Caitlin Johnstone says the correct response to North Korea having nuclear retaliatory capability is simple: leave it alone.
By Caitlin Johnstone
Half of the responders to an innovative new survey of 3,000 Americans conducted by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the British research firm YouGov reported that they would support a nuclear strike against North Korea if it tested a long-range missile capable of reaching the continental United States. A third said they’d actually prefer such a strike over other hypothetical responses.
“For example, while ‘only’ 33 percent of the U.S. public prefer a U.S. preventive nuclear strike that would kill 15,000 North Koreans, 50 percent approve,” the report reads.
The study found little change in preference for a preemptive nuclear strike whether the hypothetical scenario offered to respondents entailed the death of 15,000 North Korean civilians or one million. Preferences for a preemptive strike only dropped when the hypothetical scenario reduced the probability of success (meaning elimination of North Korea’s nuclear retaliatory capabilities) was reduced from ninety to fifty percent.
The survey found a large knowledge deficit in responders regarding nuclear weapons, with a majority reporting an unrealistic amount of confidence in both the U.S. military’s ability to eliminate all of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in a preemptive strike and in its ability to shoot down North Korean missiles using current missile defense systems. This inaccurate perspective was significantly higher among supporters of President Donald Trump.
While the study found that a majority of Americans would prefer to de-escalate against North Korea if given the choice, a jarring number of them would be willing to use nuclear weapons at the drop of a hat, and believe it’s possible to do so at relatively little risk to Americans.
“As we have previously found, the U.S. public exhibits only limited aversion to nuclear weapons use and a shocking willingness to support the killing of enemy civilians,” write the report’s authors.
Why Expect Anything Else?
And really, why would we expect anything else? After all, Americans are taught the lie since they are children that their nation, the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons, did so with the goal of bringing a quick and painless end to a horrible world war. Like so much else, this ultimately boils down to the effects of propaganda.
“Most Americans have been taught that using atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was justified because the bombings ended the war in the Pacific, thereby averting a costly U.S. invasion of Japan,” reads an excellent 2016 LA Times article on this subject by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznik. “This erroneous contention finds its way into high school history texts still today.”
In reality, the sole purpose of dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was not to end the war, but to show the rest of the world in general and the Soviets in particular that the United States had both the capability and the savagery to wipe out any city in the world with a single bomb. The war, in fact, had already been won, and the Japanese were already on the brink of surrender as the fearsome Soviet forces entered into the war in the Pacific. The narrative that the use of nuclear bombs was a tragic but necessary means to end World War II is a lie that the U.S. has used its cultural hegemony to circulate around the world, much like the lie that America was mostly responsible for Germany’s defeat and not the U.S.S.R.
I always get a lot of pushback from Americans when I point to this, not because I don’t have facts on my side but because it’s so glaringly different from the dominant narratives that Americans are spoon fed in school. If you don’t believe me, read the aforementioned LA Times article titled “Bombing Hiroshima changed the world, but it didn’t end WWII,” or this article from The Nation, or this one from Mises Institute.
Seriously, read the articles if this is upsetting you. This is an established fact to which contemporary generals at the time have attested. The uncomfortable feeling you’re experiencing upon reading this is called cognitive dissonance. It’s what learning you’ve been lied to your whole life feels like.
This report on the American public’s widespread ignorance of and indifference to the consequences of nuclear weapons use comes shortly after the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff briefly published and then removed from public access an update on their position on the use of nukes which contains the alarming line, “Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”
So the people responsible for forming America’s nuclear strategies believe using nuclear weapons is not just acceptable, but potentially beneficial. The mass media have been completely ignoring this horrifying revelation, and the public are too awash in disinformation to do anything about it themselves.
The correct response to North Korea having nuclear retaliatory capabilities is the same as the response to any other nuclear power: leave them alone. The narrative that North Korea’s leadership is likely to launch an unprovoked attack is exactly as baseless and moronic as the narratives about Iraq or Iran launching an unprovoked attack. It’s not a thing.
The Warping Effect
As tensions continue to escalate between nuclear powers around the world while the faltering U.S. empire becomes increasingly desperate to maintain its global hegemony, human extinction via nuclear annihilation is just as real a possibility as it was at the height of the last Cold War.
But it isn’t just the use of nuclear weapons which threatens us. Their very existence warps us as a species. In her book “The Algebra of Infinite Justice,” Arundhati Roy writes:
“It is such supreme folly to believe that nuclear weapons are deadly only if they are used. The fact that they exist at all, their very presence in our lives, will wreak more havoc than we can begin to fathom. Nuclear weapons pervade our thinking. Control our behaviour. Administer our societies. Inform our dreams. They bury themselves like meathooks deep in the base of our brains… The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democratic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that man has ever made. Through it, man now has the power to destroy God’s creation.”
This needs to change. And it won’t be changed by those in power who benefit from the status quo. Humanity itself must awaken from the propaganda cages which have been built around our minds so that the people can use the power of their numbers to force a change. The time to wake up is now.
Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on Facebook, Twitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book “Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.”
This article was re-published with permission from CaitlinJohnstone.com
“After all, Americans are taught the lie since they are children that their nation, the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons, did so with the goal of bringing a quick and painless end to a horrible world war.” At the time of their first use their effects were largely theoretical. The results of the 1st were not readily available before the second was used either. No one from the US was on the ground reporting so there was no way to see the terrible results. The sad fact is that in war you use every resource available against the enemy until they surrender. If you don’t like the results of the war you start, then it’s best not to start the war to begin with.
