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The Way We Were - Part I

I am purchasing tires for daughter's car.

Seeking to maximize the utility of my time spent improving someone else's productivity in what passes for a store lobby, my eye drifts to a copy of the local rag, lying on a vacant seat.

What ho?!!

What is this I see? A headline which says "Civilians tried to get custody of atomic arms" and "Declassified history shows behind-scenes fight in late 1940s for control of weapons."

My code antennae are on max alert. I can tell from the headline that this article will say very little about the motives behind this conflict, but will speak volumes to its small intended audience. But the by line contains another surprise. It is an AP piece written by one Robert Burns. It might be a misdirect, but most probably one of my own tribesmen.

My curiosity is much aroused. Now understand that before I even start the article, I am expecting a masterpiece of concealment, deception and code-speak. After all, if this piece is about who and what I suspect it is, then deep encryption of the message will be necessary for this article to survive past the AP editor's desk. Expectations are high indeed!

And the very first paragraph does not disappoint:

Now what normal person would expect that anyone other than the military would have custody over a weapon. Indeed, the only reason not to give them custody is if you distrust them. But then the U.S. military has never disobeyed orders. It has a 200 year record. So I have not gone past the first paragraph, and it is already clear that we are dealing with powerful and fundamentally irrational emotions on the part of people with sufficient political connections to obtain sub-cabinet and commission level political appointments.

Ok, so let's try paragraph two:

Now this is really curious, the U.S. military has just won "The Good War." What percentage of the population in 1948 could possibly think the military "unfit" and untrustworthy to keep nuclear weapons?

And like a good journalist, Mr. Burns gives us the heavily encrypted answer in paragraph 3.

Folks, I'll give you one guess. You only get one strike in the great game of American Cultural Decryption. Here is the quiz. Name the one political constituency which a) would mistrust the American military despite having fought the Good War, b) would be feared by Truman, and c) would attach political significance to an arcane issue like custody of nuclear weapons.

Of course all of you recognize instantly that this can be none other than the inner party (as I have previously defined it).

Now the next question is whether the author will break crude and identify a player or two in a way that discloses the ethnic identity of the "civilians" for the "encryption challenged."

So let us continue our read:

Groves. Ok, no surprises here and not points deducted. Let's continue:

Lilienthal?

Seriously, was that really necessary? Couldn't Burns, the author, have picked a non-inner party secretary or spokesperson or something less conspicuous?

The only thing that remains is to see how this Burns guy handles the emotion behind the issue. How can one possibly explain it? From the viewpoint of the military it is easy. Anger at universalized "civilians" mistrusting them and interfering with the performance of their jobs will be all that it takes. But how can one possibly describe the fears of the inner party without causing himself no end of trouble?

The suspense builds! It's like the triple axle in figure skating. Can this Burns fellow redeem himself? Can he pull it off?

Here is part one:

Nice graceful lead in to the final jump.

And now the tough part. How does one encrypt the emotions and delusions on the other side? Here it comes:

James Forrestal!

Magnificent! I never would have thought of it!

After all, Forrestal - the son of an Irish immigrant, a Princeton graduate, chairman of Dillon Read, America's first Secretary of Defense under Roosevelt, and Truman cabinet appointee - was subjected to vicious personal media attacks by Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell following his opposition to the formation of the state of Israel and the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands. The public personal attacks caused him to suffer a nervous breakdown and resign.

The very mention of James Forrestal would, of course, remind inner party readers that this was their emotional issue, without having to describe the feelings explicitly. Through this ingenious encryption, the author avoids implanting awkward questions in the minds of outer party readers that would be triggered by any candid discussion of inner party feelings on the matter. The powerful symbolism of Forrestal allows the emotion of the story to be lightly encrypted for the audience possessed of a public "group key", while leaving the outer party with a comforting image of a universalist sounding "civilians" opposed to military control of nuclear weapons.

Brilliant. - I give it a 9.8 out of 10 possible. How about you!

All of which begs the ultimate question, which is how on earth we of the outer party ever reached such a state of debility that we failed to react collectively to this outrage. After all, this notion that nuclear weapons were the exclusive national property of the inner party - not to be shared with us - means that this group of American citizens had a powerful shared vision of the proper condition in which we should be maintained, namely, a role in which we are defenseless drones, producing and consuming, but bereft of meaningful sovereignty and self-determination, and ruled by a hostile elite. How could we fail to see that our common group interests were threatened, and that these interests should be defended?

