Monday, June 6, 2016

Socialist John Pilger Pops Off

My attention was drawn to one of the most anti-American screeds I’ve seen since Kenny Anderson published Land of Hypocrisy and his list of “America’s Greatest Hits.” John Pilger apparently has his back up, and is not above inventing facts, twisting and ignoring history, exaggerating, and generally engaging in yellow journalism to make his case. Pilger claims to be on a mission to expose hidden agendas and myths that surround them, but he seems to have an agenda, and is not above inventing myths to further his cause, whatever it is.

I’m going to take apart Pilger’s rambling nonsense that he gave in an address at the University of Sydney, point by point.

First claim made in paragraph two, that the Marshall Island testing from 1946 to 1958 was the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for 12 years.  What Pilger is trying to do is stun you into shocked outrage at the amount of nuclear testing conducted by summing up the total explosive power, and dividing it by time span. This is disingenuous, given that a single thermonuclear detonation, Ivy Mike, was the equivalent explosive power of 700 Hiroshima bombs by itself.  Pilger would have you believe it was the volume of all this irresponsible testing that left Bikini atoll an uninhabitable wasteland. This is not the truth. It’s not the quantity of the nuclear testing, but the nature of the testing that made Bikini too hot to live in. Fission weapons, which formed the bulk of the testing in the Marshall Islands, have relatively small long-term radiological effects.  Witness the city of Hiroshima, today a bustling metropolis, even right at ground zero of the blast.  It’s the fusion weapons and their byproducts with long half-lives that make Bikini uninhabitable.  No, you’re not going to die of radiation poisoning if you set foot on the island.  The concern is that long-term ingestion of radioactive traces that could find their way into the food supply would pose a radiological health hazard to people who ate food that grew there.

Pilger then paints a grim, post-apocalyptic picture of Bikini, a land where, “Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds.”  Uh, John, trees growing in a “strange grid formation” is called an “orchard.”  Maybe you don’t have them in Australia.  Look it up.  As far as the birds go, maybe John needs to stop moving around and making so much noise and scaring the birds.  A 1986 study of the avifauna of Bikini Atoll recorded 23 species of birds present, of which ten were observed nesting on the islands.

In paragraph four, Pilger notes the victims of the testing, suffering from thyroid and other types of cancer. he effects of exposure to radioactive fallout were poorly understood at the dawn of the atomic age. The Micronesians were hardly the only victims of atomic testing, and by no means was America the only country that conducted dangerous above-ground tests which resulted in the irradiation of unintended victims. In the Soviet Union, the victims weren’t even unintentional, as civilians were encouraged to observe the weapons tests, as part of a study on the long-term effects of fallout exposure. But it’s all the fault of the evil, rapacious Superpower, as Pilger calls America in paragraph five, and the Micronesians were the hapless victims and guinea pigs of the superpower that’s more dangerous than ever today.  This is balderdash.  The Micronesian people were never the guinea pigs of any nuclear testing. The United States took every reasonable precaution to protect the inhabitants of Micronesia, given the limited understanding of nuclear fallout effects of the time.

Pilger’s outrage for the Bikini natives is based on the relocation of 167 people.  He insinuates that they are impoverished because of this relocation.  It doesn’t matter that there’s no industry on Bikini, it’s subsistence living, and that the population had reached its maximum sustainable level before the relocation. These people weren’t impoverished as a result of atomic testing.  They’re impoverished because they’re barely clinging to a tiny scrap of poverty-stricken coral in the middle of the ocean.

Pilger’s characterization of America as a superpower that’s more dangerous than ever today is belied by the facts. If America was indeed a dangerous superpower as claimed, it would be the only nuclear power in the world, as it would have used its nuclear superiority to quash the nuclear ambitions of upstarts around the world. Pilger’s political and historical myopia ignores the fact that nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear annihilation was the only thing that stood between the democracies of Western Europe and a Soviet army that could have rolled west to the Atlantic ocean with little or no resistance. Pilger forgets that America conquered more territory since 1942 than has any other nations in the history of the world, and has returned it all to its rightful owners.  Pilger forgets that this “rapacious superpower” was the only thing that prevented his native Australia from being invaded and overrun by the Japanese in 1942, when the Australian army was fighting in the deserts of North Africa against Rommel.  My guess is that Pilger slept through his history studies.

