Posts Tagged ‘nuclear’

Let the Games (and Diplomacy) Begin

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

South  Korean and North Korean women are playing on the same hockey team at the 2018 WInter Olympics.

South Korean and North Korean women are playing on the same hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Thank Zeus for the Olympics. Every two years they offer an opportunity for a world gone mad to take a breather and at least pretend to pay homage to the Olympic Creed: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Yes, Russia is barred from participating officially in the 2018 Winter Games, which began this weekend, because it tried to steal the 2014 Games in Sochi by pumping its athletes full of steroids. But Russians who did not cheat will compete, albeit without the flag or anthem of Mother Russia.

More significantly, with the Games taking place in South Korea, North Korean athletes are participating. Better yet, athletes from North and South Korea marched in together under one symbolic flag and the women’s hockey team includes members from both nations. There were no 38th Parallel issues for people who have been sharing a divided peninsula since the end of World War II and for nearly 65 years have endured a tense truce that halted the Korean War. And. thankfully, there was no tweeting about whose nuclear button was bigger and badder.

A lot of so-called experts are calling the Olympic dance by the two Koreas mere window dressing or a charm offensive by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Somehow, charming is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Kim.

But the overture to come “take part” was made by South Korean President, Moon Jae-In, who pledged to work for better relationships with fellow Koreans in the north when he ran for president last year. One could consider this an example of a leader making good on his promise — and a politically risky one at that — rather than looking for excuses or people to blame for not following through.

Donald Trump sent Mike Pence, his tight-lipped, see-no-evil shadow, to represent the United States at the opening ceremonies. There was no acknowledgement of President Moon’s diplomatic initiative, but again, at least no saber-rattling on Twitter.

Supposedly — again, this is the experts talking — Kim has gone along with this brief softening of tensions and shared Olympic spirit in the hopes of having economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea reduced. OK, so what? Who can blame him for that?

But who can blame Moon for thinking that maybe even a small thing like a shared women’s hockey team team is better for all Koreans than constant talk about missiles and nuclear weapons? Diplomacy takes many forms and, yes, sometimes it is imperative to be forceful and consistent when dealing with a difficult foe. It is also true that sometimes the simplest gesture can have unexpected results.

When nuclear warfare is apparently being discussed seriously and frequently in the Oval Office it is reassuring to know that the heads of the two nations that live face-to-face with the threat of war every day can agree to break bread and march together and, who knows, maybe agree to stay in touch when the skating and skiing is done.

I am under no delusion that the Orange Dotard (a name charmingly assigned by Kim) understands diplomacy, the perils of nuclear war or the importance of allowing subtle forces to influence the course of events. It is all bombast and buffoonery all the time. Just look back at some recent news stories emanating from the White House:

  • The State of the Union speech. A joke.
  • The Republican FBI memo. A bust and maybe illegal.
  • The opioid crisis team: Run by a PR specialist and a 23-year-old former campaign worker (since resigned).
  • The infrastructure plan … uh, sorry, wrong list. There still isn’t one.
  • The sanctions against Russia. Dotard won’t do what Congress said.
  • The Mueller investigation: Trump’s lawyers don’t trust him to testify in person.
  • The federal government. Shut down a second time. Trump actually rooted for this one.
  • The Wall: Build it or no deal for the Dreamers. Too many lies to keep up with in this saga. Naked bigotry.
  • The parade. THE PARADE. A flippin’ no-holds-barred military parade a la every dictator you ever heard of. He wants one; the military doesn’t. No one does. But as Sun Tzu said in “The Art of War,’’ it’s what weak leaders do to appear strong.

The Chinese military strategist and philosopher also wrote: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

And: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Like maybe starting with South and North Korean women playing a little hockey together against women from other nations. Change the dynamics.

Trump and Kim are always ready and eager to hurl insults and threats. And maybe missiles. South Korea’s President Moon is trying to ease the tension and maybe open the door to more civilized dialogue. In the spirit of the Olympics, it’s an effort well worth making and supporting.

Meanwhile, maybe one of his aides — a general, perhaps — can read Sun Tzu to you know who.

Trump, Korea, the Marines and a Photo

Friday, August 11th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The photo that inspired a nation ... in spite of the facts.

The photo that inspired a nation … in spite of the facts.

