47 TONS

While the Little Rocket Man and North Korea capture the world’s attention, our president is in Tokyo to deal with a threat that dwarfs anything we have faced since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 76 years ago.

The surprise attack against our Navy on Sunday morning, 7 December 1941, started a cascade of retaliation against the Japanese that three-and-a-half years later resulted in 67 Japanese cities burnt to ashes during a few months of sustained “fire-jelly” attacks by hundreds of Boeing-29 Superfortress bombers and other aircraft. After napalming the cities to dust, the United States followed the horror with a “preemptive” nuclear strike against the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Nine million Japanese civilians were left homeless. The death toll has never been definitively calculated, but two million souls is a reasonable guess.

The distance from Pyongyang, North Korea to Tokyo, Japan is 800 miles; to Hawaii, 4,400 miles; to Los Angeles, 6,000 miles; to Seattle, 5,150 miles; to Alaska, 3,200 miles. The border of North Korea meanders 25 to 50 miles from downtown Seoul, South Korea.

A few years after the stalemate of the Korean War, General Curtis LeMay—head of Strategic Air Command—claimed that his pilots had killed a similar number of Koreans by aerial bombardment—20% of the population.

The United States killed an estimated million Iraqi civilians in the more recent wars in the Middle East, which included the Gulf War and the Iraq War.

It killed two million Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam genocide of the 1960s and 70s.

In August 1945, USA bombers killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Millions were burned alive in fire-jelly (napalm) bombings, which decimated 67 cities over several months. Evacuation of cities helped to reduce casualties. 

Why am I bringing up a bunch of disturbing statistics? What’s the point? Why not leave unpleasant memories forgotten in a distant past where they can’t impact the happy lives we live now, not then?

What possible benefit can remembering the past confer upon our contented present? Why bother puking up a sour history that only the old-timers among us experienced? 

May I ask one more question? Maybe thinking about the answer will help some to make sense of current events that seem to have no rhyme or reason.

Of the fifty countries against which we have directed our military wrath since World War II, which among them has a right to the biggest grievance? Who did we hurt the most? 

Which country has been forced to endure the shame of a military occupation that never ends? Ok, maybe it sounds like more than one question. Deal with it. 

America fights secret and not so secret wars against communist, Islamic, western hemispheric, and, it turns out, African countries all the time. We have conducted strategic operations against friend and foe alike since World War II.

We have meddled in the internal politics of super powers like Russia and China. The Dalai Lama of Tibet wrote in his book Freedom in Exile that the United States gave him millions of dollars to incite violence against China, for example.

The USA has attacked militarily one in four of the 190 countries on the earth during the modern era. Which country is the one most likely to harbor a secret ambition for revenge?

America keeps itself in a state of perpetual war to feed the appetites of voracious weapons manufacturers whose stockholders are among the world’s most affluent. The AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force against terrorists) passed Congress, and President Bush signed the bill in August 2001 for a reason—to fuel the demands of arms dealers to free them from the inconvenience of securing approval by Congress to declare wars—which the Constitution demands. Only Barbara Lee (no relation to Billy Lee) of California voted against it.

Since 1991 Congress has passed and the president signed four AUMFs, mostly to cut down on the amount of work and resulting delays that are inevitable when large elected groups of representatives are compelled to go on record for or against any particular conflict. 

We in America live under a lot of illusions. We tell ourselves a lot of lies about how wonderful we are and how everyone wants to be like us. Our enemies who fear us the most insist—some of them anyway—that they love us; they want to live with us and be like us, and we tend to believe them.

No one tells a command officer who is carrying an automatic assault rifle that he is a pig; the term “butt-wipe” is never used. No one wants to die for a no good reason like name calling, for example. Our subjugates place flowers in the barrels of our guns and tell us they love us.

Everyone who has been shamed and humiliated prays for their day of liberation; the day of their revenge; the day the world is finally set right. It’s human nature. The desire to settle scores crosses cultural, religious, and geographical boundaries.

Few countries that have suffered cremation by fire of millions of their citizens forget. They don’t forgive. Think long and hard. It’s true.

For almost a year Billy Lee lived where he could view Mount Fuji from his bedroom window during his two-year stay in Japan. The Editorial Board

The situation in Japan is dire; it really is. The United States for some insane and goofy reason permitted the Japanese over the past thirty years to build the most sophisticated nuclear power grid the world has ever seen.

The USA sold the Japanese uranium-impregnated fuel rods. A by-product of their use (to produce the intense heat required to generate electricity) is plutonium. Instead of collecting and disposing the spent fuel rods, the Japanese built facilities to extract the plutonium. They promised to use the plutonium for fuel in advanced power generators called “fast reactors.” Fast reactors are, in theory, cheaper and less complicated; they are also more volatile; more dangerous to operate. 

After the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, the Japanese abandoned “fast reactors”. They discovered during the audits they conducted following the disasters at Fukushima and other facilities that their fast reactors had safety records that bordered on terrifying. They stopped using plutonium for fuel. With no place to “burn” the plutonium they were harvesting, it began to accumulate, bigly.

In the entire universe plutonium is found above trace amounts at one location and one location only: planet Earth. Plutonium went extinct due to radioactive decay billions of years ago. It can be created during rare cosmic events, but the bomb-making kind—Pu 239—is a manufactured element that does not occur in nature. It is a by-product of nuclear fission reactions. It hides itself within the matrix of elements that make up the remnants of spent fuel rods.

Plutonium is among the most poisonous substances known. The speck of plutonium dust that kills you, you will likely never see. Some scientists today have downplayed the lethality of plutonium 239. My advice is to be skeptical whenever vast amounts of money and power fuel a controversy.

Regardless of its lethality as a poison, no one argues that fourteen pounds is enough plutonium to make an atomic bomb of a construction so unsophisticated that a high schooler could fashion the necessary components in shop class. Sophisticated bombs require even less plutonium—a mere nine pounds.

This is what plutonium powder looks like. Japan has 94,000 pounds of it. 14 pounds are required for an unsophisticated bomb; 9 pounds for a sophisticated version.

Japan has harvested 47 tons (94,000 pounds) of high-grade plutonium from its nearly one-hundred or so nuclear power and processing plants, which include power plants, research reactors, fast reactors, reprocessing installations, and recently decommissioned facilities—decommissioned due mostly to safety concerns.

Japan’s production schedule is running at a frenetic pace—adding eight tons of surplus plutonium to its stockpile every year into the foreseeable future unless the United States is able to shut down Japan’s reprocessing installations with an agreement scheduled for negotiation in 2018. Our new president has said the old agreements won’t be changed.

By this time next year the Japanese will have accumulated enough high-grade Pu 239 to make as many as 12,000 atomic bombs. Should it make that choice, Japan will possess the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

Plutonium is heavy. Nine pounds of Pu 239 is the size of a softball. It is exactly the right size to construct a single atomic bomb. By this time next year Japan will possess enough Pu 239 to make 12,000 bombs.

What follows next in this essay is the scary part. Some readers might want to bail and maybe find a good comic book to occupy their imaginations.

Despite agreements with the United States that followed World War II, Japan has one of the largest military budgets in the world. The country spends 42 billion dollars per year on its military. This expenditure does not include its civilian nuclear power system or its civilian space exploration programs. 

The Japanese consolidated three civilian rocket launching companies into one (named JAXA) in 2003. They are launching rockets into space all the time. JAXA designed, built, launched, and maintains the largest module on the International Space Station. The Japanese have spacecraft in the asteroid belt and spy satellites in earth orbit. These are civilian programs. 

Although the military budget of the United States seems huge, people might want to consider that the USA spends one-third of its military dollars on salaries and pensions. No other military spends as much. It maintains 800 military bases in 70 countries at an expense of $200 billion—an expense that other militaries simply don’t have. Japan spends about the same amount on defense as England, France, and Germany. A controversial argument can be made that the combined military might of Russia, China, Japan, and North Korea exceeds that of the United States. It is an argument that is hard to prove, because countries lie about their military expenditures, war-fighting readiness, and technical capabilities. The chart above is misleading in another important way, because it doesn’t include expenditures on nuclear weapons—their production, maintenance, and modernization—which are state secrets in all the countries that possess them.  

The Japanese don’t have to make bombs from their plutonium stores to wreak havoc on an adversary. They can pulverize the metal into aerosols and release plutonium dust into the air over cities.

They can load plutonium into drone subs like rumors say the Russians have done and set hundreds of them in the coastal waters of our country. The subs can lie in ocean sand and silt for decades before releasing their poisons, should it ever become necessary.