Pilger then dons his tinfoil hat and declares that a world war has already begun, instigated and promoted by an “invisible government.” As proof he presents exhibit A., President Obama pledging to make the world free of Nuclear weapons, then saying he was lying.

President Obama wasn’t lying, he’s just an ideological idiot.  Obama genuinely believes a nuclear free world would be a good thing.  This would be a world in which unscrupulous superpowers like China and Russia would force their will on their neighbors without having to worry about consequences.  Obama – and apparently Pilger – seems to think that removing the ability of free countries to issue an ultimatum, and having the means with which to back it up is a good thing.  Sure, no country is impolite enough to do anything like invade another country, so why do we need these evil weapons that would be the only way to stop them?  Tell it to Kuwait.  Tell it to Ukraine. Pilger has grown up in a world where these sorts of land grabs are the exception and not the norm, precisely because the presence of nuclear weapons means no one is willing to get close to the brink.

Pilger claims that “The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories.” Yes, to listen to Pilger, the US is rearming at a record rate, preparing for the bad old days of the height of the cold war.

This is an idiotic claim. First, the US has not built more “Nuclear factories.” The USA has eight nuclear production facilities, all of which have been operational since WWII. There have been programmed modernization projects.  Most of these facilities are engaged in research to fine-tune the capabilities of existing weapons, studying the effectiveness of existing weapons with regard to their shelf life, and repurposing decommissioned weapons to provide fuel for peaceful power production.

Second, Pilger conveniently neglects to mention that the US is limited by treaty to the number of weapons, warheads and delivery systems that it can maintain.  Nuclear weapons do not store well.  Their effectiveness decays along with the fissile material that form the explosive component or the trigger. Rockets also have a shelf-life, as the chemical boosters deteriorate over time.  Older systems become obsolete and must be decommissioned, to be replaced with more modern weapons. The US arsenal is not growing, nor is it the largest in the world.  Modernization and replacement of aging weapons has been put off for far too long. Nor does the US have the largest nuclear stockpile.  Russia has 330 more weapons than does the evil, rapacious USA.

The US has had nuclear weapons for 71 years. It has used them twice in anger, to end a war that would have, by most calculations, cost 1 million American lives and upwards of 70 million Japanese lives if it were to continue.  Pilger seems to think that America is too irresponsible to have nuclear weapons, in spite of the fact that America has fought five relatively major wars and numerous minor ones since then and never felt the need to resort to nukes. Is America the problem, or is America the ongoing solution to such unpredictable rogue nations like Iran or North Korea, both of which are feverishly trying to acquire nuclear weapons that they can’t afford, and have little reason not to use them if they get them?

Pilger then gets his panties in a wad about the newest design of the US standard B-61 fission weapon, which has a selectable yield ability mated to a precision guidance system.  Since the Vietnam war, America has become so precise with placing its conventional weapons that there’s virtually no need to use a nuclear weapon to ensure target destruction.  Some targets still require more bang than a conventional warhead can provide, such as a deeply buried target.  So let me understand this: first, Pilger is worked up about the fact that we produced bigger and more destructive weapons (although the world record is held by Russia with its 50 Megaton Tsar Bomba device), but then he’s up in arms when we scale it back for a more controlled, less damaging weapon.  Dude, make up your mind.

Pilger then spends a few paragraphs ranting about the US buildup in Eastern Europe, and insinuates US involvement in Ukraine.  Pilger invokes the CIA, that boogeyman of conspiracy theorists with unlimited funds and dark arts of espionage, equipped untold nefarious intelligence capabilities to work America’s will throughout the world.  What a laugh. As an American, I only wish the CIA was as competent, well- funded  and efficient as nuts like Pilger makes them out to be, instead of being the bumbling keystone cops they truly are.