“Well, that’s good,” I said to myself with a tension-reducing sigh. Congress is taking August off and the Senate actually took steps to keep Trump from making any recess appointments should he decide to, say, fire the attorney general or anyone else. That probably didn’t sit well with the Donald, but what the heck, I figured, he’s going on another vacation, so what trouble could he possibly get us into?

 Yeah, I know. A momentary lapse of judgment on my part, perhaps prompted by a need for some relief from the constant drumbeat of incoherent, inarticulate, insensitive, insulting, indecent and incredibly embarrassing flow of bigotry and B.S. coming from the White House. A vocabulary-challenging administration.

I guess he figured a man can’t play golf and tweet all the time, so why not go mano-a-mano with North Korea over nuclear war. Ramp up the language and fire up the still-remaining base of support who don’t want to think about Russia or losing their health insurance because, after all, the Muslims are coming, the Muslims are coming. And Kim what’s-his-name, too!

It has come to this: Trump’s own staff members are telling us to ignore what he says. Don’t worry, says the secretary of state. Senators and generals are ignoring what he says. But the world is not ignoring what he says because, like it or not, he speaks for this nation.

I don’t like it.

Not when he talks so cavalierly about taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of people because of his ego. Not when he shows no awareness of the devastating power of nuclear weapons. Not when he displays no comprehension of the wisdom of trying to avoid war through frank and honest diplomacy: You have weapons; we have more weapons. We will suffer greatly. You will be destroyed. No one wins. What do you want to allow your people to see what a magnificent leader you are by giving up your nuclear weapons and giving your people a better life? Let’s talk.

What gets lost in this frenetic, theoretical talk about war is the simple fact of the individual lives that will be ended. Even efforts by some politicians to lower the threat level to Americans by saying any war with North Korea will not be nuclear and will be fought on the Korean peninsula ignore this fact. It is obviously intended to relieve Americans’ fears of war on their homeland, but conveniently overlooks the fact that, in addition to Koreans, it will be young American men and women fighting and dying on the Korean peninsula, which they have already done once before. Failure to negotiate a peace settlement after that war has led to a divided nation and well-armed ceasefire for more than half a century.

Trump’s ”fire and fury” remarks regarding North Korea coincided with the anniversary of the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, to hasten the end of World War II with Japan in 1945. The reasoning by President Harry S Truman and his advisers at the time was that a traditional military invasion of Japan with a million or so troops would cost  hundreds of thousands of Allied deaths given the Japanese strategy of everyone, soldier or not, fighting to the death.

Whether or not one agrees with Truman’s decision, he and his advisers were undoubtedly correct in their assessment of a traditional invasion. Not long before the bomb was dropped, U.S. Marines fought their bloodiest, most courageous, most decorated battle on Iwo Jima, an island fortress defending the Japanese homeland. As recounted in often painful detail in the book, “Flags Of Our Fathers,” by James Bradley and Ron Powers, the conquest of Iwo, commemorated with the planting of the American flag on Mount Suribachi, was the result of sending wave after wave of young American men, with no cover, to attack a heavily armed, entrenched, literally underground, Japanese army and eventually overwhelming the enemy by determination, incredible bravery, and sheer numbers.

That is a strategy. A terribly costly one as it turned out for thousands of American families who lost sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, friends on the beaches of Iwo and on the slopes of Suribachi. It was thought to be necessary by some, at the time, in order to defeat an enemy that didn’t recognize any so-called rules of warfare. Maybe it was, but a nation that respects and cherishes its young people still ought not casually consider sending them off to die or be wounded in any war, however justified it may sound.

That’s what I hate most about Trump’s and others’ flippant remarks about war. They ignore the cost in lives, in futures, in dreams, by wrapping everything in a flag of patriotism. Duty. Honor. Courage.

In addition to being a chilling account of combat, “Flags Of Our Fathers,” which I’m reading as part of a stash of used books I recently bought at the library, provides a perfect example of Americans refusing to take an event at face value and, instead, repackaging it to fit their preconceived notions. It is about one of the most famous photographs ever taken — six Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. The photo brought hope to a war-weary nation, became a famous monument, propelled a successful bond tour to support the war effort, inspired a John Wayne movie. Today, it remains a stirring symbol of American courage.

But the photo itself was not of a heroic moment. As the authors recount, it was a lucky shot by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal at a second flag-raising, after the heroic one following an assault up Suribachi a day earlier. The Marine commander wanted a larger flag flying over Iwo. The men who planted the second flag happened to be there. Photos were taken. One was dramatic. They became heroes back home, sought after everywhere for much of their lives. As often as the three flag-raisers who survived Iwo Jima tried to tell the real story of the flag, they were ignored. The photo was too powerful. It said so much of what Americans wanted it to say. Needed it to say.

