Category Archives: American history

This looks mainly at the American Revolution and the buildup to the American Civil War. It may be expanded later.

farewell McCain ================================================

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88. born in panama

us navy. family in navy

vietnam

shot down. POW. refused rlease. chritsin

republican politics. cold warrior

pro life

against big money but took it

tried for GOP nomination 2000. dirty tricks from bush

loayl to bush. for liberation of Iraq.

2008. candidate. backing from Lieberman. mixed up sunni and shia

knew little about economics

anti-racist. Bangladeshi daughter

loathed trump

brain cancer.

degeneration.

 

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Trump’s inauguration speech.

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President Trump has delivered his inaugural address. There was eclat to the delivery. There were no new themes. The content was the usual drivel. It was a study in inarticulacy, cliches and a failure to use commas.

Donald J Trump demonstrated yet again his trademark illogicality. He wants to return power to the people and at the same time use his presidential powers to create jobs. If the president is doing that is he not arrogating to the White House prerogatives that are not his?

Mr Trump was decent enough to laud the Obamas for their dignity and patriotism in welcoming him to the White House after the election. They have sought to make the handover of the presidency as hitch-free as possible. When it came to his address Trump proceeded to slate Obama’s record. So much for his partisanship.

Trump said that the United States defended other countries borders. What was he alluding to? Perhaps this refers to NATO – a cornerstone of American defence since 1949. Trump has talked about leaving it. He then walked back this ambition. Was he referring to troops in Iraq? He said he wants to annihilate ISIS. If so he needs troops in ISIS. Trump then said that the United States was not defending its own border which is false. There are illegal immigrants coming in from Mexico. There has been illegal immigration since 1607. This is by no means the most severe problem that the USA is facing. Trump proposes to erect a wall along the border with Mexico. There already are walls there at points that are populated and where many people might cross illegally.

Trump seems to have broken with Republican orthodoxy which was that since 9/11 foreign wars have been necessary. This is why the GOP was very chary about him. Now Trump has changed his tune. There really is no telling with him. He is totally erratic.

In this oration Trump said ”For too long a small group in our nation’s capital enriched itself and the costs were borne by the people. The establishment protected itself”. This takes some nerve to say. Trump is one of the most egregious members of the establishment. He is in that clique. He said himself that he donated generously to politicians to have laws made that favoured the likes of himself. It was part of the disingenuous rhetoric that he pedalled all through the campaign. He constantly spat bile about the supposedly wicked establishment. He was born in New York to millionaire WASP parents. He is as much of an insider as it gets. Trump bilked his workers. He defrauded students at Trump University. He has made himself stinking rich by ripping off ordinary people. He is utterly shameless and has not the slightest regard for veracity.

”Their victories have not been your victories. Their trials have not been your trials. There has been little to celebrate for struggling families all across this land”. This was perhaps the only part of his oration where he told the truth.

Trump went for a soft target. Like many an inadequate politician he chose to castigate teachers. ”An education system flush with cash leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.” Students are not deprived of all knowledge. It was typical of his extremely irresponsible hyperbole. St It is true that there is much wrong with education in the United States. Many schools are not overfunded. In higher education costs are exorbitant. That is due to ostentation. It is about building sports facilities and the like for the sake of vanity. Many people leave third level education with ruinous debts. Excessive profiteering has led to dumbing down as colleges give out higher and higher grades just to keep customers happy. Who has been rooking students? That would be Donald J Trump with his bogus university. Fordham certainly left Trump with no knowledge.

”We are one nation. We share one heart and one home” – that was a sea change from his acridly divisive rhetoric in the campaign. He made

Trump proved he cannot pronounce ”industry.”

”We subsidised the armies of other countries while allowing the very sad depletion of our army.” Would that include Israel? I hope he cuts off all subsidies to the Israeli Defence Force. His Republican Party has pursued these policies of giving military aid to other lands. It suited the weapons industry in the United States. The US military has experienced tiny cuts. The US still spends more on defence than the next 20 countries combined most of whom are allies. The notion that the US defence capability is too feeble is a toxic myth. WHat he said will be music to the ears of the arms industry. They will be pleading for him to ask Congress to expand the military. This will mean more taxation or more likely a larger deficit.

Trump chanted ”America first”. This vacuous slogan signal nativism, exceptionalism and ultra nationalism. ”Buy American and hire American” as he said later. He accused foreigners of ”stealing our companies.” Stealing means buying. He owns companies abroad. Is that stealing?

”I will never, ever let you down.” When he does these words will come back to haunt him.

