Ever since I can remember, the world has lived in fear of one side or another using nuclear weapons. At school in the 1950s, we had air-raid drills; hiding under desks, facing away from the windows. As if that would have made any difference, if a nuclear bomb had actually struck central London, some two miles from where I was concealed under my old desk, in a school built during the Victorian era. We had seen the result of the American attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and these new bombs were many times more powerful.
At the time, there were few countries capable of using such weapons. The Soviet Union was the presumed enemy during the Cold War, and Britain had been given the means to retaliate too, by America. The French had also tested atomic bombs in the Pacific, so it was safe to assume that only four countries had these bombs in their possession. We are now in 2018, and that list of countries has not grown significantly. As well as Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel are all known to have the potential to launch nuclear weapons. And if you believe the propaganda by both sides, (I don’t) North Korea may well have a viable delivery system too.
Then there is the issue of ‘sharing’. That sounds very cosy, given what is being shared. The USA has ‘shared’ the option to launch nuclear weapons with Turkey, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Germany. This basically consists of the USA siting weapons in those countries, then deciding whether or not to fire them. There are also countries that once had nuclear weapons, but apparently no longer have any; South Africa, Canada, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. One thing we can be sure of, there are a lot of nuclear bombs and missiles out there.
By using published figures, there are 14,900 nuclear missiles and bombs stored around the world. That’s more than enough to wipe out the human race, many times over. Probably enough to not only eradicate all life on Earth, but also to destroy the very fabric of the planet. When we read about the nuclear threat, it is generally in terms of a supposedly limited conflict. The US has hinted that it will use them against the DPRK, should their leader fire rockets at US bases, South Korea, or Japan. But the DPRK has a border with China, so involving the Chinese could not be avoided. India and Pakistan square up against each other all the time, and have been in conflict since 1947. But both sides know that using nuclear weapons would also be self-destructive, so have never launched any. For Israel to use them against their near-neighbours would also result in disaster for their own country, so they are almost certainly not going to launch any.
For almost sixty years, I have lived in the shadow of this Nuclear Threat. The Cold War, The Cuban Missile Crisis, and many other supposed ‘near misses’ over the decades. I have finally decided that nobody will use them. It doesn’t make economic sense, and money rules the world. I stopped living in fear of the Nuclear Threat, and concluded that it is just that. A threat.
You would have to be in a coma not to have heard that Prince Harry has become engaged to an American model/actress/presenter or whatever she is. Anyone who knows me will know that I couldn’t care less what any of our so-called Royal Family get up to, let alone what dress hangers they marry and where they come from. I did have a good laugh at the news that the Queen was paying the cost of the wedding from her ‘own funds’. Presumably the same ‘funds’ that her ancestors stole from the ordinary people centuries ago.
It is ironic that other countries love our Royal Family so much. Tourists come from all over the world to bask in the pageantry and history surrounding our aristocracy. Most of them from Republican countries that fought wars or revolutions to rid themselves of identical monarchies in the first place.
This forthcoming wedding will serve more than just the union of a man and woman though. The timing is near-perfect, to coincide with the formalisation of the Brexit process. It is also around the time of the birth of yet another royal baby, all guaranteeing a feast of what we do best in this country, avoiding the real issue. TV News channels and daily newspapers will be able to fill their schedules and pages with countless video clips and photographs of the charming new royal couple. They can talk about her clothes, the fact that she is being baptised and becoming a British citizen, and how well-suited and in love they are. Shortly after, in case interest is waning, they can do the same again with the new royal baby, the child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Luckily for the young lady in question, her new husband is unlikely to ever have a chance of becoming King, however long he lives. With his father next in line, his brother after that, and then three of his brother’s children to follow, it would take an unimaginable catastrophe to leave him close to the throne. Had he been next in line, we all know the real truth. He would never have been allowed to marry her. So, they begin their lives as an engaged couple in the full glare of the public eye. The first official duties follow soon, charting the build up to the grand wedding in Windsor that will presumably stop anyone wondering what a mess the government has made of Brexit.
As an added plus, the union will also cement our cosy relations with the USA, at a time when we will no doubt need the trade deals and friendship more than ever. Like the royal marriages of medieval times, it is designed to bring together countries, as well as husband and wife.
Let the celebrations begin! Hurrah!
Brexit? What was that?
Whatever you might think about North Koreans, they are nothing if not resilient.