Their advanced missile technology might enable Japan to overwhelm our defenses by launching multiple warhead missiles over our homeland. It might take a few months, but poisoned populations would eventually succumb to the release of toxic dust.

And, should they choose to make bombs, well, any country with the resources of a country as sophisticated as Japan can turn high-grade plutonium into bombs in a few days; they can possess the capability to create hell on earth in the blink of an eye, anytime they choose. With the right (or wrong) leadership they can unleash a nightmare of suffering far worse than the inferno we inflicted on them 72 years ago.

This plant is the place where the Japanese extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods. The Japanese have admitted on NHK television that they have 94,000 pounds of plutonium that they have no use for nor any place to safely store.

Plutonium is an artificially produced killing material that no human being, company, or country should ever be allowed to possess or use. It is a forbidden apple of physics that can only bring anguish to whoever uses or shares it with others. 

Japan has the potential to threaten the world with the same level of terror as the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, and who knows what other countries. Many countries are conducting (in secret) diabolical engineering even now and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

What could be worse? Believe it or not, our predicament might already be much worse than anyone in the USA is willing to think about or imagine.

What about the possibility that North Korea and China are playing a game of good cop / bad cop with our military planners? What if Japan is toying with the idea of leading an unholy alliance? Behind our backs? Do we really have enough Japanese-speaking spies to keep track of all the secret Samurai cults that might be conspiring at the highest levels of government. Do we?

What if Vladimir Putin thinks: The United States lied to me. I helped to elect an American president who is ineffective—a buffoon who can’t help me the way he promised. Let’s get ’em!

Imagine an alliance of China, North Korea, Russia, and Japan; an alliance led by the one country that has the greatest lust for payback; the strongest ache to settle scores once and for all.

A Hunkpapa Lakota holy man, Sitting Bull, had the vision that led to the defeat of the USA’s 7th Calvary Regiment on June 26, 1876—one week before the USA’s 100th anniversary. Five of seven battalions were decimated—one led by Civil War hero George Armstrong Custer. Sitting Bull became a celebrity who worked in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Later in life he became a leader of the Ghost Dance movement, which terrified whites, because it prophesied the exodus of white people from native American lands. Ten days before Christmas—on December 15, 1890 during an arrest by police on reservation property—Indian Affairs agents shot Sitting Bull in the head and chest in front of his family and friends. Agents removed his body to Fort Yates, where they buried him in a makeshift coffin.  

A surprise attack by such an alliance would be nation ending. It might end like the Battle of the Little Bighorn. We don’t have enough soldiers or missiles or ships to fight a gathering of tribes who possess tens of thousands of nuclear weapons.

The USA has the power to destroy the whole world if we must, but we can’t save ourselves; we can’t save our country; we can’t save the planet.

In the conflagration that took the hyper-alert Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer by surprise, all his ribbons and medals; all his accolades; all his friends in high places couldn’t save him, his men, or even his horses. The battle of the Little Bighorn was a massacre that dwarfed Custer’s reputation for being a really good person; a hero of the Civil War loved by every patriotic American.

To those who say, Billy Lee, you’ve gone paranoid on us… the Japanese would never organize an attack against America unawares… not a nuclear attack… they know how bad it would be… they suffered through one… they know better than anyone… and look at them, how they smile when we tell bad jokes. The last thing on their minds is revenge. The very last thing!

I say, you are so right!  The Japanese would never hurt us. I lived in Japan for two years after the war. The Japanese have their quirks, yes, but most of them are not cruel or insensitive. They don’t enjoy watching torture videos for entertainment, most of them. Tying up women and twisting their bodies to prepare them for rape is not something most Japanese men would have any part in. Am I right? Of course I am.

The Japanese are not monsters. They are a kind and gentle people who don’t farm or ranch or mine, because they are resource impoverished. When I lived there our Japanese house-maids and yard-boys were as sweet as they could be. They meant us no harm. I see that now. 

But how on earth are the Japanese going to get rid of the 47 tons of plutonium poison they have produced? And how will they dispose of the eight tons they plan to produce each year into perpetuity—plutonium which they admit has no longer any peacetime applications whatsoever?

Everybody knows plutonium has a radioactive half-life of 24,000 years. It’s never going to go away. Someday, through inattention or from whatever other cause, plutonium containment structures are going to rot, and the poison will leach into the soils, the oceans, and the atmosphere to kill all living things. It is Earth’s best case scenario—the scenario where nuclear war never happens, the world disarms, and plutonium is tucked away out of reach and out of sight of war makers and other terrorists.

The process that will sterilize the planet of all life is already well underway and cannot be stopped—not over a period of tens of thousands of years. Read the essay, RISK, elsewhere on this site. Humans are likely to be extinct by the time the unnatural poisons of war and opulence first make their advance against the innocent, less intelligent life-forms that we will leave behind—like chipmunks and kittens, for example—who will never be able to understand what is killing them or why.

Our new president is in Tokyo as I’m writing this essay. Anyone who asks him will learn—because he’s not afraid to say it—he is really smart and bigly educated. He understands people and how best to manipulate them to maximize his advantages and get what he wants. You don’t believe it?  Ask him—for the love of God—ask him. 

Maybe we should help the Japanese store their plutonium in a safe place—a place much safer than their earthquake tormented islands that float within the largest fisheries of the Pacific Ocean. We could store the plutonium perhaps deep in a cave somewhere. Maybe we could store it beneath the volcanic cauldrons of Yosemite—or some other remote location, like a trench astride the San Andreas fault.

Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s do that.

If we talk nicely, will the Japanese listen? Maybe they will, if our new president has the sense to ask. Does anyone have a better idea? For the love of God, tell someone. 

Billy Lee

ILLUSIONS

I read a report about the lunatic in Las Vegas; he was a multi-millionaire who owned nearly fifty high-powered guns plus a lot of other scary stuff. His dad was once on the FBI’s ten most wanted list—he was a fugitive for ten years.

These guns that many civilians now own were designed to shatter the bones and scramble the internal organs of victims—in violation of the spirit of international norms, agreements, and treaties that were agreed to by all countries before and after the second World War.

These Geneva Convention prohibitions (and others) were crafted to make hollow-point style ammunition illegal. To evade these restrictions, US gun-makers designed weapons to fire high-velocity bullets that tumbled—they inflicted crippling injuries with more ferocity than even the banned hollow-points.

Billy Lee has never visited Las Vegas nor does he plan to. It was built as a stopover during WWII for GIs on route to the west coast, where they boarded ships to fight their way to Japan. According to legend, criminal syndicates built “Sin City”. People say the bad guys moved out. The president owns a hotel there. The Editorial Board

During combat officer training in the Vietnam era, I fired one of these weapons (an M16 rifle) at a bucket of water. The bullet went in clean but blew out the back. Shards of metal and water flew everywhere. The container exploded, basically.

Every massacre involving these weapons reaps what we sowed. The USA violated both the spirit of the international consensus and basic common sense nearly six decades ago. Our country put the lethality of heavy weapons into rifles that handled like toys. Weapon manufacturers created bone smashing ammo.

People shot by these guns don’t recover. Survivors carry their wounds to the grave.

Modern high-tech guns and ammunition are inhumane, lethal, and crippling. The military shouldn’t use them; neither should civilians; especially civilians who aren’t properly trained or supervised; some civilian gun owners have an unhealthy obsession with these kill-sticks; some are lunatics.

Flags are set at half-mast across the USA to honor the fallen in the Las Vegas attack. This pic was taken by Billy Lee in a Belle Tire parking lot. The Editorial Board

As for hollow-point ammo, police inside the United States ignore the international prohibitions. Many agencies use black-talon style hollow-points to reduce the penetrating power of tumbling slugs (that can kill bystanders) while dramatically increasing debilitation to the person shot.

Misunderstanding of the second amendment has put four million tumbling-slug killing tools into the hands of ordinary people who have no accountability and who are in some cases insane.

After all these years only God knows where these weapons are. What could possibly go wrong?

Despite being a pontificator who by definition lacks expertise, I don’t generally speculate about things I know nothing about. I really don’t. I try to not think about the hundreds of mass shootings that have taken place during past decades, because it is depressing and demoralizing (and scary) to believe that going to public venues is dangerous.

It’s hard to say who is worse off during these mass-casualty events, the dead or the wounded or those who witness the violence up close and personal. So many people are traumatized for no good reason. I suspect that even viewers of television coverage get a sick feeling in their stomachs when these horrors occur. I know I do.

