Just a week into the Biden administration, a familiar old bugbear reared its ugly head: would the U.S. go to war with China in defense of Taiwan? Should it?
Speaking of “should,” we know we ought to be concerned about the geostrategic implications behind this issue, not to mention the serious humanitarian concerns, but—and you can sue us for this if you like—remembering, as we do, all the hot air generated on this topic back when Ike was in office, we’re just going to yield to temptation. Herewith: a few spitballs from the back of the class.
The right wing in those days was made up of men like Senator Joe McCarthy and General Douglas MacArthur. But for an untimely car crash, General George Patton would have stood alongside them.
Passing as part of the mainstream media then was the Time/Life/Fortune magazine empire—all were the profitable playthings of Henry R. Luce. Then, as now, the so-called “mainstream” listed heavily to the right. Luce, who was born in China and was the son of a missionary, held right wing views roughly equivalent to the aforementioned generals and Senator.
Luce was a central figure in the China Lobby. Its primary goal was to stomp Mao and his commies into the dust so that the saintly Chiang Kai-shek could preside over a peaceful, profitable, capitalist mainland China. To that end, Time magazine featured Chiang on the cover ten times between 1927 and 1955.
It may have been myopia—which, if genuine, would make Mr. Magoo seem eagle-eyed. Or, it may have been moral relativism—“he’s not perfect, but he’s on our side, so let’s overlook his flaws.” Whatever their excuse, the China Lobby picked a strange bird to back.
Throughout his career, Chiang’s primary concern was probably diverting as much foreign support as possible into his bank account—unless it was expanding the market share of his personal army/drug gang, the Kuomintang, or KMT.
During WW II, the KMT were our supposed ally against the Japanese. General “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell, FDR’s liaison to the KMT, estimated that, while Chiang wasted or pilfered $380 million in 1944 dollars, more than half of his conscripts either deserted or starved to death before completing their training. Fed up, FDR gave Stillwell the OK to bump off Chiang. A pilot was to fake an emergency. All on board would line up to bail out, Chiang first—with a sabotaged parachute.
Before Stillwell could terminate Chiang with extreme prejudice, though, FDR sent a new Ambassador to China. Patrick J. Hurley was born in Ireland but grew up in Indian Territory—now Oklahoma—where he learned to hunt with the Choctaw. Hurley made an unusual diplomat, what with the cowboy hats, the prodigious drinking, the off-color remarks, and the Choctaw war whoops during official dinners.
In a few years the inevitable happened: Mao drove Chiang off the mainland; the KMT fled to Taiwan. The China Lobby blamed Stillwell and State Department “China Hands”—more-or-less sober, clear-eyed professional diplomats—for “losing China.” As if it had ever been ours to begin with.
His decades of failure notwithstanding, Chiang retained the aura of glory bestowed upon him by Henry Luce. America’s rabid right champed at the bit. “Unleash Chiang Kai-shek” was the war cry—as if that inept boodler could even have been induced to take a serious crack at the Red Army.
Now Daniel Ellsberg has leaked an unredacted history of the 1958 Taiwan Straits Crisis. Naturally, it is appalling. Chiang was using Quemoy and Matsu, just off the Chinese mainland, as bases for launching “commando raids”—the only true purpose of which was to keep foreign aid coming in. Mao, tired of Chiang’s BS, began throwing artillery shells at the islands. Our brass hats started leaning on Ike: “C’mon, let’s nuke those red bastards.”
We were lucky then, but now they’re all at it again.
Veterans For Peace: Fuck War
(Note: Despite constant provocation, we generally try to maintain a civil tone in our pages. In this case, we make an exception. The heading above, and the text that follows, are this year’s official Memorial Day statement from Veterans For Peace. The Editor is a member, but likes to think that if he were not, he would still publish this statement. — The Ed.)
Veterans For Peace has commemorated Memorial Day every year to remember the true costs of war. We know that this year physical gatherings may not be possible even as the current virus has revealed the massive need to put people over the Pentagon and the need to fund healthcare and human needs over the massive expenses of the military.
