Wednesday, August 30, 2017

August 30: Telling the Truth is Dangerous

So here goes.

It was May 8, 1945. I was late for grade 6 - again.  So the teacher sent me home - with a note. I was one frightened kid.

But my mother ignored the note. And she didn't even listen to me. Without a word, she took me to downtown Montreal on a tram car that was packed with jubilant people. The streets were packed, with a mob following a man strutting in front with a wire litter bin over  his head.  Then I saw the signs.

VE Day! Germany had surrendered! The war in Europe was over! My father would be coming home.

And, oh, there were there were still the wartime signs up.  "Loose lips sink ships", "Buy a bond for freedom today"...."We've won the war. Now we've got to win the peace."

Oh! That last was a new one. But it made no sense We'd won the war. It was over. My father was coming home. We'd won the peace...hadn't we?

It certainly looked that way. We formed the UN to establish a sort of world government that would keep the peace. We formed NATO as a defence against Russian expansion.

And we threw it all away. The first use of NATO was to invade North Korea, an operation that killed a third of all North Koreans while making no gain whatever. Even the idea of preserving tthe freedom of South Korea was pure propaganda. South Korea was a vicious dictatorship.

No. The real purpose of that war was to occupy North Korea as a base to attack China. U.S. big business desperately wanted control of China as a capitalist's wonderland of cheap labour and markets. That's why President Truman seriously considered the nuclear bombing of North Korea when Chnese troops intervened.
Generally, the major powers, prominently  the U.S., have pretty much ignored the U.N. And when Afghanistan offered to turn over Osama Bin Laden to international courts for trial on 9/11 charges, the U.S. refused - preferring to punish a whole country, killing far, far more than were killed on 911 - and most of them just as innocent as those who died on 911.

In fact, the biggest aggressor since 1945 (and perhaps the biggest in history) has been the U.S. with over 70 invasions, with uncounted CIA murders, with the CIA creation, training and equipping of al Quaeda. with drone bombers that have killed thousands, with the creation of dictatorships as it did all over Latin America, in Iran and in Africa, with the creation of chaos, refugees and horrible suffering in Africa.

All of this  has been to make billionaires richer. And, like Britain in its fading days, the U.S. wants its empire to join its wars. That's why Canada and Britain fought in Korea and Afghanistan and Libya. That's why Britain fought in Iraq. That's why Canadian soldiers are on a very dangerous duty in Lavia and, possibly, in Iraq and Syria.

And our news media reports it as though the world is made up of evil countries that are always picking on us. Yes. Guatemala was picking on the U.S. So was Castro. So was Vietnam. So was Iran. This is why Canadians are on dangerous duty in Latvia (and without our news meda paying much attention to it.) Same for Iraq and Syria.

The world of today is many things. But there is one thing it is not. It is not what our soldiers, sailors and airmen fought and died for in World War Two. It is not a world of peace and sharing and freedom. And our soldiers did not die so that billionaires could plunder oil in the Middle East.

We now have a world in which the most dangerous aggressor (by far) is the United States. And that's not because of the American people. It's because of those very, very wealthy Americans who own the American government - and almost all the news media.

No. It's not just Trump. It's every American President since 1945. .

(The American people can be propagandized by the news portrait of foreigners as evil; but there's an almost subconcious reaction, as well. They're fed up with wars. That's why the American army can't get enough volunteers. So now, slightly over half of the U.S. army is make up of mercenaries from all over the world. And they are extremely expensive, most earning more in a year than an American general does and, commonly, with the promise of American citizenship at retirement.)

On, November 11, let us, most certainly, remember those who served. Let us think of the debt we owe them. But let us also, for the first time, remember how we betrayed them, how we broke all the promises we made about the world they were fighting for. And let's promise to change, to honour the promises we made as they honoured our need for to risk their lives.

