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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Gunnar Sivertsen

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Gunnar Sivertsen last won the day on December 18 2017

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  1. There is another, unrelated, question: would Roosevelt have dropped the atomic bombs on Japan? I ask, because Pearl Harbour was a shock to the American psyche. It easy for us, in hindsight, to say that America was on secure ground, as it were; that Pearl Harbour was simply a clarion call to mobilise its industrial and military resources and the outcome was given. Pearl Harbour was such an outrage that it is tempting to suggest that many Americans wanted revenge, and that the dropping of the atomic bombs grew out of this desire for revenge - whether or not the Soviets were planning a new front in the Far East. In which case, maybe Roosevelt would have done what Truman did.
  2. Good point, George Collins. Alperovitz doesn't even mention Vasilevsky (and he ought to). I see from Wikipedia that, during the Soviet summer offensive 1944, Stalin announced his intension to make Vasilevsky command-in-chief of Eastern USSR. I assume that the Western Allies knew about that; and they certainly knew that Vasilevsky was a competent commander (given his crushing blow against Germany in East Prussia). Your point raises the question whether Truman knew about the forthcoming offensive into Manchuria and into Karafuto (Sakhalin) island? I agree with you that it seems unlikely that Stalin would have shared his plans with Truman. My tentative suggestion is that (1) the U.S. government did know via intelligence gathering, or (2), anticipated it as a logical strategic move by Stalin - U.S. military leaders probably saw it coming - that the Soviet offensive would take place in the near future; but they may not have known the date. Vasilevsky had finalised his plans in May-June 1945.
  3. Or was the dropping of the two atomic bombs rather about the Americans furthering a quick end to the war in order to prevent the USSR gaining any more territories in northeast Asia - as Secretary of State James Byrne explained, off the record, to journalists about 6 weeks after the two bombs had been dropped on Japan - and as Gar Alperovitz asserts on pp. 586-87 in his book, "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth" (1995). The book is an extraordinary piece of research - very detailed - and worth reading without prejudice. It challenges what we have been told, but Alperovitz provides the evidence that supports his case. Whether the Americans would have used the atomic bombs had USSR not been advancing militarily in the Far East - well that's another question; but the fact that the Red Army was, by now, joining the fight against Japan and occupying Japanese-held territory was unacceptable to Truman and James Byrne.
  4. Who was worse Hitler or Stalin?

    Thank you for your interesting observations, Ron Walker. My only question relates to your remark towards the end of the second last paragraph is, "They've never known a period when their media (and thus their perception of the world) wasn't controlled by the political leadership". I understand that America and Russia have agreed to a 'barter': the U.S. allow Russia Today (RT) television station, and Russia allow certain American mainstream television stations (I don't know which ones). How many Russians watch American television I don't know; I ask because not many here in England watch RT and I suspect not many in the U.S. either. Second, There is not necessarily a 1:1 relationship between officially available news and private opinions, and especially in Russia I would have thought this 'rule' is true, since Russia under Yeltsin had comparative diversity within their official mainstream media and would carry this knowledge/memory around with them to this day?
  5. Who was worse Hitler or Stalin?

    Thank you, Ron Walker, for this excellent example of how not to learn from history! I must admit that the Norwegians do something similar regarding their Viking ancestors. The emphasis is nowadays on their seamanship and art and craft expertise, and we in Britain know, from our history books, that the Vikings often were up to no good. I suppose one could argue that Genghis Khan and the Vikings are sufficiently far back so as not to influence us directly (whatever that means). But they are part and parcel of our notion of physical and mental strength, about the glory of carving out empires - without much though to the victims - and that this spirit it alive an kicking in several parts of the world. 'Spheres of interest' abound.
  6. Who was worse Hitler or Stalin?

