Untold History of the US – The Cold War

Parts 4 and 5 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States explore the exaggerated claims of Soviet expansionism that characterized the Truman/Eisenhower administration.

Part 4 begins by contrasting the economic standing of the US and the USSR when the war ended in 1945. The US economy was booming. America controlled 50% of the world’s economic production and most of its gold. The Soviet economy, in contrast, had been shattered. Truman reneged on Roosevelt’s promise to provide the Soviets post war aid to assist in their recovery. During the US occupation of West Germany, he also discontinued German war reparations to the USSR.

The late forties was a period of excruciating poverty for Eastern Europe, with major famine in the Ukraine. With the Soviet economy in a shambles, the claims made by Truman about their intention to conquer the world were ludicrous.

After Henry Wallace, the last holdover from the Roosevelt administration, made a major speech (echoing statements by Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt) opposing nuclear weapons, Truman fired him.

This episode also explores the first implementation of the Truman Doctrine, justifying US intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries. Truman first used it in 1947 to put down a popular uprising against a fascist coup in Greece. In a clear precursor to US intervention in Vietnam, Truman sent in US advisors to train the Greek military in “counterinsurgency tactics,” ie death squads to crush unions and human rights organizations and concentration camps to extinguish civilian support for pro-independence activists.

Part 4: Cold War: 1945-50

Part 5 explores the election of Eisenhower to power in 1952, coinciding with Khrushchev’s rise to power in 1953 and the re-election of Churchill in 1951 (Churchill was replaced by Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee from 1945-51).

Eisenhower, who had opposed using the A-bomb against Japan at Pottsdam, became a fervent nuclear weapons supporter as president. Under pressure from anti-communist hawk John Foster Dulles, he resisted Khrushchev’s and Churchill’s to organize a peace summit to limit the nuclear arms race.

Eisenhower would go on to engage in war crimes in Korean, causing massive civilian deaths by bombing North Korean dams.

In addition to authorizing the CIA overthrow of democratically elected governments in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954, he paid 80% of French military costs as they endeavored to defeat Vietnam’s pro-independence movement.

In this episode, Stone also explores the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1955 in Java. Members consisted of world leaders determined to remain independent of either US or Soviet influence. In attendance at the first meeting were Ho Chi Minh  (Vietnam), Tito (Yugoslavia), Nehru (India), Nasser (Egypt), Zhou Enlai (China) and Sukarno (Indonesia). The CIA eventually removed each of these men from power, in some cases via assassination.

Part 5: the ’50s: Eisenhower, The Bomb and the Third World

The Nuclear Waste Scandal

Nightmare Nuclear Waste
(2009)

Film Review

In the face of growing international concern over the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima,  an excellent 2009 French/German film (with English subtitles) about nuclear waste has been re-released and is making the rounds of cyberspace. This is truly a life and death issue, owing to the research evidence linking high environmental radiation levels (from the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown) to a big spike in European cancer levels. Important facts come out in this film that the nuclear industry and government are doing their best to conceal:

1. The whole issue of nuclear waste is characterized by secrecy, cover-up, lies and deception by the nuclear industry and pro-nuclear governments (including the extremely pro-nuclear Obama administration).

2. As the world waits with baited breath for the nuclear industry to come up with a permanent solution for deadly waste that will take 100,000 years to decontaminate, massive amounts have been dumped in the ocean, released to the air or stored in leaky containers that are contaminating groundwater and rivers. In La Hague France a nuclear energy company called Areva is releasing it into the air and into the English Channel through a drain pipe d water or open air storage pools. In La Hague France a nuclear energy company is releasing it into the English Channel through a drain pipe (as of 2009, when this film was made).

