Sunday, October 23, 2016

October 23, 2016

Los Alamos Study Group.  Bulletin 223: Historic UN vote to mandate negotiation of treaty banning nuclear weapons

1.      Historic UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote to mandate 2017 negotiation of treaty banning nuclear weapons to occur within next few days, probably this Thursday
2.      A brief history of the nuclear weapons ban movement so far
3.      Santa Fe planning meeting notes posted

That scrawny cry—it was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

“Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself,” Wallace Stevens

Dear friends –

1.      Historic UNGA vote to mandate 2017 negotiation of nuclear ban treaty

Resolution L41, “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations,” with 48 co-sponsors as of two days ago, is coming to vote sometime between this Thursday, 27 October, and the following Wednesday, 2 November. Citizen diplomats from around the world affiliated with ICAN who are gathered at the UN in New York), believe the most likely date and time for this vote is this Thursday, between 3:00 and 6:00 pm Eastern time.

It is a moment of high drama in disarmament affairs. For the UN to mandate negotiations to ban nuclear weapons – a process now happening, led by non-nuclear states – is unprecedented. It is the most significant development in nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War.

This resolution is all but certain to pass. Some 127 countries havepledged to support ban negotiations (or 139, counting the countries which voted for the same pledge in the form of an UNGA resolution last fall), about two-thirds of the 193 UN member states.

This negotiating mandate is a product of the rising multipolar world, as U.S. diplomats recognize to their horror and outrage. Much more than the legitimacy and status of nuclear weapons is in play. As we wrote last year,

“…the ban process is not just about nuclear weapons. It’s also about power and initiative in world affairs – who has it, and who does not. The ban process, as opposed to other [purely] hypothetical disarmament paths (steps, building blocks, comprehensive binding disarmament treaties, and all other processes which nuclear weapon states can veto) is about who decides whether nuclear weapons are legitimate.

The Washington Post called the ban process an “uprising among civil society groups and the coalition of 107 [now 127] states, which are seeking to reframe the disarmament debate as an urgent matter of safety, morality and humanitarian law.”

A ban treaty would stigmatize and prohibit nuclear weapons, closing the “legal gap” stemming from nuclear weapon state practice and their associated assertion in diplomatic and legal fora that nuclear weapons are completely legitimate weapons – for them, and them only.

It has always been a stated UN goal to eliminate nuclear weapons, going back to the very first resolution of the UNGA in 1946. (It passed unanimously, since it was toothless; text and statements here.)

The political commitments being made in this process are alreadyfreshly stigmatizing nuclear weapons. They are bringing into diplomatic consciousness and state policy humanity’s inherent revulsion toward these most heinous weapons of mass destruction. In this process the prestige of nuclear weapons, their paralyzing mystique and their practical power in international relations, are already declining.

As of 21 October the 48 co-sponsors of L41 were:

Angola, Austria, Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Malawi, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, San Marino, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia.

The resolution’s operative paragraphs mandate “a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination,” to occur “from 27 to 31 March and from 15 June to 7 July 2017, with the participation and contribution of international organizations and civil society representatives.”

Crucially, treaty negotiations would occur under General Assembly rules – that is, without a consensus requirement or veto option for a privileged few, “unless otherwise agreed by the conference.” Creating a negotiating forum without a de facto veto rule has been a major goal of the resolution’s sponsors and this is therefore unlikely to change.

L41 requires the conference to “submit a report on its progress to the General Assembly at its seventy-second session [autumn 2017], which will assess the progress made in the negotiations and decide the way forward” – by majority rule, again.

“The resolution,” as ICAN notes, “acts on a recommendationmade in August by a UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament in Geneva. More than 100 nations participated in the working group, with an overwhelming majority expressing their support for the prohibition of nuclear weapons as a first step towards elimination.”

The basic case for a nuclear ban treaty can be found here, with links to further information.