”It is the right of all nations to put their own interests first”. That applies to Palestinians too.

Trump said he would eradicate Islamic terrorism. He must be reminded that some of his allies arm, fund and provide intelligence to such people.

It was hilarious that he was false enough to cite the Bible.

Trump called for solidarity and unity. He had denounced swathes of Americans as haters. He has spewed hatred even at fellow Republicans.

”Think big and dream even bigger.” He does not think but he is certainly a dreamer.

”All talk and no action” is what he abominates. He may turn out like that as many of his goals are impractical. What he plans to do may well backfire. Even if he could cancel NAFTA it would probably harm the USA.

”We stand at the birth of a new millennium”. Er that began 17 years ago. He wants to heal disease. If that were so he would support more funding for medical research and he would want to give free healthcare to all citizens of the United States.

”You will never be ignored again”. He certainly wishes to ignore the poor and his political opponents. Most Americans disapprove of him. He is starting off already reviled.

Trump took a swipe at the wealthy for exporting jobs. It shows chutzpah for a billionaire to denounce the affluent. He is a Washington insider. He did not stand for elected office before but he was well connected to many politicians. He was a Democrat and a Clinton donor in 2009! Moreover, he is as Wall Street as anyone. He suffers selective amnesia. He can tell the most bare faced lies. Does his company not hire workers from abroad? He also has things manufactured abroad because it is cheaper and he has offshore bank accounts. He is grossly hypocritical. It is always do as I say not as I do. Furthermore, his wife worked illegally as a nude model. Yet more flagrant hypocrisy from him.

The new president mentioned the middle class. Of course he did not mention the working class. They do not exist. Or do they not count?

The 45th president stated that he would make the United States more respected in the world. The US recovered its image very considerably under Obama. What does Trump intend to do in order to improve America’s image? He seems to be against the George W Bush way of doing things. Trump said that he opposed the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan – although that is a lie. Will he be more isolationist? Or will he be more interventionist? He accused Obama of not doing enough to wipe out ISIS. That would be getting the USA back into the Iraqi quagmire. It appears that Trump neither knows or care. He can perform policy U turns every day. It is no longer a business he is running. He is not on reality TV anymore. He is running the mightiest country in the world. This is beyond a joke.

The president heaped praise on the armed forces. This is one of the usual pieties. It is nauseating to see to what degree some people are adulated for doing what they are paid to do. Many of the military are stupid and bigoted. This self-congratulation and flag waving sticks in the craw. There will be yet more childish chauvinism in this presidential term. Trump seldom appears without an American Flag badge on his lapel.

It was sick making to hear Trump say that the country was under the protection of God. God plainly does not love the USA that much. Otherwise he would do a better job of protecting it. D J Trump did not claim to be religious until very lately. He reasoned that it would stand him a better chance of being elected. Some Christian wingnuts were naive to fall for this transparent charade.

Trump said that the slaughter of Americans stops no. Carnage was the word he used. The next time there is a high school shooting or a bomb goes off he will have been proven wrong. He has thrown out promises like confetti. These are pledges he cannot possibly keep. The deglutition of these insincere promises by the gullible is very disconcerting. President Trump is going to prevent this carnage. At the same time the Donald is opposed to any gun control. If he wished to save his people from being killed he should look at the 33 000 gun deaths per year.

Prepare for endless hubris from Trump. He is very thin skinned. It is worrying to have someone so touchy with his finger on the nuclear trigger. He is very easy to provoke. A country can easily launch a false flag operation: insult Trump and make it appear that this comes from another source.

Trump will tell endless barefaced lies. He will perform a policy volte face everyy week. His supporters will be bitterly disappointed if NAFTA is not cancelled. If tariffs are not imposed on the whole world. Even if that happened it would not bring back many jobs and might make the situation much worse. The Republican Congress is not as deranged and inconsistent as Trump is.

Trump changes his mind every few days. No one is totally consistent. Consistency can be over rated. However, Trump is completely inconsistent. Because he expresses so many contradictory opinions he occasionally makes sense.

 

Mr Trump ended with his vapid slogan ”Make America Great Again.” When was the USA greater? Was it when unemployment was higher? Was it when 20 000 000 people did not have health insurance but now do? Was it when the United States had tens of thousands of troops in Iraq? Was it when America’s popularity was at an all time low? Was it when crime was higher? Was it when people could be sent to prison in several states for possessing a speck of a plant?