No one should be surprised that “Americans” have been deceived into thinking that anything their government does is for the good of humanity. Let’s begin with “Manifest Destiny” because of course, Americans were ordained by God himself to rule over lesser peoples. The fact that the Founding Father’s(a sexist narrative) designed a grand plan of genocide of the original inhabitants of this country should suffice. The arrogant connotation of “Americans” is another one as everyone that lives in North or South America are “Americans” by definition. The United States has to be the richest Industrialized nation with the most ignorant population but it is by design as a poorly funded public school system with an “American” perspective and narrative of world history is the desired result. There is I believe also a psychological factor of Euro descendants constant “I need guns to protect myself” against what my ancestors did (genocide, geographical grand larceny, slavery) at the domestic level which agrees with foreign policy based on win at all costs including wiping out millions of innocent human beings which makes it more palatable if they are of darker hues or different cultures. Yes the media is greatly responsible for a large part of that narrative and mindset but all institutions in the United States play the dominant part. The arrogant slogan of USA, USA we are number one at every Olympics or calling our local baseball championships “World Series” when only North American teams are playing is part of that delusion as US citizens do not rank in the top ten in quality of life indicators as a nation (Health Care, Education, Crime statistics etc.) unless you count only the top 20% of “Americans”. The constant Hollywood barrage of pro war propaganda and hero worship is indicative of mass deception in the US cultural landscape and has molded generations of “Americans” outlook towards those that the US government does not approve of. I do not believe human beings are genetically “bad or evil” but we sure are susceptible to media and institutional manipulation on a grand scale and the USA is the best example of them all with a distant second to Nazi Germany for a brief period of the 20th Century…..
“The United States has to be the richest Industrialized nation with the most ignorant population but it is by design as a poorly funded public school system..
A propaganda mantra put out by the teaching establishment which is not true. We may have an underperforming public school system when compared to other countries but money is not the problem nor more money the answer.
The rest of the comment is generally on the mark. We are an ignorant people, in the sense of not knowing and arrogant through indoctrination.
I stand corrected on the funding, you are right that other countries do much better with less per ca pita investment of their school systems (Cuba is a prime example). I meant the under funding based of zip codes or wealthier areas versus poorer districts but I have to admit that we are ALL indoctrinated.
Americans have remarkably ignorant attitude. Period.
As well as the ignorance of nukes by the US public, we have the attitude that anyone who is no our puppet must be an enemy, and that if anyone has a really dangerous weapon,they will use it against us-after all, that is what we do to our designated enemies.
But it can’t happen here!
This is an extraordinary article – while I did know the two main facts: That the nukes did not end the war with Japan, that they were ready to surrender, but they did show the world – who’s the boss. American is the first and only country to have used nuclear weapons, while telling the world we have to watch others all the time!? And the USSR was more responsible for bringing WWII to a close rather than the USA. The lies create an ignorant misinformed public which is wrong and in fact evil!
If one simply refers to the data that ~80% of German casualties were incurred fighting the Soviet Union, then that should make it pretty clear to anyone, without the need for much more details.
Despite their novelty, the destruction caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Japan was scarcely greater than that wrought by the massive air raids the USAF launched against other cities in World War II. What is different is that all this destructive power was concentrated in a single weapon, which ultimately lessened the huge cost of building and arming entire air fleets in order to obliterate enemy population centers. This is the unspeakable evil of atomic weapons and their far deadlier nuclear successors: they were developed primarily to reduce the cost of mass murder.
Let’s remember that the most devastating conventional air raid in all of history, the 1,000-plane bombing mission against Tokyo led by the egomaniacal General Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold, took place on August 14, a week after the two atomic bombings. News of Japan’s surrender was in before all the planes had returned to their bases – so what was the reason to incinerate another hundred thousand people in their homes? Those very people who for four years the American press had depicted as animalistic subhumans, in caricatures as horrific as the worst published of Jews in Germany’s gutter press – d’ya suppose pure old murderous racist hatred – a constant all throughout America’s history – had anything at all to do with it?
Those who have not seen the recent Real News network series of interviews with Daniel Ellsberg based on his experiences and his book “The Doomsday Machine” will be able to see the frightening behavior after WW2 of the US military leader like General Thomas Power, showing a complete lack of any humanity towards the USSR as they planned the nuclear attacks to come.
I thought it was Curtis LeMay who was placed in charge of all operations for the 21 bomber group that bombed Japan. LeMay led the raid that killed an estimated 100,000 Japanese on the night of March 9 – 10th, 1945. Between that first raid and others prior to the Japanese surrender LeMay’s raids killed over 500,000 people. LeMay was not part of the nuclear bombings.
One aspect of the first atomic bomb test that is deeply troubling is that the scientists thought it might set the atmosphere on fire.
Just think about that for a moment: What a moral vacuum they were prepared to operate in.
Time to ban nuclear weapons.
In fact, last year a large majority of UN member States did actually get together to try to ban nukes.Of course, the “legal” nuke powers and some of their minions did not react well!!
I agree with Caitlin. I too watched Oliver Stone’s excellent series on Netflix: “The Untold History of the United States” which was a ten part 2012 documentary series created, directed, produced, and narrated by Oliver Stone about the reasons behind the Cold War, the decision to drop the atomic bombs, and changes in America’s global role since the fall of Communism.
Oliver Stones preamble to the series tells how Stone was troubled by the facts of history as presented by the major chroniclers of our history as missing key perspectives that if left unchallenged would leave the World (and his children) bereft of an accurate accounting of all of the history that has led up to the present day. His conviction that telling the story in a different light might cast a shadow over the common accounts of our history and shed light on an alternate history that has been hidden from our eyes. Watch the series to see what Stone reveals.
In that same principled view, the founder of this website Consortiumnews, Robert Parry wrote many books and articles posted here in the same effort as Oliver Stone to reveal an alternate narrative which more accurately described the motives and intentions of our government which were largely hidden from the view of most Americans. Robert Parry devoted his life works to provide an alternative view of the group think that was all prevalent which towed the line of the government’s narratives and supported the group think that was the dominant force which controlled the “news”.
Robert Parry established this website in 1995 in order to publish his alternate views of current events that the major media would never cover because his alternative narratives did not tow the party line and were a conflicting analysis to the group think which dominated the media.
In his own words, the late Robert Parry stated: “When we founded Consortiumnews.com in 1995 – as the first investigative news magazine based on the Internet – there was already a crisis building in the U.S. news media. The mainstream media was falling into a pattern of groupthink on issue after issue, often ignoring important factual information because it didn’t fit with what all the Important People knew to be true. Indeed, that was the original reason that I turned to what was then a new media platform to create a home for well-reported stories and to challenge the many misguided conventional wisdoms.
The reasons for the courses that both Robert Parry and Oliver Stone chose to follow and to report on are very much the same.