Many may find the recent UN press conference on 14 October discussing the ban with Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s Executive Director, and Professor Matthew Bolton from Pace University, to be both interesting and accessible.

ICAN staff have been live-blogging highlights from the debate.Reaching Critical Will (RCW) has captured and posted many countries’ statements here.

Or you can cut to the chase and read Wildfire’s funny (but erudite, wholly accurate, and concise) analyses here.

Needless to say, the U.S. strenuously opposes any ban treaty and indeed the whole process, which it has vowed to boycott. On Friday Foreign Policy ran a good article by Colum Lynch (“U.S. Seeks to Scupper Proposed Ban on Nuclear Arms”) on U.S. opposition, with this rather sad lede: “Almost eight years after President Barack Obama pledged in a landmark speech in Prague to seek “a world without nuclear weapons,” U.S. diplomats are mounting an aggressive campaign to head off a bid by non-nuclear states to ban such atomic arms.” One of Lynch’s anonymous informants spoke of threats: “Washington has warned states considering voting in favor of the resolution that a ban could jeopardize defense arrangements with allies around the globe.” The hostility and aura of threat in the statements of the U.S. and the U.K. in particular were hard to mistake.

What Lynch did not say was what Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman told me (Mello) in August: the U.S. fears the democratic “pressure” a ban will place on our allies, especially in Europe, to rid themselves of nuclear weapons, both physically and in terms of nuclear “umbrella” agreements, while little or no such “pressure” will appear in Russia or China.

Faith communities and ecumenical councils such as the World Council of Churches have been very active and effective participants in this process. Especially here in New Mexico it is important to note the very clear position of the Catholic Church. This past Monday, for example, the Holy See called nuclear deterrence a “tragic illusion.” “Nuclear arms offer a false sense of security and the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion,” said the Vatican, as the Catholic News Agencyreported. (Original statement here in French.) “‘The indefinite possession of nuclear weapons is morally wrong,’ an affront to the ‘entire framework of the United Nations’ and a contradiction to its vocation of service to humanity and the global common good,” the agency reported.  

2.      A brief history of the nuclear weapons ban movement so far

With negotiations poised to begin soon, it might be good to very briefly review how we got here.

The first seeds of the ban campaign were sown in 2005, with an open letter to colleagues from prominent Malaysian physician Dr. Ron McCoy, a long-time nuclear disarmament expert and former president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). In a speech to campaigners in Geneva this past spring Dr. McCoy recalled:

When I returned home on 24 May 2005, I was greeted with the news of the failed 2005 NPT Review Conference. As I mulled over the paralysis of the NPT process, it became clear to me that IPPNW and the disarmament movement had once again been led up the NPT garden path. The [nuclear weapon states] had staged another nuclear charade. Then the penny dropped! I realised that it was time to think out of the NPT box and formulate a different approach! Four days later, I emailed the following open letter to IPPNW affiliates:

“There are lessons to be learnt from the landmines ban campaign. As you know, I have for some time been advocating lateral thinking and a new approach to nuclear disarmament, parallel to the deadlocked NPT process, which has once again been demonstrated at the UN this month, thirty-five years after the ratification of the NPTAlthough I realise that nuclear weapons are not strategically similar to landmines, I nevertheless believe that IPPNW must coalesce with other groups, find the support of like-minded governments, and launch an ‘Ottawa-style process’ for the elimination of nuclear weapons…We can call it an International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, with the acronym ICAN. Let’s start working on this right now.”

An extraordinary number of responses came back, most of them supporting the formation of ICAN. When the incredibly inspiring Australian affiliate of IPPNW, the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW), secured generous funding from the Poola Foundation, it put together a dynamic team and programme and organised the launching of ICAN in Vienna on 30 April 2007 to coincide with the NPT Preparatory Committee Meeting that week in Vienna. ICAN simply took off after that!

