To understand Iran’s real stance toward the issue of the Holocaust, it is worth reviewing President Mahmoud Ahmadienjad’s remarks.
In an interview with NBC NEWS’s Brian Williams on Sept 19, 2006, Ahmadinejad raised three questions about the Holocaust:
1) In the Second World War, over 60 million people (at least 50 million civilians) lost their lives. They were all human beings. Why is it that only a select group of those who were killed have become so prominent and important?
2) If this event (Holocaust) happened, and if it is a historical event, then we should allow everyone to research it and study it. The more research and studies are done, the more we can become aware of the realities that happened. We still leave open to further studies absolute knowledge of science or math. Historical events are always subject to revisions, and reviews and studies…Why is it that those who ask questions are persecuted? Why is every word so sensitivity or such prohibition on further studies on the subject? Where as we can openly question God, the prophet, concepts such as freedom and democracy?
3) If this happened, where did it happen? Did the Palestinian people have anything to do with it? Why should the Palestinians pay for it now? Five million displaced Palestinian people is what I’m talking about. Over 60 years of living under threat. Losing the lives of thousands of dear ones. And homes that are destroyed on a daily basis over people’s heads. You might argue that the Jews have the right to have a government. We’re not against that. But where? At a place where their people were — several people will vote for them, and where they can govern. Not at the cost of displacing a whole nation. And occupying the whole territory.
The Israeli – Palestinian confrontation is one of the longest lasting world crises in recent times and many believe an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would also be the key to solving the other issues and conflicts in the region.
As Iran’s President has frequently asserted, if the Holocaust happened in Europe, what is the fault of the Palestinian people? The Palestinian people’s lives are being destroyed today in the pretext of the Holocaust. Lands have been occupied, usurped. But what is their fault? What role did they play in the Holocaust?
“Well, assuming that the Holocaust happened, then, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?”
So, What Are Iran doubts?
Let’s review some major points Iran has raised about the Holocaust:
1. The evidence of the honoured history of each nation is always open to study; you have never heard of a ban on studying war crimes; for instance Iran has always presented evidence and proof to the world of what Iraq did to Iran’s people, as most countries do; but the Holocaust is the only part of history, which is kept out of questioning!
2. Let’s consider that the Holocaust is true, and as they say, “six million Jews during World War II, were murdered by Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, throughout German-occupied territory.” Still we need to ask: Why Palestinians should pay the price?
Though the solution to this dispute is not very complicated! (Churchill once said: “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.”) Iran suggests that the Holocaust events should be further investigated by independent and impartial parties;
Iran is against using the Holocaust to justify the behaviour of Israel in the region, and this is a merely a political and humanitarian argument, nothing to do with Jews and cannot be interpreted as anti – Semitic.
Jews, like other minorities are living peacefully in Iran. Jews are protected in the Iranian constitution and a seat is reserved for a Jew in the Majlis (Iran’s Parliament). Iran hosts the largest Jewish population of any Muslim-majority country. And it is home to the second-largest Jewish population in the Middle East.
We are witnessing the slow-motion collapse of the second Anglo-Saxon imperium in less than a hundred years. There was something called Pax Britannica under the reign of Queen Victoria, a truly amazing transcontinental empire without peer in world history. That era was England’s apogee. Then, after the Queen’s diamond jubilee in June 1897, England’s prospects darkened, at first imperceptibly.
In the immediate aftermath of those two stupendous British Empire wars of the 20th Century–now known as World War I and World War II–both conveniently blamed on Germany, everything came crashing down. In short order, England was reduced to a zero, thanks to the venality, hubris and fatheadedness of its “elites”. The torch was grabbed by the second Anglo-Saxon power, in the person of our great white father, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his gang of dedicated Reds and starry-eyed Anglophiles.
The upshot was apparent at the Bretton Woods conference in New Hampshire in July 1944. It was here that the victors of the second blood bath decided what the spoils were going to be. England, under the leadership of that unbalanced mountebank, Winston Churchill, was only a nominal victor. The true victors were Washington and world communism.
The former held all the cards outside the communist world, since old Europe and Japan had been left in shambles and partly incinerated. And the once great British Empire of palm and pine was now truly bankrupt, thanks to Churchill and the warmongering machinations of Lloyd George and Sir Edward Grey, among other misguided statesmen, before him.
Benn Steil, director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, is cited in a New York Times article of October 26th, 2012, as suggesting that readers of the recently-uncovered transcripts of the Bretton Woods Conference would discover the British Empire disintegrating before their eyes.
The same Benn Steil has now written a book, The Battle of Bretton Woods. Tony Barber, the esteemed European editor of the Financial Times, reviewed it in the FT weekend edition of February 9th/10th, 2013. Barber remarks that “… Benn Steil explains how two world wars in 31 years bled Britain dry, leaving it with minimal influence over the new international economic and monetary order established by US policymakers in the mid-1940′s.”
The gentleman representing the US at Bretton Woods was Soviet master spy, Harry Dexter White, the son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. Representing Britain was the celebrity economist, John Maynard Keynes. Alas, the urbane Englishman was reduced to “… the status of an articulate annoyance.” Keynes had warned the Foreign Office not to let the US “… exploit the war as an opportunity for picking the eyes out of the British Empire.” But at that point, what choice did John Bull have? None. The Great Game was over.
In the same article, Barber goes on to review another book on a related topic. “In The Leaderless Economy, Peter Temin and David Vines extend the story that Steil concludes at Bretton Woods, charting the decline and fall of the US-dominated international order that it inaugurated. They contend that the world has not recovered from the banking crisis that erupted in 2008 largely because, unlike in the 1940s, no nation is powerful enough to guide the global economy towards prosperity.”
Barber quotes the authors, Professors Temin and Vines: “Like Britain roughly a century earlier, America has become part of the problem, not the solution.” It is unclear what exactly is being referenced here. The folly related to England’s participation in the Great War of August 1914, the disgraceful Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and its reparations regime, the inability of England to cope with the Great Depression of the 1930s, or British insolvency at the end of the Second World War? Let’s say all three. For my money, the key to everything right down to the present moment remains the Great War.
Does the average American realize that he and she are being bled dry by their own “elites” who suffer from a similar myopia and arrogance as the blockheads in Whitehall who gratuitously catapulted England into two world wars? Of course not. How could they? It is being kept under wraps. Those whose interests are being advanced directly and indirectly by current circumstances do not want the music to stop. Why should they blow the whistle on themselves? Instead, they go with the flow. Everyone in Washington follows the line of least resistance.
Remember the “Peace Dividend”? That was supposed to be America’s reward for winning the Cold War in 1990/1991. Resources would be freed up to use on the home front. But something happened to derail the dividend. What was it? Oh, yes. Saddam Hussein invaded the city-state of Kuwait on August 2nd, 1990. Saddam had misinterpreted the mixed signals sent from his then-ally, America. Washington had abetted Iraq’s war on Iran for nearly a decade. With Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait, Washington was off to the races again. A full-blown crusade was the result.
In the process, half a million Iraqi children were left dead due to the economic embargo imposed by Bush I and Bill Clinton. In the process, America got hit with the atrocity of 9/11. In the process, a disarmed Iraq was targeted for “shock and awe” and overrun as part of the Global War on Terror. GWOT was the private agenda war masterminded by the Neocons for Dick Cheney & Bush II. That private agenda war continues unabated under Barack Obama, who is considered to be some sort of “progressive”.
Concurrently, Afghanistan/Pakistan became a battleground and a hotbed of terrorism. It remains a quagmire for American and NATO troops. Meanwhile, as if more problems were needed, Washington policymakers loudly and shamelessly repeat the false accusation that Iran is running a nuclear weapons program.
G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack Obama knew that accusation was false. Their own intelligence community told them so in writing. Ditto Seymour Hersh in the pages of The New Yorker. No matter. The establishment media does not bark. The campaign against Iran is a rerun of Iraq.
Finally, just the other day somewhere in Palestine, Obama fulsomely embraced Theodor Herzl and his acolytes, thereby rationalizing and condoning the wholesale dispossession of Palestinians forever. Who noticed? It was the line of least resistance as well as Obama’s ticket to the greatest personal reward. No surprise.
America is at war, all right. Yet another unnecessary war of choice. We are being bled dry like England before us. Chalk up a second global Anglo-Saxon ascendancy thrown away and destroyed thanks to the chicanery of foolish men.
Foreign policy observers have long known that Hollywood reflects and promotes U.S. policies (in turn, is determined by Israel and its supporters). This fact was made public when Michelle Obama announced an Oscar win for Argo – a highly propagandist, anti-Iran film. Amidst the glitter and excitement, Hollywood and White House reveal their pact and send out their message in time for the upcoming talks surrounding Iran’s nuclear program due to be held tomorrow – February 26th.
Hollywood has a long history of promoting US policies. In 1917, when the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information (CPI) enlisted the aid of America’s film industry to make training films and features supporting the ‘cause’. George Creel, Chairman of the CPI believed that the movies had a role in “carrying the gospel of Americanism to every corner of the globe.”
The pact grew stronger during World War II, when, as historian Thomas Doherty writes, “[T]he liaison between Hollywood and Washington was a distinctly American and democratic arrangement, a mesh of public policy and private initiative, state need and business enterprise.” Hollywood’s contribution was to provide propaganda. After the war, Washington reciprocated by using subsidies, special provisions in the Marshall Plan, and general clout to pry open resistant European film markets.1
Hollywood has often borrowed its story ideas from the U.S. foreign policy agenda, at times reinforcing them. One of the film industry’s blockbuster film loans in the last two decades has been modern international terrorism. Hollywood rarely touched the topic of terrorism in the late 1960s and 1970s when the phenomenon was not high on the U.S. foreign policy agenda, in news headlines or in the American public consciousness. In the 1980s, in the footsteps of the Reagan administration’s policies, the commercial film industry brought ‘terrorist’ villains to the big screen (following the US Embassy takeover in Tehran – topic of Argo) making terrorism a blockbuster film product in the 1990s.
Today, whether Hollywood follows US policy or whether it sets it, is up for discussion. But it is abundantly clear that Hollywood is dominated by Israelis and their supporters who previously concealed their identity. According to a 2012 Haaretz article:
From the 1930s until the mid-1950s, Hanukkah never appeared on screen. This was because the Jewish studio heads preferred to hide their ethnic and religious heritage in attempting to widen the appeal of their products [emphasis added]. Jews were thus typically portrayed as participants in an American civil religion, whose members may attend the synagogue of their choice, but are not otherwise marked by great differences of appearance, speech, custom, or behaviour from the vast majority of American.
This is no longer the case.
In sharp contrast to its past, Hollywood “celebrated” Israel’s 60th “birthday” [occupation] with a Gala called “From Vision to Reality”. Israeli TV blog wrote of the Gala: ‘Don’t Worry Israel, Hollywood is behind you’. Actor Jon Voight said: “World playing a dangerous game by going against Israel”.
Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, was a longtime weapons dealer and Israeli intelligence agent who purchased equipment for Israel’s nuclear program (the book, Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan, written by Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman, recounts Milchan’s life story, his friendships with Israeli prime ministers, U.S. presidents and Hollywood stars).
It is important to understand Hollywood not only in the context of a multi-billion dollar industry, but the propaganda aspect of it and as one of the most powerful and universal methods of spreading ideas through visual propaganda. “Propaganda is defined as a certain type of messaging that serves a particular purpose of spreading or implanting a particular culture, philosophy, point of view or even a particular slogan”. With this capability, Hollywood owns the world of ideas on a scale too large and too dangerous to ignore – see this excellent example by Gilad Atzmon – Hollywood and the Past.
History is commonly regarded as an attempt to produce a structured account of the past. It proclaims to tell us what really happened, but in most cases it fails to do that. Instead it is set to conceal our shame, to hide those various elements, events, incidents and occurrences in our past which we cannot cope with. History, therefore, can be regarded as a system of concealment. Accordingly, the role of the true historian is similar to that of the psychoanalyst: both aim to unveil the repressed. For the psychoanalyst, it is the unconscious mind. For the historian, it is our collective shame.
As Hollywood and the White House eagerly embrace “Argo” and its propagandist message, they shamelessly and deliberately conceal a crucial aspect of this “historical” event. The glitter buries the all too important fact that the Iranian students who took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, proceeded to reveal Israel’s dark secret to the world. Documents classified as “SECRET” revealed LAKAM’s activities. Initiated in 1960, LAKAM was an Israeli network assigned to economic espionage in the U.S. assigned to “the collection of scientific intelligence in the U.S. for Israel’s defense industry.2
As it stands, the purpose of the movie and its backers was to push the extraordinary revelations to the background while sending a visual message to the unsuspecting audience – to lay the blame of the potential (and likely) failure of the upcoming negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program on the Iranians — the gun-wielding, bearded Iranians of Argo who deserve America’s collective punishment and the crippling, deathly sanctions.
- Martha Bayles, Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2005
- U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Israel: Foreign Intelligence and Security Services, Washington, D.C., March 1979, p. 9 (typescript). The report classified SECRET, was released to the world by Iranian students who occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. Cited by Duncan L. Clarke, “Israel’s Economic Espionage in the United States” (1998).
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is a Public Diplomacy Scholar, independent researcher, and blogger with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and the role of lobby groups.
The Antidote to ‘War on Terror’ & ‘Arab Spring’ Doublespeak: The 2013 Compact Doublespeak Dictionary!
