions in science, medicine, literature, and so on. It also built up the area’s most powerful military. Growth required more land which led to large settlements throughout occupied Palestine so the locals, denied a military of their own, were pushed aside as were the locals in all countries of America not all that long ago. Worldwide support for Israel started to slip when Lebanon then Gaza acquired ineffective missiles that killed less than a dozen Israelis only to have the Israelis attack with massive force that killed thousands and destroyed infrastructure that remains rubble. This includes a 3-year blockade of Gaza after it voted in Hamas a new organization understandably hostile to Israel. This land, sea, and air blockade has created great poverty, precluding any progress. Lately, six Turkish and one Irish ships attempting to run the blockade and bring in humanitarian aid have been seized in international waters and towed to an Israeli port with 9 Turkish and no Israeli deaths. It is gratifying that much of the criticism of the Israeli siege mentality comes from many Israelis who argue that Israel is much more of a threat to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah than they are to Israel. It will be hard and difficult but Israel must now return to its original borders and employ its expertise in creating a common market of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Syria - 5 countries in an area barely big enough for one. To continue current Israeli policies will only lead to its demise which will benefit only new vultures.

If Catholics, worldwide, can be content with the Vatican, much tinier than Israel, as their headquarters, could we not persuade the Jews to accept the smaller, original, Israel as their HQ and continue to live in, and benefit, nations everywhere? Jerusalem, sacred to 3 religions, cannot be monopolized by one of them. Even Hamas should accept this solution.


Thursday, 17 June 2010


In spite of a severe worldwide recession, military spending surged in 2009 and is now 49% higher than in 2000 as 153 countries spent $1,531,000,000 000. The US leads this insane race spending $661 billion or 43% of the world total. China is next but well back spending $100 billion followed by France, the UK, and Russia spending $64, $58, and $53 billion. Canada is #13, spending $19 billion while Israel #16 spent $12 billion, double #24 Iran’s $6 billion. All this against no credible threat except for North Korea and a bunch of jihadists who can do us harm on the cheap. It succeeds in taking the “sapiens” out of Homo sapiens and it does hasten our death wish to follow the dinosaurs into extinction. There are still 7,500 nuclear warheads in 8 countries, 2,000 of them on instant alert. It seems we lack the intelligence to divert this spending into curbing unsustainable population growth, affordable health and legal care, global warming, education, closing the rich-poor gap, enhancing green energy, curing addictions to finite resources, drugs, guns, money, and the like. To our credit there were 54 UN Peacekeeping operations in 2009 that cost $9.1 billion.

How come that all those who decry our horrendous and fatal debts are mute about decreasing unnecessary and wasteful military spending with its inflated ranks and far too much brass? Corporals and sergeants are quite capable of doing what is now reserved for higher officer ranks. Against whom do we need 11 carrier groups or over 1200 F-35s?


Devoid of compassion in an ever-changing universe, Evolution has plunged ahead on a trial-and-error basis with immense cruelty and waste. It is the most guilty of all for war crimes, but is has produced a creature that is beginning to understand it and to fight back. We humans now know that galaxies are fuelled by massive Black Holes but that, ever since the Big Bang, the frightening eat-or-be eaten principle persists to the detriment of both the eaters and the eaten but, without which, we would not exist. We now know that big galaxies eat smaller galaxies, that Andromeda, is racing towards us at 700,000 mph and is only 2 million light years away, to engage our Milky Way in a dance of death - and rebirth as Hinduism predicts? You do the math and tell me how much time to I have for more blogs and newsletters (186,000 x 60 x 60 x 24, x 365 x 2,000,000 ÷ 700,000).

All living things, that we know of, have short, finite lives that are made possible only by the daily killing and eating of other living life forms. But, you may ask, what about the more peaceful plant kingdom? It has learned to convert inorganic material into organic without the need to eat other species. Alas, even here there is warfare. Plants fight for territory. Some secrete poisons to kill off rivals. Succession is a well-known phenomenon where, over time, one species succeeds another in the same plot of land. Change is the only thing that has any permanence. And yet, a warm glimmer of hope has been seeded. Some of us have introduced ethics, and have started a long, slow process of directing a more humane, if still brief, existence for all life forms.

Hopefully soon, we will be able to take a glass of water, a lump of coal, and a handful of soil and convert them into nourishing foods to retire our need to prey on other species. Then, we can turn our attention to taming the universe. A hopeless dream? . . . . . . . . Perhaps - if we fail to accept the challenge!