The recent attack in Las Vegas was strange. Daesh—called ISIS or ISIL in the U.S.—claimed that the shooter was a contractor who worked for them. He was a kind of sleeper mercenary who was well-paid, apparently, and did what he was told when the time came.

His handlers—who may have helped to set up the killing zone—occupied the hotel suite alongside him during the attack. They might have killed him to make it look like suicide and exited the building via a service elevator disguised as hotel workers, maybe. It’s possible.

Another disturbing possibility is that they let the shooter live expecting that he would escape and join them in another attack. He might have been disabled by gas—perhaps injected under the door by police. If so, he is now in custody.

Anything is possible, when conspiracy theories start percolating. The shooter might have been a kind of patsy, like Lee Harvey Oswald claimed to be (for those readers who have convinced themselves that Oswald did not conspire alone).

If the Las Vegas massacre was an ISIS attack (as ISIS claims) it’s not likely that the United States will give the group the satisfaction of an acknowledgment. Disclosure would undermine confidence in law enforcement’s capability to protect the public from terrorist attacks.

Agencies will instead work behind the scenes to uncover, debrief, and terminate with extreme prejudice all the players. Justice will be served. It will be methodical and relentless. It could take time—months or even years.

This vehicle is being tested for battle-worthiness.

Most Americans never fully understood the Iraq War that spawned ISIS and filled its ranks with experienced and ruthless fighters; nor have they grasped how powerful is Saddam Hussein’s family, his friends, and his army—once one of the world’s largest and most formidable. I’ve heard people say some dumb things about what all that fighting in the Middle East was about those many years ago.

Accounts I’ve read and heard from people I trust say that before the Iraq War Saddam’s family was one of the world’s wealthiest; they owned a lot of stuff—popular magazines and food franchises, even sophisticated enterprises, some with an international reach.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, second in command in Saddam’s Iraq and founder of ISIS.

Saddam’s closest advisor and deputy—who President Bush called the King of Clubs—was never apprehended. His name is Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. He is considered to be the mastermind behind the formation of ISIS.

A few years ago reports appeared in the press that Ibrahim died during an attack on his security detail. But no one saw him die. No one attended his funeral. His body (including DNA evidence of his death) is missing. Some say these stories of al-Douri’s demise were planted by ISIS agents. Ibrahim faked his own death. Who knows?

Anyway, my understanding is that ISIS was formed by members of Saddam’s family and loyal remnants of his army who are trying to take back what they lost during the Bush presidency. That’s how many see it, including reporters at Haaretz, an Israeli news organization.

When the USA conquered Iraq, Saddam’s army (and leadership) melted away, but they had billions of dollars stashed in banks, the walls of buildings, and in holes underground. They have not been afraid to spend it.

ISIS travels first class. It has the best of everything, including trucks, cars, weapons, and drones. It captured an astounding amount of USA war fighting machinery in fights with Iraqi Shiites (ISIS is Sunni) after the USA exited Iraq.

Some of the captured equipment included MRAPs (see earlier illustration). It seems unbelievable, but its true. (Note from the Editorial Board: Billy Lee helped design the run-flat wheel that permitted fighting vehicles in the Gulf wars to stay mobile after their tires were shredded, punctured, or shot through.)

Billy Lee helped develop for Chrysler the run-flat technology used by combat vehicles like this one. The Editorial Board

The way I understand the conflict, the Sunnis of Iraq could reasonably be compared in some ways to the southern whites who served the confederacy during America’s Civil War. The Shiites in this analogy would be the negro slaves.

Think about it. After the Iraq War, the downtrodden Shiites (with help from the USA) took control of Iraq from the entitled Sunnis, much like blacks took control of the southern states after the Civil War with help from the north’s military occupation (called Reconstruction).

Southern whites eventually wrested control from their former slaves, but it took twenty years of terrorism by the Ku Klux Klan to make it happen. A similar dynamic is underway in the Middle East today, it seems. The Sunnis are reestablishing their control through terror, for the most part. Eventually they may win, like the Ku Klux Klan won their fight. In the meantime, a lot of innocents are getting hurt and worse.

The territory that ISIS controls in the Middle East is vast. It is comparable in size to the country of Egypt. Yes, some ISIS cities and towns have been recaptured by USA backed forces in recent months, but the fights have been costly in lives and treasure; the victories do not seem to have turned the tide of the war, at least not yet. Everytime the USA hits ISIS hard, as it has in recent months, ISIS seems to find a way to hit back.

It’s difficult (some would say, impossible) to defeat a determined foe in their own country. We learned this lesson in Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba. The fight against ISIS is going to be a long one. Our country might go bankrupt before victory comes. It’s possible.

No one wants to admit it, but the USA is teetering on the edge of financial collapse right now, as this essay is being written. Our last president, Barack Hussein Obama, (now called Barry Obama by friends) worked out some fixes to stave off an economic crisis, but the current president seems hell-bent on bringing our country to ruin.

The president and his wealthy friends seem to want to eliminate the estate tax so that they can leave thousands of millions of dollars (they call them billions) to their crazy kids who can flee with our national treasure to whatever solvent country will welcome them after the dust settles.

I’m told that the people around the president are Christian patriots who are determined to prevent really big screw-ups from being implemented. The country is safe.

More importantly, Christians don’t do genocides. They don’t do mass killings of civilians like that lunatic in Las Vegas. Yes, Hitler said he was Christian, but history has judged him differently.

The Christian patriots in the White House won’t permit the president to first-strike North Korea, for example, with nuclear weapons. They won’t kill ten to twenty million people over a few missile tests, which many countries conduct without threat of retaliation, including the United States.

Atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll. Hydrogen bombs are much larger.

The USA dropped dozens of hydrogen bombs in the Pacific Ocean, remember, and no one did anything about it. Countries around the world have conducted 520 atmospheric nuclear explosions and 1,352 underground detonations. We aren’t going to exterminate an entire country like North Korea over a few low-level, underground atomic tests. No rational, humanity-loving civilization would even contemplate such an atrocity.

So far, so good, I guess. Yes, we are in good hands, I’m told. No one is insane—not here; not there. 

In time, no one will remember the killings in Las Vegas, anyway. No illusions. Everyone knows the truth when they see it, right?

When given a choice, decent people do what’s right, don’t they? Of course, they do. They show mercy; it’s what the Bible says God wants.

Billy Lee  

Begging For It

Nikki Haley is the daughter of Sikh immigrants from Punjab, India. She served as governor of South Carolina until she became UN Ambassador in the Trump Administration.

Nikki Haley, the UN Ambassador, told the world that North Korea is begging for war. Her statement reminds me of the rape defense that bad men used in decades past at trial before court—she was begging for it, they would always insist.

The victim—always a woman—exercised her constitutional right to dress any way she chose. A prowling lunatic observed her and believed instead that she was advertising a willingness to copulate with a grease-ball, so he attacked.

In today’s United States the grease-ball defense no longer works. Women (and countries) have rights. The courts protect them, most of the time. When they don’t, women have recourse to civil suits.

All countries (and women) have the right to defend themselves. It shouldn’t have to be said. But the United States has mucked-up the waters of international affairs by waging pre-emptive wars against communist and socialist countries for the past seventy-five years. It seems like these wars will never end.

It is the policy of the United States to undermine any country that espouses communism; it attacks using whatever methods are devised and recommended by the brilliant, depraved minds of our intelligence community. Despite all the evidence, despite all the complaints lodged against the United States before international courts and at the United Nations, most Americans refuse to believe it.

This war-policy against collectivism was birthed in the early 1900s when the first communist revolutions undermined the noble classes of eastern Europe. The well-connected saw what happened in Russia and Hungary and decided to do something about it. Writers like Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), George Orwell (1984), and Ayn Rand (We the Living) wrote short, easy to read tracks that portrayed life under communism as a personality-destroying nightmare. The public ate it up. 

After World War II, the job of suppression was handed over to our newly formed intelligence agencies who gave the fight its name: the Cold War. With the recent CIA assisted transformations of the Soviet Union and Red China into oligarchies (marking a putative end to the biggest conflicts) other terms have emerged from inside the intelligence community to describe how the USA is continuing to war against what few holdouts remain. The current buzz phrase is strategic strangulation.

Billionaires don’t look at the world in the same way as the disenfranchised and exploited. In the neglected and overlooked far reaches of the world where billionaires don’t live, common people sometimes try to organize themselves by producing wealth cooperatively and sharing it as best they can. Once they attract the attention of the powerful, the powerful send in missionaries and agricultural-aid workers to undermine and disenfranchise their leaders.