Forecasting Trump’s policies is very foolish. It is so hard to predict. He was going to prevent all Muslims coming to the United States. Then that was scrapped. He would deport all illegals. Then it was only criminals. He wanted to abolish Affordable Healthcare. Now he wishes to retain parts of it. He is totally short termist.

His term of office could well be mired in law suits. His victims of sexual assault will take action against him. He could be blackmailed with sex tapes. If he upsets another government they can play a tape of him boasting that he commits sex crimes. This pervert is a disgrace.  Hopefully he will be impeached. Mike Pence or even Paul Ryan are little better. They at least believe what they say and are consistent.

Watch out – if the United States cuts off military aid to the Ukraine then the Ukrainian military could quickly collapse. Russia may yet annex half of the Ukraine. Where then? European NATO countries would be chary about facing down Russia without American backing. Admittedly this is partially the fault of European NATO countries almost all of whom spend less than 2% of their GDP on defence.

 

 

 

Was the US intervention in Grenada justified?

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It is 30 years to the day that the US military and six Caribbean countries sent their armed forces into Grenada. Grenada was then ruled by a socialist dictator named Maurice Bishop. Bishop had killed the previous Prime Minister. I am not sure how bad his rule was. He tried to spread literacy and he provided free healthcare. This gives him some moral credit.

Bishop was friendly with the Soviet Bloc. He had hundreds of Cuban troops on the island and they were building an airfield. This was supposedly for peaceful purposes but it could have been used for military purposes. In view of what happened Bishop was sage to beef up his armed forces. His government really was under threat of attack by the United States, Jamaica and other US allies in the region. On the other hand by building up his armed forces he alarmed Washington and that precipitated the invasion. 

Grenada was a sovereign state and she was of course allowed to forge close relations with whichever nation she so desired. The Grenadan Government did not purpose to launch an invasion of any other state. I have never heard it argued that the increase in her military capability was for an aggressive intention. Further, the Grendan Government was entitled to pursue whatever policies that she wished so long as these were not inconsistent with international law.

There were over 1 000 Americans on the island. President Ronald Reagan said that he sent the troops in to protect these people. There was no evidence that they were in danger. One must ask oneself how it would have been had the boot been on the other boot. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Would Reagan have accepted it if Grenada invaded the United States in order to protect Grenadans in the USA? I suspect not. This justification is specious since by making Grenada a war zone Reagan put these Americans in danger. Dozens of civilians were killed in the conflict though so far as I know none of them were American. 

Bishop and some of his acolytes were captured. They were executed by firing squad. I am unsure who slew them. The bodies have not been located which is highly suspicious? If I were behind such an operation I would make sure that Grenadans killed the so the finger could not be pointed at the USA. 

A high majority of states in the United Nations condemned the US action. The United Kingdom abstained on this vote. 

Elizabeth II was and is Queen of Grenada. Maurice Bishop was her Prime Minister. Reagan professed himself to be a Britophile so it was a little off colour to kill the queen’s man! The Commonwealth was aghast at the invasion of a tiny and unoffending Commonwealth country. 

The British Government was not informed of the American intention. Reagan even denied to Margaret Thatcher that he was about to invade.

 It weakened the Western moral position viz a vis the Soviet Union. It was hard to speak out against the Red Army’s presence in Afghanistan when American attacked Grenada. The Afghan Government had invited the Soviets in. The communists of Kabul held the Afghan seat in the United Nations. I know they were undemocratic but so were half the countries in the world and few questioned the legitimacy of the governments of most states such as China. Much though I detest the communists in Afghanistan they were the lawful government of that country. In Grenada’s case the claim for legitimacy for Bishop’s government was feebler since he had ousted a democratic system.

Bishop was swiftly replaced. The US could truthfully say that democratic elements in Grenada had appealed to them for assistance. When these freedom loving people beseeched Ronald Wilson Reagan for succour he could not turn them down.

That was the end of the New Jewel Movement in Grenada. Democracy was restored. Some of Bishops cronies continued in politics and later won office. 

If Reagan had not taken strong action then maybe that land would have become fully communist. There might have been a Red Army base there and nuclear missiles. This is all conjecture.

If in doubt – stay out. So as I am unsure about this military intervention I have to say I think it was wrong. It is no use sitting on the fence. Militarily it was a complete success for the US. All the objectives were achieved for minimal casualties. Cuba was bested. I wonder if the prisoner yielded any useful intelligence or any were turned into spies. But I do not think that this action was morally or legally justified.

The Fenian Risings.

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THE IRB GATHERS STRENGTH

The American Civil War broke out in 1861. There were Irishmen on both sides of the conflict. Both the Confederates in the South and the Union side in the North formed Irish brigades. John Mitchell, an IRB man, was a soldier on the Confederate side and a vociferous advocate of his cause.

