Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Hiroshima Myth and the Glorification of American Militarism

By Gary G. Kohls | This coming Wednesday, August 6, 2014, is the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, the whole truth of which has been heavily censored and mythologized ever since war-weary Americans celebrated V-J Day on August 15.

In the pitiful history lessons that were taught by my uninspired or bored history teachers (which seemed to be mainly ex-jocks whose real interest was coaching) came from patriotic and highly censored books where everything the British and US military ever did in the history of warfare was honorable and self-sacrificing and everything their opponents did was barbaric. Everybody in my graduating class of 26 swallowed the post-war propaganda in our history books. It was from these books that we learned about the “glorious” end of the war against Japan.

Of course, I now know that my high school classmates and I, just like most other Americans, including the volunteer members of the military, have been naïve victims of “lies our history teachers taught us”. Those teachers had likewise been misled by those who taught them their American history, which included war-justifying militarists and assorted uber-patriotic veterans and historians who refused to face the possibility that they had been duped and brain-washed into believing the myth of American exceptionalism. Included in that group were World War II “heroes” like General Douglas MacArthur, but not the 50,000 American soldier-members of The Greatest Generation who deserted or went AWOL during their war service, a reality that has been conveniently censored out of our consciousness.

One of MacArthur’s first acts after taking over as Viceroy of Japan was to confiscate and/or destroy all the photographic evidence documenting the horrors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He imposed total censorship over journalists on the ground about what really happened at Ground Zero in those doomed cities, again proving the old adage that “the first casualty of war is truth”.

Back in 1995, the Smithsonian Institution was preparing to correct some of the 50-year-old pseudo-patriotic myths about the Pacific War by staging an honest, historically-accurate display dealing with the atomic bombings that dealt with stories from the Japanese civilian perspective.

Swift and well-orchestrated condemnations directed at the Smithsonian historian’s plans to tell unwelcome truths came from right-wing veterans and other militarist groups (including Newt Gingrich’s GOP-dominated Congress – that threatened to stop federal funding of the Institute). The Smithsonian was forced to censor-out all of the contextually important parts of the story, and the patriotic myths about the atomic bombings persist to this very day.

Recommended Viewing: Hiroshima & Nagasaki After the Atomic Bombings

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

After the Deluge: Tsunami and the Great Wall of Japan

by David McNeill and Justin McCurry | Like hundreds of communities along Japan’s northeast coast, the village of Koizumi exists on maps only. On 11 March 2011, a M9.0 earthquake beneath the Pacific Ocean erupted with the force of a million tons of TNT, triggering towering waves that killed around 19,000 people. In Koizumi, 40 of the 1,800 villagers died.

As residents of a country pummeled by tsunami roughly every seven years, the survivors know that someday the calamity will almost certainly return.

Fear of a giant tsunami prompted Koizumi resident Abe Masahito to rebuild his family home on higher ground 20 years ago. Yet he and other local people are now questioning the wisdom of government plans to build 440 concrete walls and breakwaters along 230 kilometres of coastline in the worst-hit prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate.

The grand project will take five years and cost more than 80 billion yen. Many more similar defences are planned elsewhere: a joint 2012 report by the ministries of agriculture and land said that 14,000km of Japan’s 35,000km coastline requires tsunami protection.

The seawall solution is controversial, not least because the evidence for their effectiveness is mixed. Fudai, a village sheltering behind a giant concrete shield once condemned as a costly boondoggle, escaped unscathed in 2011. But in the city of Kamaishi, a US$1.6 billion breakwater listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest, crumbled on impact with the tsunami. Nearly 90 percent of the seawalls along the northeast coast suffered similar fates. Critics say they even worsened the deluge’s impact in many places.

“It’s madness, says Abe, a local schoolteacher who points out that the proposed 14.7-meter-tall wall for Koizumi will be lower than the tsunami that inundated the village in March 2011. Besides, he adds, surviving villagers now spread out among several temporary housing units will later this year begin moving into new homes built on high ground some 3 kilometres from the coast, safe from tsunami.

“We want the government to change the shape of the wall, to redesign it so a tsunami would have minimal impact, not just put up giant walls with barely any consideration for local people’s wishes,” he says.

Experts agree that the government, perhaps caught up in the emotion that followed the disaster, rushed to judgment in turning to a familiar solution: concrete.


Japanese Residents Get Anti-Radiation Pills Ahead Of Nuclear Restart

from Channel News Asia: Japanese officials are handing out radiation-blocking iodine tablets to people living in the shadow of two nuclear reactors slated to restart this year, underscoring concerns about atomic power after the Fukushima crisis. The move to distribute the pills -- which help to reduce radiation buildup in the body -- started Sunday (July 27) for those living within a five-kilometre radius of the Sendai nuclear plant.