If God and food don’t work, they send in assassins. It’s true. Since WWII, the United States has gone to war with one out of four countries. It has overthrown (or co-opted) many states, including Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Poland, Iraq, Afghanistan and dozens more. 

Eventually, the USA sends in Coca-Cola and other first-line-of-attack companies to overwhelm the nascent economies of the sharers and cooperators. The wealthy move in to buy the arable land and lock up the country; billionaire power-brokers make it their business to bury every way of governance that might threaten their right to administer an economic empire built for one purpose only: to empower their own families and the families of their friends to rule unimpeded into perpetuity.  

This billboard appears all over the island of Cuba. It says: BLOCKADE: THE LONGEST GENOCIDE IN HISTORY. It shows a Klansman’s noose strangling the island. Inside the United States intelligence community, it’s called strategic strangulation. Our leaders have enforced the embargo of Cuba for fifty-five years. Odds are it will never end.

The USA is very good at undermining socialist countries. It’s why socialism doesn’t do well. When a communist country like Cuba manages to hold on somehow, they are tormented by embargos, infiltration by agents, sabotage, disinformation, slander, assassinations, and so on. Radio Free Whatever is beamed into the targeted country to undermine morale and brainwash listeners with the most seductive psychological warfare techniques in our arsenal. It’s why communist countries seal their borders.

The United States makes sure that no administrator can relax; none can kick back without constantly looking over their shoulder and keeping guard. As long as the privately-owned United States exists, countries of the opposite sex, that is socialist countries, are going to get blamed for however the rich and powerful choose to hurt them. The better these socialist countries do for their people, the bigger the target they become. Their success is their mini-skirt; their low-cut blouse. Obviously, they are begging for war, as Madame Haley so eloquently put it.

Blaming the victim is as old as Cain and Abel. It’s as old as history. The bullies win. They put on coats and tails, send their kids to exclusive schools, learn to speak with a different accent, and set themselves apart. They tell wonderful stories about themselves on TV, movies, radio, books, magazines, and the internet until people start to actually believe deep in their hearts that wealthy people are more wonderfully made than they or their kids ever will be.

The poor and disadvantaged admire their employers, because no one is left to help them understand that they are slaves; fools before a noble class that thinks of them as having no more value than farm animals. They live in the cow-pastures outside the gates of the wealthy. A few unlucky cows get a glimpse from time to time of what has been stolen from them; most of the time they are too incredulous before the view to believe their own eyes.

Today the billionaires are planning, as they have for the past seventy years, to obliterate the North Koreans. Tens of millions of Koreans will die in the first hours. The North Koreans and their Chinese allies were the first countries to challenge America after WWII. Apparently, our arsenal of atomic weapons didn’t intimidate them. The USA has a long memory.

If we use nuclear weapons in a first strike, no one will ever live on the peninsula again. That this threat has been floated by our new president (fire and fury like the world has never known) makes it easy to understand what the USA is all about.

Despite denials in the press, America may in fact have neutron bombs in its arsenal which kill people, but leave infrastructure intact outside the immediate impact zone. Only bunkers constructed from heavy concrete that is impregnated with barium sulfate can shield against both neutrons and the gamma ray by-products of collisions between neutons and the proton-rich substate of heavy concrete.

High level command bunkers are likely to be built with these materials. Otherwise lead and other heavy metals are generally used as barriers to nuclear radiation. Heavy metals are transparent and ineffective against neutron bombardment.

Neutron bombs emit little residual radiation, so they don’t contaminate the attack zone. An occupying force can be inserted with little risk of radiation poisoning. It’s possible the USA will use neutron bombs against civilians for the first time, if the Koreans continue begging our country to kill them all. A follow-on insertion of Marine and Airborne divisions would locate and destroy any surviving command bunkers.

The United States always seems to be first to try diabolical things. We used anthrax against Chinese troops during the Korean war back in the 1950s. Everyone knows about it but us, of course. We have short memories when it comes to remembering our own sins, like the genocidal Vietnam War and other cruelties such as the war against Iraq and the destabilization of the Middle East.

And no one seems to remember that it was a CIA agent (yes, he was disgruntled and no longer employed, the agency has insisted) who blew up the first commercial airliner and wiped out the Cuban Olympic fencing team. It was an act of terrorism that never happened, if you ask most Americans. Lee Harvey Oswald was disgruntled and no longer employed too, come to think of it. 

Speaking of begging for war, is anyone out there begging for peaceThe USA killed two million North Koreans during aerial bombardments approved by President Truman. What’s stopping us from doing it again?

During the first days of the Korean War, the South rounded up one-hundred thousand of its own citizens and summarily executed them, believing that each of their victims might be a leftist sympathizer of the North. The Korean War was an atrocity, which I’m not going to devote blog space to explain or explore. Click on links, those who want to know more.

South Korea from North Korea’s point of view. A massive China has their back. South Korea’s capital is close to their border—a tempting target. (Click on map to produce full-size view in new window.)

The point is, we aren’t listening to the North or South Koreans. Most want the peninsula unified. We don’t. Most folks want to live in a safe and fair place where billionaires don’t reduce the average person to poverty. South Korea doesn’t want us to sacrifice millions of its own citizens in a military strike, possibly a nuclear conflagration, to make a point. It’s simple, really. 

The only sensible solution is to leave Korea and to assist reunification as best as we can, if we are invited to do so. We aren’t leaving, obviously, because our policy is to topple socialism wherever it takes root.

We have demonized in the past so many of our enemies that it is confusing to know who the bad guys are this time around. We once called native Americans savages. We exterminated their food supply (buffalos), then their populations.

Right now, no one knows who to trust. With our new president, we will never know what the facts are. We will never know for sure who is begging for war, us or them.

Billy Lee

From the EDITORIAL BOARD:
Billy Lee supports private and public ownership of property (a mixed economy), but advocates for international limits to personal incomes and estate sizes to reduce the temptation that drives the wealthy to burn down democratic processes on altars of their own greed. Read his essay Capitalism and Income Inequality

Billy Lee opposes war on humanitarian grounds. During war people get killed and are maimed in huge numbers. It sometimes takes generations for both winners and losers to emerge from the trauma and the horrors. Billy Lee supports the United States during war, but in peacetime reserves his constitutional right to pontificate freely.

OCEAN WAR

The United States Navy insists that it has 277 ships on active-duty. About 132 are combat surface vessels; 75 or so are submarines. About 70 are logistical craft designed to supply the fleet. Do the math. 132 surface ships patrol the oceans. Yes, the Navy says they have a fleet of 160 or so non-commissioned ships held in reserve, but they are unavailable and ineffective during first strike scenarios. 

The New York Times agrees with the Navy. Everyone agrees—we have 277 ships. I hope the Navy and the New York Times are lying, because if they aren’t, we are in big trouble. We don’t have enough boats. 132 surface ships can’t control the Great Lakes, let alone the world’s seven oceans. Submarines, everyone knows, are almost useless except when used for nuclear deterrence.

The Navy’s Seventh Fleet is headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan. The fleet is responsible to cover 48 million square miles—from Japan to South Korea to Singapore, unless the far reaches of the South China Sea are included; then the square miles are too confusing for anyone to compute. China claims the whole of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory anyway, including all reefs, atolls, and islands.

How many ships bear this awesome responsibility to keep the sea-lanes open and safe from pirates and hostile powers like North Korea? The Navy says, 70. The USA deploys one aircraft carrier and 69 ships. Some news outlets have reported that an additional carrier group has been sent into the Sea of Japan to augment the current force configuration. A typical carrier strike group consists of eleven vessels, two of which are submarines. So, the total as of the date of this essay might be as high as 81.

Sorry, but someone is ordering our sailors to do an impossible job. The job is too big, the resources are too thin, and guess what? A flotilla of 81 vessels scurrying about the South China Sea trying to keep a lid on China, which is expropriating islands that belong to Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines while they build and fortify new ones wherever they feel like it is more than enough problems to exhaust any navy. People get tired. Accidents happen.

We have 70 ships in theater, the Navy says. We probably have 81. What does the other side have?

Well, we don’t really know. They lie. So do we. But we and they both watch; and we and they both spy and calculate.

Hillary Clinton—once upon a time (is there anyone who remembers?) she had the security clearances to know for sure—in one of her 2016 presidential debates, let it slip that Russian drone submarines are patrolling our coasts. These are cheap subs with no crews on board.

She said it once. Her assertion was never repeated in the press or public media. Everyone pretended they didn’t hear, for good reason. The number and types of ships in the Russian and Chinese fleets that are arrayed against our tiny arsenal of boats are state secrets. It’s all classified—out of reach of everyone except those with a clearance and a need to know. 

