Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Monday, April 17, 2017

War in North Korea?

I said some time ago (years actually) that the United States is facing two choices: war with China; or surrender of its position as global financial king. Two stark choices with no grey area. Why? That answer is a little more complicated.

Since the Berlin Wall fell in the 90's the Chinese have adopted a deliberate policy to out play the Americans at their own game - capitalism. Essentially, the Chinese are mimicking the path the US took to super power status. Firstly, they became very disciplined and kept their cost of production of goods and services to the bare bone, thereby capturing the lion's share of global manufacturing trade. Secondly, they stayed out of wars. Security for China became a gradual building of their military capabilities without the expense of fighting wars in the process. Thirdly, they became a lender to nations all over the world, thus spreading their political and economic influence to the point they are indispensable. Much like the early American policies of industrialization, free trade, open seas, and non-interventionism. Now China is what the US used to be, and the US has become what the British Empire was. We all know what happened to the Empire.

China's dominant financial position globally has allowed it to lead in the development of BRICS, Eurasia, and its own version of the IMF. In other words, the Chinese, along with Russia have turned the world economic, and therefore political, order on its head. The US is now attempting to pivot. US encouragement of Britain exiting the EU is a good example. The US is  desperately trying to  create a viable trading bloc to counter Eurasia/BRICS. It is apparent that their answer is a British Commonwealth 2.0 -  ie: US, Canada, Britain, Australia, etc. In a strange little clue, former Vice-President Biden, after making his final remarks on the make election loss, whispered "God save the Queen" as he walked from a still live mike. The truth is that no combination of countries can stand up to the resources, demographics, etc of the combined Eurasia/BRICS.

The US has had some successes putting dents in BRICS though. Most notably in South America. The pro-Russian leaderships in Brazil and Argentina have been replace by more western oriented leaders. Also, the President of South Africa is under intense pressure to resign, including resignation of his finance minister. So far that hasn't worked, and South Africa has a new finance minister. While these are victories for the US, and have somewhat stymied the Chinese/Russian momentum, they are no where near enough to hobble Eurasia.

The real dent in the Eurasian shield, however, must be made in China. That brings us North Korea - China's proverbial guard dog on its southern border. Trump has offered the Chinese a carrot and stick approach on North Korea. If the Chinese denuclearize North Korea the US will offer it better trade terms and not label it a currency manipulator.(which is closer to blackmail, because either you are a currency manipulator or you aren't) The Chinese, having just seen the stick approach offered to Russia in Syria, are taking the Americans seriously. They have a mutual defence pact with North Korea, as does Russia. An attack on one is an attack on all. That's why 150,000 Chinese troops have been moved to the border with North Korea. Russia has also stockpiled troops on its small border with North Korea. They are there to defend North Korea should it be required, and not to stem refugees as the western media has been playing it.

Meanwhile the Americans are moving a carrier strike group to the shores off North Korea. In addition, new intelligence has a total of two other aircraft carriers joining the group within the next ten days - about the time joint US/South Korean forces finish their massive annual war games. The US also has positioned massive air power at its various bases throughout the region.

The question is: Will all this result in war. The answer is yes. It is not a matter of North Koreas nuclear program, or Syria's "rabid dictator", or Russia's "meddling" in Europe, or China's "sea grab" in the South China Sea. No it's not any of these things. They are just stuff to spin to get the US people worked up and scared. The reason is Empire - either there will be one or their won't. The US simply cannot allow itself to lose at the economic game it set up. The only way to stop that is to create a world war that defeats China and Russia, but mostly China. After that, if there is a world left, the US will redraw the economic rules once again to keep them on top. While China and Russia stockpile gold, either to underpin their currencies or to pay for a major war, the US maintains the same course of ruinous debt, now even moving to strip the only real safeguards from their securities markets - a safeguard designed to stop a repeat of the Great Depression. So, if you've been thinking the world has been on its head, and kind of crazy the last while, well that's a reasonable interpretation of the chaos caused by the moves underway.

