#971 – Dick Bernard: Experiencing History. Cuba, Iran, North Korea and other places.

We are, I think, in a very significant time in international history. And it is a good time, but very scary for those who need enemies to be scared of, and dangerous because of a desire to maintain the historical status quo of enemies and war as a solution..
It is a good time to look at the pre-history (that which occurred before the recent history that we are directed towards.) There is a tendency to ignore bad decisions long before that lead to the present. For instance, WWI, the war to end all wars, had a lot to do with creating WWII….
President Obama continues to make very good calls on very complex international situations. Without doubt, he’ll be vilified for all of them, because he’s plowing new ground. As I said in the previous paragraph, it is a good time, for each of us, to start brushing up on history, the history we won’t easily find or hear about, since some things are considered by official dispensers of information to be best left unsaid….

Some snippets, from a bystander (I could easily make this post much, much longer):
1. Added Dec. 19, from reader John Noltner: “I thought I’d share a little of the Cuban beauty I found when I was there a couple years back.” You can view his montage here. John’s work, A Peace of My Mind, can be found here.
CUBA. I was in college when Fidel Castro took over Cuba (1959), and when President Eisenhower made Cuba an enemy state (1960).
Last night I looked at the college newspaper I edited then, and found the article on the front page about the “Afro-Cuban Review” which came to the college in summer 1961. I reread the article, and found the performers were from “Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad” – apparently no Cubans….
Back in those days, of course, having black people in our town was very unusual, a novelty, one could honestly say. Cuba then and now was a black country. So, also, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad, though, unlike Cuba, they weren’t Communist.
(click to enlarge)
Viking News, Valley City ND State Teachers College, July 5, 1961 page one
In 1962, in an Army barracks below Cheyenne Mountain in suburban Colorado Springs, I watched President Kennedy address the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis (mid-October, 1962). Colorado, then and now, bristled with military installations and was in the bulls eye, so the Rocky Mountain News reminded us. It was a very nervous time for we young GIs, but it passed quickly.
Ultimately Presidents Kennedy and Khruschev decided there were better ways to deal with their relationship than pointing missiles at each other. We didn’t want Soviet missiles in our backyard much like, I suppose, the Russians are not keen on having NATO missiles in their backyard in Ukraine or such today.
And need I mention how it all started, with Teddy Roosevelt’s “charge up San Juan Hill” and the Spanish-American War which began in 1898, the pretext being the supposed bombing of the USS Maine in Havana harbor.
My Grandpa Bernard didn’t go to Cuba, then, but he did spend a year in the Philippines 1898-99, part of the Spanish-American War which gained for the U.S., Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines, and created the largely ignored part of Cuban-American history we need to read for the first time, between 1898 and 1959….
2. NORTH KOREA. Last night Nora O’Donnell’s (CBS Evening News) voice went dead on-air while talking about the apparently connection between North Korea and the hacking of Sony Pictures and the cancellation of the movie “The Interview” scheduled for Christmas Day. It was a long and distinct enough breach so I wondered: was that brief time of dead-air not a coincidence….
There is lots of pre-history here, too.
A week or two ago I had lunch with an executive of a major corporation here, and was moved to ask a dumb question.
He was South Korean by birth and upbringing, much younger than the Korean War, and I asked him, because I didn’t know, how it was that North and South Korea came to be.
Korea at the time of WWII was part of the Empire of Japan; many of the soldiers killed in places like China and the Pacific Theater were Korean conscripts, he said. As I mentioned at table, “cannon fodder?” Of course.
After the War the victors, split Korea into two: North and South. “The victors”, in this case, were what have been since 1945 and presently remain the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: Russia, China, U.S., France, United Kingdom. Not long thereafter came the Korean War, and the deadly military adventure there, including General McArthur’s being fired by Eisenhower for exceeding his authority, and over 60 years of history where we apparently have preferred having an enemy, than working towards resolution.
Check it out.
3. IRAN. History begins where political leaders want it to begin.
It is that way in all regimes, whether good guys or bad.
Our public history of Iran begins with the U.S. Embassy Hostage Crisis of 1979, which was very useful in bringing down President Carter in the 1980 election.
You have to look a bit further to find the back-story: the overthrow in 1953 of democratically elected Iranian President Mossadegh by covert organizing by the West, especially somebody by the name of Kermit Roosevelt, is mostly overlooked.
The objective: to protect western oil fields in Iran. The Shah of Iran was installed, and was hated by the people he governed. Near his end, he was hospitalized in the Mayo Clinic, in our own state. In effect, we welcomed the leader Iranians hated.
I somewhat haplessly crossed through an interesting demonstration by Iranians when President Carter came to Minneapolis in 1978 for a political event. Their heads were covered with grocery bags, and the demonstration was completely peaceful, but serious. This was before the hostage crisis a year later….
4. ETC.
In this post, I give no links. I didn’t even fact check the specific dates, since I lived some of them and have learned the others over the years.