How did we come to such a pass?

As some of you may know from e-mails and direct correspondence, I am working on a larger project involving this very issue. But I think that Forrestal was typical of his generation of outer party Wasp (Irish, Wasp? - It makes no difference because we all look the same to them!). Forrestal provides us with one rather spectacular example of our collective debility - the incapacity to recognize hostile purposes and to defend against groups acting in accordance with those hostile purposes.

To the inner party, Forrestal's public campaign to "take the Palestine issue out of partisan politics" and for a "federated state in Palestine in which the inner party and Arabs would share power" made him an anti-semite.

But for us, Forrestal is a very special symbol of universalist naivete - and the first and most prominent sacrificial lamb upon the alter of inner party group interests.

In his book, The Samson Option, Seymour Hersh describes in detail the early AEC, in which the driving force was not its chairman, Alfred Lilienthal, but Lewis Strauss, an inner party member that Hersh describes as "the strongman of the Commission." (Page 84)

At the same time, Abe Feinberg, the man who turned around Truman's losing presidential campaign with a donation of the then unheard of sum of $2 million, was raising funds for the development of Israel's nuclear weapons program. (Page 93). So the communication lines were crystal clear. Any outer-party liberal Democrat serving in Truman's cabinet had ready access to the relevant political facts if he wanted to know them.

The nuclear custody issue was clearly and obviously a particularist issue of group interests as the inner party saw those interests. More telling, of course was the reaction of Forrestal, who, following the pattern of his folk at the time, ignored what his intellect must have plainly recognized, choosing instead to transform these particular group interests into the universalized interests of "civilians," thereby permitting him to deal with the issue in universalized terms and to avoid the socially unacceptable consequences of confronting the group interests and opposing them in a direct way through exposure and through rallying his own group for support.

In this respect, Forrestal and virtually all of his outer party contemporaries were modern day Don Quixotes, transforming a fairly obvious objective reality into something more psychologically manageable.

Most telling, of course, is that Burns, the author of the story under discussion, must believe the disease still widespread, or he would not have written the article reprinted below based on the assumption that the outer party readers would react exactly as Forrestal did 50 years ago. Indeed, this is my most powerful evidence that Forrestal's individual reaction was shaped by powerful group norms shared by most outer party newspaper readers, certainly in his own time, and even to this day.

But the times have changed for us.

Try and imagine any outer party member politically connected enough to land a cabinet appointment in the year 2000 who would oppose the interests of Israel and then be surprised when he is attacked in the media on some unrelated issue.

Try and imagine further, that he would be so surprised and upset by the attack that he would have a nervous breakdown and be unable to continue to serve.

After what happened to Charles Percy, William Fulbright, and numerous others who have tried to maintain their personal dignity and independence on issues of foreign policy, it is hard to imagine a modern politician of any party failing to anticipate the payback for opposing inner party group interests, or if opposed, allowing the inevitable public attacks to upset one's fundamental view of one's self.

In some respects, outer party politicians have come a long way since 1948. John Kennedy would vent in private about the inner party and its power (Hersh, pp 96-97, 117). And we all know that Richard Nixon vented his frustrations with the inner party privately in the infamous tapes. Try to imagine Pat Buchanan being surprised by public attacks.

Indeed, in order for Forrestal to have had a nervous breakdown in response to the public attacks, he would have to believe that he and the inner party were members of a single universalized humanity sharing common bonds of trust and respect such as would prevent a personal attack unless he were guilty of some sort of breach that caused it.

And this is critical to understanding our present predicament. For it can only be a deep instinctive feeling that all who live in geographic proximity with us automatically share tribal bonds of trust and respect that could render us unable to confront obvious group behavior when we see it.

For some reason, it has become more important to our identities to preserve this odd notion of geographic brotherhood, or brotherhood based on land, than to protect our own interests or to ensure our collective survival against the encroachments of those who share the land with us.