I’d like to acknowledge the stalwarts of MAPW who made ICAN into such an effective, vigorous campaign. They are Tilman Ruff, Felicity Ruby (chief coordinator), Ian Maddocks, Sue Wareham, Bill Williams, Fred Mendelsohn, Dimity Hawkins, Tim Wright, and many others.

In a speech earlier this month at the launch of the special 2016 issue of the International Review of the Red Cross on the human cost of nuclear weapons, Dr. Tilman Ruff, a current co-president of IPPNW and recipient of the Order of Australia, made these pertinent remarks:

I am delighted to have been asked to share something about the current historic opportunity. Finally, seventy-one years after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a treaty to outlaw the world’s worst weapons will be one significant step closer, should the UNGA First Committee adopt the resolution onnuclear disarmament negotiations (.pdf). Reaching this game-changing milestone is largely a result of the humanitarian initiative in which our Red Cross Red Crescent movement has played a decisive role.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) of which I have the privilege of being the founding chair, was established in 2007 with the goal of uniting as many diverse civil society organizations as possible around the goal of a comprehensive, binding, universal treaty to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons, and to base the campaign on their appalling humanitarian effects. The humanitarian initiative really got moving with ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger’s landmark address to the Geneva diplomatic corps in April 2010, just before the five yearly Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. The governing bodies of the Red Cross Red Crescent movement have been calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons since September 1945. However, Kellenberger signaled that the humanitarian imperative to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons was not only unacceptably unfinished business, but an urgent humanitarian imperative, which would henceforth be a renewed priority for the world’s largest humanitarian network, including not only ICRC, but also the International Federation and national societies.

His speech gave the impetus for the recognition in the 2010 NPT Review Conference (consensus)outcome document, for the first time, of “the catastrophic consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”. This encouraged the Norwegian government in 2013 to hold the first-everinternational conference dedicated to reviewing and updating the evidence on humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, and for the conferences in Mexicoand Austria in 2014 which engaged the vast majority of the world’s governments and consolidated and extended this evidence.

These informed and motivated a series of resolutions in UN and NPT forums with growing support, drawing attention to the humanitarian dimensions crucial to nuclear disarmament; and theHumanitarian Pledge, initiated by Austria and now endorsed by 127 states, committing “to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders … to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks”; and to “fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”.

The Pledge led to the creation of a special UN Working Group, mandated by the 2015 General Assembly to report back to the 2016 UNGA on“effective legal measures required to attain and maintain a world free of nuclear weapons”. The Working Group recommended … by a majority of over three to one that the UNGA “convene a conference in 2017, open to all States, with the participation and contribution of international organisations and civil society, to negotiate on a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. This recommendation has now been taken forward in the form of a resolution submitted to the current UN General Assembly, to be voted on around the end of October. This will be both a moment of truth, and the most significant opportunity for a game-changing step to break the logjam in nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War more than a quarter of a century ago.

As we wrote from the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December 2014, this campaign is different than others we have seen.  

The effort to ban nuclear weapons isn’t appearing out of nowhere, but rather builds upon many fine efforts made over the decades since the Cold War. While actively incorporating the efforts of U.S. experts and many long-time campaigners, this is a movement in a new key. It can be distinguished from prior U.S. efforts we have known in these positive ways:

·         It is not based in the U.S. and not subject to the adverse political conditions that prevail here;
·         Its leadership is a full generation younger than that in U.S. nuclear policy organizations, which by and large have not been successful in generational renewal;
·         Its funding does not come from, nor is it hostage to, U.S. foundations;
·         Its leadership is multinational, naturally diverse, and does not lie in any particular organization;
·         Indeed instead of being “institution-centric” or even “network-centric,” which invariably lead to strong inside/outside dichotomies and turf battles, the campaign is organized around a clear moral vision and a clear political objective, namely a ban;
·         Many of the leading organizations involved are not primarily or exclusively focused on nuclear weapons but rather on broader humanitarian and development objectives in peace and/or war; and most crucially,
·         Achievement of a ban on nuclear weapons does not depend on the sympathy or even the participation of nuclear weapon states.