We flawed humans have always had enemies, some real, some manufactured (as Eisenhower argued) to suit our questionable motives. Diverting us from a series of less-than-successful policies, it seems that we are grooming Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Enemy #2 after #1 from North Korea, not only because we choke on his name, but the indisputable fact that he may, within the next decade, build a nuclear bomb to threaten the 31,000 nuclear warheads that surround him in bunkers in peaceful farmlands, on a score of peace-seeking aircraft carriers, on 26 sleek submarines, and in aircraft fleets, all manned by the flower of our youth who have enlisted not as a bunch of religious fanatics bent on jihad - Heavens NO! - but in the noble quest of university degrees and in appreciation of the generous pay and perks.

Mahmoud claims he loves us. Why not? We do have lots of lovable people. Yes, we also have many not-so-lovable. We have, just in the US alone, over two million in jails. We have 6 million illicit drug users in the USA, 720,000 in China, 1 million in Afghanistan, and even 186,000 in Kazakhstan. Instead of curing their addictions, we persecute growers, dealers, and users of the stuff. During the last election in the USA, private prison companies donated $3.3 million to politicians who would fill their jails with addicts. We have many thousands more who prey on the elderly and naive. Then there are those of us who delight in fouling up computers with viruses, or steal identities. Can Mahmoud be a real lover for all of us - or is he just another enemy we manufacture to suit our purposes?

Actually, Mahmoud, with a PhD in transportation, is a veteran of the 1980-88 war that fought invading Iraq to a stalemate. Iraq, with 98% of its arms supplied by the USSR, France, China, Brazil, Egypt, and the USA, invaded Iran inflicting 1 million casualties, 100,000 of them by chemical weapons built in Iraq from materials and technology supplied by the US, UK, Germany, France, and China and sprayed by US-made Bell helicopters. Iran also suffered $350 billion in damages including much to its oil industry that still lingers.

Area problems can be traced back to King Enmebaragesi of Kish who thought military force was a great idea. He conquered Elam in 2650 BC. Elam got even in 2004 BC by sacking Ur. What we call Iraq was part of the Persian Empire until the Ottoman Turks intruded in 1638 and some 18 treaties ensued to delineate Iraq’s borders, the current one drawn by the British in 1920. In 1959, Abd al-Karîm Qâsim, who had seized control of Iraq, declared that the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan was rightfully part of Iraq. In 1971, when the British withdrew, Iraq took over and expelled 70,000 Iranians from 3 islands in the Persian Gulf. Iran retaliated by supporting Kurdish unrest. In 1975 Kissinger sanctioned Persia’s (Iran’s) Shah Pahlavi’s attack on Iraq over the waterway at the head of the Gulf. With the death of Nasser in Egypt and the rise of the Ba’ath Party in Iraq, Iraq coveted the role of leader of the Arab world.

With Iran weakened by the fall of the Shah and the return of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (whom the Shah had exiled to Iraq and whom Iraq expelled to France), Saddam Hussein believed the Sunni of Iran would welcome his invasion to free them from the Shias. Besides, his 4,500 tanks and 7,330 artillery pieces would overwhelm Iran’s 1,000 tanks and 3,000 artillery pieces, not to mention his aircraft superiority. Iran’s arms were mainly US, left over from the Shah’s reign.

Iraq did not use biological weapons even though the US had made 70 shipments of these weapons over a 3-year period to Iraq. Both sides attacked neutral oil tankers, damaging 546 and killing 430 sailors. An Iraqi aircraft attacked the USS Stark killing 37 and wounding 21. However the US was backing Iraq at this time, so down-played the incident, and in 1987 the US attacked Iranian oil platforms. When the USS Samuel B. Roberts was damaged by an Iranian mine, the US sank 2 Iranian ships, and in 1988 shot down, from inside Iranian waters, an Iranian commercial aircraft with the loss of 290 passengers and crew. Eventually the US paid compensation. Compounding the scene was the US-approved sale by Israel to Iran of $1 billion in weaponry. POWs were not exchanged until 10 years after the war.

Mahmoud has many problems. Afghan drug runners have killed 3,000 Iranian police. The oil industry, worth $50 billion a year, is deteriorating with ageing infrastructure. Nuclear energy is a safeguard for the future. Mahmoud has helped the poor, but moderates pose a threat to his apparent hard line towards the West and Israel. Although India, Pakistan, and Israel have broken their pledge not to join the non-proliferation club, we shudder at the thoughts that Iran may copy them. To impose sanctions and to threaten aerial attacks on nuclear sites will only unite all Iranians against us.