Chinese frigates like this one often stalk US ships in the South China Sea.

It seems clear to more than a few casual observers of Chinese shipping that the Chinese are building the most high-tech navy the world has ever seen. They have been building it for a few decades now. They have regularly practiced their sea-going skills in coordination with the Russian navy since 2012. Last year the Russians and China held joint naval exercises in the South China Sea, of all places. Joint land-based military exercises started in 2007.

China is selling it’s naval technologies and hardware to smaller countries that don’t normally threaten us. Thailand is buying Chinese subs. With military hi-tech weapons spread among a dozen or more countries in secret alliances with China, well, if it’s happening more than we know, does anyone think it’s good for our side?

But really, what would any reasonable person suspect are the forces arrayed against us? Look around. Hundreds-of-thousands of Russians live on the island of Cuba, just ninety miles from the United States.

Upscale area southwest of the airport in Havana, Cuba. (From Google Earth. Street View not available.)

Go on Google Earth and look at the Cuban neighborhoods. Some nice ones have Russian street names. It’s true. The Russians have a number of wonderfully designed, modern military bases for both subs and ships; and oh yeah, they have fighter jets and missiles, as well. Let’s not kid ourselves. Go look.

Am I trying to scare the public? Doesn’t the public have enough to fear? Isn’t terrorism, immigration, climate change, distant war, disease, and precarious health care (that could collapse any moment now that the GOP is in charge) enough to worry about? Of course it is. 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson helped Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin build Russia’s oil and gas infrastructure. It is the world’s best.

Besides, our country has ten-thousand nuclear weapons buried hundreds of feet below the cornfields and deserts of our heartland to extinguish any threats, should we lose our Navy. Until they rot and their plutonium leeches into our soils, why needlessly worry? Everyone should sleep well at night, right? I don’t want to alarm anyone, I don’t.

Secretary of State Tillerson said we should sleep well, so why not? He knows all about the Russians, having helped them build their oil industry over many decades. Depending on when anyone takes its measure, Russia’s energy industry is the world’s largest and most productive—bigger than Saudi Arabia’s. People don’t believe it, but it’s true. Russia is the world’s biggest oil and natural gas producer and exporter. Secretary Tillerson must know what he’s talking about, right? 

Well, here is some stuff that is not so comforting. It might scare some people. Between 1975 and 2016 (41 years) our Navy experienced nine accidents, mostly between our own ships. Only two accidents involved the boats of foreign countries. That’s not bad. That’s not the scary part. But hear me out.

The Ehime Maru was on a 74-day voyage to train high school students to become commercial fishermen when it was struck on 9 February 2001 by a US submarine. It sank. Of the 35 on board, nine died, including four teenagers.

In 2001 a Japanese fishing-training boat, the Ehime Maru, with thirty-five Japanese citizens aboard, was obliterated near the Hawaiian island of Oahu, when the commanding officer of one of our attack submarines apparently hot-dogged the craft for civilian joy-riders. Our new president, George W. Bush, went on national TV to apologize to the Japanese, and the United States paid huge fines and compensation to the Japanese government and the grieving families of the nine who died, which included four high school students.

In 2004, the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, ran over an Arab sailboat in the Persian Gulf. 15 people died, but the Navy never identified who they were, apparently, and no one was compensated, as far as I know. Two jet fighters parked on deck were damaged. The Navy relieved the commanding officer.

USS Belknap, guided-missile cruiser, destroyed in 1975 near Sicily.

The most serious accident was in 1975 when the same U.S.S. John F. Kennedy hit one of our own guided-missile cruisers, the USS Belknap, off the island of Sicily. The Belknap was completely destroyed; seven sailors died.

A fire burned on the Belknap for twenty hours just a few yards from the magazine where Terrier surface-to-air missiles were stored. The ship was constructed with aluminum, which caught fire. The entire above deck structure melted. It took nearly five years to reconstruct the ruined cruiser. In 1995, the Navy struck it from the Naval Registry and began using it for target practice. They sunk it during a live-fire exercise in 1998.

A year after the Belknap accident, the USS John F. Kennedy collided with another ship, this time the aging USS Bordelon destroyer during a refueling. The Navy struck the ship from its registry and sold it to Iran for parts in 1977. No one died.

So, during the forty-one years between 1975 and 2016, the US Navy had nine peacetime accidents, seven of which were friendly-fire and self-inflicted. 24 foreign nationals died; 7 U.S. sailors; 1 U.S. civilian. Ship losses: one cruiser and one obsolete destroyer. Maybe other losses occurred. I haven’t heard about them, if there were any.

The USS John S. McCain collided with a Liberian oil tanker, the Alnic MC, on August 20, 2017 in an early morning incident that killed ten sailors. The crash took the destroyer out of action for at least one year.

And now comes the scary part; hold onto your pants: In the seven months since the inauguration of our comb-over commander-in-chief (and keeper of our nuclear codes), the U.S. Navy has suffered four major accidents that have killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured scores more. We’ve lost two of our most powerful missile-guided destroyers—the U.S.S. Fitzgerald and the U.S.S. John S. McCain. It will be years before they are back in service. Readers can read about the fates of the USS Antietam and the USS Lake Chaplain in the links below.

At least two dozen sailors and officers have been disciplined, including a Vice-Admiral, a Commander, and a Lieutenant Commander. Admiral John Richardson, chief of Naval operations, has ordered an “operational pause” to all fleet commanders. He’s ordered a months-long review of protocols, because, he says, “there’s something out there that we’re not getting at.”

All this commotion is happening during a time when we’re planning to conduct war games against North Korea and are daily challenging the Chinese in the South China Sea.

Can I put things into perspective? If the accident rate of the past seven months was applied to the past forty-one years, the U.S. Navy would be short another 85 ships and 800 sailors. Thousands more young men and women would be maimed and wounded, and 250 promising Naval careers would be wrecked. In peacetime, essentially, the U.S. Navy might have lost one-third of its fleet and some of its best sailors and officers at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.

The USS Antietam, a guided missile cruiser, grounded itself in Tokyo Bay January 31, 2017. It released over one thousand gallons of toxic hydraulic oil into the bay and damaged both of its propellers and propeller hubs. Repair costs will exceed $4 million.

Here are a few of the headlines from our country’s newspaper of record, the New York Times. All headlines are from articles written in 2017. I’ve read every single one of them. Readers can access their content by clicking on the links. The remainder of my essay is written below these headlines:

China and Russia Hold First Joint Naval Drill in the Baltic Sea

Naval Collision Adds to Fears About U.S. Decline in Asia

After U.S. Destroyer Collision, Chinese Paper Says U.S. Navy a Hazard

Filipino Officials: Chinese Navy Stalked Philippine Area

4 Accidents, 2 Deadly, Raise Questions About Navy Operations

USS Lake Champlain Collision at Sea

Bodies of Several Sailors Are Found Aboard Damaged U.S. Destroyer

Sleeping Sailors on U.S.S. Fitzgerald Awoke to a Calamity at Sea

Japan Says Deadly Ship Collision Happened Earlier Than Reported

Maritime Mystery: Why a U.S. Destroyer Failed to Dodge a Cargo Ship

Navy Ship in Collision Named for McCain’s Dad, Grandfather

Previous Collisions Involving U.S. Navy Vessels

After Dangerous Collisions, Navy Will Pause for Safety Check

U.S. Admiral Says Remains Found Inside Damaged Destroyer

Commander of Naval Fleet Relieved of Duty After Collisions

Top Two Officers on Navy Ship in Deadly Collision Off Japan Are Relieved of Duties

10 Missing After U.S. Navy Ship and Oil Tanker Collide Off Singapore

Navy Dismisses 7th Fleet Commander After Warship Accidents

Mississippi Shipyard to Fix Destroyer Hit in June Collision

U.S. Navy Relieves Seventh Fleet Commander in Wake of Collisions in Asia

Wreckage of U.S.S. Indianapolis, Lost for 72 Years, Is Found in the Pacific*

*Some readers may have noticed that the last headline seems to have no connection whatsoever to this essay. But they would be wrong. Recall that the battleship USS Indianapolis was the fiercest war machine we had during World War II in the Pacific. We used that ship to deliver the atomic bomb, Little Boy, (the bomb dropped on Hiroshima) to Tinian Island in the western Pacific Ocean sometime during July, 1945. It would be assembled and delivered to the Japanese people with terrifying effect on August 15.