It is difficult to adequately express for U.S. audiences, and difficult to overstate, the all-around competence, intellectual and political clarity, good will, and zeal of the ICAN team. It far exceeds in all these ways anything we have seen before. It is a privilege to help however we can.

Next time: Whither nuclear disarmament in the U.S.?

3.      Santa Fe planning meeting notes posted

Despite competing with the final presidential debate, we had a pretty good turnout in Santa Fe on October 19 (thank you John and Denise!). Of course only ~1% of the people on this list-serve could be there, so we have posted the slides we used (including some we didn’t get to that evening).

In the interest of time we completely dropped the fundraising aspect of the evening, so I urge to please consider slide 7, some of which may be new to you (such as our newish corporate sponsorships with two fine solar companies).

We had a terrific discussion, but frankly we are not getting across to our members the transcendent necessity for organizedfull-timeresistance and constructive action. The climate crisis worsens year by year, with only a few years remaining before catastrophic positive feedbacks take over; our never-ending wars are expanding and intensifying week by week; our oil-based, highly-unequal economies are faltering, for fundamental reasons (alsohere). I could go on.

This is hard to take on board for all of us, but we really do need to grasp that we are passengers in a climate vehicle heading rapidly toward the end of all things. There is no hope for anyone or anything without wresting control from the maniacs driving this bus. This will be painful but it has to be done.

I urge everyone to re-read our letter of 21 April 2015, which says in part:  

Probably many or most of you saw Tim DeChristopher's letter to churches, "Lead, Don’t Follow on Climate Justice," republished at Truthout.  The same letter could as well have been written regarding nuclear disarmament, and many other issues.

As we wrote earlier, we don't think we are going to win without creating more full-time or at least half-time occupations and careers for organizers, lobbyists, writers, and so on in political change in our communities.

For many of us these political activities will be naturally combined with "transition" activities that generally fall under the Gandhian "constructive program."  But the constructive program in all its forms is not enough, because there is a war going on.  The Koch brothers want the resources you save, to put it bluntly.  There won't be peace, and there won't be justice, and there won't even be atomorrow for millions of people and species unless we protect them and make those conditions.

As we have said previously "we" need to offer jobs to capable young people with whatever resources we have got in order to accomplish particular, and as it will turn out, highly disruptive political goals.  We are in an emergency situation.  This quality is somehow missing from most of the political discourse we see on the left, here and everywhere.  Where are the resources to do this?  They are in our own homes and bank accounts and those of our friends and their friends, but the social and political "software" is largely missing.  We are a society which bowls alone, as Robert Putnam wrote so long ago.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Taos screening of "Forgotten Bomb" this Sat [Jan. 10] 7-9pm at Moby Dickens

For those living near Taos, NM interested in nuclear weapons and in particular, the myths surrounding these weapons and LANL’s role in promoting these weapons, there will be a showing of New Mexico’s Bud Ryan’s film, ”The Forgotten Bomb”  (no charge) at Moby Dickens Bookstore 124A Bent Street, Saturday, Jan. 10 from 7-9 pm.  The film producer, Bud ryan will be in attendance to answer questions.

The film’s website is here:
The 2:09 minute trailer is here:

Steven Okazaki, Director, White Light, Black Rain, has called this "The best big view of the subject I've amazing piece of work."  I concur, as this is one of the few films that give a sense of the secrecy, censorship, and misdirection the late Stewart Udall called ““the most long-lived program of public deception in U.S. history.” [“Myths of August”, 1998, p. 321]  In the same book he wrote:
“I learned that war leaders who are given complete power to manage “war news” usually try to control how the histories of wars—and their role in those wars—are written.  I learned to be wary of interpretations advanced by historians hired by generals to write official histories in the aftermath of wars. I learned also to be skeptical about self-serving statements in memoirs written by war leaders. And I finally learned that even after pertinent documents have been declassified there are instances when hidden decisions must be deduced from circumstantial evidence.”
In an earlier NYTimes [8 June 1993] interview of Stewart Udall stated:                     []
"There is nothing comparable in our history to the deceit and the lying that took place as a matter of official Government policy in order to protect this industry," said Mr. Udall. "Nothing was going to stop them and they were willing to kill our own people…. "The atomic weapons race and the secrecy surrounding it crushed American democracy," Mr. Udall said in a interview. "It induced us to conduct Government according to lies. It distorted justice. It undermined American morality. Until the cold war, our country stood for something.”
If all this is of interest, this movie gives an excellent sense of the larger view of weapons, including interviews of Gar Alperovitz, Jonathan Schell, and George Shultz. In addition, the film explores the differing treatment of nuclear museums in the U.S. as opposed to overseas museums. It also documents how the “Myths of August”, the assertion that the atomic bomb helped end the war and save “a million lives” came into being, by using archival footage.

This film is sponsored by Taos "Love in Action" and Moby Dickens bookstore.

Future films in this series are here:

PS in posting to Taos Groups, Bonnie Korman wrote:

This film highly recommended, by me!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

From LASG: Obama Administration Unveils 25-Year, $275 B Plan for Nuclear Warheads, Production Plants

Obama Administration Unveils 25-Year, $275 B
an for Nuclear Warheads, Production Plants

Costly, Ambitious Plan at Variance with Obama’s Berlin Speech
Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200, 505-577-8563
Albuquerque – Roughly contemporaneous with President Obama’s speech in Berlin expressing aspirations to nuclear disarmament, the administration released a $275 billion (B), 25-year plan (pdf) to maintain, design, and produce new nuclear warheads and build up U.S. warhead production capacity.[1]

In its proposed cost and scope of work, this week’s plan eclipses all prior planning for U.S. nuclear warheads.

Among its other features the new plan would:

Monday, January 28, 2013

“How The World Was Lost”

From:   they thought they were free”, Milton Mayer, 1955    pp. 176-180

     Another colleague of mine brought me even close to the heart of the matter – and closer to home. A chemical engineer by profession, he was a man of whom, before I knew him, I had been told, “He is one of those rare birds among Germans—a European.”  One day, when we had become very friendly, I said to him, “Tell me now—how was the world lost”
     “That,” he said, “is easy to tell, much easier than you may suppose. The world was lost one day in 1935, here in Germany. It was I who lost it, and I will tell you how. 