Nobody can say with certainty what will happen when the "Great American Armada" approaches North Korea. Traditionally, armadas haven't faired well in this kind of scenario. The North Koreans did give a bit of a hint though. During their massive military parade to honour the "Day of the Sun" the speaker stated North Korea will use its "own style" of nuclear war if necessary. One has to interpret that as an unconventional use of nuclear weapons. It may well be that the missiles and launching platforms paraded last weekend are a bit of a ruse. North Korea is well adept at deception. It may well be something far simpler, which the US may not be able to neutralize easily with their own missiles. Perhaps tunneling or submarines acting as delivery vehicles, rather than missiles. After all, how hard would it be for North Korea to retrofit some of its subs with a nuclear war head making them the delivery vehicles. A sub only has to get so close off shore to detonate itself and destroy an American city without launching a single missile. Ditto for the American Armada. A sub close by detonates and takes the works down. Three aircraft carriers is a real tempting target for them. So are we heading for war in North Korea, and elsewhere? The answer is yes. Unfortunately, the Americans are unable to accept the consequences of being economically outplayed, and are willing to take the whole house down with them. My sole hope is that technological superiority on one side or the other will prevent total waste being wrought over our planet.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Tragic Truth About the Muskrat Falls U-Boat Wreck - U-180

It was August 20, 1944, Bordeaux, France - at the U-boat pens. The Allies had broken out from their foothold in Normandy, and the USSR had crushed the German army and began its invasion of Romania. Five days earlier the US had invaded Southern France in an operation codenamed "Anvil". The German occupation of France was at its end, and the remnants of the German forces were desperately fleeing for Germany, or in the case of the U-boats - the sea. It was under these dangerous and chaotic circumstances that the Captain of U-180 prepared to take her out to sea on his maiden mission as the U-boat's commander.

Rolf Riesen, the commander, was not a fervent Nazi, but he was a very patriotic German. He was also a family man who loved his family dearly, but saw them very rarely since joining the German Navy in 1938. He considered joining the navy his patriotic duty, and was very committed to the "higher cause". His served as a junior officer on the German heavy cruiser Lutzow until the end of 1941. He then transferred to the destroyer and torpedo boat holding division. Deciding to take a different tact, Riesen undertook U-boat training until September, 1942, and then served as a watch officer on U-198 until February, 1944. He then undertook U-boat commander training for three months, and on April 2, 1944 he took command of U-180 - his final command.  This story, although of major historical import, is dedicated to the memory of  Oberleutnant zur See Rolf Riesen, the last commander of U-180.

Rolf Riesen as a watch officer in 1942

Rolf Riesen just before leaving on his final mission 2 years later

Riesen supervised the loading of his beloved first command before going to sea. However, there were a number of wood crates in his boat that he had no idea of their contents. He was a very meticulous officer, keen on details, but a very superior officer gave him the "it's on a need to know basis and you don't need to know" speech. As a loyal and dedicated officer he did not question his superior. Little did he know the crates contained u-234 - uranium. What he did know was they were stowed below, with other cargo stored upon them. He also knew his orders had him sailing for Japan, which was not an uncommon destination for the "black boats" of the German U-boat fleet.

"Black boats" meaning U-boats involved in transporting special cargos of uranium, mercury, weapons technology etc to Japan, and often bringing gold bullion back as payment to Germany. U-180 had been used in a well documented secret mission to transport Indian nationalist politicians to a Japanese sub for delivery to India earlier in the war, but her Mercedes engines were too loud and left an oil trail to be used again. She was mothballed, but then brought back having her engines pulled, new engines added, a state of the art snorkel and radar installed, and other modifications which improved her operations significantly. As he left Bordeaux on that August day, Riesen had no idea of the horror and betrayal that lay in wait for him from members of his own crew - many of them had no idea either.