The site, roughly 1,000 kilometres from Tokyo on the southern island of Kyushu, recently cleared new safety standards and could start operations in a few months. It comes despite vocal opposition to the plan, three years after the worst atomic crisis in a generation.

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority said earlier this month that two atomic reactors at the Sendai plant were safe enough to switch back on, marking a big step towards restarting nuclear plants which were shuttered after Fukushima.

Officials in Satsumasendai city and the Kagoshima prefecture said they were handing out iodine tablets to about 4,700 people in the area, some as young as three years old. Several dozen people have refused the free pills, which were part of stricter central government guidelines aimed at preparing for another accident. The pills are used to protect the human thyroid gland in the event of airborne radiation, although there is some debate about their effectiveness.

Australia: New Terrorism Scare Used To Unveil Vast Surveillance Powers

from On the phoney pretext of shielding the Australian population from “radicalised and militarised extremists returning from the Middle East,” the Abbott government is moving to boost the already draconian powers of the intelligence apparatus.

Assured in advance of the backing of the Labor Party, the Liberal-National Coalition government this week tabled legislation to allow the spy agencies to use listening, optical and tracking devices without warrants, hack into entire computer networks and spy on Australians overseas, while imposing lengthy jail terms for whistleblowers and journalists who alert the public to the mass surveillance.

This marks a new escalation in a decade-long process. Successive governments, both Coalition and Labor, have repeatedly invoked fabricated terrorism scares since the supposed “war on terrorism” was declared in 2001.

Unveiling the laws on Wednesday, Attorney-General George Brandis claimed: “The threat posed by returning foreign fighters is the most significant risk to Australia’s domestic security that we have faced in many years.”

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) chief David Irvine, who flanked Brandis at the media conference, made an unprecedented appearance on breakfast television yesterday to insist that the “threat of home grown terrorism” made expanded surveillance powers essential.

This is a fraud, on many levels. In the first place, the numbers of Australians allegedly involved in the fighting in Syria and Iraq is small and dwindling—60 by Brandis’s latest estimate, compared to government claims last year of 200 or more.

Secondly, the Australian government and its allies in the US and Europe are directly responsible for stoking the two-year Al Qaeda-linked operation to overthrow the Assad government in Syria, which has this year spread to Iraq. If Australians have gone to join the Islamist forces, they have been encouraged to do so by the financing and arming of these elements by Washington and its accomplices, including those in Canberra.

Thirdly, the powers being handed over to the intelligence services go far beyond any claim to be combating small bands of jihadists, whose identities are already well known to ASIO and the other security agencies.

China Adds East China Sea Drills to Spate of Military Exercises

from China announced new military drills in the East China Sea, adding to exercises under way in other areas that may further disrupt domestic air travel and add to tensions with neighbours over territorial disputes in the region.

China begins five days of drills in the East China Sea tomorrow (July 30), the Ministry of Defense said in a statement on its website yesterday. Those exercises, which the ministry called routine, come while China is holding live-fire drills off Beibu Bay, or the Gulf of Tonkin, near Vietnam and drills in the Bohai Strait that both end August 1.

While the scale of the current drills is bigger than in the past, it’s a coincidence the annual exercises are being held at the same time, Beijing News reported yesterday, citing Zhang Junshe, a researcher at Navy Military Research Institute.

President Xi Jinping has been expanding the reach of China’s navy and using the added muscle to more aggressively assert territorial claims in the region. Chinese and Japanese ships regularly tail one another off disputed islands in the East China Sea, while deadly, anti-Chinese riots broke out in Vietnam in May after China set up an oil rig in waters also claimed by that country. The Philippines has sought United Nations arbitration in its maritime spat with China.

China Builds Listening Station In Hong Kong

from Strat Risks: The existence of a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) communications installation atop Hong Kong’s tallest mountain – the 957 m-high peak of Tai Mo Shan – recently came to light.

Construction began around 2010, with a geodesic dome first appearing in satellite imagery in 2011. The facility has been operational for approximately three years.

The installation sits inside a fenced compound that also includes a Civil Aviation Department terminal area radar and Hong Kong Observatory weather radar. The Hong Kong government has admitted giving the PLA a plot of land measuring 9,300 m² on which the army has constructed a geodesic dome, antenna mast, two large buildings, and a basketball court for use by the resident garrison.

The PLA has installed security cameras and also tinted building windows to reduce observation. On two occasions IHS Jane’s has observed PLA vehicles ascending Tai Mo Shan to deliver supplies or replacement staff. Personnel wearing PLA Navy-style uniforms have been observed inside the compound.