The American Civil War ended in 1865. The War between the States had distracted the IRB in the US from its goal of severing the Union of Ireland and Great Britain. IRB men in the United States or the Confederacy had been preoccupied in the intra-American conflict for 4 years. It became difficult to ship weapons out of America and into Ireland.

Once the Civil War was over it became apparent that conflict had in fact been beneficial to the IRB. Thousands of IRB supporters had had military training and indeed combat experience. America had produced guns like billy-o for four years. Enormous quantities of weapons were lying around unneeded and could be bought very cheaply.

The IRB in the United States was known more by the name Fenians. In fact the IRB in the USA soon changed its name to Clan na Gael. IRB men in both the South and the North of the United States set aside their differences with remarkable speed. They then looked to their common objective – to smash the Union between Ireland and Great Britain.

From 1865 onwards the IRB smuggled significant amounts of weapons into Ireland. Of course the Government soon grew aware of this. It was impossible to get all arms shipments through without any of them being intercepted. Informants tongues soon wagged. Dublin Castle know that something was in the offing. Irishmen who had obtained military experience on both sides of the American Civil War traveled back to Ireland to prepare for the anticipated uprising. Some of these men had become American citizens and some had not.

The IRB claimed to have tens of thousands of members. The figure of 50 000 was bandied about. The British Army in Ireland was to a great extent composed of Irishmen. The IRB claimed that thousands of Irish soldiers were in fact sworn members of the IRB. This turned out to have been mostly false. A ship sailed from the United States to Ireland carrying arms. The ship was called Erin’s Hope.

In 1867 the plan was for the IRB to launch its uprising. The rising was to begin with a raid on Chester Castle in Great Britain to seize the weapons there. From Chester the arms would be taken to Ireland for the rising to begin. This scheme was hopelessly over ambitious. The aim was for a train to be hijacked and telegraph lines shut. A train would then transport the arms to Holyhead – this port would also have been seized. A ship would be commandeered and the weapons take to Dublin to effect a rising there.

The Catholic Church was very against the IRB.The Catholic Church was a conservative force and it despised republics. Republic up until that point had turned out to disestablish the Catholic Church and even to be anti-clerical. Nationalist movements in Italy had clashed with the Roman Catholic Church. The French Republican movement was anti-clerical. The Roman Catholic Church was committed to upholding the status quo. As the bishop of Kerry said, ”hell is not hot enough nor eternity long enough to punish such miscreants.’

‘ The Protestant churches were also against the IRB. This was because their congregants were most Unionist. Many people had good reason to oppose the IRB. Some were against the IRB because they were Unionist. Constitutional nationalists were against it because they disliked the IRB’s radical policies. Those who were faithful communicants of the Catholic Church were guided by the injunctions of their clergy. Some people were more pragmatic. Even if they shared the goals of the IRB there was every reason to doubt that the IRB would succeed. Risings in the past had been quickly defeated. There was a danger that a rising would soon degenerate into a sectarian bloodbath as had been the case in 1798.

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THE 1867 RISING

In February there was an attempt at a rising in Kerry that did not amount to much. In Kerry many of the local gentry panicked at the thought of the IRB killing them. The landlords fled to the county hotel. Some took the train to Dublin. On the fateful day in Chester some Fenians turned up and milled around. The attack was desultory and a complete failure. This sort of fiasco was to typify IRB actions for the next few decades. Bombastic rhetoric, a timid gathering of loudmouths whose much boasted valour deserted them at the first sign of danger.

Outside Dublin several hundred Fenians gathered at a village called Tallaght. It was a snowy day – 5 March. The IRB men were confronted by men of the Irish Constabulary. Sub Inspector Burke was reluctant to kill anyone. He called on the Fenians, ”Disperse or so help me God I will fire.” The Fenians did not disperse – at least not yet. Firing broke out. One Fenian was wounded in the leg. The rest executed a well-known Fenian manuevre – rout. The fact that only one man was hit and not fatally suggests that both sides wanted to avoid bloodshed. Such scenes were repeated in various points around Ireland. The Battle of Tallaght as it became known occurred on the same day as various actions around Ireland. This at least showed a little co-ordination. 12 people were killed that day.

In Drogheda men gathered on the streets. They fired a few shots and then scarpered. In Cork there was a small demonstration by the IRB who scattered when the authorities made a move on them. In Killmallock the IRB succeeded in storming a police station. A rebel ballad remarked, ” twas the hottest fight of all.”