U-180 left port with three other U-boats bound for Japan. They had an escort ship on the surface to protect them from sudden air or naval attack. Shortly after they submerged the escort ship reported that all U-boats had cleared the minefield and were en route. So far so good. However, just as the voyage started Riesen was confronted in private by MtrOGfr Helmut Hantschel. Riesen had befriended Hantschel, as much as a U-boat Captain would, he trusted the young man. They were all young men to Riesen as he was considered an old man in the U-boat service. What Riesen didn't know was young Hantschel was not a naval officer. His real name wasn't even Hantschel. He was, in fact, an SS officer acting under direct orders from Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. His mission: take control of the U-180, and its cargo of uranium, and deliver it to the Americans at the Goose Bay Air Force base in Labrador, Canada. A grand plan to resettle Nazis after the war had been launched by Hitler's number one man, Martin Bormann. Bormann gave the order to Himmler, and Himmler gave the order directly to Hantschel.

Hantschel, for his part, was a fanatic Nazi with an almost psychopathic obsession with power. This was a dream mission for him, and he gladly accepted even though he had never been on a U-boat before. The confrontation between Riesen and Hantschel was nothing less than the deliberate killing of the Captain. Hantschel took a large knife from the sub's galley and plunged it in one single stroke through Riesen's heart. Riesen died almost immediately. As only a portion of the crew were aware of the plan to take over U-180, the killing needed to be kept secret to maintain order on the boat. To do this Hantschel used his experiences as a medic with the SS to carve Riesen into pieces. His remains were then placed in the rear torpedo tube and the Captain was expunged into the sea. And so begins the deliberate mutiny of U-180.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the absence of the Captain was kept under guard for days afterward. Days later three crew members suffered the same fate as they challenged the mutineers over the Captain's disappearance and the ship's mission. Most of the crew was unaware that the U-boat was heading for Canada rather than Japan. That was the way Hantschel and his mutineers wanted it kept. It was impossible to operate the U-boat over the trans Atlantic voyage without the various expertise of those on board, and complete discipline and control was absolutely necessary for success. It had to be a well oiled machine.

However, just a day before U-180 was to arrive at its destination in Labrador, a major battle broke out between the crew that was loyal to the mutineers and those that hadn't realized their mission had changed. In this one altercation, approximately half the crew were killed. Of an original crew of 56, only 24 were left now. Given the close proximity to the Goose Bay base, and wanting to remain submerged, the dead crew were left on the U-boat. Shortly after this final battle among the crew, Hantschel happened across a Canadian destroyer fishing with dynamite off the town Rigolet. read the media story here Years later, a then renamed Hantschel ( now Ernst Oscar Henschel) would relay to a sailor on that boat how he watched them fish with dynamite through his periscope. At that time Hantschel, or Henschel as he was then known, was a doctor in the Saskatchewan community of Prince Albert. Having been refused entry into the US after the war due to his "service" in the SS, Henschel emigrated to Canada at first.

U-180 then made its way up Lake Melville to a predesignated position just out to shore from the Goose Bay Air Force base. It was nighttime, and pitch black. The U-boat surfaced, and dispatched a dingy, with wooden crates, to a small supply/maintenance dock just south of the base (the dock no longer exists). There it was met by armed US servicemen. In the confusion and tension of the moment, 2 of the German U-boat men were shot to death by a US soldier when they made sudden moves he wasn't expecting. The uranium was eventually completely transferred. In accordance with the original plan given to him back in Germany, Hantschel and the remaining crew took the U-boat up the Churchill River on the surface. They used only their electric engines to power the boat to remain quiet in transit. However, even with these precautions they were heard and spotted by two Innu hunters in the area.

At the predesignated location, just south of Muskrat Falls, the crew scuttled U-180 in accordance with standard operating procedures of the German U-boat fleet. Charges were placed at the bow, rear, and centre of the boat. The dead crew members from the battle amongst the crew the day before, and the newly killed members from the supply dock, were left on board the U-boat as she sunk. However, even the scuttling didn't go well as two men were killed and two injured during the scuttling process. By the end of the mission only 15 crew members of the original 56 had survived.