Pilger’s rabid anti-Americanism is on full display here, as he makes it sound like the USA is the one threatening Russia and raising tensions in the region.  Pilger doesn’t seem to know or care about Russia’s recent aggression in the Ukraine and Crimea. It doesn’t seem to matter to him that the US has treaty obligations to NATO, and the NATO forces were welcomed with relief by Eastern European countries who had been steamrolled twice by Russia in the last century.  He makes the preposterous insinuation that the Ukrainian government is under US control, and characterizes Ukrainians as a regime rotten with Nazis – as if the “Nazis” of the Ukraine were morally inferior to the neo-Bolsheviks of Russia. Pilger is obviously a Russian sympathizer, considering he didn’t use any virtual ink to discuss the consolidation of political power by Putin, the many aggressive actions taken by Russia, Russia’s rising imperialism or Russia’s many questionable actions in the nuclear arms race.

Pilger then goes on a rant about The USA and its stance against China. His ace in the hole in this spectacular display of idiocy is that most people are ignorant of the geography or the geopolitics of the South China Sea. He claims that the dispute over the Spratly islands is the result of US pressure and bribery in Manila. He never mentions that there are no international agreements settled about the Spratly islands. He ignores the invasion of the Spratly Islands by the Chinese navy in 1988 that killed 64 Vietnamese sailors and sunk Vietnamese vessels, or the battle of the Paracel Islands in 1974, which resulted in China taking control of this group of the Spratlys. 

Pilger makes the absurd case that this conflict is being fomented by America as an excuse to patrol and dominate the coastal waters of China. The problem is, that the Spratlys are nowhere near the coast of China.  They lie between 700 and 1000 miles from the Chinese mainland, and sit squarely astride the shipping lanes of any maritime commerce traveling between East Asia and India, the Gulf States, Europe and Africa.  He hysterically points out that US control of the Spratly Islands would allow the US to block shipping between China and its oil supply and customers in Europe and elsewhere. Of course, he neglects a couple of things, such as China’s control of the Spratlys would have the exact same effect on maritime commerce for Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.  The US, Vietnam and the Philippines have done nothing to capitalize on the strategic importance of the Spratly islands.  China on the other hand, has a history of aggression in the area, and has actively developed military bases on the islands, from which it could easily close the shipping lanes.  But just listen to Pilger.  It’s fault of the aggressive imperial warmonger of America.

Pilger isn’t as stupid as he sounds, and he knows his conspiracy theories are getting too thin for even the most credulous, so he digresses to punch up his bona fides a little by playing off the Iraq war and weapons of mass destruction.  This is a favorite stalking horse of the anti-American left: Invent a straw man in the form of WMD’s, control the definition of the term, and then demonstrate that Saddam didn’t have them.  This is very convenient, because the very definition of a WMD in their narrative is a weapon that Saddam didn’t have.  Never mind that 500 chemical weapons were found in Iraq, that the CIA bought 400 rockets filled with Sarin gas, that ISIS gained control of a WMD destruction facility that had thousands of Iraqi chemical weapons, or that Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Judith Miller pulled the curtain back on the lie that Bush tricked the world into supporting the invasion of Iraq. The firecracker in Timothy Reid’s shoe was a WMD, and the bulk of the chermical weapons, the biological and nuclear research facilities in Iraq weren’t because the media says so.

He tries to leverage the Iraq war, waged to unseat one of the most brutal dictators of the last century, who was a sponsor of international terror, an international criminal who had invaded his neighbors, gassed and exterminated his own people, and who had a known record of seeking advanced weaponry to consolidate his power in the Middle East, as evidence that the USA is an imperialist warmonger who seeks war at every juncture. Pilger also no doubt believes the nonsense that the US went to war in Iraq for oil.  Never mind that the US didn’t take any oil from Iraq, except that which was paid for at market prices. It’s kind of silly to wage a war for oil, and then not, you know, take the oil; but this is what fools like Pilger would have you believe to justify their irrational anti-Americanism.