“In a time of universal deceit, making an Orwellian Doublespeak dictionary is a revolutionary act.” – Martin Iqwell
Have you ever read the newspaper only to find yourself hopelessly confused as to the real underlying meanings of the deceitful, duplicitous lexicon in use in this ‘Arab Spring’, ‘War on Terror’ age? Fret no more, the first edition of the 2013 Compact Orwellian Doublespeak Dictionary is here! Read on to decipher the true meanings beneath the fraudulent war-on-terror-humanitarian-intervention-arab-spring terminology used by all of today’s paid liars. Take back your language!
al-Qaeda noun 1 collective name for guerrilla fighters armed, funded, and supported by Western/Zionist intelligence agencies, and conveniently airlifted to any location on the planet where a ‘terror threat’ pretext is required by avaricious colonial powers. 2 derogatory label attached to any (usually dead) person resisting the bloodthirsty Western-Zionist war machine. 3 spectre used dishonestly to intimidate citizens into believing the myth that a global, integrated and centrally-commanded anti-West Islamic terror organisation exists.
SEE ALSO apparition, ghost, myth, bogeyman.
NOTE for Zionist/Neoconservative power brokers’ rhetorical purposes, definition changes depending on geographical region. i.e. Within Libya and Syria, al-Qaeda good; within Afghanistan or Mali, al-Qaeda bad.
anti-Semitism noun 1 hostility to, or prejudice against Jews. 2 trick used by Zionist and Neoconservative power brokers to: silence all legitimate criticism of Jewish supremacism and the criminal usurping Zionist entity (see Israel), and prevent any honest appraisal of the events of World War II.
Arab Spring noun multi-regional counterrevolution affecting several Arab nations, allowing colonial powers and the Zionist entity (see Israel) to roll back all sovereign Arab countries to a state of neo-colonial, neoliberal and Zionist subservience. Successfully sold to liberal ‘anti-war’ idiots in shiny revolution packaging.
SEE ALSO Arab Sting, Arab Sham, Sykes-Picot part II.
Ashkenazi /ash-kuh-nah-zi/ noun (pl. Ashkenazim /ash-kuh-nah-zim/) a Jew of central or eastern European descent. Constantly kvetches about anti-Semitism despite not actually being of Semitic extraction. White settlers masquerading as Palestinian natives (see Israel).
SEE ALSO Khazarian.
conspiracy theory noun 1 a theory stating that two or more persons have secretly plotted together to do something usually unlawful or harmful. 2 (chiefly N. American and Zionist) a derogatory label used to end discussion, stifle critical thought, and stigmatise genuine, rational truth seekers.
SEE ALSO 9/11.
Hollywood noun the centre of the American film industry located in Los Angeles, California. Multi-billion dollar brainwashing tool used to ensure that a consumerist, materialistic, empty, servile, and anti-Islamic world view is espoused by audiences. Owned and operated by the Ashkenazim. Instrumental to the War on Terror.
insurgent /in-ser-juhnt/ noun 1 a person who rises in forcible opposition to lawful authority. 2 (esp. in Iraq & Afghanistan) a person (usually a peasant or farmer) who takes up arms to protect his/her sovereign homeland from foreign occupiers, and thus rises in forcible opposition to unlawful authority.
Israel /iz-rayel/ noun modern expansionist settler state existing fraudulently on the lands of Historic Palestine. Established by non-Semitic foreign interlopers falsely claiming Palestinian roots but actually hailing from Europe and Russia. Subsists on false flag terrorism, lies, blood, and hatred.
SEE ALSO cancer, terrorism, racial supremacy.
Israeli /iz-ray-li/ noun an oftentimes armed foreign person residing in Palestine as part of the Zionist project. Settler masquerading as a citizen of Historic Palestine. Routinely steals land and belongings of others; incapable of living in peace with any gentile.
SEE ALSO settler, occupier, terrorist, thief, supremacist.
rebel noun 1 a person who fights against or refuses to obey an established government or ruler. 2 (esp. Libya and Syria) any brainwashed sectarian extremist who fights at the behest of Western powers against secular, popular Arab leaders.
SEE ALSO al-Qaeda, terrorist, decapitation fetishist.
revolution noun foreign-instigated armed counterrevolution waged by sectarian extremist Salafi fighters and terrorists allied to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other such reactionary, backwards forces. Involves the wholesale slaughter of indigenous resistance fighters and the fire sale of all national resources to greedy multinational corporations.
SEE ALSO Arab Spring, Libya, Syria.
stability noun (chiefly N. American) see subservience.
security noun (chiefly N. American) see subservience.
terrorist noun 1 any person who uses violence or intimidation in the attempt to achieve political aims. 2 (chiefly Zionist) any person (usually a peasant or farmer, but always a Muslim) who takes up arms to protect his/her sovereign homeland from foreign occupiers.
War on Terror noun (chiefly Zionist) worldwide scramble for energy resources and the dissolution of all sovereign Muslim lands, waged by the colonial powers of the USA, Britain, France, and Israel. Unable to flourish without Hollywood and 9/11.
SEE ALSO fraud, myth, lie.
9/11 /nayn-i-lev-uhn/ noun 1 (chiefly Zionist) September 11, 2001: the day on which members of al-Qaeda attacked the United States of America by hijacking commercial airliners and crashing them into various targets (see: Hollywood). 2 September 11, 2001: the day on which the Israeli and North American intelligence services orchestrated a false flag terror attack intended to implicate Islam as a belligerent, anti-Western force, thus justifying astronomical military budget increases and the mobilisation of the US Army on behalf of the usurping Zionist entity (see Israel) in pursuit of the War on Terror.
SEE ALSO fraud, myth, lie.
The US has long held in its possession verified documentation proving the 1940 Katyn forest massacre of several thousand Polish POWs was committed by the Soviet Union. Why did Washington conceal it: to cover-up for its wartime ally Josef Stalin.
The Associated Press has seen newly declassified documents illuminating the Katyn Massacre, which are being released and put online by the US National Archives on Monday.
Among the 1,000 papers include encrypted messages from American Prisoners Of War (POWs) kept in German captivity during the World War II.
Capt. Donald B. Stewart and Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet Jr. were among a group of American and British POWs taken to witness a grisly 1943 scene at a “clearing surrounded by pine trees: mass graves tightly packed with thousands of partly mummified corpses in well-tailored Polish officers uniform.”
Judging by “the corpses’ advanced state of decay,” the US officers said the killings took place much earlier in the war – presumably before the Soviets lost control of the territory in 1941.
They also saw Polish letters, diaries, identification tags, news clippings and other objects — none dating later than the spring of 1940 — pulled from the graves. The most damning evidence indicating the time of the tragedy and the country responsible for it was the relatively good state of the men’s boots and clothing: the state of the men’s uniforms showed that had not likely lived long after being captured.
The released papers now prove that the US officers informed their country of the concealed murder scene and the evidences some months after their 1943 visit.
The MIS-X military intelligence unit tasked with coordinating ultra-secret communications and intelligence gathering missions with POWs sent a coded request to Van Vliet asking him “to state his opinion of Katyn.” The papers state “it is also understood Col. Van Vliet & Capt. Stewart replied.”
The historians who spoke with the Associated Press called it “the most dramatic revelation” as it shows that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his administration were getting information early on from credible US sources illustrating it was the Soviet Union behind the massacre.
The finding further supports suspicion that regardless of the verified knowledge, Roosevelt chose not to make it public and wrangle with Josef Stalin, an ally whom the Americans were counting on to defeat Germany and Japan during World War II.
The records also contain other illuminating evidence. One of the most important messages that landed on Roosevelt’s desk was an extensive and detailed report from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Written by the British ambassador to the Polish government-in-exile in London, Owen O’Malley, the document pointed to Soviet complicity in the Katyn massacre.
“There is now available a good deal of negative evidence,” AP quotes O’Malley as writing, “the cumulative effect of which is to throw serious doubt on Russian disclaimers of responsibility for the massacre.”
In the early years after the war, a special US Congressional committee was set up to investigate Katyn. In a final report released in 1952, it declared there was no doubt of Soviet guilt. It found that Roosevelt’s administration “suppressed public knowledge of the crime, but said it was out of military necessity.” It also recommended the government bring charges against the Soviet Union at an international tribunal.
Despite the conclusions, the White House maintained its silence on Katyn.
Moscow however has always denied it involvement in the Katyn shooting, claiming that Nazis staged the killing in 1941 after taking control of the area.
The issue was a sore spot between Russia and Poland until Soviet responsibility and the subsequent cover-up were officially acknowledged and condemned in 1990.Moscow then officially apologized for the tragedy.
An investigation conducted by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation was able to confirm the deaths of Polish citizens, blaming Stalin and other Soviet officials for having personally ordered the massacre.
In 2010 the Russian side began to release documents related to the Katyn mass execution to the Polish authorities.
The declassified documents also show the United States maintained that it could not conclusively determine guilt until Russia’s admission in 1990.
Historians say the new material helps “to flesh out the story of what the US knew and when.”
The downing of a Turkish jet by the Syrian military last week was not merely a military incident making the possibility of an intervention and regional war much more likely. This episode was the most recent in a long and storied history of “international incidents” or provocations used by imperial powers as pretexts for military aggression. Without such incidents, the forces of imperialism are seen as nothing more than aggressors, out to destroy weaker nations in their own interests. However, with the necessary justifications that such episodes provide, those same powers can portray their wars as justified, necessary, and wholly righteous.
This event last week was only the latest in a series of provocations specifically designed to justify a military intervention. However, as the façade of the Houla “massacre”, the use of children as human shields, and the countless other lies propagated by the Western media have been debunked or otherwise exposed, the Western imperialist ruling class looks for a new incident to legitimize their plan for total war on Syria.
Just the Facts
On June 21st, a Turkish jet was shot down by Syrian military forces. Initially, the Western media rushed to portray this incident as a blatantly aggressive action by Assad and his military, hoping to play off their many months of propagandizing the public into believing Assad to be the devil incarnate. Vigorous condemnations were heard from all corners of the Western ruling establishment, as the world seemed to move closer to another so-called intervention. However, as the episode unfolded, the media had to backtrack and, as usual, reversed their initial story without a fraction of the fanfare that the initial lie had. They had to admit publicly that, in fact, the Turkish jet had violated Syrian airspace and so, according to international law, Syria was well within their rights to shoot it down. This fact gets lost in the narrative however, as the world looks to NATO, the military arm of US power projection around the world, to “act decisively”.
This episode is merely the latest attempt by the imperialist establishment to drum up support for some form of military intervention by portraying the Assad regime as bloodthirsty monsters. Last month, we saw the world recoil in horror at the brutality of what came to be known as the Houla “massacre”. However, as the United States, France, and the other Western powers attempted to spin the event as a brutal example of why they must wage war on Syria, the truth came out that, in fact, the victims of the massacre were not killed by government shelling, but by close range execution attributable to the NATO-sponsored death squads unleashed on the people of Syria.
Like the Houla massacre, the outrageous claim that the Syrian military was using children as human shields was designed to play on the emotions of the international community in hopes of eliciting a swift response and creating a climate conducive to war. Naturally, no evidence exists to back up this claim other than a dubious UN report based on so-called “activists” and “eyewitnesses”. The Western propagandists are less interested in being able to support these claims than simply making them and implanting them into the public consciousness.
The Historical Precedent
These sorts of manufactured provocations are nothing new. There is a rich historical record of such incidents being manipulated, distorted, or entirely fabricated in order to create a pretext for war. One of the most famous examples of what has come to be known as the “false flag” phenomenon is the Gleiwitz incident. Nazi operatives dressed as Polish soldiers attacked a German radio station and then claimed that this was the work of Polish saboteurs. The Nazis even went so far as to import bodies and stage an entire scene which could then be offered up to the press as “evidence” of the assault. Naturally, the incident was used as the direct pretext for the Nazi invasion of Poland and the official start of World War II.
A similar international false flag event, today known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, led to the official start of the Vietnam War. The claim was that the North Vietnamese had deliberately fired on two separate US naval vessels and that this, as an act of war, justified the US officially entering the war. Of course, these incidents have since been totally debunked by declassified documents that show, even at the time, lawmakers were skeptical of the claims. However, this episode illustrates the power of manufactured provocations to shape the course of foreign policy and the waging of war.
Perhaps no so-called “international incident” demonstrates more plainly the power of the media to influence public opinion and provide the necessary pretext for war than the sinking of the USS Maine. This event, which was manufactured by William Randolph Hearst and the US establishment in order to justify imperial aggression against Cuba, demonstrates the role of the media in making the case for war. In the lead-up to the sinking of the Maine, Hearst’s and other papers published wild stories of Spanish atrocities all throughout Cuba, the sorts of atrocities that required intervention. Naturally, the Maine incident provided the cover and the US entered into what came to be known as the Spanish-American War. More importantly, however, today’s observers should note that this moment in history is perhaps the official beginning of US imperialism (treatment of the indigenous Native population on the continent notwithstanding).
What To Do?
What makes this issue of false flag events and “international incidents” relevant is the fact that the imperialist ruling class will manufacture as many of these sorts of episodes as is necessary for their wars. Because of this, it is incumbent on the forces standing in opposition to such aggression to uphold the principles of international law and justice. Syria was well within their rights to shoot down a foreign jet operating within their airspace, just as the US military would be within its rights to shoot down a Mexican warplane within US airspace.
However, this episode is far larger than simply international law. Indeed, it strikes at the heart of the concept of the nation-state. It demonstrates first, the power of the nation, with its leaders, citizens, and institutions to resist the forces of imperialism. Conversely, it shows the existential need of the imperialist ruling class to destroy strong, independent nations that refuse to be enslaved by the forces of finance capital and imperial economic domination. Syria is the frontline of the struggle against these forces, and those who believe themselves to be anti-imperialists must unite to denounce provocations, pretexts, and legitimizations manufactured by the imperialist ruling class and preempt all their attempts to drive the world ever closer to total war.
