Media, politics and culture.
Glenn Greenwald. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
It’s nothing new. Writers and activists of various stripes have been stopped, searched and/or had laptops or thumb drives seized at airports for years, in the United States and abroad, in alleged anti-terrorist or anti-Anonymous actions. The widely publicized New York Times Magazine cover story today on filmmaker Laura Poitras revisits the many times she has been halted and subjected to this.
Most recently, she partnered with Glenn Greenwald on this year’s big Edward Snowden scoop. Now Greenwald’s living partner has been detained at an airport.
It happened this weekend at Heathrow in London, where British authorities held David Miranda, a Brazilian national who lives with Greenwald in Rio de Janiero, for nine hours as he attempted to return home. Officials confiscated electronics equipment, including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks and DVDs. He was not charged. (See updates below.)
Miranda, 28, had been visiting Poitras in Berlin. He was stopped for questioning under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. “The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals,” The Guardian explains.
What’s remarkable is that he was held for the maximum allowed under the law—nine hours. Figures show that only about 1 in 2,000 who are halted are held for six or more hours.
Greenwald, who writes for The Guardian, responded:
This is a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process. To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ. The actions of the UK pose a serious threat to journalists everywhere.
But the last thing it will do is intimidate or deter us in any way from doing our job as journalists. Quite the contrary: it will only embolden us more to continue to report aggressively.
A spokesperson for The Guardian said: “We were dismayed that the partner of a Guardian journalist who has been writing about the security services was detained for nearly nine hours while passing through Heathrow airport. We are urgently seeking clarification from the British authorities.”
UPDATE: Greenwald, naturally, has now posted a column about it. One excerpt:
If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world—when they prevent the Bolivian President’s plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today—all they do is helpfully underscore why it’s so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.
Greenwald tells Kevin Gosztola, my co-author on the Bradley Manning book, that his partner might have been arrested if not for the intervention of Brazil’s government.
Some critics now hitting Greenwald for allegedly using his partner to transport docs. NYT article, updated, now says that Miranda was carrying files (on thumb drives) related to Snowden, or from Snowden, between Greenwald and Poitras.
BBC: British member of Parliament to press police for answers. Brazil calls stopping Miranda "unjustified." Greenwald tweets: "Would it be OK for UK to invade Guardian newsroom—or FBI to invade NYT—if they think they have classified docs, detain everyone for 9 hrs?" Interesting post here by Andrew Sullivan, who knows Miranda and has been divided on the Snowden/Greenwald/NSA case but now very critical of this move against them.
Amnesty International on the incident and criticism of the UK anti-terror law. Labour party calls for full review of that law. Simon Jenkins in Guardian column wonders if Greewald's "profession" can so easily be labeled as "terrorism." Concludes:
The hysteria of the "war on terror" is now corrupting every area of democratic government. It extends from the arbitrary selection of drone targets to the quasi-torture of suspects, the intrusion on personal data and the harassing of journalists' families. The disregard of statutory oversight – in Britain's case pathetically inadequate – is giving western governments many of the characteristics of the enemies they profess to oppose. How Putin must be rubbing his hands with glee.
The innocent have nothing to fear? They do if they embarrass America and happen to visit British soil. The only land of the free today in this matter is Brazil.
Robert Scheer on why Obama should pardon Snowden.
Greg Mitchell’s latest book, just published, is Vonnegut and Me: Conversations and Close Encournters.
(Courtesy of Greg Mitchell)
The most famous, if not largest and best, rock music festival ever, “went down” (as we used to say) forty-four years ago this weekend, from Havens to Hendrix, up in Bethel, New York, but known as “Woodstock.” I was old enough and interested enough—I’d recently trekked to Toronto for a smaller fest—but had to work at my local newspaper, my summer job during college. I remember pulling wire copy off the machines and rushing it to my editors for updates about traffic halted on the New York Thruway, bad weather, drug overdoses and public nudity.
But then, you’ve probably seen the movie.
My new e-book about my encounters with one of the youth “icons” of that day, Kurt Vonnegut, was just published yesterday, so let’s see how he sized up the festival about twenty years later on a PBS TV panel. Note: he doesn’t mention it, but one of the infamous incidents that weekend featured Pete Townsend of The Who smacking Abbie Hoffman with his guitar when Abbie got up on stage to make a political statement.
BEN WATTENBERG: Kurt Vonnegut, you were one of the cultural icons at that time—like it or not.
VONNEGUT: I never showed myself to my people. [Laughter.]
I had four kids who were the proper age to go to Woodstock, and they simply were not interested, although they were pacifists and outraged at the government and so forth. They were attracted to peace marches, to sit-ins, to teach-ins and political demonstrations.