Faced with the threat of American action against them, their response has been bullish, to say the least. Their Foreign Minister has declared that his country will launch a ‘preemptive nuclear strike against the USA’, if they detect any possibility of an attack against them from America.
Those are serious words indeed, even if they are unlikely to be backed up by the action mentioned in them. I am reminded of a professional poker game; bluffers taking on the bluffers. Both sides know that the other is bluffing, but who is actually prepared to take that chance, when push comes to shove?
This small country, with a population of 29 million, its people generally impoverished, and having one thing to show to the world, Pyongyang, has taken a firm stand indeed. On one hand, it could signal their total destruction. On the other, it could guarantee them a place on the world stage.
So. Who blinks first? Fascinating.
By now, you will have been aware of the mass shooting in a club in Florida, USA. Not for the first time on this blog, I find myself writing about the crazy gun laws in America. Despite being on a government watch list, the murderer was able to legally acquire handguns and assault rifles. And this in a country that is no stranger to mass killings with similar weapons.
Because of his ethnic background, there was initially some speculation that religion might have been a motive. However, his family are sure that it was simply that he was homophobic, and disturbed by open displays of affection by gay men. Everyone seems to be asking the wrong question. It is immaterial what his motives were, what matters is how he was able to obtain the weapons used to carry out the killing.
Americans hold dear to their right to bear arms. They quote their constitution, and in some states, accumulate hundreds of weapons in otherwise perfectly ordinary households. They teach tiny children to shoot, and often carry weapons openly; worn in their belts, or attached to racks in pick-up trucks. They have a gun culture, deep within the soul of their nation. And they pay the price for it. Not only numerous mass killings, but armed gangsters, an inordinate amount of police officers shot dead in the line of duty, as well as countless bystanders caught in the regular crossfire.
Many US citizens claim their right to own firearms as a ‘freedom’.
What about the freedom of all those killed? That doesn’t matter, it seems.
When Barack Obama made his recent visit to the UK, he did all the usual things. There was a cute photo opportunity with the Royal Family, he played some golf in Hertfordshire, and glad-handed David Cameron for the benefit of the cameras. There was also some talk of our ‘special relationship.’ This is something that has never really been clarified, since it was first mentioned by George Bush and Tony Blair, who was then keen to support the war in Iraq.
President Obama then decided to give an ‘exclusive’ TV interview to a reporter. What followed seemed much more like a scripted conversation, allowing the US President to say what was on his mind. And what was on his mind was the forthcoming EU referendum, and the scant chance that the British people might actually vote to leave this failed experiment. He set about telling us, in a forthright manner, that a vote to leave was not acceptable to the USA. We would find ourselves excluded from trade deals, he told us, and America would continue to trade with the EU whilst making sure to leave Britain out in the cold, as punishment for doing what he didn’t agree with.
Personally, I don’t think he could care less. I doubt that anyone in the US cares whether or not we leave the EU, from a farmer in Wisconsin, to the Commander in Chief. I would hazard a guess that many Americans don’t even know what the EU is. Even in the UK, where the issue is supposedly ‘crucial’, many people cannot name more than a few other member states, and understand little of its setup and organisation. And Obama is leaving the presidency anyway, handing over to Ms Clinton, so why should he give a fig? Maybe they have offered him a lucrative job, but I very much doubt that. Perhaps he fears for the ending of the much-vaunted ‘special relationship’? I doubt that too.
He was probably just doing Cameron a favour. Maybe repaying some similar service, or an old debt from the times we have supported his country’s antics around the world. Who knows? He gave the interview, frightened the pants off of many waverers, and said pretty much what Cameron hoped he would say. The truth is, Cameron doesn’t want to be the Prime Minister at the helm if Britain leaves the EU. Just in case…Add to that the fact that he is representing the European business interests of so many pals and cronies, and it was understandable that he felt nervous enough to ask Mr President to step in on his side.
But just what was Mr Obama thinking? Is it really acceptable to tell the citizens of another country how to vote, then throw in a few veiled threats about what will happen if they don’t do as he says? I can only imagine the reaction of voters in the US, if a European leader like Cameron popped over there, had his photo taken with Michelle and the girls, played some golf at Augusta, then told them just who they should vote for in November. He might even be brave enough to throw in some vague threats about what might happen if they didn’t do as he asked, but I doubt it.
The world had high hopes for the first black president of the US, back in 2008.
I just have three words for him, in 2016. Shame on you.