It is a failing ultimately reinforced by the fear that confrontation would diminish us in the eyes of those who are undeniably part of our wider "kinship" or national grouping, even if, for most of us who suffer under the heavy universalist disability, that kinship is recognized only to the extent it is forced upon us by our dissimilar neighbors who persist in displaying group behavior despite our polite refusal to acknowledge its existence.

To see the extent of the change, all one need do is compare the roster of names in Truman's first cabinet (Byrnes, Vinson, Patterson, Forrestal, Biddle, Hannegan, Krug, Anderson, Harriman, Schellenbach) with Clinton's cabinet roster.

The inescapable conclusion: - It is becoming more and more difficult to find outer party members willing to serve on their knees.

While the attitudes of the American descendants of European Christendom change with glacial slowness, they do change. Ultimately, ideas follow action. And our actions show clearly that it is becoming more and more difficult for us to maintain the universalist delusion. We may still be willing to work tirelessly for universalism, but when the inner party forces its agenda upon us, we stop volunteering. And so, the universalist elite is rapidly falling apart under the weight of the crassness of the inner party agenda.

A quick tour through The Forrestal Diaries, (Viking Press, 1951) is instructive.

Here we have a collection of Forrestal's private notes. In Forrestal's private notes this notion of a federated state of inner party and Arabs sharing power in Palestine simply pops up ex cathedra. There is no discussion of whether the concept was consistent with the behavior of Irgun on the ground at the time, and no expression of doubts about whether such an arrangement could be used effectively to transform the conflict from inner party terrorist violence to the more civilized form of conflict carried on in legislative debates. It is merely assumed - "a truth universally acknowledged" so to speak.

Indeed, Forrestal embodies this notion that there is a universal American interest that is universally understood by all Americans and to which lesser considerations of residual old-world tribal and national loyalties will naturally subserve. See especially his notes on page 344 of a luncheon conversation with Senator McGrath in which he analogizes removing Palestine from domestic politics to "the Eire-Irish question of forty years ago and that neither should be permitted to have any substantial influence on American Policy."

Oh my!

It was a basic failure to understand the nature of the multi-cultural society that was in the early stages of being forced upon this country at that time!

Indeed to understand just how out of step and ultimately self-destructive Forrestal's thinking is, one need only read his Diaries along side "The Fatal Embrace", by Benjamin Ginsberg (University of Chicago, 1993).

In The Fatal Embrace, Ginzberg rather boldly and explicitly relates every liberal policy to its specific impact on the group interests of the inner party. It is a perfect illustration of how winners and survivors think in a multi-cultural society.

Human equality is our central delusion.

And when I say human equality, I mean group equality, for everyone recognizes that individuals are wildly unequal. But there can be no differences among groups despite the evidence of our eyes and our experience.

Our survival depends primarily upon our ability to understand ourselves and why we cling so tenaciously to this delusion. No one else on Earth believes it. Only the descendants of European Christendom.

Before understanding where this delusion comes from, and the strategies for its expulsion from our collective consciousness, it is first necessary to recognize that, unlike the inner party, we as a people are prone to delusions that are contrary to our self interest. That is why I regard Charles McKay's 1841 masterpiece "Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" to be one of the seven Nationalist Classics.

It is a classic for investors because of his description of the great speculative manias we fall victim to including the Mississippi Scheme, The South Sea Bubble and Tulipomania. But to stop at the end of these early chapters is to deprive yourself of a deeper understanding of the inherent weakness of European peoples. You must read the remaining chapters, especially the chapters on the Crusades and the Witch trials (which spread all over Europe and only touched the Puritan colonies in Massachusetts for a very brief period).

When one reads McKay, one is struck with a profound irony, for these delusions are not "popular" nor are they embraced by our stereotype of the "crowd", but rather they are the peculiar province of our upper classes - our elites. After all, investment manias are restricted to those with capital to invest. Similarly, there were many crusades, but only one minor peasants' crusade. The remainder were staffed and financed, much to their own personal disadvantage, by Knights, Barons and Kings.

And in every one, our elites embrace with wild enthusiasm a course of action profoundly contrary to their own long term interests based on a vision of reality that even the lowliest peasant would reject out of hand.

Only a member of the outer party elite could read McKay and not see the irony of the title, or fail to see that the memoirs are about him. Only an outer party elite could read Cervantes masterpiece Don Quixote, and not realize that he is reading about himself.