And we were talking just in the Green Room about how much I miss Abbie Hoffman. He was a great man, he was a useful man for focusing attention on the outrages, many outrages, many injustices and nuttinesses in our society. And Woodstock did none of that, I guess. As you said, it was politically useless…. Well, an important movement was going on in the universities, in the coffee houses, among intelligent people prepared to do political work. And so concerts really had nothing to do with it.
But it seems after the fact, an awful lot of important, devoted thinking has come out of the ’60s relative to rescuing the planet, to questioning authority on military adventures, and so forth.
Morris Dickstein, author of The Gates of Eden, responded:
[Woodstock] didn’t really represent all of the ’60s. It represented those strands of the counter-culture rather than the political side of the ’60s, but it had its own politics because it took place in the context of the war, so all those days of peace and love amid chaos and disorganization really was a way of acting out a kind of lifestyle protest against the wars, assassinations and the whole violent side of the ’60s that tends to get stressed more in media stereotypes….
Woodstock represented a failed utopianism that very easily got commercialized and I think very easily got turned into style. You know, what happened—I mean the people who were in their own way protesting the war and other things at Woodstock were acting out a criticism not by going to the ballot box, but by the way they dressed, the clothes they wore, various kinds of mores that got the label ‘lifestyle’ later on. And the counterculture—unlike the New Left, the counterculture was very amenable to being turned into something that could easily be commercialized.
But Jim Miller, who has written histories of the left as well as reviewed records for Rolling Stone, replied:
I think I really disagree with you. I think actually I would put it almost the other way around, that the New Left, which I’ve written a book about, I think ultimately isn’t that important politically, and it didn’t have that great an impact, except indirectly by sparking a middle class peace movement.
The counter-culture, precisely because it was picked up and shoved into the marketplace, spread the ethos of the ’60s in the early ’70s, and in the process of what you’re, I think, denigrating as style or fashion, actually changed the culture and changed it. It changed sexual mores, it changed attitudes towards authority, it changed a sense of what was permissible to experiment with, what limits could be toyed with. What drove them home in American culture was the marketing through rock and roll, among other things, through film, of a certain fantasy of freedom that to me has connections, say, with early progressive Bohemians. But it becomes a mass artifact.
For more on my new e-book, Vonnegut and Me, go here.
Bradley Manning. (Reuters/Gary Cameron)
Pfc. Bradley Manning surprised some supporters on Wednesday with an apology and admission that he could have tried other channels today, before leading documents and videos to WikiLeaks, in court as the sentencing segment continues. Still, one had to recognize the position he is in: the judge he was pleading with, Denise Lind, could send him away for only, say, three years—or maybe, thirty. She judged him guilty two weeks ago of nearly twenty serious charges.
Posting on Twitter, Manning backers and longtime observers in the courtroom quickly expressed sympathy for him and noted that his claims of being an idealistic whistleblower—and doing much good with his leaking—remained valid.
His full statement follows, now transcribed by Freedom of the Press Foundation’s stenographer.
Below that, the WikiLeaks response (posted on its webpage), charging that Manning’s apology had essentially been “extorted,” and offering continuing support. My book on the Manning case and trial (with Kevin Gosztola).
First, your honour I want to start off with an apology. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I ‘m sorry that they hurt the United States.
At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing and continuing to effect me. Although a considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions.
I understood what I was doing, and decisions I made. However I did not fully appreciate the broader effects of my actions.
Those factors are clear to me now, through both self-refection during my confinement in various forms, and through the merits and sentecing testimony that I have seen here.
I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people.
The last few years have been a learning experience. I look back at my decisions and wonder how on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better […] on decisions of those with the proper authority.
In retrospect I should have worked more aggressively inside the system, as we discussed during the […] statement, I had options and I should have used these options.
Unfortunately, I can’t go back and change things. I can only go forward. I want to go forward. Before I can do that, I understand that I must pay a price for my decisions and actions.
Once I pay that price, I hope to one day live in a manner that I haven’t been able to in the past. I want to be a better person, to go to college, to get a degree and to have a meaningful relationship with my sister with my sister’s family and my family.
I want to be a positive influence in their lives, just as my Aunt Deborah has been to me. I have flaws and issues that I have to deal with, but I know that I can and will be a better person.
I hope that you can give me the opportunity to prove, not through words, but through conduct, that I am a good person and that I can return to productive place in society. Thank you, Your Honor.
Just posted at the WikiLeaks site:
Today Bradley Manning reportedly made a statement of remorse in a sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning’s statement comes towards the end of a court martial trial pursued with unprecedented prosecutorial zeal.
Since his arrest, Mr. Manning has been an emblem of courage and endurance in the face of adversity. He has resisted extraordinary pressure. He has been held in solitary confinement, stripped naked and subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment by the United States government. His constitutional right to a speedy trial has been ignored. He has sat for three years in pretrial detention, while the government assembled 141 witnesses and withheld thousands of documents from his lawyers.