The 1867 turned out to be a clear and shameful defeat for the IRB. The tens of thousands of devotees of the Fenian cause turned out to be either fictitious or just full of hot air. The state had very easily beaten the IRB. The IRB had little public support. IRB men were put on trial for various offences including treason. Some were sentenced to death. Not one was executed. They had their sentences commuted to lesser sentences. Some were transported to Australia. The very next year, 1868, the Government ceased using transportation as a punishment. In the end under 20 people were killed in Ireland in what was supposed to be a huge uprising. This author has not heard of a single soldier who mutinied in favour of the IRB. The Fenian Rising was mostly just hot air. The north of Ireland had been all but free of violence

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THE IRB ATTACKS IN GREAT BRITAIN

A Fenian named Timothy Deasy was in prison in Manchester. IRB men in Great Britain decided to try to rescue him. They attacked the horse-drawn prison van that was transporting Deasy. One of the IRB men fired at the lock holding the van shut. A police man inside the van was struck by the bullet and died. Deasy was freed and fled abroad.

This incident is recorded in the rebel song, ”The smashing of the van.” The public was horrified that a policeman had been killed. Several Fenians were arrested and put on trial for murder. One was acquitted. Another was an American sailor. He and the others were sentenced to death. The American had his sentence commuted . Presumably this was done so as not to antagonise the US.

From the dock the Fenians shouted, ”God save Ireland!”

At dawn outside Strangeways prison a huge crowd gathered. Dozens of soldiers were there in case there was trouble or an attempt to save the condemned men. At Strangeways Prison the three Fenians were executed by hanging. The executions were carried out on the walls of the prison in full view of thousands of people who came to watch. This was the last year in which executions were carried out in public.

The three men who were hanged were known as the Manchester Martyrs. Many people in Ireland prayed for them. Moderate nationalists also expressed sympathy for these men. Some people adulated these three because they approved of the IRB. There was a great deal of sympathy for them because some maintained that these three were innocent. It is dubious if it was one of these three who fired the fatal shot. In any even it is certain that only one man fired on the van – not three. Therefore that three should be punished with death was held to be unfair. The IRB insisted that they had never intended to kill anyone that day and that the bullet had been fire merely to break the lock. Under the law of the time a doctrine of common purpose existed. These men had conspired to commit a crime. As a result of a wilful act of violence a man had died. This made it murder even if the intention had not been to kill. These men were reckless as to the possibility that someone should suffer death as a result of their actions. Therefore all those who were concerned in the plot were legally culpable.

T.D. Sullivan, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, composed a song dedicated to the Manchester Martyrs. ”God Save Ireland said the heroes/ God Save Ireland say we all/ Whether on the battlefield we die/Or on the scaffold high/ What matter when for Erin dear we fall.” This song called ”God Save Ireland” became the virtual national anthem of Nationalist Ireland.

Karl Marx wrote that there was a considerable degree of respect for the IRB’s demands among the working class of London. A leading Fenian was held in Clerkenwell prison in London. The IRB decided to free him. The IRB left a wheelbarrow full of explosives outside the prison wall when they knew their man was exercising in the yard. The plan was that the bomb would blow a hole in the wall enabling the IRB prisoner to escape. The bomb exploded. This did not cause a breach in the wall but injured many others, many of them died of their wounds over the coming weeks. 12 people were killed. Public opinion in Great Britain turned sharply against the Fenians. As Dr Marx noted, one cannot expect people to want to be blown up.

Michael Barret was convicted of laying the charge outside Clerkenwell Prison. He was sentenced to death. He had the dubious distinction of being the last person to be publicly executed in the British Isles. The Fenian Rising caused a recrudescence of anti-Irish feeling in Great Britain. This was mostly against Irish Catholics as it was recognised that Irish Protestants were seldom in the IRB and indeed most Irish Protestants were stalwartly opposed to the IRB.

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FENIAN RAIDS ON CANADA.

The Fenians in the US trained openly. As the US Constitution guaranteed the right to bear arms the US Government could do nothing to stop private militias preparing to fight. The Fenians purposed to attack British North America – which is now called Canada. There was much dissension within Clan na Gael in the United States as to whether attacking Canada was a sensible use of energy and manpower or was a diversion from the actual target – Eire.

From1865 to 1870 there were several Fenian attacks on Canada. Some of them involved over a thousand men. The main battle was called the Battle of Ridegway. One Fenian who was killed was buried in the United States with the name of an organisation called, ”The Irish Republican Army” on his headstone.