Bradley’s father, Jack “Doc” Bradley, was identified as one of the six flag-raisers, but even that remains questioned today. A medical corpsman who was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on Iwo, all he and the others ever said was that the real heroes were the Marines and Navy corpsmen who died on the island — 6,800 of them. The Japanese suffered 22,000 casualties, mostly deaths. American casualties exceeded 26,000. One battle. One island. Two flags.

As a nation, we have a tendency to try to make things — flag-raisings, presidents — fit our perceptions (our hopes and wishes perhaps), so that we don’t have to face reality. War is brutal. Talk is cheap.

The Iwo Jima photo, while it does not represent an actual heroic moment in combat, has come to symbolize the heroism of U.S. Marines, especially at Iwo Jima. It has obtained true, lasting value because it represents something real — the courage, determination, resilience, loyalty, and brotherhood the Marines demonstrated on Iwo Jima and, indeed, have demonstrated throughout their proud history. If you need to raise a flag, they are there. They are the real deal.

Take as many photos of Donald Trump as you want. Wearing that silly Make America Great Again cap if you want. Wrap him in flags and give him tough-sounding words if you want. Gild the lily all you want. It doesn’t matter. The image will never match the reality of the man’s history. Gutless and callous and phony to the core.

Getting Back to Indian Point

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Indian Point

Indian Point

I had conveniently forgotten to think about Indian Point and its attendant horrors, but as always seems to happen when you’re in a state of denial, the truth taps you on the shoulder and howls in your ear.

Several days ago I was at breakfast with some friends, a regular Friday event. I don’t recall what led to talk about Indian Point, but all of sudden there it was, the silent monstrosity that sits on the banks of the Hudson seeming to bide its time. I think everyone at the table harbored a fear that one of these days, Indian Point will do the unimaginable.

It will explode, or it will leak, or it will send plumes of radioactive smoke into the sky and force millions of people to wait to see where it comes down. Or it will be visited by people who despise us and it will fail to stop them from making off with material to make dirty bombs.

There seems to be enough radioactive waste stored at Indian Point to make more than a few such bombs. In fact, Riverkeeper estimates that Indian Point now holds about 1,500 tons of waste material – with no place to dispose of it permanently.

I have to wonder about security at Indian Point. A couple of years ago, a photographer and I chugged up the Hudson to do a story on sailing the river and the Erie Barge Canal. We were in mid-river as we passed Indian Point. My friend attached a very long lens to one of his cameras and started shooting pictures of the plant. Then the two of us waved.

Response from the ever vigilant Indian Point?

There was no response. No federal agents, no armed guards in fast boats, no loud warning buzzers played over big amplifiers.

If all this is not enough for the feds to reject the application by Entergy – the Indian Point operator – for a 20-year extension on its operating license, there is the matter of the size of the population near Indian Point. There’s another problem: Entergy’s evacuation plan is utter nonsense.

On a map, draw a circle with a 50-mile radius around Indian Point, step back and understand that roughly 20 million people are in that circle. People in Goshen, Middletown, Newburgh, the mid-Hudson, North Jersey, etc. Let us not forget that there’s an important federal interest in taming Indian Point – its proximity to West Point, just five miles up the river.

And there’s the little matter of New York City. Indian Point is about 23 miles from Times Square.

The word “evacuation” should not be allowed when discussing Indian Point. Not when 20 million mostly panic-stricken people would be trying to leave the 78 square miles around the plant all at the same time.

You can’t evacuate an area when the evacuation routes are clogged. Ever notice what happens on Route 17 when two cars smack each other in Sloatsburg during the morning commute? The backup builds quickly and there’s no way out. And that’s just for a jam of a few hundred cars. Now picture that traffic knot with thousands upon thousands of cars trying to escape.

Indian Point needs to be taken more seriously by people like me – people who have managed not to think much about it lately. It needs to be always in the public consciousness. Remember, most of us never heard of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima until they blew.

And may I offer a piece of gratuitous advice for nuclear regulators: Before that license extension is considered, I suggest that the officers and directors of Entergy be required to move – with their spouses and their children – to Buchanan, N.Y., home of Indian Point.

I’m sure this has been suggested before. It’s time to suggest it again.