A Theatre Joke

A sound technician, a lighting designer and a stage manager found an old lamp. The sound technician gave it a rub, and out wafted a genie!

“Since you all found me, you all get a wish!”

The sound technician went first, “I’d like a multi-million pound mansion.” And POOF, he went.

The lighting director said “Well, I want a multi-million pound private island.” And POOF, he went.

The stage manager sighed theatrically, “I want them back here in 10 minutes.”

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Eisenhower and Britain’s Imperial Pretensions

Introduction

Roosevelt informed Churchill that an American general had to be Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in December, 1943. Churchill accepted this fait accompli even though Britain ceded sovereignty during a war. Britain was no longer in control of its own destiny. British armed forces, henceforward, were commanded by Eisenhower. Churchill knew this was a price worth paying. Although Britain became America’s junior partner, Churchill’s history of the war shaped perceptions to such an extent this was concealed from the public. Churchill’s myth-making was choreographed. At the VE Day celebrations Polish troops were banned from the march because Churchill wanted a British victory on view.

Anthony Eden, Churchill’s Foreign Secretary during the war, objected to his decision to cede sovereignty. This was an indicator of poor judgement in not recognising that courageous decisions have to be made for the greater purpose. More significantly, this lack of judgement demonstrated his inability to recognise that Britain’s place in the world had changed irretrievably. This led inexorably to his catastrophic decisions plotting regime change in Egypt of 1956. Eden as prime minister wrecked British standing across the world. He hastened the end of the British empire by his actions.

Discussion

Britain’s post-1945 attempt at maintaining imperial control was doomed. The twenty year independence movement in India was the beginning of the end. Britain was bankrupt and the in-coming Labour government faced facts facilitating Indian independent in 1948. Israel’s (Palestine) independence came in 1948 because it was unimportant to Britain and the endemic Arab-Jewish conflict was an incentive to quit promptly. Other independence movements in Malaya and Cyprus showed the British empire was in a spiral of decline by 1956.

Anthony Eden* thought Eisenhower would endorse regime change in Egypt and the re-establishment of Britain’s economic imperialism. Egypt’s principal economic asset, the Suez canal, was controlled by an Anglo-French company who were only interested in dividends. President Gamal Nasser said the company was looting Egypt. He planned a huge dam on the Nile to provide hydro-electricity and manage the river’s flow. This required Suez canal profits in addition to American and British aid. Neither happened.

Nasser reacted to the American and British decision by declaring martial law in the canal zone and seizing control of the Suez Canal Company, predicting that the tolls collected from ships passing through the canal would pay for the dam’s construction within five years.”**

Eden plotted with France and Israel to oust Nasser. The plan was straight-forward. Israel would attack across the Sinai desert and on reaching the Suez canal Britain and France would intervene to ‘protect’ the international waterway. The assumption was Egypt would cave in with Nasser ousted. Egypt would then return to the status quo ante.

Israel did their job to perfection, sweeping across the Sinai peninsular quickly reaching the Suez canal. Eight days later, on the 5th November 1956, the British and French launched their attack with immediate success. Then it fell apart. Nasser scuttled ships blocking the canal and America went to the UN. There was world-wide outrage at the transparent ruse Britain and France had used. Less than two months later, Britain and France left Egypt under UN instructions.

The final straw for Eden came when the Treasury told the government that sterling, under sustained attack over the crisis, needed urgent US support to the tune of a billion dollars. ‘Ike’ had a crisp reply: no ceasefire, no loan. The invaders were ordered to halt, and await the arrival of a UN intervention force.”***

The Suez crisis ended Britain’s Great Power delusions. Twice in thirteen years Eisenhower had demonstrated America’s over-whelming superiority. Eden resigned shortly afterwards. His successor, Harold MacMillan, showed that he’d learned the lessons of Suez with his historic ‘Winds of Change’ speech in South Africa. This ended British pretensions once and for all.