- Syrian government denies involvement in Houla massacre (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The almost unknown subject of False Flag events is slowly creeping into people’s conscious awareness; and about time too.
The term comes from a tactic that was commonly employed many centuries ago by all the navies of fledgling empires. Although these navies very occasionally engaged in heroic battles with each other in order to protect the citizens of their countries from invading hoards, as our history books suggest, the far more common use of mighty battleships was for theft. Sinking an enemy ship was never the intention of these engagements, and would have been seen as something of a failure. The purpose was to capture the ship, preferably undamaged, and steal anything and everything from the personal possessions of the crew to the very ship itself, which would then be recycled by the victors. After all, what could possibly be the point of sinking an expensive ship, laden to the gunnels with the riches of plundered foreign colonies, when its capture would serve exactly the same political purpose, as well as providing vast wealth?
The Royal Navy, for example, routinely operated a “prize” system right up until quite recent times; and although acts of piracy don’t form quite the same staple diet in the senior service as they used to do, prize legislation remains on British statute books to this day. Right up until the nineteenth century “prize courts” would routinely assess and divvy-up the wealth of ships that had been attacked and seized by the jolly Jack Tars. Some of the plunder was apportioned to the ship’s crew. Of course, it wasn’t an equal distribution of wealth, where the loblolly boy, say, received as much of a cut as the captain; nor was the cut in any way equal to the share gifted to the high and mighty Lords of the Admiralty, who weren’t required to do anything more dangerous for their cut than over-indulge themselves in London society. However, some small portion of the “prize” would find its way to even the lowliest cabin boy – the original “trickle-down” effect perhaps. In short, the routine day-job of the glorious Royal Navy was plunder. In fact, the only way the great sailors of Nelson’s day differed from common pirates was that the piracy of Nelson’s navy was simply deemed to be legal. It’s a similar principle to the one that’s alive and well to this day, and helping to keep investment bankers out of jail.
But even hardened cynics such as myself find it difficult not to admire the considerable skill that was often required for some of the encounters that took place between the mighty warships of Nelson’s day. In the days before modern communications these great behemoths, seventy metres long with a thousand souls on board, could only use the power of the wind to move around, so finding and engaging and defeating an enemy in thousands of square miles of empty ocean was no easy matter, and the seamanship required for these encounters was often truly amazing. Apart from some acts of genuine courage, with perhaps just a hint of insanity, these sailors also relied on a host of devious tricks and raw cunning to capture a “prize”. Apart from plenty of luck, you also needed a good brain to be an effective captain in Nelson’s day; and it’s hardly surprising, given hundreds of years of regular practice in the dark arts of subterfuge and deceit, that the roots of the British intelligence service were established in the Royal Navy.
One of the many tricks used in the days of sail was to make your ship appear friendly to the watchful telescopes of the prospective prize; and the easiest way to do this was to ensure the flags your ship were flying were not those of your own country but were either exactly the same as those of the prize, or the same as those of whichever country was friendly to the prize. This simple ruse would, of course, eventually be discovered as a trick; and, of course, every ship’s crew knew about the trick. However, it would invariably buy some invaluable time, making all the difference between success and failure, enabling the hunter to get close enough to his prey to capture him before the darkness of night might come to the hapless victim’s rescue.
This tactic is still very much alive and well, and survives in modern language usage as the “false flag” attack, to mean an attack by someone who isn’t quite who they seem to be. Variations of it include attacks perpetrated by people pretending to be enemies of the state. These attacks may be carried out by the state’s own armed forces, or by paid mercenaries, or by allies of the state. History is rich with evidence.
Take, for example, the infamous sinking of the Maine. In 1898, when the US was beginning to flex its expansionist muscles abroad, the battleship USS Maine was blown up in Havana harbour. Although there was no evidence to support it, the incident was blamed on Spain, who controlled Cuba at the time; and it had the desired effect of triggering the Spanish American war which eventually led to Spain’s eviction from the island and the installation of a US puppet regime – a model that would be successfully repeated time and again for many decades to come. Fifty-five years later something very similar happened again – this time without going to the extra expense of actually sinking any ships.
On August 4, 1964 the world was informed that another US warship, the USS Maddox, had come under sustained attack by North Vietnam. It was the event which directly led to ten years of total hell for tens of millions of people in South East Asia, and whose effects are still being felt to this day. Fifty years after the false flag event of the Maddox, declassified documents revealed that the US government was fully aware at the time that no such attack had taken place. But by then, of course, the false flag had long served its purpose.
Although the term “false flag” originated from these naval deceptions, false flag incidents have never been solely confined to the high seas. Armies have always used any number of devices to deceive their victims, and anyone who’s ever watched a Hollywood war movie is probably aware of it; for how many of these movies have included a scene where either the good guys or the bad guys dress up in the uniforms of their enemy in order to carry out some raid or another? Is that not a completely routine story-line? Although many of these movies are obviously fictitious, these deceptions, which might also be called “false flag” adventures, are based on normal military tactics which have been used by almost every army, probably since the beginning of civilisation.
However, Hollywood movies seldom reveal the true evil and cynicism of war. Therefore not many of the 99%, who obtain much of their understanding of the world in general and history in particular from the silver screen, know anything at all about the truly dark side of all armies in general, and their leaders in particular. For how many Hollywood movies tell the stories of how armies routinely slaughter defenceless people? Although they will sometimes depict the enemy of the day carrying out these atrocities, they never show the so-called “good guys” doing it – which creates in the mind of the viewer the impression that our armies never behave in such a beastly fashion. But they most certainly do.
Consider the vast number of movies that came out of Hollywood telling how the west was won – how handfuls of brave adventurers defeated marauding hoards of screaming bloodthirsty savages, which was, in fact, a complete inversion of the truth. And how many war movies told the truth about the bombing of Dresden, or of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? These completely needless events took place in the closing days of World War Two, when Germany and Japan were already crushed nations. They were events which deliberately targeted hundreds of thousands of defenceless civilians, and served absolutely no military purpose whatsoever. They were war crimes, already outlawed by the Geneva Convention. Not many Hollywood movies tell us that.
Although these mass slaughters of defenceless civilians are a different aspect of the cynicism of war, and cannot be considered as false flag adventures, it’s important to cite these as evidence of the psychotic ruthlessness of our own trusted leaders and the brainwashed youngsters who are routinely conditioned to obey an order, any order.
It’s important to grasp this principle of war that not even Hollywood can glamorise: that our trusted leaders can and do routinely issue orders to slaughter innocent defenceless civilians, and that brainwashed young people then carry out those orders, and that society is then brainwashed into considering these young people to be heroes. Not even Hollywood can glamorise the deep cynicism of that fact.
My own personal first-hand experience of false flag adventures was obtained in the late seventies, in Rhodesia, where I was batting out my national service as an intelligence officer. Our army had a small unit of people called the Selous Scouts. They were considered the elite of the elite, and were supposedly originally created by a couple of junior officers serving in the Rhodesian SAS who thought the SAS wasn’t quite hard enough. I did some of my training with the Scouts. They were definitely different.
Later on, when I was operational, I was based in a small rural outpost called Rusape. For me it was a very comfortable posting and, I’m very glad to say, I managed to see out my time there without being injured and, I’m even more glad to say, without causing injury to anyone else.
Each morning, after a leisurely breakfast, I would saunter over to the operations room to see what was going on. Like almost every military operations room in the world, one wall of it was given over to a huge map of our area of responsibility. Most of the time it was just a map of rural Rhodesia, with little coloured stickers on it depicting some sort of recent “terrorist” incident – such as a landmine going off, or an attack on some isolated school or clinic. My job would be to go out to investigate these incidents and report on them. Sometimes it was very harrowing, but mostly it was a fairly pleasant way to sit out the war.
But every now and then I would turn up to the ops room in the morning and would be met with the sight of a sizeable chunk of the map covered over in hatched lines. Everyone understood that that area had been “frozen”. This meant that no army personnel or police were to go into that area. The Scouts had moved into it. For a few weeks after that life went on pretty much as normal everywhere else on the patch; but no information at all emerged from the area with the mysterious hatching; and then one morning I’d turn up for work and the hatching would have been removed from the map as mysteriously as it had first appeared.
Within a day or two of that happening the reports would start rolling in from where the Scouts had been, about “terrorist” murders at some isolated village or another, of a “terrorist” rocket attack on a small business centre perhaps, or a “terrorist” landmine blowing up a rural bus. These would all have been carried out by the Scouts, dressed up as “terrorists” and using “terrorist” weaponry.
The purpose of these attacks was a variation of that old favourite: the hard cop/soft cop routine. The Scouts’ role was to try to out-terrorise the forces working for the likes of Robert Mugabe, to try to alienate the local population from Mugabe’s men by pretending to be Mugabe’s men and committing such atrocities that the locals would be repulsed by them. Then when the soft cops turned up in the shape of government forces, the locals would feel like offering their help and support. It’s called winning hearts and minds, and was a tactic that had already been used by US special forces in Vietnam before that, and by British special forces all over the place before that: Malaya, Congo, Kenya, Aden…
Some would dismiss false flag adventures as conspiracy theory, which is, of course, a very convenient way to persuade the 99% that our trusted leaders couldn’t possibly stoop so low. But history is rich with proof that they most certainly do stoop so low, with amazing frequency. So the really important lesson to learn in all of this is that whenever a so-called “terrorist” outrage occurs, especially those outrages where the perpetrators haven’t been caught in action (and rounding up “suspects” after the event cannot be trusted either – as the “Guildford Four” and “Birmingham Six”, for example, could confirm)… always, always recall the very real world of false flag adventures.
John Andrews is a writer whose main work is Peace Talk.
- When False Flags Don’t Fly (corbettreport.com)
Last Thursday’s essay “Why Hate Gilad Atzmon?” has been bouncing around the internet. (The title currently gets 780,000 Google hits).
In that piece I suggested that the anti-Atzmon brigade is defending sacred boundaries against Atzmon’s fearless questioning. The two taboo questions are:
Is the whole notion of a Jewish state in Palestine (i.e., Zionism) legitimate and/or feasible? (The obvious answer, of course, is NO.)
To what extent has Jewish identity politics contributed to the disaster of Zionism? (The obvious answer, of course, is “to a considerable extent.”)
“Don’t even go there!” they scream. Atzmon goes there. So they lynch him.
The truth hurts.
That’s my take, anyway. But not everyone agrees with me. I have received quite a few anti-Atzmon emails. They all make the same argument: Atzmon is wrong about X, Y, or Z, and therefore he is dangerous, a racist, a dangerous racist, and so on.
First, I would like to point out to these people that Atzmon has a right to be wrong. Since nobody is arguing that Atzmon is offering wrong facts – just wrong opinions, interpretations and orientations on very complex issues – his critics ought to be working harder to explain why he is wrong, rather than calling him names and organizing boycotts and smear campaigns on the basis of perfectly innocent quotes violently and misleadingly ripped from their contexts.
Second, it isn’t at all clear that Atzmon is wrong. What IS clear is that many of his opponents are.
Take the charge that Atzmon is an “essentialist.”
To call someone an “essentialist” (in the bad sense) is to argue that they prematurely end a discussion by fallaciously citing the “essence” of something.
For example, if someone argued that the reason African-American communities often have high crime rates is that “black people tend to be criminals, that’s just their nature” that person would be making a fallacious argument by falsely impugning an unchangeable “essence” to black people. And that person could plausibly be charged with bigotry. The logical fallacy involved is called “circular reasoning”: Black neighborhoods have higher crime rate, therefore black people are more likely to be criminals, because they’re the ones in the black neighborhoods, where crime rates are higher, ad infinitum. The problem with this argument is that it prematurely ends an inquiry into the real reason why crime rates are what they are; it short-circuits a more thoughtful investigation of the historical and cultural factors that have produced the phenomenon under investigation.
Now if Atzmon were to say “It is just the essence of Jewish nature to be greedy and violent, and that explains the rape of Palestine – end of story, and don’t bore me with historical and cultural explanations,” he would be an essentialist in the bad sense.
But that is not what he says. On the contrary, it is Atzmon who is opening a thoughtful discussion of the historical and cultural factors behind Zionism. And it is his opponents who want to prematurely shut down the inquiry by ruling that discussion off-limits. As Gilad puts it, the two-staters will only go back as far as 1967. One-staters go back to 1948, or maybe the Balfour declaration of 1917. Gilad wants to keep going, right back through the 19th century and beyond.
It is actually his opponents who are the essentialists. They believe that the essence of Jewishness is always either positive or neutral. Any discussion of Jewish culture or identity that brings up anything that is negatively-valued violates their sacred notion of the essence of Jewishness as innocence and victimhood. Atzmon wants to talk about empirical historical reality, which bears little resemblance to the essentialist construct. So they shout him down, desperate to end the discussion before it starts. You’d almost think they have something to hide.
Ironically, most of those wailing that Atzmon is slandering the Jews are themselves slandering Atzmon. They call him a racist, with no evidence to back up that charge. (Atzmon’s critique of Jewish identity-politics and Jewish culture in general has absolutely nothing whatsoever do do with race, as he himself always makes abundantly clear, in part by pointing out that Jews are not a race.)
Let’s look at some of the charges against Gilad that have appeared in my in-box. They usually involve taking a quote and lying about it – I mean, misconstruing it.