It is suspected that the US Government did little agaisnt the raids at first for a few reasons. The United Kingdom traded with the Confederate States of American during the American Civil War and this was condign punishment for the British Empire. More than a few Americans, even those who were not of Irish blood, felt sympathy for the Fenian cause. There was electoral good sense in tolerating Fenian activity. Some Americans believed that the existence of Canada as a dominion of the British Empire was offensive. The American Revolution had some unfinished business. The Monroe Doctrine stated that no European country should control any portion of the American Continent. The US Government did intervene after a time. Troops were sent under the Union commander from the Civil War, Ulysses S Grant to disarm the Fenians. The Fenians did not resist. John O’Neill was the chief Fenian commander for these invasions of Canada.

Canada was much more a focus for immigration from Great Britain than from Ireland. There were Irishmen who moved to Canada but they were mainly Protestant. Toronto became a centre for the Orange Order. Canadian Orangemen march in 12th July parades in feather war bonnets. The ethno-religious composition of the Canadian population (outside French-speaking Quebec) explains why the Fenians got short shrift when they invaded Canada.

Canadian Orangemen were to the fore in the defence of the dominion. Alexander Muir a Canadian Orangeman originally from Great Britain, was one of those who served in the militia against the Fenians. Muir wrote, ”Maple Leaf Forever” – a Canadian patriotic anthem.

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THE AFTERMATH OF THE 1867 RISING.

In Ireland an amnesty campaign was started. Letters were written to newspapers and petitions were handed in to the government requesting that IRB prisoners be released. The amnesty campaign drew support from many people who had not supported the IRB. Over time the Government acceded to these requests.

William Ewart Gladstone was made to sit up and take notice of Ireland on account of the Fenian Rising. The Liberal leader was chopping wood at his estate at Hawarden in 1868 when a message arrived for him. The Liberals had won the election and Her Majesty the Queen asked him to form as government – he was to be Prime Minister. He said, ”My mission is to pacify Ireland.” W.E. Gladstone looked for legitimate grievances.

One of the most obviously unfair laws in Ireland was that which said that the Church of Ireland was the established church when no more than 15% of the populace belong to it. W.E. Gladstone resolved to disestablished the Church of Ireland. The Church of Ireland would continue to exist of course but it was no longer to be the state religion and supported from public funds. It would be a private institution on the same footing as the Catholic Church, the Religious Society of Friends, the Wesleyan Church and so on and so forth.

In 1869 a bill was passed to disestablish the Church of Ireland. Some hardline Protestant supremacists in the Conservative Party argued against it. They said it was a surrender to terrorism and it was strengthening Popery. The act became law and was phased in over a couple of years.

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THE FENIAN BOMBING CAMPAIGN.

In 1880 the IRB decided to set off bombs in Great Britain. The aim of this was to pressurise the UK Government into giving the IRB what they wanted.

Tom Clarke was an IRB man born in Great Britain who was one of the dynamitards. He was found guilty of terrorist offences and he served a few years in prison for his crimes.

Hammersmith Bridge suffered a bomb blast courtesy of the IRB. Minor damage was done. The Continuity IRA set a bomb off at this bridge in 2001.

Thanksgiving – a simple explanation.

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The Pilgrim Fathers were a group of religious extremists who originated in England. England was then governed by James I. The Church of England was the stablished church in that table. Those who were outside that church were discriminated by law. The Pilgrim Fathers belonged to a more hardline form of Protestantism. The Pilgrim Fathers had moved from England to the Netherlands for a few years where there was greater religious liberty. Their time in Leiden did not work out for them they returned to England.

There had been English settlements in North America since 1607. The Pilgrim Fathers decided to take an enormous risk and to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to make a life for themselves in America. Virginia was a colony on the eastern coast of the American Continent. Virginia was named in honour of Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, who had died in 1603. The Pilgrim Fathers purposed to move thither.

Who would cross 3000 miles of ocean? Who would settle in a strange land that had never been under the plough? Who would dwell in a land that was said to be peopled by naked savages who loved nothing better to slay and ravage good Christian folk? The chances of perishing were high? There could be strange diseases in that country. Why risk it all? Only the religiously inspired or the desperate were likely to make the voyage. The voyage was long, dangerous and expensive. It was a voyage that people seldom made more than once. If someone moved to America they would probably never return.

Those who were likely to cross the Atlantic were often on the lower margin of the society. These people were very poor. In a time when many died of malnutrition poor meant very poor indeed.