The survivors of U-180, with the exception of Hantschel and a few others, were forced to stay in North America. Hantschel and the others were transported back to Germany to confirm the mission was successful. Ironically, Hantschel is shown graduating from Charles University of Prague, medical school, just six months later. He ended his career in medicine back in the United States as professor and chairman of the Medical College of Wisconsin, and has an annual award named after him. read here (notice the brief reference to his service in the German Navy) His wife, who he met in London in 1950, also became a well known doctor in the area. Today only two survivors of the horror and treachery that was U-180 are still alive. Both are now old men in their late 90's. One still has a keen mind, but the other unfortunately does not. The keen minded survivor was a fellow officer who loyally served under Captain Riesen, but as a young officer he was terrified to turn against the mutineers - with good reason as the history shows. He now lives with deep remorse and nightmares about his experience on U-180.

In the end, although the seizing of U-180 was a preplanned operation by the highest levels of the Nazi Party and the SS, the attempt to use the uranium as a bargaining chip with the Allies was apparently unsuccessful. The US double crossed their German partners, but got the uranium in any case for the Manhattan Project. U-180 remains unexplored on a sandy river bank near Muskrat Falls as a ghostly reminder of human tragedy, the ruthlessness of the dark world of Nazi Germany, and almost the last bit of evidence that the Germans and the Americans had cut a deal for uranium while still at war with each other in Europe. Meanwhile, the families of the men lost in U-180 have no idea what really happened to them on that dark voyage during the dying days of the war. Perhaps it may have been better that way, but for the necessity to observe the significant historical moment the wreck of the U-180 represents. It is the truth of the matter that counts now. It has been 75 years since U-180 sunk in Labrador's waters, yet the Government of Canada will still not release what documents they have on the matter. The grounds for the refusal - "releasing the information may cause harm or embarrassment to an ally." It was always hard to fathom how such an old story, and a forgotten wreck, could cause injury and/or embarrassment to an ally, but given the truth of what really happened to U-180 and its uranium cargo, well, perhaps it should.

Here are my previous stories on the U-boat wreck of Muskrat Falls:

Updated - Evidence of the Muskrat Falls U-boat Wreck

The Muskrat Falls U-boat Cover Up - emails

Sunday, April 9, 2017

On the Edge of World War III

It's ironic, in a way, that my country of Canada is today celebrating a bloody victory over Germany during World War I at Vimy Ridge, meanwhile the current world desperately races to repeat a similar but worse slaughter. Sad and ironic.

The United States, hand-in-hand with Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia had planned to take over Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon to erase Iranian influence in the region. Saudi Arabia's job was to take out the Iranian allied Houthi in Yemen. The American and Israelis left the job of Syria to Islamic militants. Lebanon hasn't happened yet, but that will likely be left to the Israelis. That was the plan. Once that was finished the goal no doubt was to turn the sights on Iran itself. All this had the benefit of not just an American dominated and controlled Middle East, but also a relegated and isolated Russia, which in turn would isolate China. A grand strategy if you will.

However, as they say, a plan only lasts as long as its first contact with the enemy. Saudi Arabia, with American assistance, was able to oust the Houthi government in Yemen, but has been unable to proceed much past that. The traditional Houthi lands of Yemen remain in Houthi control and the Saudis are bogged down in a hopeless quagmire. The Sunni Islamic State was unable to capture Iraq as Iran intervened just as they were at the gates of Bagdad. A Sunni victory in Iraq would have brought that country into US control, rather than the current state of Iraq as a Shia friendly government to Iran. As the Islamic State retreated out of Iraq, Russia intervened in Syria. Again, the Islamic State was right at the doorsteps - this time in Damascus. As it became clear to the Americans, that ISIS could not take Iraq, they jumped on the band wagon to destroy ISIS so they could stay in the game.

So much for Plan A, the Americans turned to plan B. Plan B calls for a direct American invasion of Syria, in conjunction with Turkey and Israel (perhaps even with the Saudis). While the partition of Syria seems to be the goal at the moment, it may well be a ruse. The US has been shipping equipment and men to Lebanon and Jordan on the quiet. However, as an example, that quiet was shaken yesterday as 20 US tanks and infantry had to intervene at the Syrian/Jordan border to rescue their new allied militia, which had become encircled by ISIS. In other words, the US has assembled significant forces in Jordan. Earlier this week there were reports of US ships delivering equipment and men to Lebanon. Furthermore, it's common knowledge that the US has moved most of the 82nd Airborne into the Syrian theatre, as well as special forces nd artillery units. This buildup is being complimented by two new US air bases in Eastern Syria. All in all, the US are preparing to take all of Syria - not just a simple partition of it.

