Saturday, August 18, 2012

August 18: A very mixed bag....

There's everything from excellent to puerile in today's Moncton Times and Transcript. So let's get the crap out of the way to go on to what's worth talking about.
1. There is no news whatever on anything of importance to Moncton or the province. (Unless, of course, you    just can't get enough of pictures of kites, and stories about dogs coming home.)
There is, to be fair, a picture and brief story about Roy McMullen who is running for leadership of the Green Party. But there is not a hint - and never has been - about why anybody in New Brunswick would be interested in green issues. After all, we all know that there are no problems whatever with shale gas; and New Brunswick has the toughest standards for shale gas drilling in the whole world. So what could possibly go wrong?

2. Reuters' account of the diplomatic crisis over Julian Assange and Wikkileaks is almost incoherent. It didn't even have a mention of what must be Assange's greatest concern for what could happen to him. An army private who is alleged to have helped him with the  Wikkileaks, private Bradley Manning, was imprisoned by the US government over a year ago without charge or trial.  He has suffered over a year of solitary confinement and torture - with UN rights officials not permitted to see him. He is now being tried before a military court (which accepts evidence gathered by torture, and whose rules are so loose that the accused is almost invariably found guilty.) Private Manning can expect to spend the rest of his life in prison for the crime of showing that US presidents have consistently lied about the reasons for Iraq and Afghanistan - as well as many other things.  But don't worry your head about it. It's not a story you are likely to see in the TandT. There are too many kites to report on.

3. (Bill) Belliveau lectures lobster fishermen that they, as independent businessmen have to learn that the market dictates the price of goods. So they shouldn't expect government help.

Bill, I would have a hell of a lot more respect for  you if you were to write a lecture like that for the billionaire who owns the newspaper you write for. Meanwhile, I can only assume that the words "in depth" under your name indicate you are prepared to sink very low, indeed.

So much for the crap.

There is a superb column by Gwynne Dyer on what this hot and dry summer is going to mean as millions are going to starve for want of the price of a meal. (Perhaps we can send Bill Belliveau among the starving to spread the comforting, Holy writ that "Market dictates price of food commodities".

There's a good column by Brent Mazerolle on the Dieppe raid and, on p. B1, a fascinating news story about it.

I can add a little bit to Brent's column (not a correction, just a footnote.)

One of my professors (and the supervisor of my doctoral dissertation) was a brilliant man who was the leading authority on Mackenzie King (prime minister in World War 2). He was also close to King for many years. He is relatively unknown because he published very little of what he knew. But he shared his knowledge generously with scholars who gained fame as a result. And he shared it with us students.

Mackenzie King approved of the disastrous Dieppe raid. He also approved of the even more terrible sending of two thousand Canadian troops to Hong Kong, an indefensible colony where those 2000 Canadians would die in the fighting, or of disease and abuse and starvation in prison camps - or would return to Canada forever shattered in body and mind.  Why did King do that?

The prime minister wanted only one thing in life - to be prime minister. And, related to that, his greatest fear throughout World War Two was that Canadians would be killed.

No. He didn't care about it for the sake of Canadian soldiers. He did it because in World War One, Canadian losses had forced PM Borden to introduce conscription for military service. That destroyed the Conservative party for the best part of a half century. King was determined to avoid casualties - because casualties could mean conscription. And conscription could mean that he would lose the next election.

He sent troops to Hong Kong because that gave the impression he was helping in the war effort but, since he was assured Hong Kong was a safe place to be, there would be no danger of being forced into conscription.

Brent Mazerolle's account is quite correct. Just add to it King's motivation. He had been assured that casualties would be minimal. So there would be no conscription - and he and the Liberal party would survive. (There is a p.s. to the story. Late in the war, King did have to introduce conscription. But it was so obvious that he had postponed it as long as he could that he didn't suffer for it.)

My attention was caught, as well, by a news story on Dieppe.

The story on p. B1 is about a researcher named O'Keefe who says he has discovered that Dieppe was really  a cover for another raid that was a huge success in breaking German intelligence.

(In fairness and pure ego, I  have to admit it was the name O'Keefe that caught my attention. In my days at Concordia, I taught him military history. He was one of many, excellent students I  had who were officers in the militia. Taken as a group, they were a very bright bunch, people all Canadians can be proud of.)

It's too early yet to be sure of the importance of O'Keefe's theory. But it looks promising.

As to the importance of lessons learned at Dieppe, I disagree with that as I disagreed with O'Keefe so many years ago. You land troops on an open but narrow beach with impossible natural barriers, and manned by an enemy that knows you are coming, and makes the beach a wall of machine-gun fire and blasting shells...you try to run tanks up a steeply sloping beach covered in loose gravel..and they can't do it.....

Any military planner who needed to learn those lessons is a person who shouldn't be allowed to go to the bathroom by himself.

The great problem is that the planner of that raid was Lord Louis Mountbatten, a celebrated war figure, one who would go on to even higher command - but hopelessly out of his league in any military situation.

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