In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from the British Isles. They had with them many emigrants who were not members of their religious sect. They sailed in a convoy of three ships. The most notable of these was the Mayflower. The other two ships had been poorly built and they had leakage problems.

After some weeks they cried land ho! They had sighted the New World. Navigation back then was primitive to say the least. They had intended to make land fall in Virginia. They had missed by a few hundred miles. They landed in what we now call Massachusetts. The point of land where the Pilgrim Fathers disembarked they named Plymouth Rock. They named it after the port in the British Isles from whence they had set sail.

The Pilgrim Fathers and the others disembarked. They set about building themselves some houses. Some people had died on the voyage and others had fallen ill. They planted crops and tried to hunt. Their attempts to produce food for themselves were not very successful. They did however happen upon a large bird that came to be called a turkey. Turkeys were far larger than any animal they had ever seen. It is three times larger than a chicken.

The English settlers began to drop like flies. Of those still living most were taken ill.

Then in November some Native Americans emerged from the woods and approached the English immigrants. The Native Americans were not the brutes of English legend. The Native Americans brought food to the starving English settlers. They also taught them how to grow crops. The immigrants suffered some more deaths but most did make it through the winter. Had it not been for the aid of the Native Americans then it is probable that the English immigrants would have died out.

The next year and ever after the immigrants into America commemorated the fact that they had made it through the winter. Near the end of November the Pilgrim Fathers marked the occasion with Thanksgiving. They gave thanks to god for saving them. They did not give thanks to the Native Americans.

Americans make a great effort to be with their relatives at Thanksgiving. They are grateful for having a home and family at this time. Some celebrate it in a religious manner. This public holiday was fixed in the 1930s by President Roosevelt as the 4th Thursday in November. There are occasionally 5 Thursdays in November so it is not necessarily the last Thursday that is Thanksgiving.

Only the Thursday is a day off work. In reality most people also take the Friday off.

Thanksgiving is a very bad time to travel in the United States as so many people are on the move. The film Trains, Planes and Automobiles testifies to this.

Thanksgiving is a time when many of the most important American Football games are played.

At Thanksgiving Americans eat Turkey and apple pie. Apple pie is seen as a very American dish. The saying goes that something is, ”as American as apple pie.” People often drink eggnog which is indeed based on eggs. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions of eggnog exist.

In the White House a turkey is presented in a cage. The President reprieves it and the bird is not killed.

Thanksgiving is almost as important as Christmas for Americans. If people cannot be with their relatives fro Christmas they make sure they see them at Thanksgiving.

Americans are often surprised that the rest of the world does not celebrate Thanksgiving.

Canada celebrates Thanksgiving. However, they mark this feast at the end of October – just to be different from the Americans.

It was right to drop the nuclear bombs on Japan.

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At this time of year we tend to reflect on the nuclear bomb.

On 6 and 9 August 1945 the US Army Air Corps dropped nuclear bombs on Japan. These bombs exploded on Hiroshima in the case of the first bomb and on Nagasaki in the case of the second bomb. Well over a hundred thousand people were killed in these incidents of died of wounds afterwards. I do not belittle the unimaginable suffering of those people. Some were crippled for life by these explosions. The great majority of those killed were civilians.

On 15 August Japan capitulated.

Noam Chomsky and others have argued that this was a horrendous war crime.

The Japanese Government was negotiating through back channels about surrender. Could Japan retain the emperor if they did. The US and other Allied countries wanted unconditional surrender. Charlie Chuckles argued that this was a war crime in itself to insist upon unconditional surrender. If conditional surrender shortened the war and saved lives then it should be obtained. That was his view.

I believe that it was right and morally defensible for President Truman to order his men to drop those bombs. As I have said I do not deny the inconceivable agony that this inflicted on those Japanese struck by these atomic bombs.

Japan had attacked the US, the Netherlands, China and the British Empire in totally unprovoked attacks and without any declaration of war. The conduct of the Japanese military was absolutely horrendous. The torture and gross mistreatment of prisoners was the norm and not the exception. Millions of Asian civilians were made slaves by the Japanese military. The murder of defenceless people was committed on an extremely wide scale by the Japanese military. I do not hold all Japanese including all of their military personnel responsible for this. However, I am afraid that these extremely immoral actions of the Japanese Government need to be considered when discussing what methods of war were acceptable to use. It would not have been so permissible to use weapons against an honourable enemy for example.

It was imperative to bring the war to a close quickly. Prisoner sin the custody of the Japanese military were dying rapidly. To shorten the war by even one day would save many lives.

