Politics

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On November 21, 1974, after two Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombs exploded in two separate Birmingham pubs, killing 21 people and injuring hundreds, an investigation was opened to find the culprits. Almost immediately, the investigation centered on six men, later known as the Birmingham Six. For years the IRA and the British government had been at odds over the status of Northern Ireland, in fact you had to be hiding under a rock if you didn’t know about it. Still, on that November day, it all came to a head. The bombs exploded, destroying everything and killing or hurting everyone in sight.

The most immediate reaction of the British government was to outlaw the IRA. Virtually overnight, they were declared a terrorist group in all the United Kingdom. Thus began the worst miscarriage of justice in British history. Immediately, authorities rushed to arrest and convict the IRA members who were responsible for these horrific acts. Six Irish suspects were picked up. They were Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power, and John Walker. During interrogation, four of the men signed confessions, which made no sense, because even the IRA, which had claimed responsibility for the Birmingham bombings, said that the six were not members of its organization.

That begs the question, that if the IRA claimed responsibility and specifically said these men were part of their organization, how could these men be tried, found guilty, and sentenced. Nevertheless, they were, and they served 16 years before something was done about it. These men declared their innocence almost from the beginning…if you take the signed confessions at face value, and assume they were not coerced. The men stated and never wavered, that the police had beaten the confessions out of them. Many people would agree. Of course, the prosecutors denied this and also came up with forensic evidence that apparently proved that the Birmingham Six had handled explosives shortly before their arrest. It appeared that they just wanted to get a conviction so things could settle down. I’m sure they were under a lot of pressure to solve the crime.

Following their convictions, the men were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. In all they spent 16 years in prison, before something changed. I’m sure they thought they would never be free again, but their convictions were declared “unsafe and unsatisfactory” and quashed by the Court of Appeal on 14 March 1991. Apparently, this all came about as a result of the widespread questioning of their guilt by the British people. They started seeing that things just didn’t add up, and yet, here were these men, locked up and seemingly innocent of any crime. In the face of all this, the British authorities released the so-called “Birmingham Six.” The six Irish men who had been sent to prison 16 years earlier for the 1974 terrorist bombings of two pubs in Birmingham, England. To further prove the error, in 1985, the forensic evidence was exposed by scientists as unreliable at best!! The nightmare for the Birmingham Six was coming to an end, and the nightmare for the British government was just beginning. In 1987 an appeals judge conceded that the same results could be obtained from testing people who recently touched playing cards or cigarette paper, and yet these men were convicted of a bombing based on that same lack of credible evidence. Even with all that information, it took until March 1991, before the people across Britain and Ireland began calling for their release. Finally, they were freed after years in prison. They were free, but their story didn’t end there. Seven years later, a British court of appeals formally overturned their sentences, citing serious doubts about the legitimacy of the police evidence and the treatment of the suspects during their interrogation. The six men were later awarded compensation ranging from £840,000 to £1.2 million.

Generally speaking, a man’s word is his bond…as the saying goes, but when a man’s word can’t be trusted, well promises mean nothing, agreements mean nothing, partnership means nothing. The people who took Adolf Hitler at his word, found out the hard way, that Hitler was definitely not a man of his word. On June 22, 1941, after making an agreement, known as the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, Nazi Germany at Hitler’s command, launched a massive invasion against the USSR. The agreement was basically that Germany and the USSR would not attack each other. Less than two years into the agreement, Hitler broke the agreement. He was most likely planning that invasion all along, but he needed to have the people of the USSR unaware of his plans. He needed to have them trust him, so his invasion would be a complete surprise attack.

When he was ready, and aided by his far superior air force, Hitler sent his German army racing across the Russian plains. The German Army was given carte blanche in the invasion, and so they went about inflicting terrible casualties on the Red Army and the Soviet civilians. Of course, the German Army wasn’t alone in their attack. Their first targets of attack were Leningrad and Moscow. With the assistance of troops from their Axis allies, the Germans conquered the vast territory, and by mid-October the great Russian cities of Leningrad and Moscow were under siege. The Soviets held on, and the coming winter forced the German offensive to pause.