Atzmon quote: “The remarkable fact is they [ all Jews--not Zionists] don’t understand why the world is beginning to stand against them in the same way they didn’t understand why the Europeans stood against them in the 1930s. Instead of asking why we are hated they continue to toss accusations on others.”
The writer claims that Atzmon is “blaming the Jews for the Holocaust.” That’s just not true. The quote, in its context, doesn’t say that. It addresses an empirical historical reality (Europe in the 1930s, the world today) that is much larger than “the Holocaust.” And once again, Gilad is the honest thinker while his opponents are the essentialists. For the essentialists, the essence of Jewishness is 100% pure victimhood, end of discussion: Not a single Jew on earth – including, for example, the Rothschilds and their big bankster friends who screwed Germany in World War I in exchange for Palestine – bears one iota of responsibility for the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany! (Just like the top neocons, of whom around 90% are Jewish and fanatical Zionists, bear not one iota of responsibility for the 9/11 wars against Israel’s enemies.)
If you are an honest historian and cultural analyst, whenever there is a conflict between two groups, you look at it from the point of view of various parties in both groups, and emerge with a more or less nuanced, multi-viewpoint, holistic picture. Gilad compares this to analyzing the problems that arise in the life of a couple. Should we take the word of one or the other party that he or she is 100% right, and the other 100% wrong? Or should we talk to both parties and try to take both perspectives into consideration?
If you an essentialist/mythologist, nourished on Old Testament exceptionalism and chosen-ness (like Americans in general, not just Jews) you may instead imagine that it is the essence of the good guys in your historical narrative to be good, and the essence of the bad guys to be bad. Jews good, Germans bad; ergo, US and Allies good, Axis bad. End of sacred story.
This is the essentialist myth that Americans and Westerners have accepted in place of real history. And it is this myth, more than any other, that is responsible for what William Blum calls “the American holocaust”: The massacre of uncounted millions, and the ruined lives of uncounted tens of millions more, by the CIA, the US military, and their allies since World War II. Taken together with Zionist atrocities against Palestine and their spill-over into widespread Middle East violence, and the WWII atrocities of the Allies against people in the Axis countries, and it should be clear to any sane and moderately well-informed person that the “good guys” who won World War II have committed vastly more mass-murder, vastly more atrocities, vastly greater crimes against the human body and spirit than the Nazis ever did. In short, as Philip K. Dick suggested in The Man in the High Castle, it was the real “Nazis” who WON World War II. We have met the enemy, and he is us.
Only this realization will stop the Zio-American holocaust that continues today and threatens to explode into World War III.
But – as is commonly said in reference to the “good Germans” under Hitler – it is so much easier to just pretend it isn’t happening, and go along with the essentialist, exceptionalist assumption that your people are the good guys. And when someone like Niemoller or Atzmon comes along to challenge you, shout him down without giving him a fair hearing.
The confused individual who falsely charges Atzmon with blaming Jews for the Holocaust also calls Atzmon a racist:
“This is the essence of racism. Not that Jews like many before them have become corrupted by power. But that there is something pathological about Jewish culture–it must be their culture since he repudiates genetic explanations–that led them to become Zionists.”
Sorry, that is NOT “the essence of racism.” Racism offers biological explanations. Cultural explanations are THE OPPOSITE of racism!
Calling Atzmon “a racist” when you don’t even know what racism is… well, to say that this is inviting a defamation lawsuit is putting it mildly.
This person is trying to rule out any kind of investigation of cultural factors that led Jews to become Zionists. This is idiotic on its face. So in an attempt to prevent anyone, himself included, from actually thinking, he starts in with the mendacious insults: “Racist! Anti-Semite!”
Let’s get this straight: Nobody in his or her right mind has ever tried to prevent any discussion or investigation of cultural factors in history. Was there something in Protestant culture that led to the Industrial Revolution? Max Weber says yes – and he doesn’t give a good goddamn whether you feel he’s insulting Protestants (or Catholics) by investigating their respective cultures. Is there something in the culture of Muslim Saudi elites that is contributing to religious tensions in the region? Hell, yes – their hypocritical tolerance of wildly un-Islamic behavior for themselves, while imposing harsh restrictions on others. Is there something in Muslim culture that has slowed “economic progress” in Islamic countries? Sure, there are plenty of things, ranging from stopping to pray five times a day, to prohibitions against any kind of dealing involving interest, to culturally-accepted nepotism, to cultural preferences for working as an independent operator rather than a member of a corporate team.
Atzmon’s critics are wildly irrational in calling him a racist, and claiming that nobody should ever investigate cultural forces in history (the bread and butter of cultural historians). The dozens of people signing a statement to this effect - a statement containing blatantly false and defamatory assertions about Atzmon – might as well be signing a statement reading “I am an ignorant idiot.”
What these folks should be doing is reading Atzmon’s work carefully and holistically, and then, if they find that Atzmon is mistaken in his analysis of the way Jewish identity politics is a factor in Zionism, they should correct him. For once we’ve admitted that cultural critique is perfectly legitimate, we must add that not all cultural critiques are equal: It can be done badly, or well. Sure, some of Gilad’s statements about Jewish identity politics are tendentious or overly broad. And since his main focus is explaining the horrors of Zionism, he naturally talks more about negative cultural tropes than positive ones. (Personally I think that the positives in Jewish culture outweigh the negatives; but the positives, such as humor, education, bagels with lox and cream cheese and a thin slice of onion, etc. don’t explain what’s been done to Palestine.)
The irrational Atzmon critic continues:
As long as Zionism is conveyed as a colonial project, Jews, as a people, should be seen as ordinary people. They are no different from the French and the English, they just happen to run their deadly colonial project in a different time.”
Obviously this cannot be taken at face value. The French and the English are not identical, nor were their colonial projects. One thing I learned from postgraduate work in African Studies is that the French and English colonial projects differed wildly in accordance with the very different cultural peculiarities of the two nations. For example: The French, holding a monolithically statist and egalitarian ideology in keeping with their culture, did their best to grant the natives the status of honorary Frenchmen; and being slightly less racist than the British, they were more likely to intermarry with the colonized peoples.
So what is this dramatic, doth-protest-too-much insistence that “the Jews are ordinary people, just like the French and British” trying to hide?
The answer comes in the same sentence: The “deadly colonial project” of the Jews is happening at a “different time” from that of the French and English.
Let’s be specific: All other colonial projects – especially settler-colonial projects – are dead. They have passed on, ceased to be, expired and gone to meet their Maker; stiff, bereft of life, they rest in peace. If the Israelis hadn’t nailed Occupied Palestine to its perch, they would all be pushing up daisies.
The age of colonialism ended in about 1960; the process mostly happened within a few years, and was essentially complete within three decades. South Africa, the second-to-last settler colony, officially decolonized itself around 1990.
So what is it about Israel that allows it to persist as a fanatical, murderous settler-colony, vastly nastier than apartheid South Africa or French Algeria, in a post-colonial world?
Gilad Atzmon says that to answer that question, we need to take a very close, critical look at Jewish culture in general and Jewish identity politics in particular.
If there is a reasonable argument to the contrary, I would like to hear it.
But I don’t think there is.
I think it will be people following the trail Gilad blazed – people who discover that the persistence of a very peculiar and very nasty settler-colony in Palestine is largely due to the peculiarities of Jewish identity politics – who will, by ripping the mask off Zionism show what it really is, shame the world in general and the Jewish community in particular into shutting down their settler colony in Occupied Palestine.
Currently, the sacred taboos and one-sided myths that surround this issue are protecting Zionism. Blast those taboos to smithereens, and the Wall will come down.
Like Joshua at the battle of Jerico, Gilad is heroically blasting the Wall – the wall that stops us from thinking as well as the Apartheid Wall in Occupied Palestine – with his saxophone as well as his pen.
One day the Wall will crumble.
And Gilad will be playing at the celebration.
Hope to see you there.
- Obama, Netanyahu & Esther (alethonews.wordpress.com)
History Commons Project: Loss of US Civil Liberties
Open-Content project managed by Paul, KJF, PDevlinBuckley, blackmax
A B-29 bomber similar to the one that crashed in Georgia. [Source: Global Security (.org)]
A test flight for the Air Force’s Project Banshee, located at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, is set for 8:30 a.m. Banshee is an attempt begun in 1946 to develop and deploy a long-range missile ahead of both the Soviet Union and rival US military branches. The airplane used in the test flight crashes less than an hour into its flight, killing 9 of the 13 aboard.
Maintenance Problems – The plane assigned for the flight is a B-29 Stratofortress, a bomber made famous by its delivery of the atomic bombs to Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. B-29s are notoriously difficult to fly and maintain: their four wing-mounted engines almost routinely overheat and catch fire, causing engine shutdowns, sudden drops in altitude, and, often, crashes. The engines’ eighteen cylinders lack sufficient airflow to keep them cool, and the overheating often causes the crankcases, made of light but highly flammable magnesium, to burst into flames. Like so many of its brethren, the plane has suffered its share of maintenance issues, and is flying without numerous recommended maintenance and repair tasks being performed. Just five days before, it had been designated “red cross”—grounded and unfit for service. It was allowed to fly through an “exceptional release” signed by the squadron commander.
Crew Difficulties – The flight is moved back to the afternoon after some crew members fail to show up on time, and to allow last-minute repairs to be made. By takeoff, the flight crew is assembled: Captain Ralph Erwin; co-pilot Herbert W. Moore; flight engineer Earl Murrhee; First Lieutenant Lawrence Pence, Jr, the navigator; Sergeant Walter Peny, the left scanner; Sergeant Jack York, the right scanner; Sergeant Melvin Walker, the radio operator; and Sergeant Derwood Irvin, manning the bombsight and autopilot. The crew is joined by civilian engineers assigned to Banshee: Al Palya and Robert Reynolds from RCA, William Brauner and Eugene Mechler from the Franklin Institute, and Richard Cox from the Air Force’s Air Materiel Command. In violation of standard procedure, none of the crew or the civilians are briefed on emergency procedures, though Murrhee will later say that the crew were all familiar with the procedures; he is not so sure about the civilians, though he knows Palya and Reynolds have flown numerous test flights before. In another violation of Air Force regulations, none of the flight crew have worked together before. As author Barry Siegel will note in 2008, “The pilot, copilot, and engineer had never shared the same cockpit before.”
Engine Fire and Crash – Less than an hour into the flight, one engine catches fire and two others lose power, due to a combination of maintenance failures and pilot errors. The civilians have some difficulty getting into their parachutes as Erwin and Moore attempt to regain control of the aircraft. Four of the crew and civilians manage to parachute from the plane, but most remain on board as the airplane spirals into the ground on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, near Waycross, Georgia. Crew members Moore, Murrhee, and Peny survive, as does a single civilian, Mechler. Four others either jump at too low an altitude or die when their chutes foul the airplane; the other five never manage to leave the plane and die on impact.
Widows File Suit – Several of the civilians’ widows will file suit against the US Air Force, asserting that their husbands died because of Air Force negligence (see June 21, 1949). Their lawsuit will eventually become US v. Reynolds, a landmark Supreme Court case and the underpinning for the government’s claims of state secrets privilege (see March 9, 1953). [Siegel, 2008, pp. 3, 14-17, 33-49]
Initial Associated Press reports of a crash in Georgia of a B-29 that had been on a test flight for the Air Force’s secret Project Banshee (see October 6, 1948) acknowledge that “the plane had been on a mission testing secret electronic equipment which RCA developed and built under an Air Force contract… Full details of the plane’s mission were not disclosed.… The Air Force would say only that the bomber was engaged in ‘electronic research on different types of radar…’” Local papers have a bit more detail, with survivor accounts hinting at confusion and some contradictions between their versions of events and that being given out by official Air Force spokesmen. Later reports from the Air Force will downplay the B-29’s involvement in Project Banshee. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 56-58]
The Army Air Force’s Air Materiel Command receives the initial report on an investigation of a B-29 crash in Georgia (see October 6, 1948). Perceptions of the crash are colored by the fact that the bomber was carrying equipment from Project Banshee, a secret Air Force missile development initiative. The initial report is meticulously factual, providing an almost minute-by-minute account of the events preceding the crash as told by the four survivors and intensive examination of the debris. The report concludes that it would benefit future B-29 pilots to have more training on flying the plane when it has lost both engines on one wing, and a general recommendation that the pilot and crew should give civilian passengers better instruction in emergency procedures. Though the report is circumspect in the extreme in finding fault with the pilot and military personnel for the crash, and gives only vague and generalized recommendations to help prevent future crashes, the Air Force will heatedly deny that the pilots or crew could have been in any way responsible for the crash. In 2008, reporter Barry Siegel will write, “Years later, this particular claim, in fact Air Materiel Command’s entire position, would cause various veteran aviators to hoot.” Pilot error causing the crash is obvious, they will conclude. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 62-65]
Frank Folsom, the executive vice president of the Radio Corporation of America’s RCA Victor Division, writes a letter to General Hoyt Vandenberg, the commander of the US Air Force. Folsom is inquiring about the deaths of two RCA employees in a recent B-29 crash in Georgia (see October 6, 1948). The plane had been on a secret test mission for the Air Force’s Project Banshee, a missile development project in which RCA is heavily involved. Folsom believes that the Air Force is downplaying the likelihood that pilot error caused the crash (see October 18, 1948), and tells Vandenberg that “certain steps will [need to be taken] if we are to participate in the future in Air Force flight test programs.” Folsom wants more pay and compensation for RCA employees participating in Air Force test programs, as well as newer and safer airplanes to be used in the test flights and a higher caliber of test pilots and crew members. Perhaps the portion of the letter that causes the most consternation among Air Force officials is Folsom’s request to read over the official accident reports. “When a crash has occurred, a copy of the official report… must be made available promptly to us,” he writes. “Needless to say, the report will not be disclosed except to those who are directly concerned.” Folsom’s letter will spark a new round of Air Force investigations into the crash, in hopes of mollifying Folsom. However, the report from this investigation will be classified at the highest level of security and not provided to RCA. Additionally, though the second investigation will find a strong likelihood of pilot error causing the crash, the Air Force will not admit any such findings to RCA. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 65-80] These accident reports will play a key role in the lawsuit filed against the US government by three widows of killed crew members (see June 21, 1949 and August 7-8, 1950).