From Tinian the Navy ordered the Indianapolis to advance to Leyte Island in the Philippines to prepare for an all-out assault and invasion of Japan scheduled to follow the atomic blasts that were soon to occur.

On July 30 the lumbering battleship encountered a Japanese submarine which delivered six torpedoes in the wee hours of the night. Two struck the Indianapolis. It took twelve minutes for the battleship to sink below the surface. The ship sucked four hundred men to the bottom and left behind an oil slick that would sicken the nearly one-thousand sailors and marines who survived to face the threat of death by dehydration, drowning, and sharks.  

The USS Indianapolis delivered the atomic bomb to the Air Force in the Pacific before being sunk by a Japanese submarine. The ordeal took the lives of nearly a thousand men during five days in the open sea. Read Devil’s Voyage by Jack L Chalker.

The Navy didn’t notice that their prized battleship was missing. After five days of vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations, and shark attacks, three hundred men were still alive (some in lifeboats, including the Commanding Officer) when an aircraft on an unrelated mission saw something suspicious and flew down to take a closer look. 

Twenty-two men who were pulled from the water remain alive today. The Navy court-martialed the commander, Captain McVay, and convicted him for not zig-zagging as he sailed. The Japanese sub-commander testified that zig-zagging would not have mattered. The Indianapolis was going to the floor of the ocean, in any event, he insisted. Nothing could have stopped what happened. 

Losing a ship, even in war, is a big deal in the Navy. It’s not something that anyone takes lightly, even when there are extenuating circumstances and good reasons for failure. Captain McVay committed suicide in 1968—clutching a toy sailor in one hand and his service revolver in the other.

The Navy has a history of not being able to keep track of its ships. The earth’s oceans are vast, and we don’t have that many boats on them. Hiding ships from our enemies means we sometimes hide them from ourselves.

Civilian boats are another matter. Merchant fleets deploy 51,405 ships on our oceans. Most of them are bigger and longer and heavier than our 277 Navy ships. Almost all run on auto-pilot most of the time, especially at night when the crews sleep. If the computer directs the tanker to ram a boat like the Fitzgerald, that’s what is going to happen. In collisions, chances are Navy ships will lose.

Collision avoidance should be easy. Crews need only have situational awareness and the ability to steer the boat. The problem is that to perform these tasks crews rely on a complicated matrix of technologies that always seem to fail in critical situations like combat or rule violations by other boats.

These technologies should be used to confirm human observation and decisions; instead sailors confirm what the technology tells them, but only when something goes wrong, which is almost always too late. An alarm sounds and a glance at a computer screen shows that a tanker is 500 meters to starboard, so a crew member looks out a window to see if it’s there. No! That’s bassackwards and will get someone killed. 

Officers might better demonstrate proficiency in the absence of high-tech aids for situational awareness and steering, then add high-tech proficiencies one skill-set at a time. Maybe they wear merit badges to enable COs to tell at a glance who can handle hydraulic controls and who is good at computer-aided navigation, for example.

Every officer doesn’t have to master every skill-set, and the least skilled officer should be able to turn off the high-tech systems they haven’t mastered in order to steer the boat and stop it using the skills they do have, when necessary.

Laser distance finders (like those used by golfers) and wide-field-of-view night vision binoculars should be standard issue. A half dozen or more sailors should be stationed around the perimeter of every boat and be required to report what they see or don’t see every five minutes or so. No snoozing!

Mischief Reef is the site of a Chinese airstrip and military installation built on a contested atoll in the Philippines.

Anyway, one thing about the four accidents this year (January 31, the USS Antietam; May 9, the USS Lake Champlain; June 17, the USS Fitzgerald; August 20, the USS John S. McCain) bothers me: the destroyer McCain was nearly sunk just two weeks after it challenged the Chinese at a contested atoll named Mischief Reef, which the Chinese have in recent years built-up into a military base.

I have a problem with coincidences that turn out bad for our side. Malevolent intent by an adversary is always possible. Every bridge officer should understand the protocols to avoid intentional (or unintentional) collisions initiated by rogue (or wayward) boats.

A Philippine-manned cargo ship, the ACX Crystal, rammed the USS Fitzgerald, a guided-missile destroyer, on June 17, 2017. Seven US sailors died. The night was clear; the seas calm. The commanding officer and another crew member were severely injured. Repairs will cost hundreds of millions and take years to complete.

Our Navy is a mess. Everyone knows it. The optics of powerful warships limping into port under the power of a dozen or so tugboats emboldens our enemies and demoralizes our patriotic fighting men and women. We have the wrong ships, designed the wrong way, for the wrong wars, for the wrong reasons. And our Navy is overworked to the max. We all know it’s true. It doesn’t have to be. It’s good to have high-tech systems, but they are useless during a crisis. Everyone must be proficient at low-tech and know how to enable it. Seriously.

Politics and corruption, profiteering and greed, laziness and lack of zeal are going to kill us all if we don’t wake up. It’s time for civilians to step up and defend our way of life. It’s time for corporations and billionaires to do what’s right—not what makes them wealthy at the expense of our country’s defense and the prosperity of our citizens and the people of the world who are looking to us for leadership.

We are going to regret privatizing our military and using contractors instead of citizens to fight our battles. We are going to lose our freedoms and our country if we don’t fight for both. Everyone must do their part. Corruption can have no role in the process.

We must use our power to make the world safer, freer, and better for everyone, not just ourselves. People are sick and tired of “America first.” We have so much, already. 

It’s time to share our advantages, with love. If we do what’s right, if we embrace public service and reach out to the disadvantaged in the world (the military, after all, doesn’t have the room or the money for every citizen), we won’t need to kill everyone who hates us like we’ve been doing for hundreds of years.

A year or two of public service by every American in bad neighborhoods and blighted communities might make a big difference in the why, how, and who we fight.

Billy Lee

Flying Blind

It’s possible to fly blind and survive. It’s possible to fly a twin-engine Beechcraft through a wicked storm without instruments; without communication; find the airfield, locate an empty runway, and land safely.

It’s possible to feel the air disappear beneath your wings and freefall—even tumble—thousands of feet, time after time, dozens of times, recover the aircraft, and keep on flying. It’s possible for clouds to be impenetrable, lightning to be relentless and unceasing, rain to be thick as waterfalls—with a vomiting passenger in the seat next to you—and keep your wits, keep your senses, keep your fear in check, keep your focus, and keep flying.

Anything is possible during a storm, when all is lost except your training and skills and the belief that you really are the best pilot in the Navy—when you know deep in your gut that this storm the forecasters managed to miss is not how it’s going to end—for you or the high-ranking government official sitting next to you who hates to fly; who hitched a ride with you, who chose you, because he trusted you to get him to his meeting with the president, or whoever it was, in one piece.

It’s not possible to stay dry, however. During this flight I’m writing about, my dad the pilot sweat through his clothes. When I met him after his ten minute drive home from the airfield, I asked him, how did you get so wet?  His hair and face looked like he just stepped out of the shower. His flight-suit was dark with sweat; water dripped from his cuffs; even his shoes squeaked from pooling sweat around his feet.

I had a rough flight, he said. The worst flight of my life. I got overheated. Never sweat like this, ever. I’m ok. We made it. No problems.

Dad left it at that. But a week later, his passenger came to our house for dinner. He told the whole story. He said Dad saved his life during that flight. No one in the Navy was a better pilot, he insisted, and I believed him.  

It was 1964; I was a high school sophomore living at home in Arlington, Virginia near the nation’s capitol. It was the year when Barry Goldwater, the darling of the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, ran for president. He lost everwhere except Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Arizona—his home state. (Today—a lifetime later—lunatics are mainstream; go figure.)

In 1964, the American Nazi Party—led by retired Navy Commander Lincoln Rockwell—owned a field next to our neighborhood, where it maintained a barracks and its national headquarters. 

Rockwell’s few dozen men were heavily armed; we heard they used German shepherd dogs to keep gawkers away, but we never saw any when my friends and me snuck onto the property to fire bottle rockets at the barracks. One time a trooper in black boots and tee-shirt walked up on us and clicked the bolt on his rifle. We ran like hell to get away. He didn’t squeeze the trigger. We didn’t trespass again, either. 

Once, we visited the Nazi offices and barracks on a dare. A guard let us into the headquarters. I was amazed at how much red color there was. The carpeting on the floors, the walls—even the carpeting on the ceilings—all was red. It was quiet inside, like a church; even tranquil. One of the men invited us to take some pamphlets from a table in the foyer. We took some, but I don’t remember reading anything but a few of the headings. The content—what little I scanned—seemed ignorant to me. The Nazis despised Jews and Negroes. What else was new?