Hitler set his sights on the summer of 1942, and ordered the Sixth Army, under General Friedrich Paulus, to take Stalingrad in the south. Stalingrad was an industrial center and therefore, an obstacle to Nazi control of the precious Caucasus oil wells. The oil wells were a crucial part of the control process. The Army made advances across the Volga River in August, while the German Fourth Air Fleet reduced Stalingrad to burning rubble, killing more than 40,000 civilians. With the first attack behind them, Paulus ordered the first offensives into Stalingrad in September, estimating that it would take his army about 10 days to capture the city.

The ensuing battle was one of the most horrific battles of World War II. It was also quite likely the most important because it was the turning point in the war between Germany and the USSR. The USSR’s Red Army was furious and had an ax to grind over the ruined city and their lost loved ones and friends. Now, the German Sixth Army faced General Vasily Chuikov leading a bitter Red Army seeking revenge. They quickly transformed destroyed buildings and rubble into natural counter offensive fortifications. Then, using a method of fighting known as the Rattenkrieg or “Rat’s War,” the opposing forces broke into squads eight or 10 strong and fought each other for every house and yard of territory. The battle saw rapid advances in street-fighting technology. Things like a German machine gun that shot around corners and a light Russian plane that glided silently over German positions at night, dropping bombs without warning were birthed during this battle. The biggest problem the armies faced, however, was a lack of necessary food, water, or medical supplies, causing tens of thousands of soldiers to die every week.

The biggest miscalculation Hitler made was the resolve of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who was determined to liberate the city named after him. In November he ordered massive reinforcements to the area. On November 19, General Zhukov launched a great Soviet counteroffensive. German command underestimated the scale of the counterattack, and the Sixth Army was quickly overwhelmed by the offensive, which involved 500,000 Soviet troops, 900 tanks, and 1,400 aircraft. Within three days, the entire German force of more than 200,000 men was encircled. Before long, the Italian and Romanian troops at Stalingrad surrendered. That didn’t follow for the Germans, who hung on. Of course, Hitler would not let them surrender, so they waited…receiving limited supplies by air and waiting for reinforcements. Hitler ordered Paulus to remain in place and promoted him to field marshal, because no Nazi field marshal had ever surrendered.

The Germans lost as many lives to starvation and the bitter Russian winter, as they did to the merciless Soviet troops. Their supply line was completely cut off on January 21, 1943, when the last of the airports held by the Germans fell to the Soviets…completely cutting off their supplies. Despite Hitler’s threats, Paulus surrendered German forces in the southern sector on January 31, and on February 2 the remaining German troops surrendered. By the time Paulus surrendered, there were only 90,000 German soldiers still alive. They may have thought they were among the lucky ones, but of the 90,000, only 5,000 survived the Soviet prisoner-of-war camps and make it back to Germany.

The Battle of Stalingrad was the turning point in the war between Germany and the Soviet Union. Chuikov had played such an important role in the victory. Later, it was he who led the Soviet drive on Berlin. As a reward, on May 1, 1945, he was given the right to personally accept the German surrender of Berlin. Paulus, who felt betrayed by Hitler, was among the German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union. He provided testimony at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946. After his release by the Soviets in 1953, he settled in East Germany.

When the Nazis were trying to take over the world, one tool they felt was vital to their effort was the radio, or rather the control over the radio. If the Nazis could control the news people heard, they believed they could stop any resistance from the people, especially good people who didn’t want to be involved in the evil that Hitler was trying to carry out. The only way to control the situation was with the Nazi propaganda over controlled airwaves. The propaganda effort was a relatively new technology that the Nazis very likely pioneered.