Phyllis Brauner and Elizabeth Palya, who both lost their husbands in the “Project Banshee” B-29 crash (see October 6, 1948), file a civil action lawsuit against the US government in regards to the crash. The lawsuit claims that the US Air Force, in the person of the pilot and military crew members of the B-29, caused the deaths of their civilian husbands by “the negligence and wrongful acts and omissions of the officers and employees” of the US. The widows’ lawyer, Charles Biddle, asks the government for $300,000 per family. A third widow, Patricia Reynolds, will join the lawsuit in September 1949. One of the biggest issues surrounding the case is the lawsuit’s request that Biddle and his lawyers be given access to the official accident reports, which the government will claim cannot be revealed because they may contain classified information (see October 18, 1948 and August 7-8, 1950). Biddle’s promise that no one else will see the reports makes no impression on the government’s lawyers. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 100-101]
A federal judge orders the Air Force to turn over copies of its classified accident reports about a B-29 crash (see October 6, 1948) as part of a lawsuit filed by three of the widows of crew members killed in the crash (see June 21, 1949). Claiming that the reports may contain classified information about a secret missile development project, Project Banshee, the Air Force not only refuses to turn over the accident reports to the widows’ lawyer, it refuses to allow even the attorney general to view the documents (see August 7-8, 1950). The lawyer for the widows, Charles Biddle, will continue to press for the release of the accident reports. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 120-123]
The Air Force refuses to meet the court-imposed deadline to turn over accident reports of a 1948 B-29 crash in Georgia (see October 6, 1948) to the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the government (see July 26, 1950). Instead, the Justice Department argues before the court that because the accident reports might contain “state secrets” that might imperil “national security” if made available to anyone outside the Air Force, the reports cannot be made available. “[T]he aircraft in question, together with the personnel on board, were engaged in a highly secret mission of the Air Force,” the government lawyers argue. “The airplane likewise carried confidential equipment on board and any disclosure of its mission or information concerning its operation or performance would be prejudicial to this department and would not be in the public interest.” Such a claim—that the production of the reports would “seriously hamper national security”—renders the reports “beyond judicial authority,” the Justice Department lawyers claim. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 124-126]
Weeks after the Justice Department refused to make accident reports of a 1948 B-29 crash (see October 6, 1948) available to the plaintiffs in an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit against the government (see July 26, 1950) because the reports are so highly classified that their disclosure might “seriously hamper national security” (see July 26, 1950 and August 7-8, 1950), the Air Force, in a routine review, drastically lowers the classification of the accident reports from top-level “Secret” to third-level “Restricted.” Whereas “Secret” documents supposedly contain information that “might endanger national security” if revealed, “Restricted” documents are “for official use only” and should not be disclosed “for reasons of administrative privacy.” The Air Force apparently no longer considers the documents a threat to national security. However, neither the plaintiffs’ lawyers, the judge hearing the lawsuit, or even the Justice Department lawyers are aware of the reports’ reduction in status. They continue to argue the merits of releasing the reports as if they are still highly classified. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 133]
Federal judge William H. Kirkpatrick rules that the US government must turn over the disputed, and supposedly highly classified (see September 14, 1950), accident reports from a 1948 B-29 crash (see October 6, 1948)—not to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit over the crash (see July 26, 1950), but to Kirkpatrick himself. He wishes to review the reports to determine if they contain any information that might threaten national security, and, before turning the documents over to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, will personally remove that information. In mid-October, when the government again refuses to turn over the documents, Kirkpatrick will find in favor of the plaintiffs (see October 12, 1950). [Siegel, 2008, pp. 133-134]
Federal judge William H. Kirkpatrick rules in favor of the plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit against the US government (see October 6, 1948, June 21, 1949, and July 26, 1950), after the government refuses to turn over classified accident reports that have a direct bearing on the plaintiffs’ case (see September 21, 1950). Judge Kirkpatrick orders the government to pay the plaintiffs, three widows who lost their husbands in a 1948 plane crash, a total of $225,000. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Charles Biddle, expects the government to balk at paying out the money, and to instead continue to challenge the court’s attempt to compel it to turn over the accident reports (see October 19, 1951). [Siegel, 2008, pp. 134-139]
The government, represented by a team of Justice Department lawyers, appeals the recent ruling against it in the ‘Banshee’ B-29 plane crash lawsuit (see June 21, 1949). In the Third US Circuit Appeals Court, the government argues that the lower court had no business demanding that the Air Force turn over classified accident reports about the crash, because the reports may contain information that would potentially compromise national security (see October 12-18, 1948 and September 14, 1950). The government had twice defied court orders to produce the documents, and as a result had lost the lawsuit (see October 12, 1950). The Justice Department’s arguments come down to the assertion that the judiciary has no constitutional right to compel the executive branch to turn over documents it considers privileged. In 2008, author Barry Siegel will write, “For the first time in the B-29 litigation, the government directly argued that the judiciary could not review [the government’s] claim of privilege.” The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Charles Biddle, counters that the executive branch has no such sweeping claim of privilege, and that a judge should be allowed to review documents in dispute to determine both their bearing on a case and the possibility that releasing those documents could jeopardize national security (see September 21, 1950). Three weeks later, the appeals court will rule unanimously against the government (see December 11, 1951). [Siegel, 2008, pp. 149-153]
A three-judge federal appeals court unanimously rejects the government’s claim of unfettered executive privilege and secrecy in regards to classified documents (see October 19, 1951). In an opinion written by Judge Albert Maris, the court finds that the government’s claim that the judiciary can never compel the executive branch to turn over classified documents to be without legal merit. The plaintiffs in the case, three widows who lost their husbands in the crash of a B-29 bomber carrying classified materials (see June 21, 1949), had a compelling need for the documents in question, the downed B-29 accident reports, to further their case, Maris writes (see October 12, 1950).
No Legal Basis for Claim of Privilege – Maris goes further than the parameters of the single lawsuit, writing: “[W]e regard the recognition of such a sweeping privilege… as contrary to a sound public policy. The present cases themselves indicate the breadth of the claim of immunity from disclosure which one government department head has already made. It is but a small step to assert a privilege against any disclosure of records merely because they might prove embarrassing to government officials. Indeed, it requires no great flight of imagination to realize that if the government’s contentions in these cases were affirmed, the privilege against disclosure might gradually be enlarged… until as is the case in some nations today, it embraced the whole range of government activities.… We need to recall in this connection the words of [Revolution-era jurist] Edward Livingston: ‘No nation ever yet found any inconvenience from too close an inspection into the conduct of its officers, but many have been brought to ruin, and reduced to slavery, by suffering gradual imposition and abuses, which were imperceptible, only because the means of publicity had not been secured.’” He also quotes Revolutionary War figure Patrick Henry, who said, “[T]o cover with the veil of secrecy the common routine of business is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man and every friend to his country.”
Rejecting Claim of ‘State Secrets’ – Maris is even less respectful of the government’s claim of a “state secrets” privilege. He notes that the government did not make that claim until well into the lawsuit proceedings (see October 19, 1951), indicating that it was a “fallback” argument used after the original government arguments had failed. Maris is also troubled, as author Barry Siegel later writes, in the government’s “assertion of unilateral executive power, free from judicial review, to decide what qualified as secret.” The lower court judge’s ruling that he alone should be given the documents for review adequately protected the government’s security interests, Maris writes: “[But] the government contends that it is within the sole province of the secretary of the Air Force to determine whether any privileged material is contained in the documents and that his determination of this question must be accepted by the district court without any independent consideration.… We cannot accede to this proposition. On the contrary, we are satisfied that a claim of privilege against disclosing evidence… involves a justiciable question, traditionally within the competence of the courts.… To hold that the head of an executive department of the government in a [law]suit to which the United States is a party may conclusively determine the government’s claim of privilege is to abdicate the judicial function to infringe the independent province of the judiciary as laid down by the Constitution.”
Fundamental Principle of Checks and Balances – Maris continues: “The government of the United States is one of checks and balances. One of the principal checks is furnished by the independent judiciary which the Constitution established. Neither the executive nor the legislative branch of the government may constitutionally encroach upon the field which the Constitution has reserved for the judiciary.… Nor is there any danger to the public interest in submitting the question of privilege to the decision of the courts. The judges of the United States are public officers whose responsibilities under the Constitution is just as great as that of the heads of the executive departments.”
Government Appeal – The Justice Department will appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court (see March 1952 and March 9, 1953). [Siegel, 2008, pp. 153-156]
The Justice Department appeals the ruling of the US Appeals Court in the B-29 “Banshee” case (see December 11, 1951). The appellate judges found that the executive branch of government could not unilaterally refuse to hand over classified documents requested during the course of a trial, and justify its decision merely by its own say-so (see October 12, 1950). Solicitor General Philip Perlman argues that the appellate ruling erroneously interprets the law “so as to permit encroachments by the judiciary on an area committed by the Constitution to executive discretion.” The claim of “state secrets,” “executive privilege,” and, ultimately, “national security” must trump judicial concerns, Perlman argues, and he goes on to say that the judiciary should not be allowed to “substitute its judgment for the judgment of the executive.” The case will be labeled United States of America v. Patricia Reynolds, Phyllis Brauner, and Elizabeth Palya, and will usually be shortened to the more colloquial US v. Reynolds.
The Vinson Court – In 2008, author Barry Siegel, in his book Claim of Privilege, will note that the recent ascension of Fred Vinson as the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice does not bode well for the plaintiffs in the case. President Truman placed Vinson, whom Siegel calls Truman’s “poker and drinking buddy,” as Chief Justice to try to achieve consensus between the two contentious blocs of justices on the Court. Siegel notes that Vinson is widely considered an intellectual and legal lightweight, with a tendency to take the side of the government on issues in which he lacks a full understanding. Siegel will write that in many instances, Vinson functions “as part of the executive branch.”
‘Dennis’ Case Preview of Court’s Tendency to Favor Executive Branch – Vinson had written the opinion in a 1951 ruling, Dennis et al v. United States, where the Court had upheld a lower court ruling that twelve acknowledged American Communists were sent to jail under the Smith Act—not for breaking the law, but for “teaching and advocating,” in the words of the original indictment. Siegel will call that ruling “the nadir of the Vinson Court.” According to Siegel, the Dennis ruling showed the Court’s predisposition to give the government, and particularly the executive branch, plenty of leeway in its findings in subsequent cases such as Reynolds. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 157-162]
Lawyers make their opening arguments before the Supreme Court in the case of US v Reynolds, the lawsuit that finds the government had no overarching right to unilaterally refuse to deliver classified documents in the course of a wrongful death lawsuit against the government (see December 11, 1951). The government has appealed the appellate court ruling to the Supreme Court (see March 1952). Because four of the nine justices had voted not to hear the case—in essence to let the appellate court ruling stand—the defense is cautiously optimistic about the Court’s decision.
Judiciary Has No Right to Interfere with Powers of the Executive, Government Argues – Acting Solicitor General Robert Stern tells the Court that the appellate judges’ decision, written by Judge Albert Maris, “is an unwarranted interference with the powers of the executive,” and that the decision forced the government to choose “whether to disclose public documents contrary to the public interest [or] to suffer the public treasury to be penalized” (a reference to the decision to award the plaintiffs monetary damages—see October 12, 1950). The judiciary “lack[s] power to compel disclosure by means of a direct demand [as well as] by the indirect method of an order against the United States, resulting in judgment when compliance is not forthcoming.”
Executive Has No Right to Unilaterally Withhold Information, Defense Counters – Stern’s arguments are countered by those of the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Charles Biddle, who writes, “We could rest our case with confidence on the clear opinion of Judge Maris,” but continues by arguing that if the government asserts a claim of executive privilege on the basis of national security, it must make the documents available to the Court for adjudication, or at least provide enough information for the Court to judge whether the documents present in fact a threat to national security if disclosed. This is particularly true, Biddle argues, “where there is no showing that the documents in question contain any military secret” (Biddle is unaware that the documents’ classification status had been reduced two years before—see September 14, 1950). “The basic question here is whether those in charge of the various departments of the government may refuse to produce documents properly demanded… in a case where the government is a party (see June 21, 1949), simply because the officials themselves think it would be better to keep them secret, and this without the Courts having any power to question the propriety of such decision.… In other words, say the officials, we will tell you only what we think it is in the public interest that you should know. And furthermore, we may withhold information not only about military or diplomatic secrets, but we may also suppress documents which concern merely the operation of the particular department if we believe it would be best, for purposes of efficiency or morale, that no one outside of the department, not even the Court, should see them.”