The government has denied him the right to conduct a basic whistleblower defense. It overcharged him until he faced over a century in prison and barred all but a handful of his witnesses. He was denied the right at trial to argue that no harm was caused by his alleged actions. His defence team was pre-emptively banned from describing his intent or showing that his actions harmed no one.
Despite these obstacles, Mr. Manning and his defense team have fought at every step. Last month, he was eventually convicted of charges carrying up to 90 years of prison time. The US government admitted that his actions did not physically harm a single person, and he was acquitted of “aiding the enemy.” His convictions solely relate to his alleged decision to inform the public of war crimes and systematic injustice.
But Mr. Manning’s options have run out. The only currency this military court will take is Bradley Manning’s humiliation. In light of this, Mr. Manning’s forced decision to apologise to the US government in the hope of shaving a decade or more off his sentence must be regarded with compassion and understanding.
Mr. Manning’s apology is a statement extorted from him under the overbearing weight of the United States military justice system. It took three years and millions of dollars to extract two minutes of tactical remorse from this brave soldier.
Bradley Manning’s apology was extracted by force, but in a just court the US government would be apologizing to Bradley Manning. As over 100,000 signatories of his Nobel Peace Prize nomination attest, Bradley Manning has changed the world for the better. He remains a symbol of courage and humanitarian resistance.
Mr. Manning’s apology shows that as far as his sentencing is concerned there are still decades to play for. Public pressure on Bradley Manning’s military court must intensify in these final days before the sentencing decision against him is made
WikiLeaks continues to support Bradley Manning, and will continue to campaign for his unconditional release.
Free Bradley Manning.
Chase Madar writes about Manning's conviction and the implication for American journalism.
Bill Kunstler and Judy Clavir hold homing device placed on their car by the FBI. (Courtesy of Greg Mitchell)
Of course, NSA snooping, collection of meta-data, checking e-mails and photographing our mailing envelopes is nothing to laugh about. But back in the day—that day being the late 1960s and early 1970s—the spying got more personal.
Even into my bedroom.
Stew Albert, the former Yippie leader once a suspect in a bombing of the US Capitol, wrote regular pieces for us (often with his wife, Judy “Gumbo” Clavir) at Crawdaddy throughout the 1970s. Stew had strong credentials, in our minds: unindicted co-conspirator at the Chicago 8 trial. Left-wing candidate for sheriff of Alameda (he carried Berkeley). Introduced John Lennon to local Yippies during John’s brief embrace of the left in New York City in the early 1970s. Helped get us to hire William Kunstler as our legal writer and Abbie Hoffman, then on the lam, as our “Travel Editor.” But he was more of a peacemaker than an agitator—a “lovable blond teddy bear,” a “wise old rabbi,” in Paul Krassner’s estimation.
In one haunting piece, Stew recalled meeting the great folk singer Victor Jara during an early-’70s visit to Chile with Phil Ochs and Jerry Rubin. Not long after that, Jara, only 27, had been tortured—his fingers cut off—and killed by Pinochet’s thugs following the coup that deposed of democratically elected Salvador Allende. (Phil Ochs, in probably the final major act of his tortured life, later organized a tribute to Jara in New York that I attended, featuring a surprise guest appearance by Bob Dylan.)
An easygoing chap, partly because of a heart condition, Stew had endorsed McGovern in 1972, but maintained his left-wing views. For Crawdaddy he met up again with his old friend Tom Hayden when he ran for the US Senate in California.
During this period, I often visited Stew and Judy at their modest mountaintop home in Hurley, New York, near Woodstock. And apparently I wasn’t alone.
One Sunday morning, at my Barrow Street apartment in New York, I got a call from Bill Kunstler and was urged to come quick, with a camera. Stew and Judy, who were staying with him in the West Village (we had attended an Emmylou Harris concert the night previous), had come out to their car and noticed that a few weeks of dust on its rear bumper had been cleared away in one spot. Judy reached under and—presto, pulled out an electronic “homing device,” complete with tiny antenna. It was the first such nefarious object captured by any lefty in recent years, as far as we knew.
Naturally, Stew and Judy quickly wrote a piece for us, which we first titled “Bug Up My Ass!”, then changed to “Get the Secret Police Off My Tail!”, complete with my photo of them holding the device (see above), a plea for an explanation from the feds and the promise of a lawsuit (their lawyer, after all, was close at hand).