      “I was employed in a defense plant (a war plant, of course, but they were always called defense plants). That was the year of the National Defense Law, the law of ‘total conscription.’  Under the law I was required to take the oath of fidelity.  I said I would not; I opposed it in conscience. I was given twenty-four hours to ‘think it over.’  In those twnty-four hours I lost the world.”
     “Yes?”  I said.
     “You see, refusal would have meant the loss of my job, of course, not prison or anything like that. (Later on, the penalty was worse, but this was only 1935.) But losing my job would have meant that I could not get another.  Wherever I went I should be asked why I left the job I had, and, when I said why, I should certainly have been refused employment.  Nobody would hire a ‘Bolshevik.’ Of course I was not a Bolshevik, but you understand what I mean.”
     Yes,” I said.
     “I tried not to think of myself or my family. We might have got out of the country, in any case, and I could have got a job in industry or education somewhere else.
     “What I tried to think of was the people I might be of some help later on, if things got worse (as I believed they would).  I had a wide friendship in scientific and academic circles, including many Jews and ‘Aryans,’ too, who might be in trouble.  If I took the oath and held my job, I might be of help, somehow, as things went on. If I refused to take the oath, I would certainly be useless to my friends, even if I remained in the country. I myself would be in their situation.
     The next day, after ‘thinking it over,’ I said I would take the oath with the mental reservation that, by the words with which the oath began, ‘Ich schwöre bei Gott, I swear by God,’ I understood that no human being and no government had the right to override my conscience.  My mental reservations did not interest the official who administered the oath.  He said, ‘Do you take the oath?’ and I took it. That day the world was lost, and I was the one who lost it.
     “Do I understand,” I said, “that you think you should not have taken the oath?”
      “But,” I said, “you did save many lives later on.  You were of greater use to your friends than you ever dreamed you might be.” (My friend’s apartment was, until his arrest and imprisonment in 1943, a hideout for fugitives.)
     “For the sake of the argument,” he said, “I will agree that I saved many lives later on. Yes.”
     “Which you could not have done if you had refused to take the oath in 1935.”
     “And you still think that you should not have taken the oath.”
     “I don’t understand,” I said.
     “Perhaps not,” he said, “but you must not forget that you are an American. I mean that, really.  Americans have never known anything like this experience – in its entirety, all the way to the end.  That is the point.”
     “You must explain, “I said.
     “Of course I must explain. First of all, there is the problem of the lesser evil. Taking the oath was not so evil as being unable to help my friends later on would have been. But the evil of the oath was certain and immediate, and in helping my friends was in the future, and therefore uncertain. I had to commit a positive evil, there and then, in the hope of a possible good later on. The good outweighed the evil; but the good was only a hope, the evil a fact.”
     “But,” I said, “the hope was realized. You were able to help your friends.”
     “Yes,” he said, “but you must concede that the hope might not have been realized – either for reasons beyond my control or because I became afraid later on or even because I was afraid all the time and was simply fooling myself when I took the oath in the first place.
“But that is not the important point. The problem of the lesser evil we all know about; in Germany we took Hindenburg as less evil than Hitler, and in the end we got them both. But that is not why I say Americans cannot understand.  No, the important point is – how many innocent people were killed by the Nazis, would you say?”
     “Six million Jews alone, we are told.”
     “Well,that may be an exaggeration. And it does not include non-Jews, of whom there must have been many hundreds of thousands, or even millions.  Shall we say, just to be safe, that three million innocent people were killed all together?’ 
      I nodded.
     “And how many innocent lives would you like to say I saved?’  
     “You would know better than I,” I said.
     “Well,” he said, “perhaps five or ten, one doesn’t know.  But shall we say a hundred, or a thousand, just to be safe?”
     I nodded.
     “And it would have been better to have saved all three million, instead of only a hundred, or a thousand?”
     “Of course.
    “There, then, is my point. If I had refused to take the oath of fidelity, I would have saved all three million.”
     “You are joking,” I said.
     “Or that others would have followed your example?”
     “I don’t understand.”
     “You are an American,” he said again, smiling. “I will explain. There I was, in 1935, a perfect example of the kind of person who, with all his advantages in birth, in education, and in position, rules (or might easily rule) in any country. If I had refused to take the oath in 1935, it would have meant that thousands and thousands like me, all over Germany, were refusing to take it.  Their refusal would have heartened millions. Thus the regime would have been overthrown, or, indeed, would never have come to power in the first place. The fact that I was not prepared to resist in 1935, meant that all the thousands, hundreds of thousands, like me in Germany were also unprepared, and each of these hundreds of thousands was, like me, a man of great influence or of potential influence.  Thus the world was lost.”
     “You are serious?” I said.    

How the world was lost -1935

From The 1955 Book by Milton Mayer "they thought they were free", p. 176

       Another colleague of mine brought me even close to the heart of the matter – and closer to home. A chemical engineer by profession, he was a man of whom, before I knew him, I had been told, “He is one of those rare birds among Germans—a European.”  One day, when we had become very friendly, I said to him, “Tell me now—how was the world lost” 
     “That,” he said, “is easy to tell, much easier than you may suppose. The world was lost one day in 1935, here in Germany. It was I who lost it, and I will tell you how.”

open up Milton's book at Amazon, "look inside" with search term "chemical engineer" to learn how.