Robert Parry’s continuous expose’s of major media outlets that presented one sided views that supported “news” stories that fell in line with government positions proved to be fertile ground. The treasure trove of articles spanning decades from this website penned largely by Robert Parry and his guest commentators offers the readers an alternate view of history and a view into the group think that pervades the official Washington narratives that permeate, saturate and control every news narrative on just about every source of “trusted news” which encompasses every major source of news information in the commercial news media landscape.
What Oliver Stones Alternate History of the United States provides is a historical context and an alternative view of the development and eventual complete control of the narrative of our history by special interests including our chief narrators of history. It gives us the sense that we have always been living our lives within the backdrop of an Orwellian dystopian society which we want to believe yet we find hard to swallow.
Stone does a good job of illustrating how the US was responsible for the Cold War and how we deliberately created the Cold War by our own actions and our own purposes after WWII.
Stone also does a good job of showing how the Japanese would have surrendered in a few weeks even if the Atomic Bombs had not been dropped on Japan. It is all very believable and Stones heartfelt narration in the series cements his honest convictions that we could have chosen a wiser course. I look at the series as incredibly valuable to judge whether we were right to commit many of the actions we took to secure peace versus our self interests to exact a toll on our self created enemies like Russia, North Korea, Vietnam and other nations in order to create a permanent state of war with half of the World.
Stone goes on to examine the lost opportunities in Vietnam which were deliberately avoided to create a war that even LBJ thought was unwinnable, unwarranted, unjustified and was waged for no good reasons. We struggled for years to find a way to win that unwinnable war and the only winners were our defense contractors. Russia and China eventually decided to provide all of their best weapons on the North in order to prevent a victory for the USA. It worked and we lost that war but only in the sense that the US flag was not flying over Hanoi. We won that war from the perspective of the military and the defense contractors which honed their skills at building better armaments funded by lavish spending by the government.
If theater wars which support our our interests can be waged by creating the necessary narratives to justify them then we will always create wars. The Vietnam War was a gigantic failure which failed to instill in us the urgency and the motivation to bomb that country into submission. Instead Americans were treated to first hand accounts of the horrors of war and many people reacted strongly to what they saw on TVas unjustified destruction and loss of human life.
What to do? What did American media outlets do in the intervening decades to prevent popular uprisings and demonstrations in the streets by angry Americans.
Well they have figured that out. Today, the media is controlled by the government and defense contractors who reap hundreds of billions of dollars in military contracts each year. These giant military contracts are also never ever mentioned in the “news”. The Military Industrial Complex Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell speech has effectively lobbied the government to create a media system that hides the horrors of war from our eyes. Gone are the days of live reporting from the battlefield unless the reporting shows what the government wants us to know.
We should thank Robert Parry and Oliver Stone for shining a light on an alternate view of history.
The ignorance and the indifference to Korean deaths are not remarkable, but predictable. “Life is cheap in Asia”, as Genl. Westmoreland said.
Westmoreland actually got hold of some nuclear weapons.
Fortunately, he was ordered to hand them over by President Johnson.
He seemed to regret that they were not used in his memoirs.
A disgusting enough poll as far as polls go, but it says nothing really about Americans as a people. To single Americans out you would have to COMPARE the results with the same type of poll of the same type of people, in say Australia or UK, who have been “educated” with the same Hollywood, Rambo version of history.
I believe in fact, that exactly the same righteous sense of “good people and bad people” exists throughout the western world. (If not beyond)
Bigots and close-minded naives from many other nations at least own their bigotry and stupidity even though they don’t want to admit to being bigoted and stupid.
The same kind of people from Anglo-Saxon countries, however, valiantly refuse being generalized with their “bad apples” even when those “bad apples” are the majority, much as they themselves often generalize people of any quantity who they deem as “other.” “The Iranians,” “the Russians,” etc.
But there’s no such a thing as “the Americans.” It’s just not fair to group and single us all as one people except when followed by positive adjectives.
“Good people and bad people”? What about people informed and people hopelessly MISINFORMED? That is the main divide today and has been throughout history. Knowledge is the greatest weapon people can have in their fight for truth and justice. This is why the mainstream media has so betrayed its alleged purpose in lying to the American people again and again. Just take a look at how easy it was for the media to create a virtual lynch mob of Americans easily misled by lies to destroy Trump’s administration AND campaign! If I am in a position to hand out indictments for war crimes to Americans, media CEO’s are a good place to start!
nope. Even if all the countries in the world were polled and the results were exactly the same, the main point of the article, about remarkable ignorance, still holds.
yes to tom kath!
and all who buy into the nonsense that americans are dumb individuals to believe all this propaganda crap , especially the middle american dumbos who are the white working class types so despised by their superior coastal bigots , should face that they are no different, in essence, from those they accuse of racist or sexist or whatever label behavior, and maybe a little worse for being so pampered and privileged that they/we can spend 72 billion dollars a year on pets,700 billion on war, tolerate more than half a million americans living in the street, 13 million kids in poverty, while we scream about suffering migrants..what?
american individuals are as decent, good, kind as any humans on the planet, but american society under minority rule of the private profit market fanaticism is a deranged, murderous and most dangerous to humanity force that needs to be radically changed before it destroys much more than our nation..some of us need to learn not only the political economics at the root of our problem, but the simplistic , hateful and contemptuous behavior we have been taught to exercise towards humans we have been told are lower forms than we and which has perpetuated the ugliness we blame on “others”…we are all responsible, as any terrorists may remind us as they blow up the theater, park, restaurant, institution or other place they attack to get even for what we have done to them and we may innocently be made to belatedly understand, and the most educated and privileged among us are far more responsible than the great mass of americans who work for a living and are taught contemptuous crap by their educated (?) professional class hirelings.
Arguably it is simultaneously possible that Harry Truman not to mention many of the folks responsible for the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki perpetrated that for both reasons, that is because of the expected damage to their careers, had they not drop the bomb and an invasion had gone forth. And a prospective Soviet threat. This is not cognitive dissonance, the fact that some few of us now have the perspective to know better is a product of time and personal effort. I would suggest compassion for the Normie’s is in order with a firm determination to help educate them.