3. The US and Russian government are covering up the devastating health impacts of the world’s two most contaminated nuclear sites: the Hanford nuclear reservation in Eastern Washington and the Chelyabinsk region in the former Soviet Union. The latter experienced massive contamination when a nuclear waste dump at the Mayak nuclear facility exploded in 1957. The very first nuclear disaster in history was covered up by both the Soviets and, at the behest of America’s fledgling nuclear power industry, the CIA

4. There has never been full disclosure about the 100,000 tons of nuclear waste dumped into the ocean prior to 1993 (as the film was made in 2009, this number excludes the four tons daily dumped into the Pacific Ocean at Fukushima), when the practice was banned by international treaty. Nor has there been any effort to investigate where these radionucleotides ended up or whether they have contaminated the food chain.

4. The nuclear industry – and government – are willfully ignoring the “no threshold model” doctors use to evaluate cumulative radiation risk when they assure us that occasional releases from nuclear power plants are no more harmful than a “transatlantic jet flight” (due to higher radiation levels in the outer atmosphere) Under this model every exposure – no matter how small – increases your risk of developing cancer or having children with birth defects.

The Nuclear Nightmare at Hanford

As a former Washington resident, I took particular interest in the segment on Hanford, the desert site where the Manhattan Project secretly produced plutonium for the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Hanford also produced the vast majority of plutonium for America’s cold war arsenal (1950-1980). Most of Hanford’s nuclear waste is stored in 170 temporary underground concrete tanks. These were meant to be temporary until a permanent storage solution could be found. Beginning in 2001 the tanks, which were only built to last twenty years, were found to be leaking radionuclotides into the groundwater adjacent to the Columbia River.

According to the US Department of Energy, which is responsible for the Hanford clean-up, there are no nuclear contaminants in the Columbia River. This is virtually impossible for independent scientists to verify, as anyone trespassing on the Hanford reservation is subject to arrest and prosecution. The filmmakers accompanied an activist who entered the reservation secretly to take soil and water samples. French scientists at CRIIRAD (Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur la Radioactivité) who tested them found high levels of tritium (exceeding the drinking water standard), Iodine 129, Technetium 99 and Europium 152. The film also talks about an independent study local activists did in 2002, in which the majority of Columbia River fish they sampled contained high levels of Strontium 90.

The People in Muslimovo Who Are Waiting to Die

The situation of Russian farmers living adjacent to the Techa River in Chelyabinsk is far more tragic. After more than fifty years the Techa, which locals rely on to water their crops and pastures, remains contaminated with high levels of Cesium 137, tritium, Strontium 90 and Plutonium 239 and 240 – as do vegetables and milk produced in nearby farms.

The residents are all fully aware of the bleak future they face, as they watch family, neighbors and even their children and grandchildren succumb to cancer. Each family has been offered 20,000 Euros (about $25,000) to abandon their land and homes and voluntarily relocate. This is a paltry sum that would support them a few months at most. The government also tells them not to eat locally grown food. However with incomes averaging 80 euros a month, eating food trucked in from other regions is an unaffordable luxury. As one local woman states, “We have no choice but to stay here until we die.”

The Role of Islamic Jihad in Containing State Terrorism

invisible balance of power

US vs Islamic Militants: Invisible Balance of Power

by Sajjad Shaukat – Ferozsons (Pvt) Ltd 2005

Book Review

Invisible Balance of Power begins with a review of western military history as it relates to Balance of Power theory. The latter is based on the premise that in the absence of an international body capable of enforcing international law, “balance of power” between dominant nations is the only force capable of containing wanton military aggressors with “excessive” economic and political power. Shaukat lays out the novel theory that the rise of stateless terrorist groups has created an “invisible balance of power,” which performs the same function in curbing US state terrorism as the Soviet Union did prior to its collapse.

Shaukat begins by tracing historical balance of power relationships starting with the Peloponnesian War in ancient Greece, through the rise of European nation states and their complex alliances finally the Cold War balance of power between the US and the Soviet Union. During the 1945-90 Cold War period, the threat of Mutually Assured (nuclear) Destruction was responsible for a lengthy war-free period in the developed world.