Well, a little later, they would win that suit and collect $20,000. Turned out that the FBI, under its notorious COINTELPRO program—no wonder the left was in disarray—had also placed listening devices in Stew and Judy’s mountaintop home, even in the bedrooms, surely active when I visited with a girlfriend on at least one occasion. (So perhaps they had listened to us while we, well, you know.) Apparently they thought that the couple might harbor Patty Hearst, or Abbie Hoffman or, who knows, Judge Crater or Jimmy Hoffa?
A top FBI intel official, James O. Ingram, was now being probed for lying to Congress about ordering that bug. We also learned that agents had broken into their home and seized objects that they sent to a lab for testing; monitored their bank account; and examined the couple’s mail at the Hurley, New York, post office, including many letters I had sent. They also on occasion followed visitors, such as yours truly, home.
When we published some of their FBI files, mainly from 1973–74 (but going back to Berkeley in 1970), we billed it as “perhaps the most realistic look ever at the day-to-day life of FBI huntsmen and their radical prey,” and it drew wide media attention. And plenty of laughs, especially at the agents who blamed their inability to tail the couple in their crappy old car, due to Judy’s erratic driving. Or the weather. One of the agent’s reports noted an “unidentified individual” visiting their cabin, and for that week, it could have only been me.
About three decades later we’d learn that the man behind the operation, and much of COINTELPRO, was none other than Mark Felt, a k a “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame.
When Robert Greenwald made his movie about Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Movie, Stew and Judy served as consultants—and were portrayed in the film, in major roles, by Donal Logue and Janeane Garafolo. Stew died in 2006. Two days before that he posted on his blog, “My politics have not changed.”
Greg Mitchell’s memoir of the 1970s, This Ain’t No Disco, is coming soon. He blogs daily at Pressing Issues.
Jon Stewart. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
In a piece here this week, I accused Harry Truman of perpetrating a “war crime” with his failure to pause after the Hiroshima bombing (itself a highly questionable act) to see if it, along with the Soviet declaration of war, would produce a swift Japanese surrender. He didn’t, and on August 9, the second atomic bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, killing another 90,000, the vast majority women and children.
This remind me of an episode in the spring of 2009 featuring, of all people, Jon Stewart.
One night he bravely (if off-handedly) suggested that President Harry Truman was a “war criminal” for using the atomic bomb against Japan without any prior warning. He explained: “I think if you dropped an atomic bomb fifteen miles off shore and you said, ‘The next one’s coming and hitting you,’ then I would think it’s okay. To drop it on a city, and kill 100,000 people. Yeah, I think that’s criminal.” (Actually, the United States used the bomb on two cities, killing 250,000.)
After he got a good deal of flak overnight, he offered a rare on-air, and abject, apology. (He could have at least said, Yeah, war criminal for Nagasaki, not so much for Hiroshima.) As I’ve documented in three books, this shows how the use of the bomb against Japan remains a “raw nerve” or “third rail” in America’s psyche, and media. Here’s the transcript, with the hard-to-watch video below:
The other night we had on Cliff May. He was on, we were discussing torture, back and forth, very spirited discussion, very enjoyable. And I may have mentioned during the discussion we were having that Harry Truman was a war criminal. And right after saying it, I thought to myself: that was dumb. And it was dumb. Stupid in fact.
So I shouldn’t have said that, and I did. So I say right now, no, I don’t believe that to be the case. The atomic bomb, a very complicated decision in the context of a horrific war, and I walk that back because it was in my estimation a stupid thing to say. Which, by the way, as it was coming out of your mouth, you ever do that, where you’re saying something, and as it’s coming out you’re like, ‘What the f**k, nyah?’
And it just sat in there for a couple of days, just sitting going, ‘No, no, he wasn’t, and you should really say that out loud on the show.’ So I am, right now, and, man, ew. Sorry.
A journalist stands in a sea of rubble in Hiroshima on September 8, 1945, a month after the US dropped the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare. (AP Photo/Stanley Troutman)
Yoshito Matsushige, a photographer for the Chugoku Shimbun, took the only pictures in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, that have surfaced since. It was these five photos Life magazine published on September 29, 1952, hailing them as the “First Pictures—Atom Blasts Through Eyes of Victims,” breaking the long media blackout on graphic images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
On August 6, 1945, Matsushige wandered around Hiroshima for ten hours, carrying one of the few cameras that survived the atomic bombing and two rolls of film with twenty-four possible exposures. This was no ordinary photo opportunity. He lined up one gripping shot after another, but he could only push the shutter seven times. When he was done he returned to his home and developed the pictures in the most primitive way, since every darkroom in the city, including his own, had been destroyed. Under a star-filled sky, with the landscape around him littered with collapsed homes and the center of Hiroshima still smoldering in the distance, he washed his film in a radiated creek and hung it out to dry on the burned branch of a tree.