The military lied to Truman. They had broken the Japanese diplomatic codes and knew that the Japanese were attempting to communicate their surrender terms through the Soviets, but didn’t tell the White House. They also knew the desperate domestic situation in Japan, that famine was just months away, and also did not pass the word on. Truman was left with only one choice to avoid an invasion.
Caitlin, thank you for an interesting article.
Starting in 1944, before anybody knew about any atomic bomb (the Manhattan project was a top secret project, even Vice President Truman didn’t know about it until he became president in April 1945), the plans for an invasion of Japan was made by all branches of the armed forces, starting in July 1944. Estimates of casualties disagreed, but all branches predicted that they would be huge, for example, one million American casualties and ten million Japanese. The people of the United States were told to expect massive casualties in 1945, worse than the previous three years.
The invasion of Japan was scheduled in May 1945 to begin November 1, 1945 and a second invasion force was prepared to begin on March 1, 1946.
The first atomic bomb test was July 16th, 1945 in New Mexico. Nobody could have known that it would be successful. The dropping of the atomic bomb was three weeks later on August 6th on Hiroshima. It seems clear that the U.S. wanted to give Japan as much time as possible to surrender before the November 1st invasion began.
We should debate if the dropping of the atomic bomb was a wise decision or a moral one, we should also debate if unconditional surrender should have been the policy of the U.S., but we paint a false historical picture if we see it as some kind of a geopolitical stunt that was calculated to win the Cold War (something that did not exist at that time). The motive for dropping the atomic bombs by the U.S. government and military were to save as many lives (both U.S. and Japanese) as possible and bring about the unconditional surrender of Japan.
One could better argue the opposite – that the atomic bomb led to the Cold War – as the United States no longer feared the Soviet military or any military on Earth. This, however, was an unplanned side effect of the use of the atomic bomb.
I love Oliver Stone and his movies, but he does have a Howard Zinn type conspiratorial view of history that is problematic
Jay, your sources of information have been extremely limited and one-sided. Many authoritative works have long been available-one of the best is Gar Alperovitz’s “Atomic Diplomacy”. Your comment on Howard Zinn tells us a lot, as do your words on the ‘non-existent cold war’ and the US care about Japanese casualties!!
An excellent modern work is “A History of Bombing” by the Swede Sven Lindqvist, weaving personal experiences (he was born in 1932) with historical evidence. In 1995 the Smithsonian Institute was stopped from putting on an exhibition of Hiroshima by war veterans who insisted on the ‘million US dead’ reason for the bomb when that was known to be false. Fifty years later, the “fake news” persisted, and you seem to have taken some of it in even now.
Americans have always been proud of their nuclear weapons from their inception.
I was born in the 1940’s, I remember them and the early 1950’s from the perspective of a little tyke in a dazzling new world. Aside from the towering family Christmas trees with all the wrapped gifts Santa left, the first grand events I recall were the New Year’s Eve parties, including the one to ring out the 40’s and ring in the 50’s. Woo hoo, the Greatest Generation let down its hair big time for that one. Everybody drunk and partying like it was 1999… fifty years early.
The nightly news, such as it was on the twelve inch black and white Admiral and Stromberg-Carlson vacuum-tube powered television sets was sure to include stories about never-ending ongoing ramifications of the great war that ended in a mushroom cloud some five years earlier. Whenever one went to a movie theater to catch a Bogart-Bacall adaptation of a Hemingway novel or a Disney animation, either before or after the requisite cartoon, the audience was shown a newsreel clip of the most pressing world events. It was de rigor for its time, as most Americans didn’t as yet own “TV’s.” My siblings and I were frequently apprised that we were amongst the lucky ones. We got to watch our news on both the boob tube (aka “idiot box”) and the big screen.
But whether you saw the images in small grainy B&W or with the full grandeur of “color by Technicolor” in Cinescope at your neighborhood film emporium, see them you did. Repeatedly and often. With plenty of commentary, mostly laudatory, filled with American pride and jingoism, but sometimes shaded with ominous cautions. You know, the “other side” had the “A-bomb,” and later the “H-bomb” too, and it was them who were not to be trusted.
In the aftermath of World War II, the cinemas were booked with one war film after another, supposedly depicting the accurate accounts of history and the American heroism that single-handedly won the war, beating both Germany and Japan while they incessantly cheated and we played fair. (What decent fellow wouldn’t trust those articulate highly-cultured German officers who spoke the King’s English better than the Yank in the role of leading man?) The Russians? Oh, they did their bit using the vast armory of weapons given to them free of charge by the beneficent United States. So many Merchant Marine ships fell prey to Unterseebooten to bail out the Russkies and their dictator who, turns out, was even worse than der Fuehrer himself. So there, we saved Russkie asses as well as the rest of the world. Then they have the effrontery to steal the “A bomb” from us, using a couple of New York Jewish Bolsheviks, otherwise known as the Rosenbergs. Years later historians tell us the “evidence” was no more compelling than the malarkey propping up “Russiagate.”
Then there were the apocalyptic movies of the day, including many science fiction tales warning us of what “the enemy” was planning for us poor unsuspecting honest American worker bees. Often those flicks would begin with full-screen scenes of nuclear blasts, courtesy of all the nuclear testing going on at the time, which I’m sure toughened up my generation with a stiff kick in the nuts from all the radionuclides of Cesium, Strontium, Iodine and other ionizing radiation emitters that tend to rip up DNA and cause cancer or birth defects a decade or two or three later. The last Indiana Jones release did a marvelous parody of such a test, even having the hero survive the blast at ground zero by hiding in a refrigerator. It might even have been lead-lined, though lead does have a melting point much lower than the thermal radiation released from the nuclear chain reaction. The main villain in the TV series “Crime Story” also survived such an exposure and he didn’t even have the shelter of an old Philco or Frigidaire. In any case, we lucky vanguard of the Boomer generation were verily “treated” to an extravaganza of the nukes and how to use them properly… if an American.