    I would like to correct the figures that I gave in the above post of 80 million victims of the gulags. I have now found my source and the figure quoted is 66 million. This figure was provided by I. A. Kurganov, an émigré professor of statistics and relates the victims of "internal repression" from the beginning of October 1917 to 1959. Alexander Solzhenitsyn quotes this figure in his "The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956. An Experiment in Literary Investigation" [parts] III-IV, volume 2, p. 10. In a later book, "Letter to Soviet Leaders", published in English in April 1974, Solzhenitsyn again refers to the same source, Professor Kurganov, and his figure of 66 million, and clarifies: the figure does not include war dead during World Wars I and II, "but from civil strife and tumult alone" (pp. 30-31). Solzhenitsyn does not state whether the figure includes losses during the October Revolution (presumably it does), the subsequent civil war (presumably it does), and the Stalin-orchestrated famine (don't know). - From this, it is apparent that of the 66 million quoted by Solzhenitsyn, it is near-impossible to derive a more definite figure for the people who died in the gulags themselves unless we go back to Kurganov to look for a breakdown of his over-all figure. - But of course we on this thread have other sources.
  7. Who was worse Hitler or Stalin?

    Why do I write about the current political and economic situation - I'm aware that it annoys some people here on this thread - when we are here to discuss World War II issues? Because World War II is not just about strategy, tactics, hardware and weapons, and war graves; it is also about the War's historical ramifications, and about the world our soldiers died for, and the world we now inhabit. History is not just 'then'; history is also 'now' - history unfolds as we speak. What we enjoy and endure will one day be what historians call History. History unfolds all the time. Then there is the saying, 'We must learn from History'. One way is to take stock of certain salient features of what he now have and ask ourselves, 'Have we mismanaged our War legacy? Have we let down the hopes of those who died - hopes of a better world? In a way, World War II will never end. It's impact will be 'with us' forever - or for a very long time. Likewise, our views on World War II is projected onto our view of our future, our children's and grandchildren's future, and what we want for them. The pendulum of History swings - both ways. Perpetual resonance and feedback, regrets and reflection. That's us.
  8. Charles, in response to Edward, you call on Edward to provide evidence the atom bombings really were war crimes and that they were not carried out to save time. I have put forward the documentary evidence provide by Gar Alperovitz, in his book, "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb", that al least part of the reason was to end the war quickly so as to stop Soviet military advances and claim Japanese territory - that is, the bombs were dropped to save time, as Edward says. Second - and here I address Panzerkampwa... too, as well as Charles - there is the saying, "Two wrongs don't make a right". You are of course right that gruesome war crimes were committed by both sides; this does not absolve either party - crimes do not cancel each other out. Or does, "Revenge is sweet" have any objective validity? Our revenge makes us feel better but does it have the desired effect on the enemy's attitude toward us? France meted out her revenge on Germany in 1919 but 20 years later Hitler had used German resentment as an excuse for launching another war; he and they had 'learned' nothing from our harsh treatment of them at the Peace Conference.
  9. Who was worse Hitler or Stalin?