Five of the seven images had survived, and they are all the world will ever know of what Hiroshima looked like on that day. Only Matsushige knows what the seventeen photos he didn’t take would have looked like. Even more graphic film footage, shot by the US military, remained hidden for decades (as I probe in my book Atomic Cover-up).
Two of his pictures have been widely reprinted in magazines and books. In one, a ragged line of bomb victims sit along the side of Miyuki Bridge, two miles from ground zero, legs folded to their chests. It’s hard to tell if it is torn clothing or skin that hangs from them in tatters. No one cries out. They simply stare at what lies across the bridge: a tornado of flame and smoke rushing toward the suburbs. The second picture is a tighter version of the first, focusing on a policeman and a few school girls standing in the center.
All of the figures in the two photos have their backs to the photographer and are staring at the approaching holocaust. Although many in these images no doubt died later, neither of these pictures shows a single corpse. Yet the two photos capture the horror of the atomic bombing better than any panoramic image of twisted buildings and rubble (and so, like the film footage, they had to be suppressed in America for many years). Perhaps that is because the people in Matsushige’s pictures are feeling more than the lingering effects of the blast—they are still experiencing the bomb itself. “Little Boy” has not yet finished with them or their city. The terror evident in the way the victims are standing or sitting in these grainy black and white photographs says more about the human response to the monstrous unknown than any Hollywood recreation.
And because the photographer has the same perspective as his victims, we see what they see. We are on that road to Hiroshima, three hours after the bomb fell, staring into the black whirlwind.
The pictures are so affecting because ever since that day, all of us have, in a sense, been standing on that road to Hiroshima, alive but anxious, and peering into the distance at the smoke and firestorm.
When Matsushige, then retired (he has since passed away), came to meet me in an eighth-floor conference room at his old newspaper—a small man, dapper in white shoes—he explained that he could not take more photos that day because “it was so atrocious” and he was afraid burned and battered people “would be enraged if someone took their picture.” He tried to capture more images but he could not “muster the courage” to press the shutter.
A few weeks later, the American military confiscated all of the post-bomb prints, just as they seized the Japanese newsreel footage, “but they didn’t ask for the negatives,” Matsushige said, grinning like a cat. These were the pictures that caused a stir worldwide when they appeared in Life seven years later. No photographic images of Nagasaki taken on August 9 have survived.
“Sometimes I think I should have gathered my courage and taken more photos, but at other times I feel I did all I could do,” he added. “I could not endure taking any more pictures that day. It was too heartbreaking.” With that, Matsushige packed up his belongings, bowed deeply, and left the room, vibrant in straw hat, blue suit and bright white shoes, carrying in his arms a portfolio of pictures that are utterly unique, and must remain so.
Greg Mitchell’s new book and e-book is Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made (Sinclair Books).
US President Harry Truman broadcasts a message on the formal surrender of Japan. (AP Photo, File)
When the shocking news emerged that morning, exactly sixty-eight years ago, it took the form of a routine press release, a little more than 1,000 words long. President Harry S. Truman was in the middle of the Atlantic, returning from the Potsdam conference with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. Shortly before 11 o’clock, an information officer from the Pentagon arrived at the White House carrying bundles of press releases. A few minutes later, assistant press secretary Eben Ayers started reading the announcement to about a dozen members of the Washington press corps.
In this way, on this day, President Truman informed the press, and the world, that America’s war against fascism—with victory over Germany already in hand—had culminated in exploding a revolutionary new weapon over a Japanese target.
The atmosphere was so casual, many reporters had difficulty grasping the announcement. “The thing didn’t penetrate with most of them,” Ayers later remarked. Finally, the journalists rushed to call their editors.
The first few sentences of the statement set the tone: “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT.…The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold…. It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe.”
Truman’s four-page statement had been crafted with considerable care over many months, as my research at the Truman Library for two books on the subject made clear. With use of the atomic bomb rarely debated at the highest levels, an announcement of this sort was inevitable—if the new weapon actually worked.
Those who helped prepare the presidential statement—principally Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson—sensed that the stakes were high, for this marked the unveiling of both the atomic bomb and the official narrative of Hiroshima, which largely persists to this day. It was vital that this event be viewed as consistent with American decency and concern for human life.
And so, from its very first words, the official narrative was built on a lie, or at best a half-truth. Hiroshima did contain an important military base, used as a staging area for Southeast Asia, where perhaps 25,000 troops might be quartered. But the bomb had been aimed not at the “Army base” but at the very center of a city of 350,000, with the vast majority women and children and elderly males.
In fact, the two most important reasons Hiroshima had been chosen as our number-one target were: it had been relatively untouched by conventional bombs, meaning its large population was still in place and the bomb’s effects could be fully judged; and the hills which surround the city on three sides would have a “focusing effect” (as the target committee put it), increasing the bomb’s destructive force.