Notes

* Eden had a very long and distinguished career as Foreign Secretary before he succeeded Churchill as prime minister in 1955. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Eden

** https://www.britannica.com/event/Suez-Crisis

*** https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/mar/14/past.education1 Eisenhower’s nickname was ‘Ike’.

Sources

For wars of Independence see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_Kingdom

For Egypt, the UK and the Suez Canal see https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/suez-crisis

For the possible source of Eden’s mistaken view of Eisenhower in 1956 see [original documents] https://www.cvce.eu/obj/message_from_anthony_eden_to_dwight_d_eisenhower_on_the_suez_crisis_london_27_august_1956-en-093b1a3d-7ce5-48f6-bfa1-c2ac91aac010.html

For the barring of Polish armed forces see https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/polish-perspective-on-ve-day-1.443748

For Harold MacMillan’s ‘Wind of Change’ speech see https://www.thoughtco.com/wind-of-change-speech-43748#:~:text=The%20%22Wind%20of%20Change%22%20speech%20was%20made%20on,Ghana%2C%20Nigeria%2C%20and%20other%20British%20colonies%20in%20Africa.

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Italian Police at their very best

“In what may be one of the most Italian things that has ever happened, the Italian State Police rushed a donor kidney from Padua to Rome for a transplant in a Lamborghini Huracan. Last week’s journey is around 300 miles, but with the help of a specially-outfitted supercar, the police made it happen in just about two hours at an average speed of 143 mph—and that’s a journey that normally takes around six.”

https://jalopnik.com/italian-police-use-lamborghini-to-transport-donor-kidne-1845674197

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Book Review: Victor Canning ~ Mr Finchley discovers his England (1934)

This novel is quirky, charming and guileless. If you’re hooked on thrillers, police procedurals, horror, chick-lit or whatever this isn’t the book for you: unless you’re prepared to bravely dive into a different world. I warmly recommend that you do. It’s refreshing.

Mr Finchley works in a solicitors office and a new manager offers the staff an annual holiday. He’s never had a holiday before and so books three weeks in Margate. Mr Finchley never reaches Margate. Through a series of wonderfully constructed adventures, each one of which is implausibly delicious, he discovers England. It’s an England that a he’d never dreamed existed far away from suburban London. He discovers he isn’t as wedded to ‘law and order’ as he once believed. Suddenly bending rules and taking risks become part and parcel of his life.

Mr Finchley’s voyage of personal discovery ends literally with a voyage on board a smugglers vessel. Then he resumes his routine life as though nothing had happened. Great stuff.

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Three New Zealand Cricket Fans

Three New Zealanders and three Aussies were travelling by train to the cricket World Cup in England. At the station, the Aussies bought tickets and were amazed when the New Zealanders bought a ticket between them.

“How are you going to get away with just one ticket?”

“Watch and learn.

They got on the train and the New Zealanders crammed into a toilet. Shortly afterwards the ticket collector came round. He knocked on the toilet door, “Ticket please.” The door opened a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand.

The Aussies thought this was great and decided to copy them when they returned. When they got to the station, they bought a single ticket. To their astonishment, the New Zealanders didn’t buy a ticket at all. “How are you going to travel without a ticket?” said a perplexed Aussie.

“Watch and learn.

When they got on the train the Aussies crammed into a toilet with the New Zealanders nearby. Shortly afterwards, a New Zealander left his toilet and went to where the Aussies were hiding.

“Ticket please.”

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Eisenhower and the Military-industrial Complex

“…. we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sort or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”* Eisenhower 1961

“…it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.” Trump 2019

President Dwight D Eisenhower, 1953-61, was America’s most senior general during the Second World War. In his valedictory speech he warned the American public against the growing power of the defence industry. Eisenhower knew the military-industrial complex saw war as a business opportunity. Equally perniciously, they promoted fear to justify ever larger Federal defence budgets. The military-industrial complex made the world less safe.

Sixty years after Eisenhower’s speech, America has been involved in thirty-six conflicts. They ranged from Vietnam and Afghanistan to the 1983 invasion of Grenada. America feels ‘entitled’ to use overwhelming military power to impose its wishes across the world. This includes regime change: an imperialist policy. Surrogates were placed in power to implement America’s wishes.

Externally imposed regime change is provocative, guaranteeing further conflict. Central America is a case in point. US covert action and funding has destabilised governments. The Mafia controlled Batista regime of Cuba is notorious. When Fidel Castro successfully ousted him, the USA inflicted Cold War. This escalated into a US sponsored invasion, which failed utterly. America’s sanctions thrust Cuba into the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence in the 1960s. This in its turn provoked the Cuban Missile Crisis, which Kennedy averted with very adroit diplomacy.