No Basis for Claims of Military Secrets – Biddle argues that because of responses he has received to his demands over the course of this lawsuit, he is relatively sure there are no military secrets contained within them. “[T]he proof is to the contrary,” he says, and goes on to say that had the Air Force disclosed from the outset that the plane crash, the fatal accident that sparked the original lawsuit (see October 6, 1948), was probably caused by pilot error and not by random chance, the plaintiffs may have never needed to ask for the disclosure of the documents in question, the accident reports on the crash (see October 18, 1948). “The secretary [of the Air Force]‘s formal claim of privilege said that the plane at the time was engaged in a secret mission and that it carried confidential equipment,” Biddle says, “but nowhere was it asserted that either had anything to do with the accident. The whole purpose of the demand by the respondents was for the purpose of finding out what caused the accident.… They were not in the least interested in the secret mission or equipment.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 165-170]
In their regular Saturday conference, the nine Supreme Court justices discuss the issues and arguments surrounding US v Reynolds (see October 21, 1952). According to the notes from the discussion, Chief Justice Fred Vinson, a strong advocate for expansive executive powers (see March 1952), says the case “boils down to Executive Branch determine privilege.” Other notes by Justice William O. Douglas suggest that Vinson isn’t convinced that the US must “be forced to pay for exercising its privilege” (see October 12, 1950). A straw vote taken at the end of the discussion shows five justices in favor of the government’s position to unilaterally withhold classified documents—overturning the appellate court decision (see December 11, 1951), and four in favor of allowing the decision to stand. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 171]
Chief Justice Fred Vinson. [Source: Kansas State Historical Society]
The US Supreme Court upholds the power of the federal government’s executive branch to withhold documents from a civil suit on the basis of executive privilege and national security (see October 25, 1952). The case, US v Reynolds, overturns an appellate court decision that found against the government (see December 11, 1951). Originally split 5-4 on the decision, the Court goes to 6-3 when Justice William O. Douglas joins the majority. The three dissenters, Justices Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, and Robert Jackson, refuse to write a dissenting opinion, instead adopting the decision of the appellate court as their dissent.
‘State Secrets’ a Valid Reason for Keeping Documents out of Judicial, Public Eye – Chief Justice Fred Vinson writes the majority opinion. Vinson refuses to grant the executive branch the near-unlimited power to withhold documents from judicial review, as the government’s arguments before the court implied (see October 21, 1952), but instead finds what he calls a “narrower ground for defense” in the Tort Claims Act, which compels the production of documents before a court only if they are designated “not privileged.” The government’s claim of privilege in the Reynolds case was valid, Vinson writes. But the ruling goes farther; Vinson upholds the claim of “state secrets” as a reason for withholding documents from judicial review or public scrutiny. In 2008, author Barry Siegel will write: “In truth, only now was the Supreme Court formally recognizing the privilege, giving the government the precedent it sought, a precedent binding on all courts throughout the nation. Most important, the Court was also—for the first time—spelling out how the privilege should be applied.” Siegel will call the Reynolds ruling “an effort to weigh competing legitimate interests,” but the ruling does not allow judges to see the documents in order to make a decision about their applicability in a court case: “By instructing judges not to insist upon examining documents if the government can satisfy that ‘a reasonable danger’ to national security exists, Vinson was asking jurists to fly blind.” Siegel will mark the decision as “an act of faith. We must believe the government,” he will write, “when it claims [the accident] would reveal state secrets. We must trust that the government is telling the truth.”
Time of Heightened Tensions Drives Need for Secrecy – Vinson goes on to note, “[W]e cannot escape judicial notice that this is a time of vigorous preparation for the national defense.” Locked in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and fighting a war in Korea, the US is, Vinson writes, in a time of crisis, and one where military secrets must be kept and even encouraged. [U. S. v. Reynolds, 3/9/1953; Siegel, 2008, pp. 171-176]
Future Ramifications – Reflecting on the decision in 2008, Siegel will write that while the case will not become as well known as many other Court decisions, it will wield significant influence. The ruling “formally recognized and established the framework for the government’s ‘state secrets’ privilege—a privilege that for decades had enabled federal agencies to conceal conduct, withhold documents, and block civil litigation, all in the name of national secrecy.… By encouraging judicial deference when the government claimed national security secrets, Reynolds had empowered the Executive Branch in myriad ways. Among other things, it had provided a fundamental legal argument for much of the Bush administration’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Enemy combatants such as Yaser Esam Hamdi (see December 2001) and Jose Padilla (see June 10, 2002), for many months confined without access to lawyers, had felt the breath of Reynolds. So had the accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui when federal prosecutors defied a court order allowing him access to other accused terrorists (see March 22, 2005). So had the Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar (see September 26, 2002), like dozens of others the subject of a CIA extraordinary rendition to a secret foreign prison (see After September 11, 2001). So had hundreds of detainees at the US Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, held without charges or judicial review (see September 27, 2001). So had millions of American citizens, when President Bush, without judicial knowledge or approval, authorized domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency (see Early 2002). US v. Reynolds made all this possible. The bedrock of national security law, it had provided a way for the Executive Branch to formalize an unprecedented power and immunity, to pull a veil of secrecy over its actions.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. ix-x]
A federal court rules that because of the government’s “state secrets” privilege (see March 9, 1953), a civilian plaintiff suing the US Navy over a contractual agreement cannot even access “non-privileged,” or unclassified, information from the Navy because to do so might “threaten disclosure” of material that goes against “the overriding interest of the United States… preservation of its state secrets privilege precludes any further attempt to pursue litigation.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 196-197]
In the second of two rulings in the case of Halkin v Helms, the judiciary comes down squarely on the side of the US government against charges of illegal surveillance and wiretapping leveled against American anti-war protesters. The district and appellate courts uphold the federal government’s “state secrets” claim as codified in US v Reynolds (see March 9, 1953), thereby denying the plaintiffs the right to see government information that they claim would prove their case. The DC Court of Appeals writes that the federal courts do not have any constitutional role as “continuing monitors of the wisdom and soundness of Executive action,” and instead the courts “should accord utmost deference to executive assertions of privilege on grounds of military or diplomatic secrets… courts need only be satisfied that there is a reasonable danger” that military secrets might be exposed. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 196-196]
The DC Court of Appeals rejects a claim by civilian plaintiffs to force the government to disclose classified information as part of a lawsuit, citing the “state secrets” privilege (see March 9, 1953). Furthermore, the court broadens the definition of “state secrets” to include “disclosure of intelligence-gathering methods or capabilities and disruption of diplomatic relations.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 197]
A lawsuit against the FBI’s investigation of a sixth-grade boy and his school project to create an “encyclopedia of the world” is stopped when an appeals court rules that the agency is shielded by the “state secrets” privilege (see March 9, 1953). Unable to secure information from the FBI as to why it investigated him, the child had therefore “failed to sustain his burden of proof [and] the cause of action was properly dismissed.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 197]
A US appellate court refuses to find a number of military contractors liable in the death of Earl Patton Ryals, who died with 36 of his fellow crewmen in the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark (see May 17, 1987 and After). Ryals’s estate claims that he and his fellows died in part because of negligence on the part of the contractors who designed, manufactured, tested, and marketed the weapons system on board the Stark, including the Phalanx anti-missile system. In turning down the estate’s claim, the court cites the government’s “state secrets” privilege (see March 9, 1953), saying that the facts of the issue could not be resolved without examining classified Navy documents. And even without this reason, the court rules, Ryals’s estate cannot see the documents because the case presents “a political question” about military decision-making that is not subject to judicial review. [Zuckerbraun v. General Dynamics Corp., 6/13/1991; Siegel, 2008, pp. 197-198] A year later, a similar case will be dismissed on the grounds that a trial might conceivably reveal “state secrets” (see September 16, 1992).
A federal appeals court upholds the dismissal of a lawsuit filed on behalf of 23 Navy sailors killed in the attack on the USS Stark (see May 17, 1987 and After) against a number of defense contractors. A similar lawsuit on behalf of one of the sailors killed in the attack was dismissed a year before (see June 13, 1991). This time the plaintiffs file over 2,500 pages of unclassified documentary evidence supporting their claims that the contractors were negligent in their design and implementation of the weapons systems aboard the Stark. The appeals court finds that regardless of the amount of evidence entered, to allow the trial would be to potentially infringe on the US government’s “state secrets” privilege (see March 9, 1953). “[N]o amount of effort could safeguard the privileged information,” the court rules. The court adds that “classified and unclassified information cannot always be separated, and therefore courts must restrict access not only to classified material, but to “those pieces of evidence” that “press so closely upon highly sensitive material that they create a hgh risk of inadvertent or indirect disclosures.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 198]
Sheila E. Witnall, the secretary of the Air Force, declassifies all Air Force accident reports prior to January 25, 1956. The declassification includes the 1948 crash of the B-29 bomber that killed nine of 13 crew members during a secret “Project Banshee” mission (see October 6, 1948). The formerly classified reports had been at the heart of the case of US v Reynolds (see March 9, 1953) that sparked the so-called “state secrets” privilege. Four years after the declassification, the daughter of one of the slain civilians on board, Judy Palya Loether, finds the accident report on the Internet; the discovery spurs her to begin looking into the circumstances of her father’s death, and ultimately will result in a second lawsuit being filed on behalf of the families of the slain crewmen (see February 26, 2003). [Siegel, 2008, pp. 205-208]
Judy Palya Loether, the daughter of a civilian engineer killed in a 1948 plane crash while on a secret government mission (see October 6, 1948), reads over the voluminous reports of the accident that claimed her father’s life. The reports, now declassified (see January 1996), had been at the heart of a landmark lawsuit that gave judicial recognition to the government’s “state secrets” privilege (see March 9, 1953). Loether is shocked to find that the reports contain nothing that could be construed as military or tactical secrets of any kind, though for decades the government has insisted that they could not be revealed, even to a judge (see October 18, 1948, July 26, 1950, August 7-8, 1950, September 21, 1950, and October 19, 1951). What they do contain is a compendium of witness statements and expert findings that indicate a number of mistakes and errors led to the crash. Loether begins contacting the families of the widows who had filed the original lawsuit against the government (seeJune 21, 1949) to share her findings. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 210-211] Loether is confused and angered over the contents of the reports, and the government’s response to the lawsuit. She cannot understand why the government pressed so hard to keep the reports classified, knowing that they contained no sensitive information about the secret missile program, and is particularly troubled by the fact that at least two senior government officials signed affidavits affirming the reports’ inclusion of such information while knowing that the reports contained nothing of the sort. She wonders if government officials had perhaps decided to lie about the reports in order to establish some sort of state secrets privilege. In September 2002, lawyers Wilson Brown and Jeff Almeida, retained by Loether and others who lost family members in the crash, come to the same conclusion. As Almeida will say to Brown: “I’ve read this report. There’s nothing in there.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 219] As time goes on, Loether and her colleagues files a second lawsuit seeking to overturn the first Supreme Court verdict (see February 26, 2003).