Indeed, a US survey of the damage, not released to the press, found that residential areas bore the brunt of the bomb, with less than 10 percent of the city’s manufacturing, transportation and storage facilities damaged.
There was something else missing in the Truman announcement: because the president in his statement failed to mention radiation effects, which officials knew would be horrendous, the imagery of just “a bigger bomb” would prevail for days in the press. Truman described the new weapon as “revolutionary” but only in regard to the destruction it could cause, failing to even mention its most lethal new feature: radiation.
In many ways, the same dangerous myth about nuclear weapons, first promoted by Truman, persists in the minds of many today: that any use of the more powerful weapons of today by a state (say, the United States or Israel) could be and would be targeted on strictly military enclaves or weapon sites, with little threat to thousands or millions living nearby.
Many Americans on August 6, 1945, heard the news from the radio, which broadcast the text of Truman’s statement shortly after its release. The afternoon papers carried banner headlines along the lines of: “Atom Bomb, World’s Greatest, Hits Japs!”
On the evening of August 9, Truman addressed the American people over the radio. Again he took pains to picture Hiroshima as a military base, even claiming that “we wished in the first attack to avoid, in so far as possible, the killing of civilians.” By then, an American B-29 had dropped a second atomic bomb over the city of Nagasaki, which killed tens of thousands of civilians and only a handful of Japanese troops (along with Allied prisoners of war). Nagasaki was variously described by US officials as a “naval base” or “industrial center.”
Robert Scheer remembers the gravest act of terrorism the world has ever known.
Greg Mitchel is the author of more than a dozen books, including Atomic Cover-Up (on the decades-long suppression of shocking film shot in the atomic cities by the US military) and Hollywood Bomb (the wild story of how an MGM 1947 drama was censored by the military and Truman himself).
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
It came out of nowhere, first hinted at on Twitter in early afternoon when a big meetiing in The Washington Post’s fabled newsroom was set for 4:15 pm. But no one expected this: the paper, and associated publications, are being sold to the founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, for $250 million in cool cash.
Bezos, 49, said he was buying this himself—it was not an Amazon purchase. He has never owned a newspaper. On the other hand, he has been fairly successful in the online world.
It came just days after The New York Times dumped The Boston Globe at an even lower bargain rate.
James Fallows looks at the end-of-an-era significance of the Post sale here, and adds: “I think I’ll remember where I was when I first heard the news—via Twitter!—and I am sure it will be one of those episode-that-encapsulates-an-era occurrences. Newsweek’s demise, a long time coming, was a minor temblor by comparison; this is a genuine earthquake.” Alec MacGillis at The New Republic: Bezos is bad news. Josh Marshall of TPM: Three cheers for Bezos and the Post. David Cay Johnson at The National Memo: Major implications, including Bloomberg likely to buy New York Times next year.
For now, here’s the Post’s own story (see excerpt below). And Bezos’s “open letter” to Post staffers, which notes that they must feel “apprehension” but he promises they will stick to core journalistic values, claims no layoffs coming, and advises:
I won’t be leading The Washington Post day-to-day. I am happily living in ‘the other Washington’ where I have a day job that I love. Besides that, The Post already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.
By the way, his reference to “body parts” and “wringer” and “Mrs. Graham” goes back to the Watergate days and what the Post’s publisher’s “tit” was supposed to face.
One wonders: more books coverage in the Post now?
Among the many Post properties now controlled by Bezos: El Tiempo, the city’s leading Spanish-language paper. Not included: Foreign Policy and Slate and a few others. Perhaps they can work out a Newsweek reunion.
This quick, perhaps overly optimistic, piece at Slate suggests Bezos could be an ideal owner for a newspaper, since he has accepted relatively low profit margins in the past (whatever else you want to say about Amazon and labor) in favor of growth. But is that even possible for the Post?
Dan Gillmor tweets: “Contrary to Bezos’ note to WashPost employees, the org’s values do need changing in one key area: the opinion pages.” Meanwhile, Post columnist Ezra Klein tweets: “So far Bezos has been excellent for Wash Post traffic. If current trends continue, entire internet will be reading us by Nov.”
Excerpt from the Post’s own piece:
The deal represents a sudden and stunning turn of events for The Post, Washington’s leading newspaper for decades and a powerful force in shaping the nation’s politics and policy. Few people were aware that a sale was in the works for the paper, whose reporters have broken such stories as the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate scandals and disclosures about the National Security Administration’s surveillance program in May.
For much of the past decade, however, the paper has been unable to escape the financial turmoil that has engulfed newspapers and other “legacy” media organizations. The rise of the Internet and the epochal change from print to digital technology have created a massive wave of competition for traditional news companies, scattering readers and advertisers across a radically altered news and information landscape and triggering mergers, bankruptcies and consolidation among the owners of print and broadcasting properties.