Take some time to see where history began in these and other circumstances.
I applaud President Obama for his move towards normalizing relationships.
May it continue, regardless of the political hysteria it will excite.
from Jeff:
Nora O’Donnell… wow, I saw that, Bridget mentioned it and I said “you must have touched the mute on the remote” (she did have it in her hand)… she said she didn’t. I never thought of that connection. And it’s odd as I/we seldom watch the network news at 5:30…
I think the Sony decision was amazing… now it is said to have come from N Korea…a commentator on CNN said expect to see the USA and international financial community cut off all financing for N Korea…apparently they did that several years ago and in 2 to 3 weeks they couldn’t pay the Generals…things changed quickly.
Cuba: good op/ed in the NYT saying basically the GOP is following old thinking per usual. Actually I suspect that except for the Florida crew and Menendez from NJ, and of course, Cruz, there are few against this. The GOP in the new Congress might try to scuttle it but its insipidly stupid. Has been for years… the logic of having on going relations with Russia, Japan, Vietnam, Germany, Venezuela, etc. after and during times of enmity is so overwhelming its beyond speaking. We bankrupted a country and people. The moneyed criollo class who came here post-Castro have called the shots for years and the yokels have eaten it up.
Personally I think the change has a lot to do with the current Russian situation…I think the handwriting is on the wall for Cuba… Russia is heading toward a complete economic meltdown and that is not good for Cuba.
Korea: I don’t know the history of the conscripts of Japan… of course I know the history of the “comfort women” and the general historical enmity between Korea and Japan. My guess is Korean conscripts largely died in China during the war.
Philippines: the war there has been mentioned several times as a complete precursor to our Iraq expedition. Imperialism based on ignorance and blithely turning a population into an enemy.
From SAK: Many thanks for drawing attention to #971 – I agree it is much better to make friends than enemies & especially in this world of ours with vulnerable internet/communications & weapons that are readily available and devastating!
I have been investigating WWI a lot since it is a sad anniversary of sorts – except for the Christmas truce [1914, 100th anniversary this year] which moves me every time I read about it – I also watched a very good French film about it. I suppose instead of the war to end all wars that was the peace to end all peace (1918-19).
As for Mossadegh & other oily business a French/German channel recently broadcast a couple of episodes:
“La face caché du petrole”
1. dividing the world here; and
2. manipulations, here.
from David: Thank you for your peaceable perspective.
President Truman canned Dug Out Doug-ie. That is what my Chief Petty Officer called the fade away soldier. A member of our Chapter 154 (Vets for Peace Fargo-Moorhead) has an anti-war brochure on the Philippines. Horrendous anti-terrorist and insurrectionist atrocities there. I call us the run-to-the-gun Nation.
Blessings on all — animal mineral vegetable.
from Flo: Yesterday, when I heard President Obama on MPR telling us of his executive orders to make the changes he could in our relations with Cuba, I cried for joy! Then I pulled out our photo album with pictures and memorabilia of our 2012 Lexington Institute educational tour to Cuba with about 30 returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Yes, the government of Cuba must make changes, too, but the Cuban people certainly don’t deserve the sanctions and the embargo imposed by our own government. Neither do we, who declare ourselves FREE. The instructions we received on what we could and couldn’t purchase and bring back with us to the USA and what we could and couldn’t do required a full page of small print!
My fervent parting hope for Cuba was that the American embargo be lifted and the curtain separating our countries be shredded. Thank you, President Obama, for giving my hope wings!
More from Dick:
An amusing footnote: Back in the 1990s I was having a conversation with a valued relative, my Dad’s cousin, who was a retired bank president in a major Minnesota town, an executive type who had been President of the Minnesota Bankers Association, and before that rose briefly to Colonel in the WWII Army in the Pacific, right at the end of the War.
Somehow or other we got to talking about Castro and Cuba.
“You know”, Marvin said, “back in 1959 I made a $5 bet with a friend that Castro wouldn’t last six months. Guess I got that one wrong.”
A not so amusing footnote: Our complete dependence on the cyber-world (internet) is perhaps our major vulnerability as a country. Imagine your world, today, without computers. In my opinion, it is unimaginable.
The only fail-safe I see is that the world is now so tied together – so interdependent – that an attempt to destroy one countries capabilities would be as destructive to the enemy as to the target. The internet is, in a sense, even more our mad, mad world, than the insane nuclear arsenal we still find a need to have.
An awful footnote: In this same fortnight came the intersection of two events: the terrible tragedy of the bombing of the school in Pakistan, with more than 100 dead; and the grotesque defense of torture back in the good old days by Dick Cheney and company, and the quiet acquiescence of a distressingly high percentage of Americans to that practice of torture.
In this age of misinformation, disinformation, false flags and the like, it is risky to believe any narrative put forth by anyone about anything.
In my opinion, we forfeited our innocence and goodness the first time we tortured someone to attempt to extract information, and even if we now totally outlaw the practice, it will be a very long time for us to restore our standing as even slightly righteous.

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