Only our outer party elite could watch this campaign to deprive us of control of our own nuclear weapons - driven by an impulse from deep within the inner party and requiring no visible communication or coordination among themselves - and refuse to acknowledge the mortal danger to his own people - his own descendants.

More coming in "The Way we Were - Part II"

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Austin American-Statesman Oct. 21, 1999 pA17 Civilians tried to get custody of atomic arms

Declassified history shows behind-scenes fight in late 1940s for control of weapons

BY ROBERT BURNS Associated Press

WASHINGTON-In the early years of America's monopoly on atomic weapons, civilian and military leaders fought behind the scenes over who should have custody of the small but growing arsenal, according to a newly declassified Pentagon history of the period.

With "suspicion and distrust on both sides," the quiet struggle reached crisis proportions in 1948. Civilian leaders deemed the military unfit to maintain the new weapons, the military argued that it must have possession and control in order to be prepared to use the weapons on short notice.

In the summer of 1948, President Truman, citing the approaching elections, chose to let the tempest continue, according to the once secret Pentagon document, "History of the Custody and Deployment of Nuclear Weapons," written in 1978. The history was partially declassified this year and released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Robert Norris, a military historian.

U.S. military leaders grew increasingly concerned about the custody dispute as world tensions increased with the Soviet blockade of Berlin in June 1948, although the Soviets did not yet have their own nuclear arms.

In the spring of 1949, a few months before the first Soviet nuclear test, a resolution began to emerge, allowing the military initially to control nuclear weapon assemblies positioned at bases overseas. Internal tensions eased, although more than a decade passed before the Defense Department gained full custody.

Then, as now, the president retained final say over ordering the actual use of such weapons.

"To say that the issue of civilian versus military control of atomic energy had been a burning, acrimonious issue for years would be an understatement of classic proportions," the Pentagon history said.

Even today, arguments persist over responsibility for U.S. nuclear weapons and the vast network of laboratories and other installations associated with them. The Energy Department has control over research, development, manufacturing and testing of nuclear weapons, but after reports of Chinese stealing U.S. nuclear laboratory secrets, some in Congress called for the Pentagon to take those responsibilities.

The first atomic bombs were built during World War II by the super-secret Manhattan Engineer District, run by Army Gen. Leslie Groves. Two were dropped on Japan in August 1945, ending the war. In late 1946, the small existing stockpile of nuclear weapons was transferred to control of the Atomic Energy Commission, a civilian agency whose first chairman was David Lilienthal.

Groves led the charge to win military custody of the weapons. Lilienthal was his chief antagonist. At a White House meeting in March 1948, one month after Groves retired, Truman cautioned the two sides that in view of troubling signs of aggressive intentions by communists in Europe they had better find a solution.

Norris, who is writing a biography of Groves, said the Army general was offended at the civilians' position.

"He was wounded by all of this," Norris said. "From his point of view, 'You gave me the responsibility of building the bomb during the war, and now you don't trust me with it?' " Norris said.

The military pressed Defense Secretary James Forrestal to get Truman on their side. Truman said no.

"According to Secretary Forrestal, the president had informed him that it might be possible to re-examine this issue at a later date, perhaps after the fall elections," the Pentagon history says. In the months leading up to the November election, Truman said custody should remain with civilian authorities.

A few months later, however, agreements were reached on giving the military a limited custodial role, and as of June 1949, military personnel of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project were involved in inspection of weapons and their routine maintenance at storage sites in the United States.

[1949 AP file photo Before his re-election and this inaugural address, President Truman backed giving custody of the atomic arsenal to a civilian authority, but by summer 1949, the military had regained a limited inspection-and-maintenance role, newly released documents say.]

The outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula in June 1950 gave rise to more controversy over custody. Concerned about Soviet intentions in Europe, Truman authorized the first transfer of nuclear weapon components minus their nuclear explosive capsules - to storage sites in the United Kingdom, Guam and aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Coral Sea in the Mediterranean Sea.

The military wanted control at overseas bases not just for the nuclear bomb components but also the U.S.-based nuclear capsules under Atomic Energy Commission control that would have to be flown in during a crisis. Truman approved the first such transfer of nuclear capsules to military control abroad in June 1953.


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