Hot rocks from the first atomic test blast at the Alamogordo site were so cool that every kid wanted one… and got them for Christmas, if he had a “linked-in” dad back in the early 50’s. No, I don’t mean slide rule slinging nerds who networked on the World Wide Web, which wasn’t even a gleam in the eyes of John von Neumann or Alan Turing yet. I just mean dads who were mostly professional scientists or engineers. Guys who swooned over the prognostications of Werhner von Braun and his illustrator Willy Ley. Guys who thought the Manhattan Project was the greatest human accomplishment ever… in spite of Robert Oppenheimer’s personal introspections. Just look at that line-up of talent, never before and possibly never again so much raw human intelligence focussed on bringing one precise reality into being: the destructive force of nuclear fission, and, later, of nuclear fusion. Any collateral “atoms for peace” was, honestly, just an afterthought, and probably floated as PR to assuage the cranky dissidents like Linus Pauling, who won his second Nobel Prize for Peace–for protesting the deployment of nuclear weapons, after his great tour de force in Chemistry.
Not to drag the tale out too long, but dear old dad was an engineer who glommed onto some Trinitite which he gave to me for Christmas before it became illegal to possess back in 1953. Trinitite is the name given to the sand that was fused to green glass by the first nuclear blast at the Trinity test site back in 1945. He also gave me a primitive fluorscope to visualize the scintillations resulting when the residual radioactive elements in the mineral break down. They say the residual radiation from this mineral is “harmless,” though it IS illegal to possess or collect and includes radioactive isotopes of elements such as Uranium, Cobalt, Thorium, Americium, Cesium, Strontium, Barium, and Europium. After 75 years much of the radioactivity has dissipated relating to the individual half-lifes of the isotopes. I’m sure any Plutonium or U-235 is long gone. I sure do hope the other stuff was really harmless, as that chunk of Trinitite was kicked around our house until it totally crumbled back into sand and became embedded in carpeting and other fabrics all around the house. Though I think the carcinogenicity of the asbestos wrapping the coal furnace down in the basement of our apartment building and all the hot water and radiator pipes throughout the building were a bit more dangerous. That and the lead paint covering every surface. Don’t even ask about Radon in the basement. Nobody thought about such things back then. If you developed cancer, you just tried to walk it off or cough up the tumor with a bracing whack to your back.
Them were the days. Americans loved the bomb, as long as it was our bomb, and seemed willing to use it. Just look at any vintage radios and you’ll see designations for the two Conelrad stations on every tuning dial. We had our stash of canned goods, bottled water drawn right from our taps, and presumably several feet of building rubble overhead our basement shielding us from that pesky fallout. If caught away from home, like at school, during a nuclear attack, just remember to “duck and cover.” And, don’t trip over the bodies on your walk home from your flattened school. The U.S. Army would certainly show up and save us all by the next day. Maybe even have the power re-connected by then. Today we could watch DC being vaporized in slow-mo 3-D replay, like a scene out of “the Matrix.” That would almost be worth the price of admission.
That was quite a trip down Memory Lane, Realist.
By the time I was in second grade, I realized that my school (a remnant of a 1930s building spree in that sleepy little college town, boasting a university second only to MIT in “defense” funding), standing in somewhat isolated splendor atop a small hill, about half a mile from the Naval Water Tunnel Research Lab, would definitely experience the “initial shock wave” of the blast and being under a desk would have offered no protection at all, despite the teachers assuring us that it would.
My fellow inmates, way back then, in 1953-54, did not want to hear about my contrarian assessment , insisting that, “The teachers would not lie to us.”
Thus began my list of doubts about “official” pronouncements.
You were a lucky one! No boob tube in my house until I was twelve, so I was forced to build a library, and read. I did, occasionally, however, spend time with one of the lucky kids, but there were only two channels to choose between. Later, I learned that both shut down at midnight and reativated at seven pee em.
Twice a year we got to watch the same two films at school. One was about the Nazi atrocities, which was augmented by lessons about Evil Russia, having the effect that many of my classmates came to confuse the two. A confusion which I note continues to this very, and has even afflicted later generations. The second was about the “Atomic Bomb!”. The narrator’s voice remained ominous throughout. I certainly did not want to be on the receiving end of such a thing.
A year or so later, having met the Russian wife of a grad student of my father, I saw no reason to want to drop a bomb on “them”.
My dissident pathway, dimly seen in the future distance, with more and more questions about things I was told and expected to “believe”, on all sides, was, certainly, not the one most traveled, but it seemed, to me, the only one that made sense, rocky and steep as it appeared to be.
The excitement of Tee Vee, was rather short-lived, because the best stuff was, always, ON after my bedtime, except on weekends.
The RCA Victor television, did best the big round-faced dial of the Zenith radio. It had pictures, though snowy, at times, even a blizzard if conditions were “right/wrong”. It also made less a demand on imagination unless the snow was thick. Everything was black and white. Color was not even dreamt of, then. It wasnT missed.
I vividly recal Edward R. Murrow’s, “Good night … and good news, tomorrow.”
All in all, however we, many of us, lived in a time rather idyllic, even though many did not, even in this country, though I did not know that at the time.
One wonders, how many still do not know?
Thank you, Realist for rekindling images of a time and sense of innocence and excitement, long gone.
Consider how much we, of a certain age, can recall of times that the vast majority of those with whom we now share this world, cannot help but regard as “ancient” history, almost as distant as dinosaurs.
many of a younger age appreciate these stories, both with and without historical context. Keep em coming ! I am much younger than both of you and from another country and i was interested in your posts.
What are your thoughts on Alvin Weinberg’s work on the thorium fluoride reactor at oak ridge?
I think it deserves fair consideration as some experts in nuclear-generated power point to several distinct advantages over uranium reactors. Why it has not been developed further, I am not sure since I am not one of those experts. (As a biochemist I only used weak beta- and gamma-emitters as radiotracers.) Advocates point up that thorium exists in greater abundance than uranium, reportedly enough to last four times as long as the diminishing uranium deposits. But more importantly thorium-232 transmutes directly to uranium-233 which can produce energy through a chain reaction that does not yield plutonium as a side product and does not depend on the uranium-235 reaction. Of course, both plutonium and uranium-235 are the essential components of nuclear weapons. U-233 is reportedly not easily incorporated into such a weapon. Besides the danger posed by its emitted radiation, plutonium is also the most chemically poisonous substance known to science. Other benefits of thorium reactors include eliminating the risk of a core melt down and the production of fewer and shorter-lived radioactive waste products. Even mining the thorium is said to be safer and more cost effective than mining uranium. It may be that an entrenched industry will remain committed to uranium for the time being. I suspect that you have rather deeper thoughts on the subject, which is why you asked.