Milton Mayer: They Thought They Were Free THE GERMANS, 1933-45

They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45  

An Excerpt:

But Then It Was Too Late

"What no one seemed to notice," said a colleague of mine, a philologist, "was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people.
 "What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

"This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

Full excerpt, "But Then It Was Too Late"


Milton Sanford Mayer (1908-1986) was a journalist and educator. He was the author of about a dozen books. 

He studied at the University of Chicago from 1925 to 1928 but he did not earn a degree; in 1942 he told the Saturday Evening Post that he was "placed on permanent probation for throwing beer bottles out a dormitory window." He was a reporter for the Associated Press, the Chicago Evening Post, and theChicago Evening American. He wrote a monthly column in the Progressive for over forty years. He won the George Polk Memorial Award and the Benjamin Franklin Citation for Journalism. 

He worked for the University of Chicago in its public relations office and lectured in its Great Books Program. He also taught at the University of Massachusetts, Hampshire College, and the University of Louisville. He was an adviser to Robert M. Hutchins when Hutchins founded the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. 

Mayer was a conscientious objector during World War II but after the war traveled to Germany and lived with German families. Those experiences [Primarily very extensive relationships he formed with ten individuals, centered around involvement with the burning of a synagogue on Nov. 8, 19349- which they didn't know] informed his most influential book They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45.

The review, from his daughter:

187 of 196 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "M" in my name stands for "Mayer." March 31, 2008
It is wonderful to see so many thoughtful and incisive reviews of my father's book. A few details that might interest you: 1) None of the "unimportant Nazis" he interviewed knew he was a Jew, which he was. 2) The book wasn't published in German for years after its original publication (we spent 1951 in the small town which Milton Mayer calls "Kronenberg," where he wrote the book, which was published shortly afterwards). 3) His German was awful! And, he said, this was a great aid in the interviews he conducted: having to repeat, in simpler words, or more slowly, what they had to say, made the Germans he was interviewing feel relaxed, equal to, superior to the interviewer, and this made them speak more freely. "Sehen Sie, Herr Professor Mayer, SO war die Sache," very patiently. ("You see, THIS is how it was...").
He made one small, but dreadful mistake: There is a very common name in German, to which Milton Mayer added a suffix--because, with the suffix, it was the name of a great family friend (in fact, my boyfriend four years later) and used it fictitiously for one of the interviewees.. However: with the suffix, it's a very RARE German name, and, having given the general location and size of the town together with the rare German name, he really identified the interviewee as-our family friend-- who was quite upset. (He never told my father this, though.)
My father was always a superlative interviewer; he said as little as possible, aside from encouraging the interviewee to go on talking. If someone seemed to be avoiding a subject he was really interested in, he would repeat the name of the subject the interviewee had abandoned, and look terribly keen and respectful.
When my father was about 14, a wind blew in one of his ears while he was camping out, paralyzing one nerve in his face. For the rest of his life, he could only open, while speaking, one side of his mouth (and he had a very diabolical grin), and could never raise both eyebrows--always, he was raising one eyebrow! This gave him a very wise look, somewhat ironic at the same time, and made him appear even smarter than he was.
My sister and I occasionally exchange "Misms." Things he used to say from time to time, some inherited from his father, and others from God knows where. Here are a couple (try them; they are very effective in many convrersations):
"I left it in my other suit."
"Been to the city and seen the gaslights."
I don't think I have anything to add substantively to what has already been said in the excellent reviews, aside from these few personal details. Milton Mayer died in 1986, and is survived by several real and step children, real and step grandchildren, and two great grandchildren (at least), all of whom, like him, are pacifists.

The Table of contents are here:

An excerpt from

They Thought They Were Free:  The Germans, 1933-45 by  Milton Mayer

But Then It Was Too Late

""What no one seemed to notice," said a colleague of mine, a philologist, "was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people"

"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

"This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter."