Over the past few days, there has been an ongoing incident in the USA that has not been widely reported in Europe. Following a long-running dispute over cattle grazing on Federal land, various white militia groups have congregated in a nature reserve, in a remote part of Oregon. They have occupied government buildings, and caused a large area to be closed to the public, at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This action has supposedly been taken in support of the cattle ranchers involved in the dispute. These groups are heavily armed. Some have been pictured with assault rifles, and estimates of their numbers vary, though there are believed to be less than twenty occupying the property. Local demonstrations have seen as many as three hundred supporters marching on behalf of the aggrieved ranchers, who have been quick to distance themselves from the armed incident.
I won’t go into the history of this dispute, or debate the rights and wrongs of cattle grazing or Federal land ownership across rural America. I will add a link though, for anyone who wants to read the whole story. But I will make a few observations. No arrests have been made. No law enforcement officers have attended to confront or disarm these suspect ‘militias.’ Local police seek to keep the lid on the situation, and even the FBI are only ‘observing.’ So far, nobody has been hurt, and the site is a long way from anywhere, so passers-by are in no danger. That’s OK then, is it?
Just imagine if these ‘militiamen’ had not been white Christians. Suppose they had been disgruntled black men, with a grievance to support. What if they had been of Mexican origin, and occupied a similar area in the south-west? Or perhaps American Muslims, outraged by recent attacks on them in the media, had occupied a government compound somewhere, brandishing firearms, and stating that they were ‘determined to fight’? Would the outcome have been very different in those scenarios? You can bet your life it would.
But these idiots are white. So that’s alright then.
With this giving more publicity to the farcical gun control in the USA, President Obama appeared on TV, squeezing out a few crocodile tears, and promising stricter regulations. These involve not allowing convicted felons and people with a history of mental illness to own firearms. To my incredulous ears, this sounds as if people with criminal records and mental illness are currently allowed to do so. It also sounds as if a white Christian ‘militiaman’, with no criminal record, and no history of mental illness, will not be affected at all. Funny that.
Trump has jumped on the bandwagon. Speaking to baying fans, he promised to make sure that nobody will be stopped from being armed to the teeth. ‘They won’t get your guns.’ He yelled. The argument about the Second Amendment to the US Constitution has gone on long enough. here is what it says.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This was written in 1791, after the War of Independence, and at a time when it was reasonable to suppose that the new nation might be under threat from foreign powers. They also had to defend themselves against unhappy native Americans, whose land had been taken away from them. Does it really have any significance in 2016? It certainly does.
That’s how you end up with the current situation in Oregon.
I watched the news today, trying to contain a feeling somewhere between a wry grin, and outright rage. The military success of the Islamic fundamentalist organisation ISIS (now called ‘Islamic State’) in Iraq has caused the flight of many people from the city of Erbil, which is currently in danger of being overrun by this group. The Kurdish Peshmerga army can no longer stop the advance of the militants, and there is grave concern for non-Islamic religious groups in the area. On the TV, there was a lot of discussion about a possible genocide against these groups, and many civilians have fled into the hills, to avoid any contact with ISIS fighters. There are Americans in this city too. As well as consular staff, there are other civilians, ground troops and advisers. The general feeling seems to be that there is little chance of stopping ISIS eventually reaching Baghdad, and taking control of the country. This would result in a Taliban-style government, fiercely opposed to all non-Muslims, and foreigners of any kind. Some might argue that this would always be the eventual outcome of the war against Iraq, and the subsequent destabilisation of the region.
However, the current US administration is not about to give up that easily. Using the justification of ‘humanitarian aid’, because of the refugees from Erbil, (and the presence there of Americans) they have commenced air strikes against ISIS positions around the city. President Obama has been on television laying out his reasons for intervention, and the British Government has shown support for this action, and pledged to assist with logistical help, and humanitarian aid for the civilians in danger. The western powers do not want to sit by and watch innocent civilians put in danger, or lose their lives, because of the actions of an aggressive, well-equipped, religious fundamentalist army, intent on overwhelming all opposition.
So what about Gaza then? No help for the Palestinians? Are they not in the same situation? They are being overwhelmed by a superior force, intent on their destruction. This force is determined, very well-equipped, and has a religious agenda just as plainly stated. It also cares little for the loss of civilian lives, and is pursuing its campaign irregardless of opposition from many countries in the world, as well as the United Nations. So why are Obama’s jets not attacking Israeli tanks, to stop them killing innocent people in Gaza? And why is the British government not pledging humanitarian aid to the Palestinian civilians, who are equally in danger of losing their lives?
I think we all know the answers to those questions.