“Every member of my family started out with the same emotion—shock—in even thinking about” selling The Post, said Donald Graham, the Post Co.’s chief executive, in an interview Monday. “But when the idea of a transaction with Jeff Bezos came up, it altered my feelings.”
Added Graham, “The Post could have survived under the company’s ownership and been profitable for the foreseeable future. But we wanted to do more than survive. I’m not saying this guarantees success but it gives us a much greater chance of success.”
Why you should worry about Koch’s potential takeover of the Tribune Co.
Oliver Stone. (Courtesy of Showtime)
Famed film director (and history buff) Oliver Stone’s long-awaited The Untold History of the United States series debuted on Showtime last November 12. The series focused on the period just before and after World War II, and then carried the themes forward through various US wars (cold and hot) and other issues. It's now available on DVD and has also spawned a companion book with the same title, by Stone and historian Peter Kuznick.
The Hiroshima chapter makes a strong case against the use of the bomb. Stone and Kuznick focus on Russia’s entry into the war, as the U.S. had insisted, two days after we dropped the bomb. That shocking and cataclysmic event would have (likely) forced a speedy Japanese surrender without the use of the atomic weapon, which killed over 200,000—the vast majority civilians, mainly women and children—in the two cities. (See one of my books on the subject here on two US soldiers who shot historic footage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and then saw it suppressed for decades.)
Stone and Kuznick title the forty-eight-page Hiroshima chapter in their book "The Bomb: Tragedy of a Small Man." That man, of course, is President Truman. The book, and the TV series, make the claim that if progressive hero Henry Wallace had not been booted off the Roosevelt ticket in 1944 in favor of hack politician Truman, history would have been much different (concerning both the use of the bomb and the coming of the cold war). But how did Stone reach his conclusions on Truman’s misuse of the bomb? I opened my interview with him on this subject with that query.
Greg Mitchell: Most Americans never change their views about the atomic bombings. Did you support the use of the bomb for most of your life?
Oliver Stone: I think my views changed fairly recently after Peter delivered to me a lot of research. Frankly, my views have changed on many issues since I was raised as a Republican during the Eisenhower era. But you have to realize that I was coming from a very different planet than Peter. For instance, I was in Vietnam and he was protesting Vietnam, and it took me years to change my perspective on that war.
Feature films allowed me to research many issues separately—JFK, Nixon, Salvador, Cuba and other issues. But there were also various issues that I was interested in that could not be a feature film. So Peter had this story of the bomb. And frankly, the bomb as a feature movie is a bore. I have to say that because I’ve seen so many of the films—love stories, all sorts of angles, including the French film Hiroshima, Mon Amour, which was impressionistic. I haven’t seen any momentum in Hollywood to make a feature film about Hiroshima.
It’s more like, “Oh, that again.” There’s a stigma to it. That’s the way people feel. Kids don’t even want to read about it, they look at it with bored eyes because they know the ending. And it’s always sold to us as, “Oh, you know, we had to do it.”
And frankly, it was the least interesting part our series for me until Peter told me the Henry Wallace aspect and 1944, a real eye-opener. Wallace leads back and forward to the bomb.
And you ended up making it an entire episode.
At one point we had twelve chapters in the series. We would open with World War I, which I love, there’s so much to tell about it, and the 1930s, but found out it was hard enough to just go from World War II and the cold war forward. But we start the whole series with the bomb, the first image in the first chapter, I think, is Oppenheimer, and then we come back with the full episode later.
Of course, the bomb was the origin myth for my generation, in a sense the founder’s myth. We were already looking at World War II in the series in a different way, in relation to the US and the Soviets, but even so, the bomb is a founder’s myth because it gave us the right and the moral good to do whatever we wanted in the world. And we’d already shown we are tough—we’d already used it. Because we have the bomb we can do anything, except maybe drop it in cold blood without manufacturing enough evidence.
It’s like when we go into all these countries around the world because we “had to.” Go to Iraq and trash it completely—many of us know we did wrong there but then many forgive ourselves because, you know, we had the right!
Our leaders and the media always say, “Never again,” the weapon is too cruel, but then fully support the use of the bomb already—essentially making two exceptions to never using it. A rather mixed message.
It’s becomes part of our unconscious. We are trying to do a service in this documentary by pointing to the notion that it was not even necessary strategically, besides being morally reprehensible.
You didn’t know much about all of this ten years ago?
Yeah, ten years more or less, because I had not read that much about it and I was on to other things. I had some strong suspicions about the military, and about Truman for other reasons—because when George Bush and Condoleezza Rice admire him so much my scale goes the other direction! When Time magazine calls him one of the best presidents, that’s when my bullshit meter goes way up.