When the Germans first started their propaganda broadcasts, they were in both German and English. It was thought, by German propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, that since the United States had not entered the war, maybe they were still able to be turned toward German thinking. Within a few months of the breakout of World War II, German propagandists were transmitting no less than eleven hours of programming a day. In the first year of Nazi propaganda programming, broadcasters attempted to destroy pro-British feeling rather than arouse pro-German sentiment. I would assume that they were attempting to look like the innocent victim, and not the evil aggressor. These propagandists targeted certain groups, including capitalists, Jews, and selected newspapers/politicians. Doesn’t this sound like the media of today? By the summer of 1940, the Nazis, realizing that the United States would never be on their side, had abandoned all attempts to win American sympathy. The tone of German radio broadcasts quickly became critical towards the United States.

Goebbels, claimed the radio was the “eighth great power” and he, along with the Nazi party, recognized the power of the radio in the propaganda machine of Nazi Germany. Goebbels, recognizing the importance of radio in disseminating the Nazi message, quickly approved a mandate whereby millions of cheap radio sets were subsidized by the government and distributed to the German citizens. It reminds me of the “free cellphone” program of Barack Obama. It was Goebbels’ job to propagate the anti-Bolshevik statements of Hitler and aim them directly at neighboring countries with German-speaking minorities. In Goebbels’ “Radio as the Eighth Great Power” speech, he proclaimed, “It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio…It is no exaggeration to say that the German revolution, at least in the form it took, would have been impossible without the airplane and the radio…[Radio] reached the entire nation, regardless of class, standing, or religion. That was primarily the result of the tight centralization, the strong reporting, and the up-to-date nature of the German radio.”

The Nazi regime began to use the radio to deliver its message to both occupied territories and enemy states, as well as domestic broadcasts. One of the main targets was the United Kingdom to which William Joyce broadcast regularly, gaining him the nickname “Lord Haw-Haw” in the process. Broadcasts were also made to the United States, notably through Robert Henry Best and Mildred ‘Axis Sally’ Gillars. As a normal practice of the Propaganda Minister’s office, the radio, just like the newspapers fell under strict German supervision during the occupation. In January 1941, Dutch stations were replaced by a single state-run broadcaster overseen by the NSB (Dutch Nazi Party). This station primarily transmitted pro-German programs.

The Dutch were not easily fooled, however. So, for news from the Allied camp the Dutch secretly listened to the BBC and Radio Oranje, the Dutch government’s radio station in exile, transmitting from London. One might wonder how that was possible, given the controls in place at the time, but people hardly paid attention to the listening ban imposed by the Germans. The occupying German forces tried to jam the reception of Radio Free Orange and the BBC, but with a handy device, easily made at home, the Dutch people were able to listen to broadcasts from London very little interference. It was therefore referred to as a moffenzeef (‘Kraut filter’) or ‘German filter’ because it sifted out jamming signals. The device was of monumental significance, because it kept the people from being effectively brainwashed by rogue media forms that were controlled by an evil government. The Kraut Filter might just have been the single greatest “non-weapon” of the war.

When people allow fear to enter into their thinking, unfortunate and sometimes horrific things can happen. That really was the case, I believe, with the American settlers and the Native Americans. I’m not saying that the treatment of the Indians was without blame, because that is just not the case, but the wars that took place left the American settlers afraid of the Indians, and some people even decided that we needed to basically, “teach it out of them” or change the way the children thought so we could change a generation. It sounds a lot like what is being attempted in our schools today, if you ask me.

For over a century, the US government actually went in and took Native American children from their families and forced them to attend Indian boarding schools. The idea was to separate the Indian traditions, language, and culture from these children, so they would become a “man worth saving,” because they thought the Indians had no value. They even recruited the missionaries in their endeavor, with the passing of the Civilization Fund Act of 1819, which encouraged missionaries to educate Native American children in the ways of the white man. In reality, this plan set the stage for eventual forced removal of children from their parents, so the parents could no longer have a say in their education, or an influence in their lives. In 1879, Captain Richard Henry Pratt opened the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The whole purpose of the school, according to Pratt, was to “kill the Indian, and save the man.”