Lawyers Wilson Brown and Jeff Almeida file a request with the Supreme Court, asking it to reconsider its landmark 1953 case, US v Reynolds (see March 9, 1953). The lawyers are representing several family members who lost fathers (and, in one case, a husband) in the airplane crash that led to the original case (see October 6, 1948). The lawyers note that the government’s original claim that the accident reports could not be released due to the inclusion of “military secrets” (see July 26, 1950) is false, as the accident reports have been declassified and examined for such secrets (see February 2000). “Indeed,” the lawyers write, “they are no more than accounts of a flight that, due to the Air Force’s negligence, went tragically awry. In telling the Court otherwise, the Air Force lied. In reliance upon that lie, the Court deprived the widows [the three original plaintiffs] of their judgments. It is for this Court, through issuance of a writ of error coram nobis and in exercise of its inherent power to remedy fraud, to put things right… United States v. Reynolds stands as a classic ‘fraud on the court,’ one that is most remarkable because it succeeded in tainting a decision of our nation’s highest tribunal.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 249-251] On July 26, 2002, one of the plaintiffs, Judy Palya Loether, wrote in an e-mail to Brown: ”US v Reynolds has come to be a landmark case that is used by the government when it claims that documents cannot be turned over to the courts because of national security. Yet this very case is now proven, in my mind, to be based on a lie that did injury to 3 widows and 5 little children (see February 2000)… It allowed the government an area of no checks and balances (see December 11, 1951). How many times has the government used this decision, not to protect national security, but for its own purposes?” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 237-238]
Wilson Brown, who has filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking that it reconsider its landmark 1953 US v Reynolds case (see March 9, 1953), receives an e-mail from Alison Massagli of the White House’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Massagli, who learned of the petition from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, wants a copy of Brown’s petition. Brown notices that Massagli sent a copy of the e-mail to Catherine Lotrionete of the National Security Council. Brown is pleased that the case has garnered some attention. He e-mails the plaintiffs he is representing, saying, “I thought you would find it interesting that at least one arm of the Executive Branch is interested in our case.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 257]
Solicitor General Theodore Olson submits a response to the request that the Supreme Court reopen the 1953 state secrets case US v Reynolds (see February 26, 2003). Olson argues that once a decision has been made, it should be respected—“the law favors finality,” he writes. More surprisingly to the plaintiffs and their lawyers, Olson argues that there was no fraud perpetuated in the original case, a position hard to defend in the face of the declassified accident reports that were the heart of that case (see February 2000 and February 26, 2003). The accident reports never contained military secrets or secret information of any kind, a claim that the Court’s 1953 decision hinged on, but Olson argues that because of the wording of the claims—releasing the reports to the original plaintiffs “might lead to disclosure” of classified information—then the old claims of protecting state secrets are still technically valid (see March 9, 1953). Olson echoes the author of the original Supreme Court opinion, Fred Vinson, by reminding the Court that “[t]he claim of privilege in this case was made in 1950, at a time in the nation’s history—during the twilight of World War II and the dawn of the Cold War—when the country, and especially the military, was uniquely sensitive to need for ‘vigorous preparation for national defense.‘… The allegations of fraud made by the petition in this case… must be viewed in that light.” The lawyer for the plaintiffs in the petition, Wilson Brown, is both angered and impressed by what he calls Olson’s “remarkable obfuscation.” By hiding behind the vague wording of the original claims of state secrets, Olson is implying that this case must turn on factual issues—and therefore should be heard in a lower court, not the Supreme Court. Brown, in his response co-written by colleague Jeff Almeida, calls Olson’s arguments “disingenuous” and insists that the plaintiffs’ original case “had been vitiated through fraud.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 261-264]
Constitutional lawyers and experts believe that the Supreme Court will not accept the petition to reopen the landmark US v Reynolds case (see February 26, 2003 and May 30, 2003). Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies says that the petition is essentially frivolous, and says of the claim that Reynolds was decided on the basis of a fraudulent government presentation: “That the facts of the original case are not true is irrelevant to the state secrets privilege (see March 9, 1953). The idea that it undercuts the privilege is ridiculous. Often in cases, after they’re decided, the facts are proven not to be true. That’s the nature of the legal system. Sometimes people lie. Sometimes there’s new information.” Law professor Jonathan Turley is more sympathetic to the petition, but agrees that the Supreme Court will probably not hear it: “For the Supreme Court to address the fact clearly that it had been lied to would open difficult issues.… The Court used the facts of Reynolds to say the government could be trusted.… Reynolds was based on trust, on willful blinders. There’s much danger in going back now, in recognizing that the government routinely lies. They’re not going to face that. They won’t reopen this. I think Reynolds is like discovering an unfaithful wife after fifty years of marriage. You’re hurt by the betrayal, but you can’t turn back half a century. You preserve the marriage for the children’s sake” (see December 1980, September 1982, November 1984, January 1990, June 13, 1991, and September 16, 1992). [Siegel, 2008, pp. 266-267]
The Supreme Court refuses to hear a petition to reopen the 1953 state secrets case US v Reynolds (see February 26, 2003). It issues a one-sentence ruling: “The motion for leave to file a writ of error coram nobis is denied.” Plaintiff Judy Palya Loether says: “Maybe the law isn’t about right or wrong. The concept that the government lied to the Supreme Court (see February 2000) seemed to me a terrible thing to do. It appears that the justices were not as appalled as I was.” Further attempts to reopen the case in lower courts will also fail. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 267-298]
Lawyers for accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, battling to force the US government to allow them to depose other accused terrorists as part of their defense (see May 14, 2003), contact Jeff Almeida, the lawyer for the plaintiffs who sought to reopen the 1953 state secrets case US v Reynolds. They ask how his petition for coram nobis—a request for the court to “right a wrong”—went. Almeida tells them that the Court turned the petition down without comment (see June 23, 2003). Moussaoui’s lawyers tell Almeida that the government prosecutors were so reliant on Reynolds that “they had been waving it around the courtroom any chance they got.” Plaintiff Susan Brauner later says that she is glad Moussaoui’s lawyers contacted Almeida, and says she finds their interest “most encouraging.” She will add, “If we eventually walk away with nothing more than one concrete example where the case was of possible use to someone else… then I will believe we have done some good in impacting or at least raising the issue.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 272-273]
The Bush administration submits a legal brief arguing that the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit against AT&T, alleging that firm cooperated with the NSA’s domestic surveillance program (see January 31, 2006), should be thrown out of court because of the government’s “state secrets” privilege (see March 9, 1953). Justice Department lawyers want Judge Vaughn Walker to examine classified documents that they say will convince him to dismiss the lawsuit. However, the government does not want the defense lawyers to see that material. “No aspect of this case can be litigated without disclosing state secrets,” the government argues. “The United States has not lightly invoked the state secrets privilege, and the weighty reasons for asserting the privilege are apparent from the classified material submitted in support of its assertion.” [CNET News, 5/26/2006]
Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder says that if he is confirmed, he intends to review current litigation in which the Bush administration asserted the so-called “state secrets” privilege (see March 9, 1953), and that he intends to minimize the use of the privilege during his tenure. “I will review significant pending cases in which DOJ [the Justice Department] has invoked the state secrets privilege, and will work with leaders in other agencies and professionals at the Department of Justice to ensure that the United States invokes the state secrets privilege only in legally appropriate situations,” he writes in a response to pre-confirmation questions. (Shortly after Holder’s testimony, the Justice Department again asserts the “state secrets” privilege in a case involving a Guantanamo detainee—see February 9, 2009). Holder adds: “I firmly believe that transparency is a key to good government. Openness allows the public to have faith that its government obeys the law.” To a related question, he asserts his belief that the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) must disclose as many of the opinions it generates as possible: “Once the new assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel is confirmed, I plan to instruct that official to review the OLC’s policies relating to publication of its opinions with the [objective] of making its opinions available to the maximum extent consistent with sound practice and competing concerns.” [Federation of American Scientists, 2/2/2009; Senate Judiciary Committee, 2/2/2009] Weeks later, the Justice Department will release nine controversial OLC memos from the Bush administration (see March 2, 2009).
A Justice Department official says that the Obama administration will continue to assert the so-called “state secrets privilege” (see March 9, 1953) in a lawsuit filed by Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed (see February 8, 2009). In the case Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc, Mohamed and four former detainees are suing a Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, for cooperating with the CIA in subjecting them to “extraordinary rendition,” flying them to foreign countries and secret overseas CIA prisons where, they say, they were tortured. The case was thrown out a year ago, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has appealed it. According to a source inside the Ninth US District Court, a Justice Department lawyer tells the presiding judge that its position has not changed, that the new administration stands behind arguments that the previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The lawyer says the entire subject matter remains a state secret. According to Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller, “It is the policy of this administration to invoke the state secrets privilege only when necessary and in the most appropriate cases, consistent with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Reynolds that the privilege not ‘be lightly invoked.’” Miller adds that Attorney General Eric Holder is conducting a review of all state secret privilege matters. “The Attorney General has directed that senior Justice Department officials review all assertions of the State Secrets privilege to ensure that the privilege is being invoked only in legally appropriate situations,” Miller says. “It is vital that we protect information that, if released, could jeopardize national security. The Justice Department will ensure the privilege is not invoked to hide from the American people information about their government’s actions that they have a right to know. This administration will be transparent and open, consistent with our national security obligations.” The ACLU’s Anthony Romero says that the Obama administration is doing little besides offering “more of the same.” He continues: “Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition, and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again.” ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, who argued the case for Mohamed and the other plaintiffs, adds: “We are shocked and deeply disappointed that the Justice Department has chosen to continue the Bush administration’s practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course. Now we must hope that the court will assert its independence by rejecting the government’s false claims of state secrets and allowing the victims of torture and rendition their day in court.” [ABC News, 2/9/2009]
A federal appeals court rejects the Obama administration’s assertion that a potential threat to national security should stop a lawsuit challenging the government’s warrantless wiretapping program. The Justice Department had requested an emergency stay in a case brought by a defunct Islamic charity, the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation (see February 28, 2006). Al Haramain has asked that classified information be made available to the court to prove its case that the electronic surveillance brought to bear against it by the government was illegal; Justice Department lawyers contend that the information needs to remain classified and unavailable to the court, and cite the “state secrets” privilege (see March 9, 1953) as legal justification. Although the court rejects the request for the stay, Justice Department lawyers say they will continue fighting to keep the information secret. “The government respectfully requests that the court refrain from further actions to provide plaintiffs with access to classified information,” says a filing made by the Justice Department in regards to the ruling. A lawyer for Al Haramain, Steven Goldberg, says: “All we wanted was our day in court and it looks like we’re finally going to get our day in court. This case is all about challenging an assertion of power by the executive branch which is extraordinary.” The American Civil Liberties Union’s Ann Brick says the court has now crafted a way to review the issue in which “national security isn’t put at risk, but the rule of law can still be observed.” [Associated Press, 2/27/2009] Days later, the Justice Department will file a brief announcing its intention to refuse to honor the appeals court’s decision (see March 2, 2009).
The Justice Department defies a recent court order (see February 27, 2009) and refuses to provide a document that might prove the Bush administration conducted illegal wiretaps on a now-defunct Islamic charity. The Justice Department files a brief with a California federal district court challenging the court’s right to carry out its own decision to make that evidence available in a pending lawsuit. Even though the document is critical to the lawsuit, the lawyers can obtain the necessary top-secret clearances, and the document would not be made public, the Justice Department claims that the document cannot be entered into evidence. The lawyers for Al Haramain, the Islamic charity and the plaintiffs in the suit, calls the Justice Department’s decision “mind-boggling.”
Government’s Position – For its part, the Justice Department writes in a brief that the decision to release the document “is committed to the discretion of the executive branch, and is not subject to judicial review.” The document has been in the possession of the court since 2004, when the government inadvertently released it to the plaintiffs. In the same brief, the Justice Department writes: “If the Court intends to itself grant access to classified information directly to the plaintiffs’ counsel, the government requests that the Court again provide advance notice of any such order, as well as an ex parte, in camera description of the information it intends to disclose, to enable the government to either make its own determination about whether counsel has a need to know, or to withdraw that information from submission to the Court and use in this case. If the Court rejects either action by the government, the government again requests that the Court stay proceedings while the government considers whether to appeal any such order.” The statement is an implied threat that the Justice Department lawyers will themselves physically remove the document from the court files if the judge says he has the right to allow Al Haramain’s lawyers to see it.
Response from Plaintiff’s Attorney – Jon Eisenberg, a lawyer for Al-Haramain, says in an e-mail: “It’s a not-so-thinly veiled threat to send executive branch authorities (the FBI? the Army?) to Judge [Virginia] Walker’s chambers to seize the classified material from his files! In my view, that would be an unprecedented violation of the constitutional separation of powers. I doubt anything like it has happened in the history of this country.” Eisenberg says that the Obama administration, through the Justice Department, “seems to be provoking a separation-of-powers confrontation with Judge Walker.”
Administration’s Second Use of State Secrets – This is the second time the Obama administration has invoked the “state secrets” privilege to keep information secret (see February 9, 2009). Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) says: “In the Bush administration, the state secrets doctrine was used to buttress the power of the president and make it difficult if not impossible to contest such issues as presidential authority to conduct warrantless wiretapping in the United States. We would think that when such disagreements occur, it’s properly before the judiciary to resolve them. But the Bush administration asserted the state secrets doctrine for the purpose of making it effectively impossible for courts to review the matter.” The Al Haramain case is significant because of “the apparent willingness of the Obama administration’s Justice Department to carry further that same argument in federal court. It is of great concern.” [Washington Independent, 3/2/2009]
On the evening of February 13, 1945, an orgy of genocide and barbarism began against a defenseless German city, one of the greatest cultural centers of northern Europe. Within less than 14 hours not only was it reduced to flaming ruins, but an estimated one-third of its inhabitants, possibly as many as a half a million, had perished in what was the worst single event massacre of all time.
Toward the end of World War II, as Allied planes rained death and destruction over Germany, the old Saxon city of Dresden lay like an island of tranquillity amid desolation. Famous as a cultural center and possessing no military value, Dresden had been spared the terror that descended from the skies over the rest of the country.
In fact, little had been done to provide the ancient city of artists and craftsmen with anti-aircraft defenses. One squadron of planes had been stationed in Dresden for awhile, but the Luftwaffe decided to move the aircraft to another area where they would be of use. A gentlemen’s agreement seemed to prevail, designating Dresden an “open city.”
February 13/14 1945: Holocaust over Dresden, known as the Florence of the North. Dresden was a hospital city for wounded soldiers. Not one military unit, not one anti-aircraft battery was deployed in the city. Together with the 600.000 refugees from Breslau, Dresden was filled with nearly 1.2 million people. Churchill had asked for “suggestions how to blaze 600.000 refugees”. He wasn’t interested how to target military installations 60 miles outside of Dresden. More than 700.000 phosphorus bombs were dropped on 1.2 million people. One bomb for every 2 people. The temperature in the centre of the city reached 1600 o centigrade. More than 260.000 bodies and residues of bodies were counted. But those who perished in the centre of the city can’t be traced. Approximately 500.000 children, women, the elderly, wounded soldiers and the animals of the zoo were slaughtered in one night.
On Shrove Tuesday, February 13, 1945, a flood of refugees fleeing the Red Army 60 miles away had swollen the city’s population to well over a million. Each new refugee brought fearful accounts of Soviet atrocities. Little did those refugees retreating from the Red terror imagine that they were about to die in a horror worse than anything Stalin could devise.
Normally, a carnival atmosphere prevailed in Dresden on Shrove Tuesday. In 1945, however, the outlook was rather dismal. Houses everywhere overflowed with refugees, and thousands were forced to camp out in the streets shivering in the bitter cold.
However, the people felt relatively safe; and although the mood was grim, the circus played to a full house that night as thousands came to forget for a moment the horrors of war. Bands of little girls paraded about in carnival dress in an effort to bolster warning spirits. Half-sad smiles greeted the laughing girls, but spirits were lifted.
No one realized that in less than 24 hours those same innocent children would die screaming in Churchill’s firestorms. But, of course, no one could know that then. The Russians, to be sure, were savages, but at least the Americans and British were “honorable.”
So, when those first alarms signaled the start of 14 hours of hell, Dresden’s people streamed dutifully into their shelters. But they did so without much enthusiasm, believing the alarms to be false, since their city had never been threatened from the air. Many would never come out alive, for that “great democratic statesman,” Winston Churchill–in collusion with that other “great democratic statesman,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt–had decided that the city of Dresden was to be obliterated by saturation bombing.