A few years later someone on a roof at a strip mall near our house fired a shot at Rockwell. He was leaving the laundromat where he washed his clothes, of all things. I always bought pop-sickles and stuff like that a few doors down at the Seven-Eleven. It didn’t seem particularly remarkable to learn in 1967 as I started my sophomore year at college that someone had assassinated the Nazi commander a mere half-mile from my house.

But to get back to my essay…

My dad crashed a couple of planes during his time in the Navy; it seemed like every pilot screwed up sometimes in those early days during World War II and a little after. During one accident Dad and another pilot collided over a town in Florida. My dad had to bail; he was flying low to the ground; his parachute opened immediately; he swung three times as he hung suspended beneath; he hit the ground hard. Except for bruises, he was fine. The other pilot tumbled into the ground and was killed.

The Navy court-martialed my dad, which came as a shock; an official inquiry followed; it lasted a few months and in the end Dad had to take the stand and testify; he was terrified the whole time, my grandfather told me. 

Dad confirmed it; he was never more scared before or since, he confessed to me many years later. The Navy cleared Dad of all wrong-doing; he lived to fly another day—with a clean record—which is all he ever wanted to do anyway, ever since as a boy he first saw an airplane fly over his farm.

Flying was freedom. It was so clear. He hated working in the mud and manure of a farm; if he could fly, he could escape—like the pilot flying overhead, he would be free. He would find a way.

It took planning and a little luck, but he did find a way. He took a train from Detroit to Chicago and managed to sign up for the Navy flight program five minutes before the deadline. The rest, as they say, is history. He rose rapidly in the ranks of both Naval Aviation and Navy intelligence; more specifically the National Security Agency (NSA), which in those days tracked ships, mostly. Early on, the Navy taught him to speak Russian; much later, they trained him in French, but it was too late. He never became fluent.  

People who know how I write, must by now realize that this essay is going somewhere amazing; somewhere they don’t expect. Have patience. Keep reading.

My dad was a leader with strong views about what good leadership was. He believed in taking care of his men; he believed in meting out justice to misbehaving officers and enlisted men in the same way—no favoritism to officers.

Military justice doesn’t work the same way as civilian justice. People who have served know that commanders can throw their people in the “brig” for any reason—or no reason. Commanders have absolute power, which they must have, if they are to lead an effective fighting force that obeys orders under the duress of combat and impending death. Dad punished officers with the same fairness he punished the men. (Editor’s note: women didn’t serve in fighting units until the 1990s.)

But my dad had another belief about power that people who have never wielded it don’t understand. To lead disparate and rebellious people—which large groups of humans tend to be—it is essential to keep them guessing; to keep them off guard; to keep them off-balance; and most important, to keep them uninformed. Never tell subordinates anything they don’t have an essential need to know. Make everyone unsure of what they think they know and what they think they don’t know.

How does this work in practice? Why is it effective?

My uncle Dean told me a story about a time when my dad took him to visit the anti-submarine helicopter squadron he commanded in Key West, Florida. It was dark—about nine o’clock at night (2100 hours as they say in the Navy). Dad parked his car outside the guard shack, and he and Dean got out and walked past the guard. The guard motioned them through with a salute and a smile.

According to my uncle, Dad whirled around and stormed up to the guard. He stood toe to toe, in his face, and dressed him down. You will demand identification from anyone who passes this point, sailor!  He pointed at my uncle. This man, here, he might be a spy. You put the security of the most important squadron of fighters on this island at risk. Report to my office tomorrow morning—1000 hours.

Yes sir! the guard said.

Dad took Uncle Dean into the hangar and showed him anti-submarine jet helicopters. He took him aboard his favorite and showed him the complicated arrays of instruments and armaments then available to the armed forces. Gages and dials, buttons and levers, advanced screens and switches covered the cockpit ceiling, its floor and doors and front panels. Belts and canisters and other incomprehensible items filled every available nook and cranny. There was no empty space, anywhere.

Dean got quite a show, I can tell you, because Dad once took me on the same tour. My thought after seeing how the Navy fights was, how does anyone learn all this complicated stuff, let alone fly these monstrous beasts, which they use to slay the Russian sub dragons?

Anyway, the tour ended after ten or fifteen minutes and the two men left the hangar to return to the car and begin the drive home. We lived on the base less than two miles from the squadron. Dad and Dean walked along laughing about something, when the guard stopped them. May I see your identification, gentlemen? he said calmly.

Once again, Dad spun on his heels. What? Can you not see who I am? Am I not the commander of this squadron? Do you not see me everyday? You checked Dean, here, ten minutes ago. He’s my guest. I expect you to leave us alone and show respect. Return to your post, sailor.

Sir… yes sir!  the guard shouted.

Later, Dean asked my dad. You ordered this sailor to always ask for ID. Later, when he did what you asked, you gave him hell. Why?

When you’re in charge, Dad said, the men have to know. You keep them guessing. You keep them off-balance. You make them determine in their own minds what they believe you expect from them. Everything works better that way.

Yeah, it’s weird. But I think my dad was onto something important. I’ve known other powerful men who operate in the same way. I’ve worked for some.

Our newly elected president seems to share this view of power. Disinformation seems to be his modus operandi. Not sharing information with “the help” is another sacrosanct principle of leadership. No one will ever see the tax returns, balance sheets, income statements, or health records of our newly elected president.

It’s called flying blind. Everyone flies blind except the pilot. He’s trained. He knows what to do. The world might seem to be falling apart all around. But with any luck at all, the pilot will land the plane—safely.

There is one thing that my dad once did that has been erased from history by disinformation. In the must-read book by Oliver Stone, The Untold History of the United States, Mr. Stone tells a story about an incident during the Cuban missile crisis that almost led to nuclear war. Here is an excerpt:

On October 27 [1962] an incident occurred that Schlesinger accurately described as “not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. It was the most dangerous moment in human history.” A navy group led by the carrier USS Randolph began dropping depth charges near a Soviet B-59 submarine sent to protect the other Soviet ships approaching Cuba. Those inside the U.S. destroyers were unaware that the Soviet sub was carrying nuclear weapons. Soviet signals officer Vadim Orlov described the scene: “The depth charges [sic] exploded right next to the hull.

Get the book and read it to learn about the harrowing four-hours of hell the Russian men inside the sub endured. Many officers passed out. The bottom line is this: the submarine’s commanding officer gave an order to launch a nuclear missile, but the communist political officer on board, Vasili Arkhipov, overruled him. According to Oliver Stone, Arkhipov refused to launch, single handedly preventing nuclear war.

I will tell you that the only weapon of war we had in Key West capable of chasing a nuclear sub and dropping the depth charges with the accuracy described in the book was Sikorsky anti-submarine class helicopters, which were under the command of my dad.

Only one pilot in the Navy had both the ability and the nerve to release depth charges close enough to a nuclear submarine so as not hit it and release its deadly poisons. Only one pilot had access to intelligence about Russian subs in the area; intelligence that no one else but a few admirals shared. He was the only pilot in theater who wasn’t flying blind. He was NSA. He knew the rules of engagement on both sides. He spoke Russian. He could chase a nuclear sub out of Cuban waters and turn the confrontation in our favor. That’s what he did.

Enough said.

Researchers told Oliver Stone that we were flying blind; it was only luck and a Russian political operative who prevented a nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. So he wrote it down. What else could he do? He wasn’t there. I was. I lived with one of the key players. We ate breakfast and dinner together almost every single day.

Maybe most on the aircraft carrier USS Randolph and its escort ships were sailing blind, like Stone suggested; maybe most of the pilots were flying blind; but not everyone. Maybe, sometimes, we manufacture our own luck.

That’s what my dad believed. He always said, people make their own luck. Practice, preparation, persistence, plus perception based on the best intelligence—there is nothing lucky or blind about any of it. Add a little patriotism.

It’s why we win.

Billy Lee

ARMAGEDDON

harriet_tubman twenty dollar billIt’s too bad that the “fine-looking” Christian activist, “Minty” Ross (Harriet Tubman), will not be appearing on the twenty-dollar bill until 2026 (ten years from now) at the earliest. Some say it might be as late as 2030. 

Harriet_Tubman_Reward_Notice_1849

It’s certain that Minty was beautiful, because “fine-looking” is how her owners described her on a Wanted Poster after she escaped at age twenty-seven.

Unfortunately, no pictures of Minty as a young woman have been found. She lived on to become a prominent administrator of the Underground Railroad; a friend of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and John Brown; a Civil War soldier and spy for the Union Army; and much, much more.