The schools mistreated the children, because they didn’t want to comply, didn’t understand what was asked of them, or they were just plain scared. Scholar Margaret Archuleta explained, “Not only were children removed from their parents, often forcibly, but they had their mouths washed out with lye soap when they spoke their Native languages.” A 1902 government order even argued long hair and other traditional customs slowed “the advancement they are making in civilization.” These poor children were stripped of their heritage, their families, their traditions, and their right to live a free life of their own choosing.

You might think that this barbaric act was something that was practiced just in the early days of this country and into the Indian Wars era, but these boarding schools actually continued until 1978!! At that time, Congress finally passed the Indian Child Welfare Act, which also addressed the practice of forcible adoption of Native American children. From that time on, Native American families were once again able to practice their own traditions and culture and speak their own language. I wonder just how much of their heritage was lost forever in the 159 years that the children spent in the custody of the American government.

Before the summer of 1971, a person had to be 21 years old in order to vote. That was before the 26 Amendment was signed into law, on July 5, 1971, by President Richard Nixon. The amendment had passed through the Senate, House, and states in record time, lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, but it was not a quick victory. The battle was hard-fought, mostly by young people between the ages of 18 and 21, who were eligible to be drafted, but didn’t have the right to vote. The battle had raged since World War II.

When the United States joined in the World War II war effort, it didn’t take long to find that they were going to need more men. It wasn’t that so many were killed, although that certainly was a problem too, but less than a year in, President Roosevelt and his administration faced a serious dilemma. They had 20 million eligible men who were registered for the draft, but 50% of them were rejected either for health reasons or because they were deemed illiterate. The United States had to have more men, and there was only one place to get them…expand the eligible draft ages. So, on November 11, 1942, Congress approved lowering the minimum draft age to 18 and raising the maximum to 37. Soon after, the slogan “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote” was born. For the over 21 draftees, the right to vote was already theirs, but the 18 to 20 year olds did not, and they felt like if they could be asked to fight and die, they should be able to vote…like ither adults, and much like the fight we have today with “old enough to fight, old enough to drink.” I’m not sure the current protestors will win their battle, however.

The changing of the voting age didn’t come easy either. Many people thought that 18-year-olds were just too young to understand politics. West Virginia congressman Jennings Randolph became the first supporter for lowering the age. In 1942, he introduced the first of 11 bills he sponsored over his tenure in Congress. Despite support from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and a number of senators and representatives, Congress failed to pass any legislation. Nevertheless, a popular movement was growing. Finally, in 1943, Georgia became the first state to lower the voting age for state and local elections to 18, with Kentucky following suit in 1955. It broke the ice. While these young voters couldn’t vote for US offices, they had a say in their own state. The movement to lower the voting age began to gain grassroots traction when newly elected President Dwight D Eisenhower expressed his support in his 1954 State of the Union address, “For years our citizens between the ages of 18 and 20 have, in time of peril, been summoned to fight for America. They should participate in the political process that produces this fateful summons. I urge Congress to propose to the States a constitutional amendment permitting citizens to vote when they reach the age of 18.”

While it was gaining momentum, it was still slow-going. It would not be until much of the American public became disillusioned by the lengthy and costly war in Vietnam in the mid 1960s that the movement to lower the voting age gained widespread public support. “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote” found its way back into the American consciousness in the form of protest signs and chants. The push was revived, and then-Senator Randolph and other politicians continued to push legislation to lower the age to 18, including passing an amendment into 1965’s Voting Rights Act in 1970 that applied lowering the age to federal, state, and local elections. As the amendment was being signed into law, President Nixon thought it might be problematic. He issued a public statement that the federal government regulating state and local elections was likely to be “deemed unconstitutional and that only an amendment would secure this right.” He was right, and the amendment was struck down in the 1970 Supreme Court case Oregon v. Mitchell, ruling that the federal government could not make mandates for state and local elections. That meant that the fight continued. The initial result was a mixed system in which state and local elections had different rules than federal elections. That brought with it logistical problems on election days in states across the country, bringing more protests and lobbying efforts. The biggest problem was the 18 to 20 year olds worrying that their draft numbers were being called despite having no say in electing their representation. “Project 18” continued to put the pressure on legislators to take action. Marches were held all over the nation.