He makes the case then that the US is doing the same thing to China, “encircling” it with missiles, bases, bomber and battle groups.  Maybe Pilger should glance at a map before he makes such absurd statements.  China is hardly in a position to be encircled by anybody. The Bomber leg of the nuclear triad is mainly based in the USA. Nuclear capability on overseas bases in neither confirmed nor denied, but there are no new bases anywhere near China that haven’t been there since the ‘60’s.  I don’t understand how ballistic missiles can “encircle’ someone from their silos in the American Midwest. Submarines and battle groups respond to threats, and saber rattling by the Chinese is not something to be ignored or taken lightly when they have a stated policy of reuniting Taiwan with mainland China, one way or another.

Then Pilger announces that  “the US and Australia staged the biggest single air-sea military exercise in recent history,”  in “high Secrecy.”  Secrecy so high, in fact, that you actually had to Google search it to find out about it from the Australian Ministry of Defense before it happened! It was hardly the biggest air-sea exercise of any sort, and is the sixth such exercise by US and Australian forces in the last 12 years. I don’t know what Pilger thinks the military does when it’s not out raping children and burning villages, but as a veteran I tell you, they train.  They practice, they challenge themselves in potential real-world scenarios, so that if the balloon ever does go up, they’ll be ready, with no surprises in store.  This doesn’t mean that the military is going to do the thing that they train for, it means they’ll be ready to do if it needs to be done.  I also notice that Pilger conveniently neglected to mention that in August 2015, Russia and China conducted what they termed the largest joint naval exercise in history.

Pilger, unable to stay focused on a theme except generally hate on America, takes aim at the presidential elections process, by hating on Trump.  Ignorant of the American political process and the nuances that allowed a self-aggrandizing narcissist like Trump to get and keep center stage, Pilger makes the case that Trump is the epitome of America.  He goes on to charge that, “This is the country where toddlers shoot their mothers and the police wage a murderous war against black Americans. This is the country that has attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East, causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people. “

I’m afraid that Pilger has been watching too much Hollywood, and paying too much attention to biased news reporting. I doubt he’s ever been to America, or has ever honestly listened to what Americans think, feel and believe, without filtering it through his anti-American bias.  He’s a victim of a race-baiting president Obama who has whipped up previously nonexistent racial tensions to divide the country for his own political advantage.  Pilger has a classic liberal foreigners disdain for the “gun culture” of America, without even understanding what it is he’s talking about. It serves his liberal agenda to frame the discussion, never mind the facts and statistics that show his narrative to be a blatant lie. Pilger is a dupe, and seems to be proud of it.

Pilger winds down his screed with a rambling, directionless indictment against politicians in general.  He endorses socialist Jeremy Corbyn and voices tacit approval of Bernie Sanders.  This explains Pilger’s lack of substantive criticism of the excesses of Russia and China, and his knee-jerk hatred of America, as America is still the beacon of free enterprise and capitalism in the world. It doesn’t matter to useful idiots and fellow travelers like Pilger that America has de facto set the standard for quality of life in the modern world, that America has shed the blood of its young men around the world for the last 75 years so that others could live free of tyranny and oppression.  It doesn’t seem to faze Pilger that Western Civilization is in an existential struggle for survival against Islamic pan-Arabic imperialism.  It doesn’t occur top Pilger that his worldview is skewed by his knee-jerk socialist views, to the point where he freely disregards any history that belies his nonsensical theories.  His is a world shaped by his beliefs, instead of allowing his beliefs be shaped by the world.

I have no beef with people like Pilger.  Their peculiar breed of willful stupidity will be subject to a Darwinian process and will be less than a footnote in history.  What bothers me about people like him is his words influence others who know nothing about that which he speaks, and so take his nonsense at face value. Pilger’s method of yellow journalism, cherry picking news to fit his narrative, and pattern of absurdly incorrect assumptions and conclusions should be held suspect and worthy of critical scrutiny by anyone who bothers to read his nonsense.

 Pilger would be well advised that if he’s going to break the silence, that he pull his head out of his backside and have some rudimentary knowledge of what he’s talking about. Right now he's just a nut with a blog.