Wanton State Terrorism By the US

According to Shaukat, ever since the demise of the Soviet Union, the US has felt free to blatantly and repeatedly violate international law. Among other examples, he cites

  • The 1998 air strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan, condemned by Iran and China and their allies as a violation of international law.
  • The 1999 air strikes against Serbia, condemned by Russia and China and their allies as “terrorism” and a violation of international law.
  • The 2003 invasion of Iraq, condemned by UN Secretary General Kofi Anan as a violation of international law.

US Military Failures in Iraq and Afghanistan

Shaukat also argues that since 2003, the threat of “group terrorism” has replaced the USSR in providing a clear check on US military ambitions. As examples, he points to the US failure to achieve their objective of turning Iraq and Afghanistan into economic colonies to improve strategic access to Middle East and Central Asian oil and gas resources.

Suicide Bombings as a Rational Response to Genuine Grievance

Shaukat also disputes propaganda efforts by Western leaders to portray suicide bombers as psychologically deranged and/or jealous of western democracy and culture. In the absence of an international body strong enough to prevent the US from victimizing weak nations, he feels they are a totally rational Third World response to US state terrorism.

Suicide bombings are always a direct response to genuine grievances, usually state terrorism in the form of massive civilian casualties, shelling, random checkpoint shootings or unlawful detention and torture of innocent civilians.

Shaukat coins the term “coercive diplomacy” to describe the role this orchestrated violence plays in imposing free markets, privatization and denationalization on Third World countries).

The Concept of Moral Force

He goes on to to point out the wide support Islamic militants in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and Kashmir receive from Muslim intellectuals in the Middle East with direct experience of US “state terrorism” and “coercive diplomacy. Many of these supporters view the jihad launched by Islamic militants as a “just war,” aimed at correcting a massive injustice.

Future Dangers and Potential Solutions

Shaukat devotes a full chapter to the potential dangers the world faces from a continuation of the “invisible balance of power.” Chief among them is the real risk Islamic terrorists will access and deploy nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

I found his final chapter “Lessons for the US” the most valuable, as it proposes specific solutions for ending the highly dangerous “invisible balance of power”:

  1. Foreign policy needs to be based on the collective interest of humanity. There will never be economic justice in a world run by Wall Street bankers.
  2. The UN needs to be reformed to give it real power to enforce international law. The weak nations represented by the General Assembly must be given equal power as the Security Council, which is dominated by the countries with the greatest economic and military power.
  3. Secret diplomacy must end. Diplomacy must be transparent and open to public scrutiny.
  4. The US needs to end its current policy of “encircling” (economically and militarily) the emerging superpower China. US support of India in this exercise greatly increases the probability of nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan.
  5. The US needs to return to incremental diplomacy and political solutions, instead of supporting state terrorism in Palestine and Kashmir – both major breeding grounds for the Islamic militants.
  6. The US needs to respect the traditions and values of Arab states and allow their democracies to develop from below.
  7. The US needs to reduce the debt burden of Third World nations, as poverty and hunger breed terrorism and remain the central obstacle to global security.
  8. The US must recognize that less developed nations need economic democracy prior to political democracy. Using economic aid (as well as sanctions and freezing of assets) to dictate political reform is counterproductive. It hurts ordinary people more than their leaders and only further enables terrorist recruitment.
  9. The US needs to give up their anti-Muslim policies, which are a major recruiting tool for terrorists.
  10. The US must stop using economic aid (as well as sanctions and the freezing of assets) to control political reform – this type of “coercive diplomacy” always hurts ordinary people more than their leaders – and thus further enables terrorist recruitment.
  11. The US needs to lead a genuine global arms reduction effort to reduce the likelihood of war.

Sajjad Shaukat is a Pakistani writer with a master’s degree from Punjab University in journalism, English and international relations. His book can be purchased for $9.09 at emarkaz.com