Finally, their hard work paid off. On March 10, 1971, the Senate voted unanimously in favor of a Constitutional amendment lowering the voting age to 18, followed by an overwhelming majority of the House voting in favor on March 23, 1971. The states quickly ratified the amendment, and it took effect on July 1, 1971, nearly 30 years after Senator Randolph first proposed lowering the voting age. In response to its passing, the senator remarked, “I believe that our young people possess a great social conscience, are perplexed by the injustices which exist in the world and are anxious to rectify these ills.” Finally, those who were “old enough to fight” could also vote.

Since time began, people have hoped for peace, and ended up in a battle. While “world peace” will likely never be an option, at least not in this world, governments continue to try, and those who oppose peace continue to do their best to sabotage the plans for peace. Israel has often been at the center of the battle for peace, which makes no logical sense. The other Arab nations have long been after the land, small as it is, that belongs to Israel. I never understood how they could covet the small piece of land that Israel had. The reality is that the Arab nations simply don’t want Israel to exist at all.

In 1995, a rally was being held in support of the Oslo Accords at the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv. A number of people had warned Yitzhak Rabin, the fifth prime minister of Israel, that his life could be in danger, but he would not back down. The Oslo Accords was a pair of agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The Oslo I Accord was signed in Washington DC, in 1993. The Oslo II Accord was signed in Taba, Egypt, in 1995. The problem with these agreements is that the battle between these two groups goes so much deeper than just who owns the land. These nations are related and have been in a feud since the time of Jacob and Esau in Biblical days. Nevertheless, nations have tried to bring about peace between the two nations ever since the battle began.

On November 4, 1995 (12 Marcheshvan 5756 on the Hebrew calendar) at 9:30pm, at the end of the rally. An Israeli ultranationalist named Yigal Amir, who radically opposed Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s peace initiative, and particularly the signing of the Oslo Accords, took it upon himself, to assassinate Yitzhak Rabin. The Likud leader and future prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told Rabin’s government that withdrawing from any “Jewish” land was heresy, which I would have to agree with, because the land had been given to them by God. They believed that Rabin was probably too secular and too far removed from the Biblical Jewish tradition and Jewish values, but assassination is never the answer.

Conservative rabbis associated with the settlers’ movement prohibited territorial concessions to the Palestinians and forbade soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces from evacuating Jewish settlers under the accords. Some rabbis proclaimed “din rodef” based on a traditional Jewish law of self-defense, against Rabin personally, arguing that the Oslo Accords would endanger Jewish lives. The whole situation, which was “designed” to bring “peace,” took on a completely different tone…chaos. While I would never condone violence or assassination, I don’t think Israel should ever be forced to give up parts of its land, and unfortunately, any peace agreement with the Palestinians always includes taking Israeli land, when Arab land is already far, far bigger. During the trial, Amir admitted to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and claimed that he was justified in doing so, saying that Amir he was “satisfied” and was acting on the “orders of God.” Following the trial, Amir was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Rabin.

There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about Capitalism verses Socialism or Communism. Capitalism is clear-cut from the other ideologies, but the same cannot be said about communism and socialism. Socialism and communism are often used in place of each other despite being fundamentally different from each other. Capitalism puts the control of one’s assets in the hands of the individual, while socialism and communism put all or most assets in the hands of the government to hand out…or not…as they see fit. In my opinion, the government agencies we have really haven’t done such a great job that I would want to go back and give them more power and control.

These days there are many people who would like to switch to Socialism or Communism, but I think it’s because they don’t understand these ideologies. The United States used to understand them very well, and when some of the immigrants tried to bring Socialism and Communism into this counter, in late 1919, and into January 1920, President Woodrow Wilson directed the United States Department of Justice to carry out a series of raids to capture, arrest, and deport these immigrants, because they should never be allowed to come to our country and they try to change it in the country they chose to leave…especially because the reason they left was because it wasn’t working in their country.