The Allies planned to land in Japan and conquer it. They projected hundreds of thousands of dead on their side and on the Japanese side. Japanese civilians would also have been killed in huge numbers in the crossfire.

Millions of civilians had already been killed in that war. There were no smart bombs then. Aerial bombardment and artillery bombardment inevitably killed large numbers if civilians. The nuclear bomb was not different in principle to conventional bombardments. A conventional bombing of Tokyo had caused that largely wooden city to catch fire and this killed more people than the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.

The Allies offered Japan a chance to surrender. After the Potsdam Conference they informed Tokyo that she mus surrender or be hit with a weapon more destructive than the world had ever known.

Japan had never surrendered before. It would take something extraordinary to do so. The fanaticism of Japanese soldiers in hopeless situations caused many Allied servicemen to die.

The nuclear bomb allowed the Allies to end the war almost immediately and that was the right thing to do.

In 2002 I met a British soldier in Northamptonshire. He was a prisoner of the Japanese Army from 1942-45. He told me they knew that if the Japanese homeland was attacked the Japanese military had orders to kill all their prisoners and return to Japan for the final defence of their native land. The nuclear bomb saved this man’s life.

I know an elderly American called Stan. His elder brother was in the US Army. Stan strongly approved of nuking Japan because if this had not been done there were still millions of Japanese soldiers waiting to kill his big brother.

I met a British bloke in 2005 who had been in the Parachute Regiment in 1945. His unit was earmarked to invade Japan. Then the nukes were dropped and that was no longer necessary.

Dropping the nuclear bombs was not controversial at the time.

Japan was working on its own nuclear programme at the time. If these had been made then they certainly would have used them.

There is another issue. The USSR was preparing to attack Japan in Manchuria. Some say the US wanted to end the war promptly so that the USSR could not gain too much in China. This is often said to be a wrongful reason for deciding to go nuclear. I believe that it was another good reason for doing so. The post war world was something to consider. The USSR was an extremely bloody tyranny. To spare people being dominated by it was obviously good news.

I take issue with the targeting. Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not have much military significance. It would have been better to drop them on a more military target. Tokyo would be the wrong option. If the emperor had been killed then there would have been nobody left with the authority to surrender.

By dropping the nukes many Japanese civilians were killed. It is a certainty that if it had not been dropped far more of them would have been killed.

The primary duty of a government is the security and well-being of its people. If forced to choose between the lives of his men and those of his enemy of course Truman was right to choose saving the lives of his own folk.

Harry Truman made a difficult and no doubt anguished decision. He should be commended for doing so.

It is despicable that leftists and anti nuclear nutcases should harp on about this and not look at the broader historical context. They speak as though this is an act that stands in isolation due to its unparalleled moral turpitude. Truman’s choice was not only right but also righteous.

President Carter’s ill luck versus Obama’s stroke of fortune.

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President Obama ordered the US Navy SEALs kill or capture Osama Bin Laden and as all the world knows they executed this order successfully. ”Terminate with extreme prejudice”, what is the point of this expression? ”Terminate” on its own says it all. It us the typical US military verbal overkill. Obama was warned that the chance of success was only 50-50. It could have all gone wrong with the Pakistani Army noticing foreign helicopters intruding near their academy and the Pak Army shooting them down. It is doubly embarrassing for the Pak military. 1 – they did not know Osama Bin Laden was there or so they claimed and 2. they did not see these intruding helicopters coming. The US military could have killed lots of civilians. The US military could have been beaten off. That was unlikely as they are elite. The US military could have taken a lot of casualties. However, I think the US public would have been willing to accept most of the attackers being killed so long as Bin Laden was taken out.

President Carter ordered his military to launch a rescue operation to get American hostages out of Teheran. The helicopters got caught in a sandstorm. Some of the choppers crashed and the mission had to be aborted. The hostage crisis dragged on and Carter’s popularity began a vertiginous slide because of this. It was a salient factor in his losing the 1980 election.

I do not think there was anything seriously wrong with the plan in Carter’s time and it was right to give it a whirl. Admittedly getting all 50 hostages out of several buildings in the embassy compound at night was a tall order. Killing one man is rather simpler. Likewise Obama’s plan was not much better. Carter was unfortunate where as fortune smiled on Obama. Such is life.

As it pissed on Carter’s parade Reagan was elected. Ok, there were other factors too such as Reagan courting the religious right and the stagflation that afflicted the US at the time. Regaan’s partisans would have us believe that it was to the Great communicator that we owe the end of the Cold War. I think it is rather more complex than that but I do think that Reagan had something to do with it.