Eisenhower implied that the military-industrial complex initiated wars. American involvement in Vietnam began in 1955** following France’s defeat. The USA drifted into full-scale war with 55,000 dead over the next 19 years. The Vietnam war evolved from innocuous beginnings, into a vicious conflict and numerous war crimes. The military-industrial complex provided a context where escalation was seen as a solution to complex diplomatic issues. Clausewitz discussed the folly of this in his book On War (see Addendum One).

The military-industrial complex replaced diplomacy with war. Their capture of the defence budget is reflected in the amount spent. The USA hasn’t been invaded and isn’t going to be (Addendum Two) so the Defence budget is an intervention budget. Incidents of internal terrorism are spectacular pin pricks but are only examples of asymmetric warfare. The 9/11 attack wasn’t warfare as understood by the Defence department. It was achieved by unarmed men. Spending billions on drones is irrelevant if low tech solutions, paying for training and decent management, is needed. There isn’t much profit in low tech solutions which remain unloved.

The Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden revelations should have demonstrated the capture of the US government’s foreign and domestic policy by the military-industrial complex. However, senior generals hold principal government roles*** and bring their mind set with them. The military is a default option guaranteeing volatility and more threats to US security. The cycle continues. Eisenhower’s 1961 warning was prescient. Trump has inherited its logic, which is endless wars.

Addendum One: War is a mere continuation of policy by other means: Clausewitz

“We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to War relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses. That the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the Art of War in general and the Commander in each particular case may demand, and this claim is truly not a trifling one. But however powerfully this may react on political views in particular cases, still it must always be regarded as only a modification of them; for the political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.”

Addendum Two: Regime change

A White House statement followed on November 25 2019 which characterised Nicaragua as “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” — thus prolonging for an additional year an executive order signed by Trump in 2019 declaring a “state of emergency” in Nicaragua.

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/ken-livingstone-weekend

Notes

* https://www.eisenhowerlibrary.gov/research/online-documents/farewell-address#:~:text=Eisenhower%27s%20Farewell%20Address%2C%20famed%20for%20its%20reference%20to,17%2C%201961.%20Audio%20recording%20of%20the%20Farewell%20Address See also Trump on ‘endless wars’, which reflect the actuality of military-industrial complex. https://www.politico.eu/article/donald-trump-slams-ridiculous-endless-wars-as-he-defends-dramatic-shift-in-syria-policy-turkey-erdogan-kurds-isis/

** During the Eisenhower presidency

*** General John Kelly was Trump’s Chief of Staff 2017-9 for example

Sources

For the US defence budget see https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/10/30/the-defense-budgets-brewing-storm/ See also https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/military-spending-defense-budget for a discussion of the relative size of the defence budget to GDP

For regime change see https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-cias-dirty-war-in-nicaragua/5629008

For USA support of business in Chile see https://nacla.org/article/itt-chile

For Chelsea Manning see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11874276 and for Edward Snowden see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11874276

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Lockdown Advice

John W.

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A 1966 World Cup Story

“One of the most loved stories about England’s 1966 World Cup victory is about how Bob Charlton, Jackie and Bobby’s father, worked his shift that same afternoon.

While his sons were sharing England’s greatest sporting triumph 300 miles away at Wembley Stadium….Bob was cutting coal at Linton Colliery.”

Robert Colls Inherent in the people New Statesman 6th November 2020 p33

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Book Review: Kyril Bonfiglioli ~ Mortdecai (1973)

Kyril is heavily influenced by P G Wodehouse, which doesn’t mean that this novel is anything The Master would have written. But influenced yes. And so already in positive territory.

His man Jeeves is a thug ready and willing to commit acts of extreme violence. That apart he makes wonderful tea, cooks and cares for, art dealer and crook, Mortdecai. The novel features sadistic British police with secret houses used for torture; sadistic American police who ‘don’t know better’. A very slippery cast of characters from the shady/criminal edge of the art world. A world that the author knows intimately but there are hasty disavowals of quasi-autobiography in case….. well you know what I mean.

The denouement centres on the area adjacent to Morecambe Bay. Although well written it’s out of character with the principal themes of the book and seemed gratuitous. I enjoyed this book once I got past the P G Wodehouse affectations and read it for what it is: a jokey thriller/romp.

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Making a getaway

Two burglars were robbing a Beverly Hills apartment when they heard the police outside. “Quick! Jump out of the window.

“But we’re on the 13th floor.” protested the other burglar.

“This is no time to be superstitious!”

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