The PLA has refused to explain the facility’s purpose, claiming that “military secrecy” means it is “not appropriate for disclosure”, although it is extremely likely that it is an electronic and signals intelligence (ELINT/SIGINT) facility. If so, the facility will be similar in purpose to a British radar station based on Tai Mo Shan and used to monitor mainland China until the colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Abbott and MH17 – Manufacturing Outrage

from Politicians like disasters.

It gives them a chance to appear statesman like and humanitarian while evincing sorrow for the victims.

Depending on circumstance, disasters allow politicians to project leadership and assure the populace that perpetrators will be brought to justice for their actions.

Political differences can be set aside as both government and opposition parties express sympathy for both victim and survivor.

Disasters also have the effect of drawing attention away from domestic political problems, especially if the government is struggling to maintain its credibility.

There is however, a fine line between expressing genuine regret and sorrow for the victims of disaster and exploiting the tragedy for political gain.

On Wednesday July 24th, Tony Abbott stepped across that line, by giving a graphic description of the fate of victims bodies which have not yet been recovered from the MH17 crash.

Abbott’s remarks were in the very least, insensitive to the families of those who lost their lives, and betrayed nothing less than a ham-fisted attempt to manufacture outrage.

From the moment the news of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 broke, Abbott has seized on every opportunity to present himself as tough talking leader determined to chastise Russia for its support of pro-separatist rebels.

- War monger Tony Abbott recklessly accuses the Russian President over downed passenger plane
- Australia spruiking for a major war against Russia
- Armed Australian soldiers, police to deploy to MH17 crash site

Japan Mulls Law To Supply Arms To U.S. Troops In Logistics Support

from Japan Times: In a major policy change, Japan is considering creating a law that would enable its Self-Defense Forces to provide weapons and ammunition to U.S. and other troops as part of its logistics support, a government source said in Tokyo on Saturday.

The move is in line with the Cabinet’s decision on July 1 to expand support to troops of other countries as part of Japan’s security policy overhaul.

The government hopes the change regarding the weapons provision will be reflected in the guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation to be revised by the end of the year, and it aims to submit bills to revise the relevant legislation to the ordinary parliament session next year, the source said.

With the introduction of the new legislation, the government’s position is that providing arms and ammunition does not run counter to the pacifist Constitution so long as the SDF is not integrated in the use of force by other countries.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also wants to eliminate restrictions on SDF personnel in their overseas missions and for Japan to act as a more proactive contributor to "global peace", the source said. [emphasis added]

Critics have pointed out that an expanded SDF presence will increase the chances of its personnel being involved in conflicts once they start supplying arms and ammunitions to other troops.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Japan's Secrecy Law Seen As Draconian

from Al Jazeera: "Abe colour" is an expression occasionally used in Japan's domestic media. It means those government policies that reflect Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's personal views, and the term relates to his hawkish security policies. Critics claim the secrecy bill passed into law in December 2013 is said to be one such example of "Abe colour", and it will go into effect this December.
Proper safeguards and oversight bodies were supposed to be included, but critics say that this secrecy law is still far from adequate.

One of the strongest critics of the new law comes from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which has asked the government to completely reconsider the law. Yoichi Eto, its representative, told Al Jazeera: "This law simply provides new powers to the government officials. It says that they are authorised to do this or that. But it has nothing to say at all about what officials must not do. 

"There are no limits on the scope of this law, and that is its biggest problem," Eto said.

Almost every critic of the law points to the vagueness of its language; the manner in which the line between what is allowed and what is forbidden is not clearly specified.

"If we don't have clarity in the regulations, if we don't have clarity in the law, then we don't know what is the extent of the government's power," said Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University in Tokyo. "We don't know how government agencies will use that power, to what degree, to what extent, what range of information may be covered."

Professor Repeta goes on to note that the law makes no distinction about whether or not information is properly designated as a secret, or if release of the information will actually have any negative effect on national security, or if it is demonstrably in the public interest: All that the new law says is that if someone reveals something designated (for whatever reason) as a special secret, then they have committed a crime for which they may spend up to 10 years in prison.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Why Oil and Gas in the South China Sea Won’t Be Developed

from The South China Sea has enormous potential for oil and gas reserves but territorial conflict will likely hold it back for years to come.

On July 16, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) decided to remove its oil rig from contested waters, stating that its exploration mission was completed after finding “sings of oil and gas.” 

While moving the rig out of waters claimed by both China and Vietnam could cool tensions, the intractable dispute over territory is holding back what could be massive investment in oil and gas exploration.

The Wall Street Journal reported on several major international oil companies that are steering clear of the South China Sea because of the conflict, despite the potentially huge reserves of oil and gas in its waters.