    I didn't claim that death by homelessness (after the applicants had been told they were fit-for work' or after their pension/benefits had been withdrawn) was a 'tool of government mass murder'. But this raises an interesting question - the four-way distinction between (1) a deliberate policy of genocide (Stalin and Hitler); (2) a policy that the government knows (through their own monitoring and via feedback from the press, members of their constituency, fellow members of parliament, and (if they are sitting Ministers of the Crown) from what they can glean from Cabinet meetings) is causing significant deaths; (3) a policy that the government has reason to suspect is causing significant deaths; and (4) a policy that over decades, even centuries, has become 'structural' and therefore an accepted feature of a political system, and where expressions such as the 'survival of the fittest' serve as a mild justification for the civilian losses inherent in that politico-economic system. A figure of 120,000 since 2010 was suggested recently for the people who had died after losing their application to receive, or not to lose, their pension/benefits. Other figures were, through FOI, obtained from the Department of Work and Pensions, but DWP refused to provide The Guardian and the BBC with a breakdown of the causes of deaths, so WE don't know how many died of natural causes (that is, probably would have died anyway) and how many could reasonably have been said to have died from suicide and the effects of homelessness. But my contention is that the executive arm of the government know these figures and because the figures might embarrass the government - and by implication, display their responsibility - this is the reason they refuse to make them available. They don't want to be named and shamed. This four-way distinction makes it clear that any collection of data would have to be carefully sifted and categorised. You may disagree, but I think that governments are responsible if they are aware of, or have reason to suspect, a cause-effect link between their policies and the loss of lives among the people they are elected to serve - this includes refugees and economic migrants as well as citizens and members of the electorate. Knowledge, to my mind, confers responsibility. Homelessness is a big problem - anyone taking a walk through Folkestone on an early morning will be able to see this for themselves. However, you are right, Adam, that many of these people have substance use problems; others have mental illness, learning disorders, autism spectrum, or anti-social personality disorders, etc. People in the very last sub-category are hard to treat, but members in the other sub-categories are either treatable or, at the very least assistable - when funding is available. The National Health Service has called on radical funding increases for Mental Health; they report that the situation is desperate. After a particularly compelling case was presented in Parliament recently, the government has promised a small funding increase. They have the knowledge of the consequences; but they also stick to their policies - even when these policies kill. Maybe we should we create a fifth category - death by 'governmental benign neglect'. Here I'm highlighting that we don't seem to have a word for the mechanism where a government - democratically elected - avert their eyes. I wasn't - and am not - having a go at the British or their Empire. I am having a go at the rather lop-sided use of statistics. Historians occasionally make estimates of losses - even of civilian losses - as a result of long-term policies pursued by long-dead governments. I think we should do the same - apply our yardstick to ourselves and the system we represent; this might do either of two things: (a) establish a benchmark - that's one way of looking at it: the losses under our economic system are 'acceptable' and other systems should emulate us and our figures of civilian deaths; or (b) or cause a self-evaluation based on Humanist principles; we may decide that our figures are needlessly high, and seek to change the system.
  10. Who was worse Hitler or Stalin?

    Having read Snyder's article - which appears a fair summation - I stand corrected. What is described as 'famine' is often a deliberate famine orchestrated by Stalin, and those famines caused more than 3 million lives. My remaining question is this: was there also a nature-caused famine (say, due to drought) which Stalin exploited and deliberately worsened to his own political ends? I ask, not in order to excuse Stalin - what he did was inexcusable - but because Snyder says that the famine 'spread to Kazakhstan' - which makes it sound as if there were natural forces at play as well as human cruelty. Even if this were the case, what Stalin did was to prevent alleviation of the effect of such an natural disaster, and we know that he added to it. Snyder asks whether it is meaningful to compare cruelties - Stalin's versus Hitler's - and replies that yes it is in so far as every life lost is 'an infinity'. Nicely put! The total figures, he says, is a totality of infinities. Now, some of you will be angry with me for saying this - and you may accuse me of unworthy political motives - but one weakness in making the comparison that Snyder, and we, make is that we are comparing countries, or rather regimes, rather than ideologies. Would we not be justified in also attempting to assess - calculate - the civilian losses due to colonialism (this includes Tsarist and Soviet colonialism), Nazism, communism, and capitalism. Now figures are out in regard to colonialism, Nazism, and communism, but I haven't seen any estimated figures for capitalism. I see an immediate problem, namely a debate about which civilian losses could have been prevented by government intervention and which could not; and frankly I don't have an answer to this. But it seems to me a little one-sided - maybe even a little self-serving? - to measure the suffering meted out by certain other governments (tyrannies) and leave out, or avoid, an attempt at measuring the suffering inflicted, or contributed to, by democracies. I suppose that I have in mind the assertion by some Classical historians that the first recorded massacre in history was committed by Athens on some island the population of which had refused to join the expanding Athenian empire; the point being that democracies can, and do, inflict deliberate civilian casualties in what we now call ethnic cleansing and genocide. What I have in mind, in particular, is the loss of lives due to the structures of democratic capitalist governments - a structure that bias the economic outcome and hence the security and health of their citizens. We have, then, starvation as a factor in capitalist developing countries, and we have poverty mental health problems, and homelessness in democratic capitalist developed countries as a function of deliberate government policies. Part of the banking crisis of 2008 was mass homelessness of many of the people who couldn't meet their mortgage payments; and 'measures' such as austerity also kill civilians.
  11. And following on from Joris' remark: "Failure to take Britain out of the war...", the Axis powers' failure to take out Malta. By holding on to Malta, the British navy and air force were able to pretty well control attempts by Germany and Italy to supply and reinforce their armies in North Africa. This in turn pinned down German forces in North Africa - they had to defend themselves against British and Commonwealth forces - and they were stopped at El Alamein from advancing into the Mandate of Palestine and on towards the Caucasus mountains where they cause havoc to Soviet forced and help capture the oil fields around the Caspian Sea. Malta was strategically important out of proportion to its small size. And by the German forces being pinned down in North Africa by Britain and its allies in North Africa, this effective German war machine was prevented from joining the fighting anywhere on the Eastern Front. - I agree also with Philip Whitehouse that Italy's attack on the Balkans hampered Germany's military strength on the Eastern front both in terms of war material and the wastage of time in a 'silly' war that could have been avoided.
  12. I don't know about the details of Oliver Stone's account as reported by Mike Smith; I haven't seen the film. But I wouldn't discount the possibility that some American presidential elections are rigged, or at least made to unfairly favour one contestant. I won't use Trump and the possible intervention of Russia, via WikiLeaks, in the 2016 election campaign, because this is (or would be) a unique feature of that election campaign. But the fact that Hillary Clinton was able - somehow - to black Bernie Sanders from winning the Democratic nomination even had he gained more votes than her, does show that American presidential elections can be manipulated by an influential candidate and her/his supporters.
  13. Otto Skorzeny