On the Russian border, US and allied forces have been mobilizing from one end to the other. A move that serves the purpose of tying Russian forces down on their own border, thereby limiting their flexibility to respond to such conflicts as Syria, and establishing a force to attack Russia with. In other words, the West is attempting to pin Russia down while it manoeuvers to destroy its influence and power in the Middle East. If Russia sits back in a defensive posture, and allows the US to impose its will on the Middle East, then Russia will be next. It's only a matter of time.

As worrisome as all this is, the US is also acting against China. A US carrier task force, also referred to as a "strike force" is enroute to the waters off  North Korea. US President Trump has stated that if China will not reign in North Korea, well, then the Americans will. It seems that Trump is making good on his threat. We can expect a strike on North Korea's nuclear program, including arms, but also on the massive artillery forces poised to level Seoul, capital of South Korea. It has been estimated that the North could level Seoul with conventional artillery in hours - if not less. That ability has always been the North's greatest guarantee of non-intervention by the US. However, with a strike looming, it makes sense that the US would also be planning a massive bombing campaign of those artillery forces north of Seoul.

China, meanwhile, can not simply stand by idly while this happens. It has been targeted by the US itself for its claims in the South China Sea. All this must be in the US calculations. It's safe to say that if the Americans conduct the assault on North Korea that is expected, they will also in effect be going to war with China. Engaging China militarily also means engaging China economically, and the US has no hope of winning that one. It is very probable that China will release the "Chinese nuke", which is dumping all its American debt and currency on the market at once, thereby crashing the world economy. Even a simple strike on North Korea, that results in the North leveling Seoul, would more than likely be enough to crash the world's stock exchanges and currency markets.

I wonder if the Western world, with our fat cat life styles and Walmart mentalities, can fathom the result of an international financial collapse? The reality is most people will not even commit their minds for a moment to consider it. Ditto for the massive destruction caused by a conventional or nuclear war. Yet, we sit right on the precipice of it all. Watching as if somehow it wasn't our responsibility to think or speak of it, or against it. A great gaggle of sheep herded to the slaughterhouse doors, but taking comfort that there are other sheep before us, closer to the executioner's axe, and therefore we're okay for the moment. It can't happen to us. We're safe and sheltered from it all. It's really a damning commentary on us all to be frank. With all our education, technology and civilization we can't muster a better way than hoping the executioner gets tired before the sheep in front of us turns into us.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Is Russia being outplayed in Syria?

Make no mistake, the Syrian war is about to become an international conflict in a major way. The proverbial "wizard's chess" is in full play. With the chemical weapons explosion that occurred in Northern Syria this week the dogs of war are moving quickly, and some players are frankly coming into the light.

Take Israel for instance. Israel's approach until now has been to kill two birds with one stone. There really isn't a better scenario for Israel than Islamic militants killing Syrians soldiers, and vice a versa. That's been going on for years now, and both of these enemies of Israel have now been significantly weakened by the experience. That's the good news for Israel. The bad news is that Russia and particularly Iran have decided to move in and help save Syrian President Assad, and frankly Syria itself, from becoming another part of the Islamic State. Perhaps this eventuality was not foreseen by the architects of the Syrian civil war, or perhaps it was. In any case, the Russian/Iranian involvement has raised the stakes of Israel or the US intervening to new heights.