These raids were called the Palmer Raids. The primary targets were Italian immigrants and Eastern European Jewish immigrants with alleged leftist ties, with particular focus on Italian anarchists and immigrant leftist labor activists. Attorney General A Mitchell Palmer spearheaded the operation, and the result was that 3,000 people were arrested. Of the 3,000 arrested, 556 foreign citizens were deported, including a number of prominent leftist leaders.

As often happens in government, what one department likes another doesn’t, so Palmer’s efforts were largely frustrated by officials at the US Department of Labor, which had authority for deportations. They apparently objected to Palmer’s methods. The Palmer Raids during the time of the First Red Scare, a period of fear of and reaction against communists in the US in the years immediately following World War I and the Russian Revolution…the Cold War era. The Palmer Raids were strikes that garnered national attention, and prompted race riots in more than 30 cities, as well as two sets of bombings in April and June 1919, including one bomb mailed to Palmer’s home. Whether the methods were good or bad, I agree that no immigrants should ever expect to come into this country and then fundamentally change how we run things until it becomes just like the nation that they worked so hard to escape.

Unfortunately, Palmer’s raids became the subject of public criticism and led to the rise of the ACLU. Because very little evidence of terrorist bombs was uncovered during the raids, and people were held without legal representation, and some of the raids were carried out without search warrants, the whole operation took on a bad light, even if some of those who were arrested and deported were, in fact, terrorists.

To most of us, committing espionage against our own country is…unthinkable, but there are those among us who wouldn’t give that a second thought. I think most countries have spies who do their best to find out information about another country, and I suppose that by design, that would mean that someone would have to commit espionage. I guess the two would go hand in hand, and it would depend on just how loyal a person was as to the limits they would go.

George Blake, who was born George Behar on November 11, 1922, was a British MI6 agent, and at one time thought to be a loyal agent, but during his time as a prisoner of war in Seoul, during the Korean War, he was apparently converted into a Communist, and strategically set up to be a double-agent. I suppose there is a number of prisoners of war who traded secrets for life and freedom from torture, and some who honestly changed their viewpoint, but to me it is outrageous. George Blake must not have seen it that way, because he was a double-agent until he got caught in 1961.

During his active double-agent years, he is believed to have betrayed the names of more than 40 British agents to the Soviets. Many of those he betrayed disappeared and were thought to have been executed. His betrayals basically destroyed British secret service operations in the Middle East. It must have been almost impossible to get agents to work in that region. Blake is believed to have passed on the names of almost every British agent working in Cairo, Damascus, and Beirut. Lord Parker, Lord Chief Justice, the judge sentencing him, likened his actions to treason, and said, “It is one of the worst that can be envisaged other than in a time of war.” Blake was charged under the Official Secrets Act in May 1961. Blake pleaded guilty to five counts of passing secrets to the Soviet authorities during his trial, part of which was held in camera.

In 1966, Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison after serving five years of his sentence and having been removed from the list of likely escapers after only a year. Apparently, his supposed acceptance of his exceptionally long sentence lulled wardens into a false sense of security. It is assumed that he had help from the Soviet Union, and after his escape, he was quickly whisked away to the Soviet Union, where he lived out his life. He passed away in Moscow, Russia on December 26, 2020, at the age of 98 years.

In a very different time in America, being a communist was not accepted, and it really shouldn’t be accepted now, but that is not the opinion of every person in the United States today. Nevertheless, on October 20, 1947, saw the beginning of the notorious Red Scare. At that time, a Congressional committee began investigating the Communist influence that was, or at least was suspected of infiltrating one of the world’s richest and most glamorous communities…Hollywood, California.