Napoleon advised: ”Never interfere with an enemy while he is in the process of destroying himself.” But, is Mahmoud an enemy? His stealing of an election and persecution of peaceful demonstrators is infuriating, but he did write us a long letter indicating how we could co-operate, but we lacked the courage and courtesy to reply, so just ignored it. He then continued the nice-guy approach by granting pleasant interviews to Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes and to Charlie Rose on PBS. His show of tolerance revealed his Zoroastrian roots. Of all the conquerors in the Middle East the Persians were the most tolerant of other cultures. Persians freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity, But, Mahmoud shows little tolerance towards Israel as he claims Israel shows no tolerance towards Palestinians.

Big sticks only provoke a multitude of little sticks to unite to combat them as Mussolini believed and misused.

Humans, a flawed species, but with recurring promises of greatness, need sufficient weapons of deterrence, but overdoing it, as we have, simply spurs others to follow suit and to bankrupt ourselves. Someday, soon, we must divert military expenditures to the onerous and widespread task of correcting our misbehaviour. Can we not see we are very close to losing our planet - at the moment our only home? We must accept Mahmoud’s offer of dialogue, but include all members of that volatile region of our planet!

Sunday, 6 June 2010


It all started when, as a happy schoolboy, I was hurt and disillusioned on discovering there was no Santa Claus. I began to question other things my parents, church, and school had told me. My parents encouraged me to read books and newspapers, and were among the first to get a radio that brought news into the house. Among others, they would listen to Father Coughlin but his strident attacks, especially on the British Empire, left me highly critical. I bought many 5¢ Boy's magazines that arrived faithfully on time every week via sea mail from London, UK, filled with stories from all parts of the world that gave me a child-like faith in the British Empire but, as I talked to many Boer War and WWI veterans, I began to realize that even it had flaws. From these magazine I got the names and addresses of pen pals and was soon corresponding with girls and boys in the Gold Coast (Ghana), South Africa. Germany, the UK, and Malaysia. I soon learned that there were many ways of looking at the same situation, but only the Malaysian survived WWII to re-establish our correspondence.

Until age 11, I was fascinated by things military. In Toronto there were many parades of soldiers in smart uniforms with flashing bayonets and good marching bands. I took pride in the many stories of Canadian victories in WWI which led me to talk to veterans of the Boer War and WWI , including 2 uncles, who gave me a disturbing insight into the true nature of wars. That, and watching boys cruelly killing a skunk and shooting crows and squirrels made me a pacifist. We then moved to Port Hope a town of under 5,000 people where everyone knew everyone else. It amazed me that there were so many Churches of different slants on the Christian religion and then there were my Jewish and Islamic friends. As teenagers we would discuss religion but it was never a barrier.

I began collecting newspaper clippings and amassing books. Today I have 2,300, not counting stacks of magazines I hate to throw out.

During WWII the cosmopolitan nature of Allied Forces and especially my POW camps revealed good, bad, and indifferent people in every group, friend or foe, and emphasized the fact that the majority simply longed to live out lives in harmony with their neighbours.

Following retirement in 1966 from the RCAF at age 47 I toiled for a degree in history from the University of Colorado, a branch of which was starting in Colorado Springs where NORAD was my final RCAF transfer.

We had small classes and good professors, but two of them were strongly opposed to US foreign policy. They were right in many instances but one went, I thought, much too far, and I found myself, as the only Canadian in the class, the only one who continued to argue with him in favour of the US. Friends told me to shut up and go along or my grades would suffer. They did but only in his class.

As I now lack the energy and money to travel the world I rely on the 23 magazines to which I subscribe and a wide variety of books that are so prolific in espousing different points of view, making it most difficult to extract only the truth, so this scribe, like everyone else, is far from infallible. Yet, having shed blood in a horrible war I felt had to be fought, I remain convinced it is my responsibility to strive for a peaceful world that is fair to all who are thrust into it. I do not expect you all to agree with all of my interpretations but, if I manage to keep you thinking and questioning and retaining a respect for all living things, then I have served my purpose. I do regret, however, that so few of you, armed with facts, debate my views. The bravest thing a person can do is to think. The majority of you out there remain silent. A few of my far-right friends have engaged me in verbal battle which I enjoy as it does not transcend our friendships. My views have evolved over the years and I hope theirs will too. A million years from now will anyone care?
Ye Olde Scribe,