Our message for Memorial Day is to remember all who have died in war and to understand that no one wins. We understand that those who fight the wars gain the least from them and those who send us to war gain the most from war. There are many people who either profit from war or are misled by war-mongers and profiteers. These are the people who seek to block our message to question war and to work for peace.
Not all members of Veterans For Peace seek to be present in public events honoring veterans, because the events tend to be a platform to venerate war and spread militarism. However a significant number of members choose to participate by providing an alternative message of peace and nonviolence. We seek to honor the dead by telling the horrible truth about war in an effort to protect the living. VFP will not be intimidated by efforts to block member participation and we will take all steps necessary to participate in any public event members consider appropriate.
We are tired of parades, memorials and pageantry.
Take back your “thank you for your service” and 50 percent off sales.
We want people to live without threats of U.S. bullets and bombs.
We remember the enormous loss of civilian life that is forgotten in today’s memorials and hidden from view in the U.S. consciousness. America has no space on its calendar to memorialize these victims.
We grieve the loss of friends and the death of veterans unable to forget the tragedies and forgive themselves.
We are angry that there is a holiday that glorifies nationalism and patriotism and ignores the trauma that U.S. militarism enacts all over the globe.
We are filled with rage as we continue to watch the empty political platitudes from the two largest political parties praising soldiers and veterans as they continue to send them off to wars that line the pockets of the rich.
We are frustrated that mainstream media and popular culture glorifies U.S. militarism.
We are exhausted from nightmares of our participation and the images of ongoing trauma from a system of violence we once propped up. We live with the wounds of our moral injuries, scabs that we can’t let heal for fear we’d recreate the injury.
On Memorial Day we don’t want to remember and we are afraid we will forget.
All we know for sure is…
(To which we would only add: yes, one of those words is obscene; no, it’s not the one with four letters. – The Ed.)
It was the most meteorologically dismal Memorial Day weekend in living memory. Further, due to the global pandemic, there was no parade. And yet, our annoyingly chipper Wandering Photographer managed to find a bright spot: high above the lovingly restored, now gorgeous YMCA building on Congress Street, flew a brand spankin’ new U.S. flag.
Arizona Plans Executions With Same Gas Used by Nazis at Auschwitz
by Brett Wilkins, staff writer, Common Dreams
Death penalty abolitionists have expressed shock in recent days following the revelation that Arizona officials are preparing to execute death row inmates using hydrogen cyanide, the same gas with which the Nazis killed over a million people during the Holocaust under the trade name Zyklon B.
Documents obtained by The Guardian show that Arizona’s Republican-controlled Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) has spent $2,000 to obtain the materials needed to make cyanide gas, including a brick of potassium cyanide purchased last December for $1,530, as well as sodium hydroxide pellets and sulfuric acid.
The documents also revealed that the state’s gas chamber at Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence—which was built in 1949 and hasn’t been used to kill anyone in 22 years—has been “refurbished.”
The Guardian called some of the techniques used to test the death chamber’s efficacy “astonishingly primitive,” including checking its air-tightness by lighting a candle and holding it up against a sealed door and windows.
The last Arizona gas chamber execution stands as a cautionary tale for death row inmates facing the choice of whether to die by gassing or lethal injection. In March 1999, Walter LeGrand, a German national, took 18 minutes to die as he suffered what an eyewitness described as “agonizing choking and gagging” in a cloud of cyanide vapor.
On April 6, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced the state was ready to resume killing prisoners, and that he would ask the state Supreme Court to begin issuing execution warrants. Brnovich’s announcement came a month after ADCRR said it had obtained a supply of the lethal injection drug pentobarbital. The Guardian reported in April that Arizona officials spent $1.5 million to acquire pentobarbital from an undisclosed source.
This single-drug execution method causes victims to endure “excruciating suffering, including sensations of drowning and suffocation,” according to anesthesiology expert Dr. Gail Van Norman.