Full excerpt here

Friday, November 16, 2012

How Societies Retreated From Trust and Responsibility for Each Other - The Path Through the Atomic Bomb

Seems like Oliver is telling the story  "The Untold History of the United States", beginning with how the atomic bomb transformed American Society , that I have been preparing to tell. 

Sven Lindqvist  (born 1932) has written a trilogy on this, taking the broader world view over a longer period beginning in 762 with the Chinese invention of gunpowder. The story in the third book, "The History of Bombing"  is told in an interesting way:

This book is a labyrinth with twenty-two entrances and no exit. While printed in a chronological order, it is recommended to be read according to themes, and thus skips around chronological with  " >>"  suggesting the order the numbered sections are recommended to be read.

Section 1.                                                                            BANG, YOU’RE DEAD

"Bang, you're dead!" we said. "I got you!” we said. When we played, it was always war. A bunch of us together, one-on-one, or in solitary fantasies -- always war, always death.
      "Don't play like that," our parents said, "you could grow up that way." Some threat --there was no way we would rather be. We didn't need war toys. Any old stick became a weapon in our hands, and pine cones were bombs. I cannot recall taking a single piss during my childhood, whether outside or at home in the outhouse, when I didn't choose a target and bomb it. At five years old of age I was already a seasoned bombardier.
      “If everyone plays war,” said my mother, “there will be war.” And she was quite right – there was.  
                                                                                                >> Section. 166

166.    [1939]  When the Second World War broke out on the first of September in 1939, I was seven years old and had just started school. Suddenly I realized my father was already an old man.  He didn't even know how to put out a firebomb. He wouldn't be able to get out of the cellar of a house that had collapsed, he had no idea how to hide in the forest and dig down into the snow. He was stuck back in the first World War, and if I wanted to survive the second, the responsibility would be all mine.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

It's always puzzled me how societies moved from mutual cooperation, that Charles Darwin alleged was the most important inheritable characteristic for survival, to an Ayn Rand, dog eat dog, every man for himself mentality. Yes, I realize that Thomas Hobbes, in his Leviathan, 1651 wrote:
               ".....there be no Propriety, no Dominion, no Mine and Thine distinct; but only that to be                 every mans that he can get; and for so long, as he can keep it.

A Thread of my own making, to give a sense of how Sven Lindqvist tells a story.

1803. [#35-p13] 
Malthus:  Principles of Population (1803). It is quite possible to solve Europe’s food shortages temporarily by exterminating the native populations of other continents.
“If the United States of America continue increasing, which they will certainly do, though not with the same rapidity as formerly, the Indians will be drive further and further back into the country, till the whole race is ultimately exterminated, and the territory is incapable of further expansion.”
But not Africa or Asia.

“To exterminate the inhabitants of the greatest part of Asia and Africa is a thought that could not be permitted for a moment.”
1869.  [ #45 p. 17 ]   
Charles Dilke:  Greater Britain (1869).   Bestseller

              “The gradual extinction of the inferior races is not only a law of nature, but a blessing to    

1961. [ #315 p. 149 ]
Several hundred professors: Open letter to US President Kennedy:
                “By buying a shelter program that does not shelter, and thereby believing that we can  
                   survive a  nuclear war, we are increasing the problem of war.”

Margaret Mead.  The U.S. was no longer trying to build a safe world, or even a safe country or a safe city. No, the family sought instead an illusory security by creeping into itself and pulling back from the world. The last station on that line was the little hole in the ground where the family ducked and covered under attack from nuclear weapons. 

Margot A. Henriksen:  Dr. Strangelove’s America:  Society and Culture in the American Age.
                “The armed, individual  shelter is the logical end of this retreat from trust and
      responsibility for others.”

Lindqvist, Sven:  TheHistory of Bombing.    1999  Translated 2001 by Linda Rugg. New Press