And let's stop making a propaganda show out of Nov. 11. For a start, let's take loaded words like patriotism off the table. That's a vague and misleading word.  Patriotism is one of those words that can be good - or terribly evil. The Naziis who killed Canadians and who operated death camps for Jews were patriots. So were the Italians who killed for Mussolini, and the Japanese who starved Canadians in their work camps.

The Japanese were not only patriots serving their country. They were serving their emperor - as Canadians served their king and as Italians served Mussolini (who actually thought he was a caesar) and as Germans served Hitler.
There is nothing necessarily good about patriotism or serving your country. These are just propaganda words.

So let's get reasonable. From the age of six, I can remember the 'boys' coming to our place to say goodbye. I can remember their happiness. This was adventure. I remember the fellow who helped my father with the scouts, proud of his navy uniform, and thrilling me by letting me hold his jacknife. He, like many others of 1939, was joining because there were no jobs. This was the Great Depression, an almost universal plague of poverty and hopelessness. (He was blown off the bridge of HMCS Sackville on D Day.)

None of this detracts from the service he gave us, and the respect and honour we owe him.

My father joined because he had a family to feed. And that just wasn't possible in the Great Depression. The same was true for thousands, especially of the first contingent to go overseas.

My uncle joined to get away from his wife and children. It was no secret. He was at Dieppe and D Day. And he talked about the war for the rest of his life. But all the war ever meant to him was the great parties in England.

And Bertie. Poor Bertie. He was only 16 when he stole his brother's draft papers to join up. But he was big and strong and looked older. Intellectually, he was four or five. That's why he played with me. And he just loved marching because of the sound of the steel clips on his boots hitting the sidewalk. His family said they would tell the army his real age. But they didn't. They were a family of poverty and ignorance and alcohol and indifference.

In his first action, Bertie was lying down under machine gun fire. I met a man who was with him.

"He was cryin'. Yeah. I could see he was crying. Then he jumped up and was cut in  half by the machine gun. Craziest thing, when he jumped up he was screamin' for his mother."

It wasn't all patriotism and God blessing the King.

Let's not lose ourselves in wonderland.

They were a generation raised in the dreadful 1930s, a period of suffering and hunger and fear and dreadful exploitation by the wealthy. And, for those ten, dreadful years, they got no help, none, zip from the government of this country.  And less than no help from the wealthy of this country. Indeed, the wealthy used the hard times to cut salaries, cancel holidays, and even to put the  unemployed into remote 'work camps' that were really concentration camps.

We most certainly should remember those who served, and remember with respect and gratitude for what they suffered. What we should not do is to romanticize November 11 as though it were a sort of revival of King Arthur's knights doing good deeds.

We should remember all - including the promises we made to them - the promises that we have since dishonoured - of the better world they were sacrificing for.

And the worst offender in that respect is The Canadian Legion. It  has a record of romanticizing war, and forgetting about the promises. The greatest honour it could do to those who sacrificed would be to remind us of what it was all supposed to be for. Instead, it invariably plods into a dream world of big words and small actions.

With fond memories of Jack and Bertie and Howard, of my father who was away so many years of my life, of my mother who had to live through all the fears and loneliness of a wartime world - and with a son who couldn't even get to school on time.
Just a brief glance here at the ghastliness of the irving press in this province. Today, Norbert Cunningham gives us a commentary on how the public service is full of faults. In ten years of reading his gutless columns, I have never seen one in which he criticizes the big corporations who actually run this place.
Then we have a 'commentary' on how phones have changed in the last fifty years. That's not a commentary. That's an utterly useless piece of information. A commentary analyzes the news so we can better understand it. Real commentaries almost never  happen in the irving press.

The Assistant managing editor of the commentary page is Rod Allen who used to write commentaries in ponderous humour about stirring topics like "what I did last summer."

Then there's the usual 'commentary' which really comes from a propaganda house for big business. This time it's the Fraser Institute.

Even Alec Bruce,  the best (and only) intelligent columnist on the page feeds us material from a propaganda think-tank (the most eminent one), the Conference Board of Canada - which is really an offshoot of a similar propaganda house in the U.S.