The whole point is not to put Truman down—he was a small man in a big time. it was not fully Truman’s decision, there were forces upon him to drop the bomb. As you know, the more you learn about it, the more horrific it becomes to your conscience.
It’s like the first myth of all, the Garden of Eden—biting the apple. In the Bible at least they get thrown out of the Garden of Eden. But in our case, we ate the apple, but we say, we had to do it. [Laughs]
One thing that really struck you in all the research?
The Russia thing. Learning the details of the Russian invasion made me think of alternatives and what-ifs. We didn’t have our invasion planned until November, if we even had to have one, and by August 9 the Russians have already invaded and they’re mopping up the Japanese. What would it have taken for them to finish the job or make them surrender? A week, a few weeks? There’s no issue here.
The other thing that struck me was that the Japanese didn’t even recognize what happened at Hiroshima really. They’d been so decimated by the terror bombing of Curtis LeMay.
Why are you so convinced Wallace would not have gone ahead with the bombing?
Because of what he’d written and said before. The forces around him would have pushed him in that direction—it’s possible he would have gone along but the man’s character was among the strongest, I feel it was rock solid.
But look at Obama, his views might have been more dovish but once he became commander-in-chief that changed.
Wallace had been around since the ’30s in Roosevelt’s cabinet, then vice president, and been exposed to all of the thinking and the world, and if anyone was to succeed Roosevelt and resist the use of the bomb it was him.
Why are Americans so resistant to having an open mind on the subject of dropping the bomb twice in 1945?
I think it’s our national character. Most Americans believe in God, there’s good and evil in the world, and we’re for good, and you cannot admit we did wrong on Hiroshima, you cannot. You’d have to change your whole view of our morality and how we’ve used our power to threaten others and get our way. It’s very hard for the ordinary mind to accept guilt. Denial is much easier. It’s the way of the world, whether it’s after a war or other issues. It’s in our soul and everyone has to wrestle with it individually and there’s a lot in our subconscious.
And, as I’ve explored for years in my own writing, the government suppressed facts and images related to the atomic bombings for decades, a full “cover-up.” If we had nothing to be ashamed of, why the suppression?
That’s the nature of life, denial.
Does this defending the use of the bomb make it easier for us and others to use the weapon again?
Without a doubt. And not just the bomb, any kind of space frontier weapon now in the works. It’s very dangerous where we are now, and how ignorant we are about our history.
Greg Mitchell is the author of Atomic Cover-up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki and Hollywood Bomb (on an epic MGM 1947 drama censored by Truman and the military), with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America. See his video on suppression of film footage from Hiroshima here.
Soldier watches the blur of a convoy as it pushes deeper into Iraq from the south, Saturday, March 22, 2003.(AP Photo/John Moore)
Since the start of our tragic war in Iraq, the organization that has done the most extensive, and most respected, counting of the bodies is aptly named Iraq Body Count.
I’ve relied on their work in my many, many articles and book about the war, its victims, and the media, for over a decade now. (Current death count: nearly 4,500 US troops and at least 125,000 Iraqi civilians).
Now they’ve posted an important piece by Josh Dougherty on the verdict in the Bradley Manning case at their site that (1) compares how US soldiers who committed war crimes in Iraq have gotten off easy and (2) thanks Manning for releasing material that documented thousands of civilian casualties there that we wouldn’t know about otherwise.
In others words: those who killed civilians got off, the man who exposed the shocking numbers, and much else revelatory about the wars (and our allies) in Iraq and Afghanistan gets severely punished.
Two excerpts, but read it all:
For example, the US Marines involved in one of the most notorious massacres of civilians in Iraq by US forces, in Haditha in November 2005, faced virtually no legal consequences. One Marine was convicted of a minor offense for which he served no jail time, and the rest have all been acquitted or had all charges dropped and will live the rest of their lives in freedom. The helicopter pilots who gunned down at least ten civilians, including two Reuters journalists and a father of two children who stopped to try to help the wounded, as documented in the “Collateral Murder” video exposed by Bradley Manning, face no punishment of any kind…
IBC has produced a list of thousands of incidents in the Iraq war between 2004-09, killing several thousand Iraqi civilians that have now been sourced exclusively from the documents released by Bradley Manning, and who would otherwise have remained hidden to the world at large. These and thousands of others like them are known to the world today only because Bradley Manning could no longer in good conscience collude with an official policy of the Bush and Obama administrations to abuse secrecy and “national security” to erase them from history. If Manning deserves any punishment at all for this, certainly his three years already served, and the disgraceful abuse he was made to suffer during it, is more than enough.
As the US escalates engagement in the Syrian civil war, Bob Dreyfuss writes about the lessons to be learned from Iraq.