What where Churchill’s motives? They appear to have been political, rather than military. Historians unanimously agree that Dresden had no military value. What industry it did have produced only cigarettes and china.
But the Yalta Conference was coming up, in which the Soviets and their Western allies would sit down like ghouls to carve up the shattered corpse of Europe. Churchill wanted a trump card–a devastating “thunderclap of Anglo-American annihilation”–with which to “impress” Stalin.
That card, however, was never played at Yalta, because bad weather delayed the originally scheduled raid. Yet Churchill insisted that the raid be carried out–to “disrupt and confuse” the German civilian population behind the lines.
Dresden’s citizens barely had time to reach their shelters. The first bomb fell at 10:09 p.m. The attack lasted 24 minutes, leaving the inner city a raging sea of fire. “Precision saturation bombing” had created the desired firestorm.
A firestorm is caused when hundreds of smaller fires join in one vast conflagration. Huge masses of air are sucked in to feed the inferno, causing an artificial tornado. Those persons unlucky enough to be caught in the rush of wind are hurled down entire streets into the flames. Those who seek refuge underground often suffocate as oxygen is pulled from the air to feed the blaze, or they perish in a blast of white heat–heat intense enough to melt human flesh.
One eyewitness who survived told of seeing “young women carrying babies running up and down the streets, their dresses and hair on fire, screaming until they fell down, or the collapsing buildings fell on top of them.”
There was a three-hour pause between the first and second raids. The lull had been calculated to lure civilians from their shelters into the open again. To escape the flames, tens of thousands of civilians had crowded into the Grosser Garten, a magnificent park nearly one and a half miles square.
The second raid came at 1:22 a.m. with no warning. Twice as many bombers returned with a massive load of incendiary bombs. The second wave was designed to spread the raging firestorm into the Grosser Garten.
It was a complete “success.” Within a few minutes a sheet of flame ripped across the grass, uprooting trees and littering the branches of others with everything from bicycles to human limbs. For days afterward, they remained bizarrely strewn about as grim reminders of Allied sadism.
At the start of the second air assault, many were still huddled in tunnels and cellars, waiting for the fires of the first attack to die down. At 1:30 a.m. an ominous rumble reached the ears of the commander of a Labor Service convoy sent into the city on a rescue mission. He described it this way:
“The detonation shook the cellar walls. The sound of the explosions mingled with a new, stranger sound which seemed to come closer and closer, the sound of a thundering waterfall; it was the sound of the mighty tornado howling in the inner city.”
MELTING HUMAN FLESH
Others hiding below ground died. But they died painlessly–they simply glowed bright orange and blue in the darkness. As the heat intensified, they either disintegrated into cinders or melted into a thick liquid–often three or four feet deep in spots.
Shortly after 10:30 on the morning of February 14, the last raid swept over the city. American bombers pounded the rubble that had been Dresden for a steady 38 minutes. But this attack was not nearly as heavy as the first two.
However, what distinguished this raid was the cold-blooded ruthlessness with which it was carried out. U.S. Mustangs appeared low over the city, strafing anything that moved, including a column of rescue vehicles rushing to the city to evacuate survivors. One assault was aimed at the banks of the Elbe River, where refugees had huddled during the horrible night.
In the last year of the war, Dresden had become a hospital town. During the previous night’s massacre, heroic nurses had dragged thousands of crippled patients to the Elbe. The low-flying Mustangs machine-gunned those helpless patients, as well as thousands of old men, women and children who had escaped the city.
When the last plane left the sky, Dresden was a scorched ruin, its blackened streets filled with corpses. The city was spared no horror. A flock of vultures escaped from the zoo and fattened on the carnage. Rats swarmed over the piles of corpses.
A Swiss citizen described his visit to Dresden two weeks after the raid: “I could see torn-off arms and legs, mutilated torsos and heads which had been wrenched from their bodies and rolled away. In places the corpses were still lying so densely that I had to clear a path through them in order not to tread on arms and legs.”
Canadian Concentration Camps
By world standards Canada is a country that respects and protects its citizens’ human rights. That has not always been true, however. Many people are familiar with the story of the internment of Japanese-Canadians in BC during World War II. But not many people are aware that the Japanese were not the only Canadians imprisoned during wartime simply because of their ethnic origin. The history of Canada includes more than one shameful incident in which the Canadian government used the law to violate the civil rights of its own citizens.
The War Measures Act
The War Measures Act was enacted on 22 August 1914, and gave the federal government full authority to do everything deemed necessary “for the security, defence, peace, order and welfare of Canada”. It could be used when the government thought that Canada was about to be invaded or war would be declared, in order to mobilize all segments of society to support the war effort. The Act also gave the federal government sweeping emergency powers that allowed Cabinet to administer the war effort without accountability to Parliament, and without regard to existing legislation. It gave the government additional powers of media censorship, arrest without charge, deportation without trial, and the expropriation, control and disposal of property. This Act was always implemented via an Order in Council, rather than by approval of the democratically elected Parliament.
World War I
After Great Britain entered the First World War in August 1914, the government of Canada issued an Order in Council under the War Measures Act. It required the registration and in certain cases the internment of aliens of “enemy nationality”. This included the more than 80,000 Canadians who were formerly citizens of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. These individuals had to register as “enemy aliens” and report to local authorities on a regular basis. Twenty-four “concentration camps” (later called “internment camps”) were established across Canada, eight of them in British Columbia. View a list of World War 1 Concentration Camps. The camps were supposed to house enemy alien immigrants who had contravened regulations or who were deemed to be security threats. In fact, the “enemy aliens” could be interned if they failed to register, or failed to report monthly, or travelled without permission, or wrote to relatives in Austria.
Other less concrete reasons given for internment included “acting in a very suspicious manner” and being “undesirable”. By the middle of 1915, 4000 of the internees had been imprisoned for being “indigent” (poor and unemployed). A total of 8,579 Canadians were interned between 1914 and 1920. Over 5,000 of them were of Ukrainian descent. Germans, Poles, Italians, Bulgarians, Croatians, Turks, Serbians, Hungarians, Russians, Jews, and Romanians were also imprisoned. Of the 8,579 internees, only 2,321 could be classed as “prisoners of war” (i.e. “captured in arms or belonging to enemy reserves”); the rest were civilians.
Upon each individual’s arrest, whatever money and property they had was taken by the government. In the internment camps they were denied access to newspapers and their correspondence was censored. They were sometimes mistreated by the guards. One hundred and seven internees died, including several shot while trying to escape. They were forced to work on maintaining the camps, road-building, railway construction, and mining. As the need for soldiers overseas led to a shortage of workers in Canada, many of these internees were released on parole to work for private companies.
The first World War ended in 1918, but the forced labour program was such a benefit to Canadian corporations that the internment was continued for two years after the end of the War.
World War II
During World War II the War Measures Act was used again to intern Canadians, and 26 internment camps were set up across Canada. In 1940 an Order in Council was passed that defined enemy aliens as “all persons of German or Italian racial origin who have become naturalized British subjects since September 1, 1922″. (At the time, Canada didn’t grant passports and citizenship on its own, so immigrants were “naturalized” by becoming British subjects.) A further Order in Council outlawed the Communist Party. Estimates suggest that some 30,000 individuals were affected by these Orders; that is, they were forced to register with the RCMP and to report to them on a monthly basis. The government interned approximately 500 Italians and over 100 communists.
In New Brunswick, 711 Jews, refugees from the holocaust, were interned at the request of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill because he thought there might be spies in the group.
In 1942, the government decided it wanted 2,240 acres of Indian Reserve land at Stony Point, in southwestern Ontario, to establish an advanced infantry training base. Apparently the decision to take Reserve land for the army base was made to avoid the cost and time involved in expropriating non-Aboriginal lands. The Stony Point Reserve comprised over half the Reserve territory of the Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point. Under the Indian Act, reserve lands can only be sold by Surrender, which involves a vote by the Band membership. The Band members voted against the Surrender, however the Band realized the importance of the war effort and they were willing to lease the land to the Government. The Government rejected the offer to lease. On April 14, 1942, an Order-in-Council authorizing the appropriation of Stony Point was passed under the provisions of the War Measures Act. The military was sent in to forcibly remove the residents of Stony Point. Houses, buildings and the burial ground were bulldozed to establish Camp Ipperwash. By the terms of the Order-in-Council, the Military could use the Reserve lands at Stony Point only until the end of World War II. However, those lands have not yet been returned. The military base was closed in the early 1950′s, and since then the lands have been used for cadet training, weapons training and recreational facilities for military personnel.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942, the government passed an Order in Council authorizing the removal of “enemy aliens” within a 100-mile radius of the BC coast. On March 4, 1942 22,000 Japanese Canadians were given 24 hours to pack before being interned. They were first incarcerated in a temporary facility at Hastings Park Race Track in Vancouver. Women, children and older people were sent to internment camps in the Interior. Others were forced into road construction camps. There were also “self-supporting camps”, where 1,161 internees paid to lease farms in a less restrictive environment, although they were still considered “enemy aliens”. Men who complained about separation from their families or violated the curfew were sent to the “prisoner of war” camps in Ontario.
The property of the Japanese Canadians – land, businesses, and other assets – were confiscated by the government and sold, and the proceeds used to pay for their internment. In 1945, the government extended the Order in Council to force the Japanese Canadians to go to Japan and lose their Canadian citizenship, or move to eastern Canada. Even though the war was over, it was illegal for Japanese Canadians to return to Vancouver until 1949. In 1988 Canada apologized for this miscarriage of justice, admitting that the actions of the government were influenced by racial discrimination. The government signed a redress agreement providing a small amount of money compensation.
Could This Happen Today?
The War Measures Act was repealed in 1988. It was replaced with the Emergencies Act. The Emergencies Act allows the federal government to make temporary laws in the event of a serious national emergency. The Emergencies Act differs from the War Measures Act in two important ways:
1. A declaration of an emergency by the Cabinet must be reviewed by Parliament
2. Any temporary laws made under the Act are subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Thus any attempt by the government to suspend the civil rights of Canadians, even in an emergency, will be subject to the “reasonable and justified” test under section 1 of the Charter. Restrictions and limitations on freedom were inevitable during times of war. To the Canadian government, internment during both World Wars was a practical solution to a perceived security problem. However the terms of the Orders in Council, and the methods used to carry them out, reveal that the government was influenced more by racial discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiments than by any real threat to national security. The stories of the internees are a reminder of how human rights are vulnerable in situations of crisis.
By Diana Breti
Centre for Education, Law and Society (CELS)
Simon Fraser University
Vancouver, British Columbia
- 71 Years Ago Today, FDR Signed “NDAA of 1942″ Authorizing Internment Camps (silverunderground.com)
Living through five or six major wars has hardened me to what I thought were the extremes of inhuman cruelty and brutality.
Two things made those extremes almost bearable: the brutality always revealed – at least according to the media coverage – the viciousness of the enemy. It was therefore quite understandable when our “brave men and women” pulverized the enemy.
Films of Japanese torturing captive Americans somehow justified holding over 7,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II; and only a small percentage of Americans found the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki unreasonably vengeful at best, at worst, depraved.
The media giants in America portrayed the North Koreans as barbaric beasts with their captives, quite unlike their southern counterpoints – our allies during the Korean War. No one ever felt the need to explain how the South Koreans were a civilized breed while the North Koreans were absolute savages, at least according to the official line.
In Vietnam, our warriors justifiably (or so the media made us believe) dropped napalm on the North Vietnamese who had the gall to hide in villages and tunnels to ravage our invaders. At least it was accepted practice until some rogue photojournalist filmed a young girl screaming down a Vietnamese road in flames.
One of our lieutenants also got caught commanding his troops to open fire on an entire village of civilians – women and children. We had obviously – to some – gone too far. If those few torturous incidents hadn’t been filmed, we might have carried on and won the war in Vietnam (or so the thinking goes) with our napalm and wanton village massacres.
Then, when the Iraqi troops ran (literally) fleeing Kuwait in 1991, our bloodthirsty aviators annihilated them on the road north, bombing their retreat to “melted glass” (as one Lockheed acquaintance put it). That feast for hungry slaughterers received little attention. The bombers and strafers felt no guilt after Saddam’s troops had blown up Kuwait’s oil wells.
The nagging memory of non-avenged defeat in Vietnam somehow allowed members of the clergy to ignore the devastating inhuman cost to children in Iraq during 10 years of sanctions. Only a few humanitarians among academics spoke out. Congress completely ignored it. The public didn’t care. Why should they? Our leaders spoke of everything but the brutality of our enforcers.
We have now reached a stage where our extreme horrors of brutality and cruelty have exceeded our past records. We no longer have the rationale of moral righteousness of the earlier wars.
There were no excuses for Abu-Ghraib, but our interest in that inhuman travesty dried up and blew away. We have little concern about our violations of human rights in Guantanamo. We care less about ill-treatment of Arabs and Arab Americans in the USA.
But the most extremes – the real horrors – of this war come with the primitive killer mentality developed in our youth. I’ve now seen a half dozen documentary films and read eyewitness accounts that reveal troops or pilots gloating over the massacres of civilians who just happened to be available targets.
Without doubt, the US has not only become the world’s major power, it has become the world’s sickest warrior state. Neither conscience nor empathy for others defines the qualities of the sociopath.
It’s past time for humanitarians to reject the double standards set by warmongers and supported by arms-makers and the mainstream media. The clergy needs to stop preaching sanctimonious sermons. Finally, educators should adopt and teach a zero tolerance policy for self-righteous warriors.
And yes, those who would dismiss my criticism as vitriolic should join a chorus with a conscience.
Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years.