The Mint people say it takes a long time to retool the currency. In the case of Minty Ross, it will take at least ten years; maybe fifteen. I’m not sure I believe them.

With Ms.Tubman, it seems like one injustice followed another; she suffered abuse like no other heroine I’ve read about. A slave-owner crushed her skull with a hunk of iron he threw at another slave she was trying to protect. While traveling on a train, passengers broke her arms when she refused to move to another car. All her suffering came from haters, pure and simple. She will never get the credit she deserves.

Panarin regional division of America.bmp
Russian Professor, Igor Panarin, says the USA will look like this map, someday.  Some folks think it already does.

Does anyone really think the USA will be around ten or fifteen years from now? It is likely to be divided into four countries, presumably under the control of the Russians or an international coalition of foreign powers, if leaked Russian intelligence assessments can be believed.

Sorry, but that’s what seems to be coming, according to Russian analysts. The world has had its fill; the earth’s power brokers are planning to take us down; they seem to be gathering the family of nations to make a grand, international intervention on our behalf—for our own good and for the well-being of the planet and its impoverished peoples.

russian drone submarine 2
Russia is deploying Nuclear Drone Submarines (NUDS) to overwhelm our defenses.

The Russian military is filling the oceans with drone subs armed with nuclear material; possibly missiles. Some sit in the sand at the bottom of the oceans on both coasts of the USA.

Hundreds of thousands of Russians live on the island of Cuba. They have submarine and air bases on the island.

The Chinese are building artificial islands in the Pacific and constructing military bases. During the past twenty years the Chinese have built the most modern Navy the world has ever seen.

The Koreans and several other hostile countries are building first strike nuclear capabilities. It’s not that they dislike the United States. It’s a matter of trust. They think our leaders are crazy, selfish, arrogant, and too powerful. It’s not good for other countries when one becomes disproportionately powerful.

It’s not enough for the USA to stop doing bad things. It must do good things. We don’t seem able to save ourselves, because the USA has a legacy of a country that has hated too many people; too many people have been hurt and killed.  

The USA has burned alive millions of people with diabolical weapons like napalm, Hellfire missiles, and atomic bombs. Most of the world outside the United States believes we dropped anthrax bombs on Chinese troops in North Korea in 1954. We placed a “hospital” ship off the peninsula from which we spread a virulent strain of typhus that killed hundreds of thousands of North Koreans. We planned to drop atomic munitions until a cessation of hostilities took hold and calmer heads prevailed.

The USA has inflicted too much injustice; ignored the cries of too many disadvantaged people; humiliated the weak and impoverished; and, since the end of WWII, has waged war against a quarter of all the countries on the earth.

We have crossed moral boundaries into the dark space of torture and drone-kills. A country that tortures and assassinates thousands of people by remote control is not worth defending or protecting, some say.

Chinese stealth destroyer
Modern Chinese Stealth Destroyer

The billionaires are having their parties; for them the world has never been better. In fact, many Americans, rich and poor, are ingesting daily cocktails of drugs, legal and illegal, to keep going; they are oblivious, uninformed, and asleep.

In our drug-induced stupor we are about to elect a mega-billionaire and his cronies to administer what is arguably the most militarized and corrupt nation on earth. Like everything else we’ve done lately, it won’t go over well. The nations of the world are already preparing for this catastrophe; the outcome isn’t going to be good for any of us; no way.

The refusal of our military officers, our intelligence administrators, foreign service officials, and especially our elected political leaders to follow with enthusiasm the vision of our current president has not been lost on other nations.

Joe Wilson shouts you lie at Obama during state of the union address
South Carolina Republican Congressman, Joe Wilson, twice yelled You Lie! at President Obama during his speech before a joint session of Congress in 2009. Disrespect for the president is universal, open, and virulent among GOP congressmen, who make up the majority of our elected officials. The GOP’s unreasonable hatred for well-intentioned people is the main reason the community of nations fears the changes that will come with the election of a Republican president in 2016.

Our president’s capitulation to the world view of our bureaucratic cartels; his inability to get the simplest things done (like closing the Guantanamo torture chambers and returning the military base in Cuba to its rightful owner); his surrender to Wall Street thugs with Ivy League educations; his quiet suffering of disrespect by media and petty demagogues has convinced the powerful people abroad who both do and don’t like us that the United States won’t change; indeed, it cannot change.

Meanwhile, our citizens are tired of war. They don’t acknowledge basic facts; the Chinese Navy is the best in the world. Russian drone technology is the world’s best in the air, beneath the seas, and on land. And so on and on.

Yes, our government is spending two trillion dollars to upgrade our nuclear first-strike capabilities. We are spending our national treasure on a doomsday matrix designed to destroy planet Earth, should we get backed into a corner and face certain defeat.

We are so blind. The irony is that we are always looking deep into the heavens searching for an advanced civilization. We believe millions of hi-tech worlds should be out there. Yet we have found not a single one. Maybe the story of civilization is familiar; maybe it plays out across the universe on every inhabited planet in the same tragic way.

In every corner of our Milky Way galaxy, and in the billions of other galaxies that populate our unimaginably huge universe, intelligent life-forms fight to survive and prevail. They unlock the secrets of nature. Somehow the technology gets control of them. The unnatural plutonium they create and store, even when it is not strewn in a fit of suicidal anger, leaches into their soils and poisons their planets, irreversibly.

Syrian chemical munitions weapons stockpile
Workers inspect chemical weapons barrels for leaks at a warehouse in Gorny, Syria. Stockpiles like this one exist in countries all over the world.

A slow death by poisoning might well be the future of every planet that has buried beneath its surface tens-of-thousands of thermo-nuclear bombs as well as biological and chemical weapons in every shade of depravity that super-intelligent life-forms can dream-up and build.

These weapons cannot be maintained forever. How many thousands of years can we go on pouring our treasure into poisons, until we have no more treasure, and the bombs begin to rot; the toxins soak into soil like turpentine into a sponge; the viruses and bacteria escape to breed and blow in the wind like dust and fall to the ground like drops of rain?

Armageddon is on its way. It may come fast; it may go slow. What every informed person knows is that Harriet Tubman’s face will never grace our currency. Time is too short, and making things right is not our nation’s highest priority. Not even close.

I believe, like my dad before me, that right makes might. Civilizations who dare to reverse the order—who use might to force others to believe that their abusers are right—play a fool’s game.

Harriet Tubman posed for this pic after the Civil War. She was 47.  

One important thing we can do as a country right now is to place Harriet Tubman’s portrait (and other freedom fighters like her) on our  money, sooner rather than later. The plan, incredibly, is to put a slave-owner’s picture (Andrew Jackson, of all people) on the reverse side of the twenty-dollar bill opposite Ms. Tubman—to kind of balance out the message, I suppose.

No. That’s wrong. No way. Andrew Jackson owned the Hermitage Plantation of Tennessee and another plantation in Mississippi where, during his tenure, 150 slaves produced the cotton that made him wealthy. 

As a General in the US army, Jackson fought genocidal wars against the Shawnee and Creek Indians of Georgia and Alabama; he warred against the Seminole Tribes of Florida. He had a reputation for ruthlessness. Native Americans referred to him as “Sharp Knife.”

Death of Custer by actors Pawnee_bill_wild_west_show_c1905
This 1905 photo of actors in Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show portrays the killing of Custer by Sitting Bull. The Battle of Little Bighorn was unusual, because the native Americans actually won the battle. Some would argue that America’s war against its indigenous and kidnapped peoples has never really ended; apologies, forgiveness, and reparations are long overdue.

No slave holder, no human being who forced other human beings to work long hours for no pay under the threat of lash and beating; under the threat of death and loss of family should ever again have their likeness placed on any financial instrument, coin, or bill of the United States of America. What kind of people are we, anyway?

We are a people who stand for freedom and equality before the law, our schools teach us. Let’s behave like we believe it’s true. Crimes against people affect the generations of children who come after. Genocides against African slaves and native Americans can traumatize for centuries; ask any descendant of a victim of Hitler’s holocaust, if there is anyone who doesn’t believe it. The USA has not even begun to make things right, some argue.

Actions speak louder than words. The world watches, much of it in disgust and horror as we venerate the wicked and suppress our saints, like Araminta Ross Tubman. Time is running out. We have to make that change, as Michael Jackson once sung; sooner rather than later.

Loving others is a way to save our beloved America. Love will rescue us. Love is important; it’s powerful. It can sustain our civilization; it can preserve our freedoms; it can extinguish Armageddon.

Billy Lee