Canada&World? That's a  miserable four pages, half of them about Houston. There's also a big story that a man who murdered his parents and grandparents will not get bail. There's a bit on North Korea and how evil it is. But there's no mention that the U.S. has for sixty years been provoking North Korea with war exercises on its border, and with routine bomber flights over North Korea.
North Korea has a nuclear bomb. OOOh. What a threat to the world! The poor little U.S. has only 7,000.

There was also a brief note that North Korea has the largest standing army in the world. If it does, the U.S. has a lot to learn from it. The North Korea military budget this year is seven billion 500 million dollars. The U.S. military budget is  eight hundred and forty-six billion. Sounds like its time to take a look at U.S. military spending.

In any case, and as a good reporter should know, size of a 'standing army' doesn't tell us a whole lot. The term can have quite different meanings. And, in any case, when one looks at military power rankings, North Korea isn't even in the top thirty. Too bad the news editors of irving press don't know that.

These are disgraceful newspapers by any standard I have seen. They're trivial, irrelevant, lying propaganda for big business.

 Strange. The editor-in-chief has an MA in journalism from an excellent school.
Coincidence. His family name is Irving.
As you get indignant at the next video, remember that this is not a horror created by those awful Chinese. I saw this - and worse - when I was working in a Hong Kong that had been under British rule for over a century.
I loved Hong Kong. But it was not all honey and roses.
Here's a story about Hurricane Harvey that the irving press would be unlikely to carry. It's too busy cheering for more oil pipelines.
All these  years after the Canadian government's official apology to its native peoples for deaths and other damage in residential schools for their children, nothing has been done. Justin talked a good game. But that was it.

It may well be we shall have to go much further in making this country livable for native peoples - as far as making their own land really theirs - and more.
War poisons all of us, not just the ones our 'our' side.

(Some reader is sure to read this and to say we must  go to war against Syria. Well, no. We won't end wars by making them.
The nature of war has changed radically over the last century. One of the greatest changes was the bombing of civilians ordered by Winston Churchill in 1920 (against the Kurds). And so civilians and children have become the major targets of war. Then there came nuclear weapons, chemicals, drones - and now robot killers.

In the fullest sense of the word, we can no longer afford war. But the governments that, in democracies, are supposed to rule for us actually rule for some of the greediest and most pig-headed people in history.
This may explain why people read the irving press.
This may help to partly explain why New Brunswickers are suckers for the Liberals or Conservatives  in every election. Added to that is their fear because they know who really has power in New Brunswick.

Only here could a man who demands massive favours and tax rebates from the government be hailed as a philanthopist for giving a much smaller sum to a public service group - and only if it's a harmless one.
Here's story that wasn't important enough for the irving press. It needed the world news space for a big story about two Ontario men who are driving to Houston.
David Suzuki has long been persona non grata in the irving commentary columns. They needed space for propaganda 'think-tanks'.
This one, too didn't make the irving press.
And here's a rarity, a commentary crediting Trump with doing something right.
With thanks to a reader who supplied me with this one.
And this is the new way of war.
With all respect for Jews who were murdered in Hitler's Germany and Europe  (and horribly discriminated against in most of the rest of the world, including Canada), Israel's treatment of Palestine for the last 60 years has been beneath contempt, and is a dreadful distortion of Judaism. It has stolen much of Palestine, kept its people as a nation of prisoners, abused them.....  And Trump, to his credit, is showing signs of  taking a more honourable stand. And the UN is showing even stronger signs.


  1. Graeme, I don't think NATO participated in the Korean War. From what I've read, NATO was a paper alliance until the Korean conflict after which the alliance members decided to stand up NATO as an active military organization with land, air and sea forces.

  2. Good to be reminded of how things really are.

  3. You're quite right. It may have been I was still thinking of the proposed NATO intervention in Venezuela. In fact, the UN approved the invasion of North Korea in 1950 - largely because the USSR, for some reason, was not there to use its veto.

  4. Good post sir. One of your best. In fact the whole series was good. Well done!