    Thank you Joris, for the film clip. I used to be near-fluent in German but that's over 50 years ago, and in this film I only catch certain phrases. But looking at our 'friend' Otto, and reading Wikipedia's account, which barely skims the surface of his psyche, he is a chameleon - he has no country, no cause, no inner centre; he is not attached by allegiance to anyone - as you and others have said here, he was 'con'. And yet, he was good at being a conman; he knew how to dissemble, and he was prepared to act the dissembler for the highest bidder. Lord Mountbatten was a narcissist, too; did you watch his television series - on himself, of course? - although unlike Skorzeny (as far as we know) he didn't play double-games; Mountbatten's game was raw, unadulterated, but transparent, naïve, and essentially harmless narcissism. Trump's narcissism is somewhat different, because whereas Skorzeny and Mountbatten would have been aware of their high self-regard, and played on it, and probably hammed it up, Trump's narcissism lacks their self-reflective element and is therefore more open to manipulation by others - by flattery, for example. The good thing about Trump is that he is not open to blackmail, the reason being that he has no sense of shame; one cannot blackmail a person who is not sufficiently socially connect or narcissistically threatened to feel any need at all to defend himself from public shaming. In fact, one could speculate that Trump seeks public shaming without actually feeling shame; it may be that it excites him.
  14. Otto Skorzeny

    Reading Wikipedia's entry (and that is the limits of my knowledge about him) on Skorzeny suggests that the Germans knew how to make use of him and his 'talent' as a pretender. It made for a colourful life, but as you both point out, he didn't actually achieve much. Malcolm Muggeridge is said to have remarked that double-agents eventually tend to become confused about who they actually are. I appreciate that Skorzeny wasn't a double-agent - although he seems to have worked for Egypt and later for Mossad in the 1950s - but dissembling was his game and it wouldn't be surprising if he used this skill to further his reputation. I wonder how much is actually true in the Wikipedia entry?
  15. Sorry, I will try - really, really try - not to draw any comparisons with the mind-set inherent in Stalinism and the mind-set inherent in neoliberalism. Because - we must not even try to learn from History. Sticking with the past is safe - well, safer.