Very informative answer, Realist, thank you for providing a new awareness.
And describing possibilities that make much more sense than does current practice.
My appreciation to Dunderhead, as well, for posing the question.
I too was born in the 40s. 1941 to be exact. You just brought back a lot of memories. I wonder if the current generation is any better informed than we were back then. The propaganda was incredible back then but even more sophisticated now. And along with the deterioration of the education system it is much more effective.
@ “I’m sure any Plutonium or U-235 is long gone.”
Think again. Pu-241’s half-life is 14.4 years, but Pu-239 has a half-life of 24,100 years. Uranium 235 has a half-life of 700 million years.
Well, then the joke’s on me… and whoever has lived in that flat ever since the trinitite became a childhood plaything. Surely some plutonium and uranium were introduced into that sand during the brief but intense nuclear chain reaction. I’ll just keep telling myself that all the professionals who collected and dispensed it around the country were correct about the “harmless” bit even as others contend there is no harmless dose for any radiation source.
Lied to your whole life? Yup , Justice for all yup sure okay.
Yup I believe everything I hear Yup sure okay.
Not 5 years old anymore. I think we all get it now.
Maybe everyone in your social circles or neighborhood gets it. The average middle to upper class American’s capacity to blow this all off as delusion or paranoia, however, should not be underestimated…
Many of us Americans never outgrow our childhood political education, especially the semi-religious kind of patriotism, as well as American Exceptionalism / American Adam nonsense.
Yes, thank you for that. I was referring to all of you who care not about the disinterested masses.
I get them they just want to have a nice day. If we all could only.
Where is NEO when you need him! ;- }
The surveys you mention Catlin, are truly frightening. They reveal how uncaring and violent a majority of our fellow citizens have become.
Thanks for the reminder, Caitlin, and for the links. I’m going to send this to my grandson who can now vote. He has been brought up on a mass of continuing lies in school and I’m trying to briefly re-educate him in some of the truths so he can vote intelligently. This is a major one – largely because WWII is supposed to be “the good war” – all the subsequent ones being based on lies, so it’s important to understand that the lies were already present in WWII.
Much truth here, but one must counter arguments for nuclear balance (mutually assured destruction MAD) and first-strike-only balance, as preferable to the massive conventional wars that killed tens of millions in the 20th century.
So I suggest some form of UN to ensure peace, a significant design and verification task. Major weapons systems would eventually have to be given to it by great powers, which if possible would take generations to build sufficient confidence.
The major problem there, apart from the bad faith and poor design ability of politicians, is that such a UN would have to be far more incorruptible than any present government, eliminating the ability of states and non-state actors to control it with social, economic, military, or information power. Present governments are obsessed with corruption as a tool, and would not give power to such an entity. Likely we would need a full century of worldwide peace and lack of aggression to gain support for any such idea, and future fearmongers would prevent success. So that peaceful period must be attained without a superior military power above all nations.
It is unfortunate but unsurprising that a fundamentally tyrannical culture built nuclear weapons first. One of the many tragic effects of not adapting the US Constitution to changing times, until democracy was lost to economic oligarchy.
Worth noting that one of the very first acts of the present UN, was to be railroaded into becoming a belligerent (officially “the” belligerent) in the Korean war, which has not yet ended. That war is the direct result of several lies: That Rhee’s was in any way a legitimate and democratic government, let alone the only legitimate government in Korea; That Rhee had the support of his own people; That the North’s incursion into the South was in any way an unprovoked attack; That the division of Korea was itself any reflection of legitimate interests; That the war that has not ended, had any justice on the side of the “UN” forces, even as they destroyed every edifice that could be destroyed…. One could go on with examples of the atrocities and lies committed by the supposed allies, but rather turn to more recent lies: The DPRK had met all of its commitments under the 1994 Framework agreement, when 8 years later, the US had met none of its own commitments. DPRK had mothballed its Graphite moderated nuclear reactors and placed its spent fuel under UN supervision. The US had made no progress towards supporting the provision of the promised light water reactors to replace them. The US cancelled supply of oil to temporarily replace nuclear, in the midst of a cold winter, based upon an improbable allegation of uranium enrichment, which has not been confirmed in any way. Most important of all the US commitments left unmet, was the signing of a non-aggression treaty. The US abrogated that treaty, and is happy to allow its allies and its own populace to believe the completely unproven claim that it had been DPRK that did so. Trump and Co’s misadventures in diplomacy should be seen in this light.
Coming back to the subject at hand, how then, could a world of today trust in the drafting of a constitution for a new UN, to be entrusted with the peace of the future?
Yes, it appears that a century of peace must be reached by other means, before a world guarantor of peace can be created. We must achieve peace by other means first.
Among imperial nations obsessed with business, heavy dependence upon international trade has been the best remedy for warmongering, when conducted under guarantees against economic war. Perhaps a good intermediate goal. But such nations are fundamentally tyrannical, their business tyrants float to the top and seize political power with economic power. Perhaps an incorruptible UN organized to mediate all international trade could prevent economic war. But unlikely to be founded by corrupt governments like the US. Perhaps such a UN could be founded by the least corrupt governments, and draw others to accept its restrictions to get the trade advantage. I have sketched elsewhere the structures of incorruptible government that might be used.
Such a government could also control information power within its membership, controlling internet and satellite communications, prohibiting promiscuous surveillance, and providing trustworthy mass media. From there it could move to judicial power over international trade, war criminals, patents, etc., further isolating non-members.
Getting from there to regional and world federations to manage military power is a large step, but perhaps easier when the move is made across a long-accepted federation, and accompanied with very credible guarantees of common defense. A large regional federation might join with others, and would still have concern about the tyrannies beyond, to motivate common defense.