One of the greatest fears after World War II, was that the Cold War began to heat up between the United States and the communist-controlled Soviet Union. Conservatives in Washington were working hard to remove any communists in government. Then, they set their sights on those people who were alleged “Reds” in the liberal movie industry. During the investigation that began in October 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) questioned a number of prominent people. During the interviews, the committee asked point-blank, “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

It might have been fear or maybe a sense of patriotism, but some witnesses, including director Elia Kazan, actors Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor, and studio honchos Walt Disney and Jack Warner, all gave the committee names of colleagues they had suspected of being communists. That began a more grueling interrogation of a small group known as the “Hollywood Ten.” All of the “Hollywood Ten” resisted the accusations, complaining that the hearings were illegal and violated their First Amendment rights. The 10 were Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr, John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo. While they weren’t convicted of being communist, they were all convicted of obstructing the investigation and each served jail terms.

The Hollywood establishment, after being pressured by Congress, started a blacklist policy. The blacklist involved the practice of denying employment to entertainment industry professionals believed to be or to have been Communists or sympathizers. Actors, screenwriters, directors, musicians, and other American entertainment professionals were barred from work by the studios. This was usually done on the basis of their membership in, or alleged membership in, or sympathy with the Communist Party USA, or their refusal to assist Congressional investigations into party activities. The policy brought about the banning the work of about 325 screenwriters, actors, and directors who had not been cleared by the committee.

Those blacklisted included composer Aaron Copland, writers Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, and Dorothy Parker, playwright Arthur Miller, and actor and filmmaker Orson Welles. The policy wasn’t always strictly enforced, and even during the period of its strictest enforcement, from the late 1940s through to the late 1950s. The blacklist was almost never made explicit. It was rather the result of numerous individual decisions by the studios and was not the result of official legal action. Nevertheless, the blacklist quickly and directly damaged or even ended the careers and income of scores of individuals working in the film industry.

You can fly near it, walk close to some fences, or zoom in from a far hill, but you cannot enter Menwith Hill Royal Air Force Station for any reason. Not unless you are an ECHELON spies and the NSA, that is. The station was founded in 1954, when the British War Office purchased 550 acres and leased them to the United States. The Cold War, a strange war that “raged” from March 12, 1947, to December 26, 1991, was in full swing when Menwith Hill was established. At the time, the station was used for spying and intelligence-gathering. Now that the Cold War is over, no one knows what goes on there. In fact, concern over the goings on is so high that there have been a large number of protests leading to politicians calling for more transparency about what goes on at Menwith Hill Royal Air Force Station. Many people think that Menwith Hill Royal Air Force Station, which is by far the most secretive piece of land in all of the United Kingdom, needs to be more transparent. Nevertheless, to this day, no one knows for sure what goes on in this military installation.

RAF Menwith Hill is owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), but made available to the US Department of Defense (DoD) under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement 1951 and other, undisclosed agreements between the US and British governments. The site acts as a ground station for a number of satellites operated by the US National Reconnaissance Office, on behalf of the NSA, with antennae contained in numerous distinctive white radomes, locally referred to as “the golf balls,” and is alleged to be an element of the ECHELON system. The radomes are really a big part of what gives the installation its air of mystery.

Military installations have existed all over the world for hundreds of years, but not all of them are as secretive as Menwith Hill. It’s likely that we will never be privy to the things that go on there, and that may be a source of contention for years to come. I don’t know how I feel about the secrecy in military installations. In some ways I understand the need, but with secrecy, can come corrupt and dark schemes, as we saw during the Holocaust. Much depends on the integrity of the country, and even more importantly the integrity of the people in charge of the activities that go on there. Even with a country that is trying to do good, there can be evil people both working there, and in charge of operations, and when evil people are allowed to operate in secrecy, the only logical outcome is disaster.

RAF Menwith Hill is one of three main sites operated by the United States across the globe. It operates as a major satellite monitoring station and intelligence gathering location. The other two sites are located in America and Australia, having similar roles and working together with RAF Menwith Hill to develop knowledge around American, British, and Australian interests. The Australian site is known as the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap. I wonder if operations at the other sites are as secret as they are at RAF Menwith Hill.

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