As Common Dreams reported at the time, the last inmate executed by lethal injection in Arizona took nearly two hours to die. Joseph Wood, who was killed in July, 2014, gulped and snorted hundreds of times as 15 shots of an experimental mix of midazolam and hydromorphone coursed through his veins.
States have been accused of using condemned prisoners as human guinea pigs as they experiment with substitute lethal injection drugs amid growing refusal by companies to sell their products for use in executions.
Wood’s botched execution prompted a temporary suspension of capital punishment in Arizona, as lawyers for condemned convicts and human rights defenders argued such killings violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
According to The Guardian, officials have selected two of Arizona’s 115 death row inmates as likely candidates for killing once executions resume. Joseph Perkovich, an attorney for Frank Atwood, one of the candidates, told the paper that “neither option”—gassing or lethal injection—“is tenable.” Perkovich said a discrepancy between the potassium cyanide obtained by corrections officials and the sodium cyanide called for under state execution protocol “is not a small detail.”
“The specific compound is vitally important,” he stressed.
Anti-death penalty campaigners have sounded the alarm over Arizona’s plan to kill prisoners using the same gas with which the Nazis murdered around 1.1 million people in extermination camps including Auschwitz.
“This is not justice—it’s horrifying,” the ACLU tweeted.
“You have to wonder what Arizona was thinking in believing that in 2021 it is acceptable to execute people in a gas chamber with cyanide gas,” Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) executive director Robert Dunham told The Guardian. “Did they have anybody study the history of the Holocaust?”
Licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
Piscataqua Company Encampment in South Berwick
South Berwick, Maine—Old Berwick Historical Society will be hosting the Piscataqua Company reenactors on Saturday, June 12th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Counting House Park, next door to their Counting House Museum, at 2 Liberty Street in South Berwick.
A presentation of Harmon’s Company of Snowshoemen, the historical encampment will represent the settlers along the Piscataqua River, 1623-1640, including Dover, Portsmouth, N.H., “Old” Berwick, York, and Kittery, Maine. Unlike the Pilgrims at Plymouth and the Boston area under the Massachusetts Bay Company, these were not Puritans seeking freedom to worship as they wanted, they were men under contract by landed proprietors to establish economically viable communities. There was a focus on fishing, salting, lumbering, and trade. Part of their responsibility included defense of the communities. The Piscataqua Company attempts to remember those men and women who first settled New Hampshire and Maine.
The society’s Counting House Museum will be open during the encampment from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Encampment and Museum admission is free to the public; donations are gratefully accepted. Social distancing measures and masks are still encouraged.
This season, the Counting House Museum will be open June – October on Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. and by appointment. Admission is free. More information is available by calling (207) 384-0000, or at www.oldberwick.org.
Monday may have lacked the full panoply to which we’ve become accustomed: cops on Harleys, Color Guard, marching bands, vintage jeep sporting a Ma Deuce…. The spirit was still present, though, if you knew where to look—or, as we believe to have been the case here, you just stumble over it during the course of your random wanderings.
On Returning to Newsprint
Did we make it?
We ask because we don’t know right now. We’re trying to return to newsprint, a process which requires us to stop writing before we go to press. Until we have bundles of papers, we won’t know that everything came together properly.
For 32 fortnights now we have been reduced to sounding our barbaric yawp into a nearly-echoless digital void. Soon—or now, dear newsprint reader, in your time frame, presuming we have indeed managed to pull this off, and you are actually there, in what is currently our future, holding an ounce of newsprint in your hands, or perhaps having laid it on a table before you, trying to make some kind of sense out of this baffling string of assorted letters—we will greet you with all the goofy Whitmanesque earnestness we can muster.
Thus endeth—or so we hope—fifteen months of newsprint deprivation, now brought to a hectic conclusion by a unnaturally truncated twelve-day production cycle, necessary to bring ourselves back into synchronization with the inexorable schedule of the mighty, multi-ton offset web press.
Thank you for waiting. Thank you for your support during this difficult time. We can’t wait to see you again.
(PS — Yes, we made it. – The Ed.)