But there is a very serious precaution in moving to world government, that it must be truly incorruptible, because when consolidated there is no balancing external power to provide relief if it becomes a tyranny. So the internal checks and balances must do the job. That is far better than the balancing of power among independent tyrannies, “if you can keep it” as Franklin said of US democracy. But instead we lost our over-simplified democracy, as changing circumstances were not accommodated by humanitarian politicians.
God man, read some Sutton and Quigley.
References fully stated with a summary of their utility and biases can be useful.
People have remarkable ability of ignoring chains of causality when they are not in their immediate experience. A classic example is that giving people choice of having or not having health insurance and the extend of that insurance causes separation of those that need it and those who can afford it. And that in spite of millions of citizens who experienced those problems.
The issue of a putative nuclear attack on North Korea is related to the wider package of measures to make USA immune from nuclear threats with technologies like missile defense, first strike capabilities and hypersonic weapons. These measures work AGAINST the security of Americans in a quite terrifying way.
Defenses are not perfect, but military planners do not like uncertainty. And certainty comes from numbers — if you retaliate against an adversary that built anti-missile system, send a lot of missiles. If you have altogether, say, 300 of them, send at least 100, and you have few thousands, send at least a thousand.
And then comes the possible immediate countermeasures to first strike capabilities (long term, “immune weapon systems” are being developed). First, make sure that core of nuclear capability is far from the borders, thousands of kilometers. That assures few minutes of warning. Second, prepare “hair trigger response”, detection of attack leading the retaliation in shortest time possible, raising a risk of nuclear holocaust by mistake.
And that leads us to possible consequences of an unprovoked, unnecessary attack on North Korea. Hair trigger posture is an extreme, risky measure justified only with the most dire assessment of the threat, and such an attack would create exactly that. Any belief in the sanity of American leadership would be removed.
Being the only Nation to have ever dropped Nuclear Bombs, America has no right to demand that Nth Korea give up their Nukes? Kim Jong Un may be a dictator but he’s not stupid & will never give up his Nukes? It’s his only leverage against any American attack? Maybe America should demand instead, that Israel hand over it’s hundred plus Nuclear bombs, that dwarfs amount of Nth Korea’s arsenal, before lecturing Korea to hand over theirs? Having seen how Gadaffi was overthrown, destroyed & betrayed by the duplicitous American Nato Allies, when he handed over his weapons, which all but guaranteed American Invasion & destruction, Kim won’t be foolish enough to make the same mistake or suffer the same fate! American’s have a woeful ignorance of the limitations of their Military might & it was only recently that their MIC reported that they could survive a first strike Nuclear attack from a Adversary, which is totally delusional because even if you did survive the initial attack tou would have to endure the following 100 yr Nuclear winter? As a totally gaslighted, propaganda saturated populace, I believe most snowflakeAmericans prefer to be misinformed & living in the Dark, as their is comfort in being kept purposely stupid? Most Americans have no interest in what their Govt or others in the World are doing or suffering, unless it affects them on a personal level! Ignorance is bliss as the saying goes!
considering the norks couldn’t wipe their collective hind sides without a nod from peking, simply tell them both ; an attack by north korea will result in a full retaliatory response on china.
along with another good book recommendation for summer reading, try Michael Pillsbury’s “ One Hundred Year Marathon “. It is effectively a 200+ page apology letter written by a member of the foreign policy elite.
the best thing about the book is he gives alternatives on what to do now. ( step #1 when you are in a hole, stop digging )
A good example of the ignorance on North Korea that’s the subject of Caitlin’s essay, backed up by a scientific study. North Korea as vassal to China is baloney. Maybe try studying some history?
As well, old geezer, did you read the bit about 50% of the U$ public favoring a First Strike were North Korea merely to develop a missile (one) with a range sufficient to reach the “Homeland”?
Would you agree?
And still give China the same ultimatum?
Any thoughts about how South Koreans might feel about nuclear weapons going off to the North and West, in close proximity?
(Your stink bombs are providing excellent practice for many commenters here, by the way, so let ’em rip;-)
Sorry, hetro, wrong “reply” button.
Why, old geezer, would North Korea attack the U$?
How many times have the North Koreans attacked or invaded the U$ “Homeland”?
Keep ’em laughing, geezer. That is until the United States receives the retaliatory nuclear strike from China. Or do you think a country as large, advanced and powerful as China will simply roll over when pushed to the brink by the dipshits in Washington?
Most believe that North Korea, Iran or any other rational country would not commit national suicide by implementing a nuclear first strike against America even if they could pull it off. But you think that Washington is foolhardy enough to do what no other sane nation would even consider? They may be tired of living in DC but those jackasses don’t speak for America.
N. Korea is definitely not controlled by China. Time to grow up, Geezer, flush your stereotypes down the toilet.
The lie that North Korea and Iran are dangerous other than in defense of their land and people, is particularly obvious at this time, along with other obvious disinformation, such as Trump stating yesterday, that it was his election that stopped Iran from invading Saudi Arabia. This would surely belong in the category of what Tulsi Gabbard spoke of in the first debate as “those who lack the experience, lack the understanding . . .” Yes. With Trump in the lead.
I found the survey Caitlin links to very thorough and analytical on the state of jingoism and ignorance in the US at this time.
(to repeat Caitlin’s link, here it is: US public confused on North Korea: how dangerous is it?)
(Quoting a powerful specimen from this report)
A misinformed public
The final piece of discouraging news is how deeply misinformed Americans are about US offensive and defensive military capabilities. When respondents read a story that did not provide any estimate of the probability that the preventive strike would succeed, a third of respondents indicated that they believed there was at least a 75 percent probability that a US conventional strike “would successfully destroy all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, eliminating North Korea’s ability to retaliate with nuclear weapons against the United States or South Korea.”
This optimism is not shared by defense experts. For example, Siegfried Hecker, the former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has previously explained: “There is no conceivable way the United States could destroy all North Korean nuclear weapons [with an airstrike]. It is not possible to know where they all are” (Eaves 2017 Eaves, E. 2017. “North Korean Nuclear Program Cannot be Stopped with Weapons, says Siegfried Hecker.” Bulleting of the Atomic Scientists. https://thebulletin.org/2017/05/north-korean-nuclear-program-cant-be-stopped-with-weapons-says-siegfried-hecker/ [Google Scholar]).