Two very significant incidents have developed this week with Israel and the Syrian conflict. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Jared Kushner, Trump's Jewish son-in-law, has managed to force Trump's Steve Brannon out of the National Security Council. That's a big one if you want to clear the way for a strike on Syria, and this a move against Russia. This author has expressed concern from the beginning that Trump's appointment of Kushner as Special Advisor on the Middle East created an obvious conflict of interest given his religious back ground, and the view he may take of Israeli actions. Then, literally just hours later, came the news that the Israeli Cabinet is meeting this Sunday to discuss a "humanitarian" intervention in Syria. This after several airstrikes on Syria in the last few weeks. It is clear that given the Russian/Iranian/Hezbollah success on the ground in Syria that Israel wants the US, and others to join it in taking down the Assad government by force.

Trump himself, having suffered near paralysis in attempting to govern the US as President, appears to be moving toward the "establishment" position on Syria that he had so vehemently rejected. His reasoning that the chemical "attack" gives him no choice is almost laughable. Consider that several mass casualty incidents have happened in the last few weeks by the American air force on schools and mosques in both Syria and Iraq. In Mosul alone, last week, over 200 people, yes including many children and babies, were blown to pieces when the mosque they were attending was struck by a US bomb. Is it somehow okay they were slaughtered by being blown to bits rather than suffocated by gas as happened in Syria? Or is it that because it was a US bomb it was somehow less of an indictment than a Syrian bomb? This entire argument enters the theatre of the absurd - which is where this reasoning of Trump's best rests.

The truth is that all the evidence in Syria has pointed toward a serious, and permanent US intervention and partitioning of Syria for some time now. Trump's shift in position is merely him aligning with the forces that were already at play in Syria. That's good news for them, but potentially catastrophic news for the rest of the world. The question is, though, will Russia rise to the occasion or be relegated back to the backbenches?

Much has been made of the Russian intervention in Syria, and too some extent with good reason. Russia has firmly tilted the balance in favour of the Syrian government with its air forces, and its strategic anti-missile forces in particular. With the S-400 batteries Russia moved into Syria, the Russian air defence forces can impose an almost complete air defence umbrella over all of Syria - except its most North eastern region. Those systems are capable of taking out any US, Turkish or Israeli aircraft, as well as their missiles - including cruise missiles fired from the US fleet off Syria's coast. In addition, Russian naval units have their own cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles deployed with their naval units off the Syrian coast.

The real question for Russia is this: Are you serious about Syria or not? Some would say that Russia's commitment to defend Syria proves they are serious, and to some degree that is obvious. However, what is Russia actually willing to commit to on the ground? This is where they are being out-flanked by the US, Turks, and soon to be Israelis. Russia has a relatively small ground force in Syria, which leaves it very vulnerable and reliant on the somewhat unreliable Syrian army. Putin has failed to match the foreign forces in Syria by committing Russian divisions to the fight. Where the US has just assigned a good part of the 82nd airborne to the fight in Iraq, but mostly for Raqqah, the Russians have not matched it with their own airborne. And so it goes. It appears Russian President Putin's defensive posture is focused on the Russian border with Europe as NATO builds a small deterrent there, and not on saving Syria for the Russian sphere of influence.

If Russia is more committed to Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah than their troop numbers show, will Russia defend Syria against a US and/or Israeli strike against it? Certainly it could if it wanted to. The S-400 is a state of the art defence system. The Russian naval group is armed to the teeth, and Iran has offered Russia one of its airbases nearby to for its air forces. Is Russia prepared to allow Israel to oust Iran from its position of influence in Syria, and also by ricochet Lebanon?

There are many moves afoot right now - including major moves with China and North Korea. However, the strategic position of Russia and Iran in the Middle East is what is at stake right now. Make no mistake. If Putin gets cold feet and allows the US to run rough shod over Syria, even more than it has already, Russia's credibility as a super power in the region is over ... ditto Iran. If that happens then Obama will have been right to refer to Russia as a "regional power". Of course, that would defy Russia's strength and history, but only time will tell how far Putin will go to protect that. Will Russia impose its own no-fly zone over Syria backed by its S-400's and air force? Will Russia commit meaningful forces to the ground fight so as not to be out flanked at every turn by Western- backed militaries?  Nobody knows for sure except Russian President Putin himself. As much as it is Syria's time of truth, it is also very much Russia's. In a game of poke chest a super power doesn't turn and walk away.