The US military agrees with this assessment. In late 2017, Rear Adm. Michael Dumont, speaking on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that the “only way to “locate and destroy–with complete certainty–all components of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs” is through a ground invasion (Lieu and Gallego 2017 Lieu, T. W., and R. Gallego. 2017. Reps. Ted W. Lieu and Ruben Gallego to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, September 26, 2017. Letter: https://lieu.house.gov/sites/lieu.house.gov/files/2017-09-26%20TWL%20Letter%20to%20Secretary%20Mattis%20re%20North%20K.%20attack%20assessments.pdf [Google Scholar]).
Much of the public is also over-optimistic about US missile defense. Seventy-four percent of respondents believe it is highly likely or somewhat likely that, if North Korea were to launch three missiles with nuclear warheads at the United States, “current US missile defenses could successfully destroy all the North Korean missiles before they reach their targets.”
You would be hard pressed to find an expert in the US military and technical community who shares such confidence. More concerning is the degree to which this unfounded confidence drives preferences for the US preventive strikes. Those who believe the US strike is very likely to eliminate North Korea’s ability to retaliate are three times more likely to prefer the strike. Those who believe in the impenetrability of US missile defenses are almost twice as likely to prefer the strike. A misinformed public is easily misled into dangerous conflicts.
We also found that Trump supporters are particularly likely to hold these dangerous misperceptions. Among Trump supporters, over 84 percent believed that it is highly or somewhat likely that current US missile defenses could shoot down the North Korean missiles described in the scenarios, compared to 67 percent among non-Trump supporters.
Perhaps this is a reflection of Trump’s own words. In October 2017, Trump publicly stated that “we have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97 percent of the time, and if you send two of them it’s gonna get knocked out” (Fox News 2017 Fox News. 2017. “Trump on North Korean nuclear threat, Iran nuclear deal.” October 11. https://video.foxnews.com/v/5606494547001/?playlist_id=930909813001#sp#sp=show-clips [Google Scholar]).
This is factually incorrect. While it is true that the United States has successfully practiced a “salvo intercept,” using more than one interceptor to shoot down a mock missile warhead, two interceptors do not come close to creating 97 percent effectiveness (Broad and Sanger 2019 Broad, W. J., and D. E. Sanger. 2019. “Pentagon Claims Success in Test of New Tactic to Down Incoming Missiles.” The New York Times, March 25. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/world/asia/us-missile-defenses-.html [Google Scholar]).
Moreover, as experts know, there is a world of difference between the results of an orchestrated test when we know the arc and timing of a missile launch, and the chaotic experience of fighting in the fog of war (Lewis 2017 Lewis, G. N. 2017. “Ballistic Missile Defense Effectiveness.” AIP Conference Proceedings 1898. DOI: 10.1063/1.5009222.[Crossref], , [Google Scholar]).
This is because people hear about crazy little “rocket man” over and over and over without filtering the crazy calling Kim “crazy.”
Hence, even some smart folks get duped into believing bombing Kim is the best thing for all involved. Idiots! But not Idiots…
It’s interesting that at this moment two crucial scenarios differ markedly in terms of incipient violence–based on what appears to be managing (or not) Trump’s ego.
Iran will have none of the “hey, let’s sit down and talk about it!” and gets from Trump (since the aborted missile strike after the drone downing a week ago today): “not compassionate,” “understands force only,” plus talk of “obliterating parts of Iran.”
It is peculiar that any person can demand “coming to the table” for “talks” while hurling insults and threats. How can anyone but a spoiled and deluded megalomaniac expect this? Diplomacy as schizoid derangement doesn’t seem to work.
On the other hand, at this time, we have a letter from Kim Trump has pronounced “beautiful” and a letter from Trump to Kim considered “excellent.” Did they both use the term “brother” and bask in the glow of their peacemaking eloquence?
Whatever particular skills at placating Trump’s ego, while obviously not giving in to the “gangsters” on his team with their unilateral demands, Kim appears to deserve some credit here in dealing with Trump.
But it is very discouraging that the two essentially similar conflicts rest on the dynamics of these individuals’ temper tantrums, and how these are triggered.
The DPRK has been acting very rationally over the last several years.
What Pyongyang has observed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union is a militarist-imperialist Washington vilifying or directly attacking every sovereign state that: 1. runs its politico-economic system to the benefit of its people and not the predators of Wall Street; or 2. offers diplomatic support to the Palestinians and criticizes the grotesque and brutal land grabs Tel Aviv routinely carries out; or 3. doesn’t possess nuclear weapons.
Independent sovereign states must be perpetually vigilant. Washington militarists and the U.S. state-corporate media nexus will target them unmercifully with a ruthless demonization campaign, the objective being regime change via proxy forces, intel-NGO orchestrated destabilization, or outright aggression from Washington (or perhaps Tel Aviv).
Be it Iraq I, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq II, Libya, Syria and the current saber rattling towards Iran, Kim Jong Un understands the paradigm Washington imperialists are intent on executing regardless of the global consequences. The Dr. Strangeloves running the show in Washington are putting the world on the brink of nuclear war; no matter, they’ll carry out capitalist-imperialist dictates (or Zionist hegemonic ambitions) until their last breaths.
Pyongyang recognizes the only means to stave off a violent attack from the Western militarists is to demonstrate that one has nuclear weapons. Only then will the vicious Washington imperialists consider backing off. Iran too has learned this lesson, but to their immense credit is still sticking to the requirements of the JCPOA, though patience in Tehran is running thin when they witness a supine Europe failing to uphold its end of the deal.
are you french ?
Thanks for the compliment, but I am not.
I admire the Yellow Vests greatly.
Agree, the Yellow Vests are showing everyone the world over how to protest courageously, along with the multitudes in Hong Kong.
Not so fast on the H.K. protesters. They tend to be (not totally) Western NGO inspired velvet protesters used to sully Beijing’s global reputation.
Perhaps old geezer is from Ontario. Apparently, there is a huge hostility there to anyone connected with French who got any job from the current government of Ontario, including Mr. French himself.