August 29, 2013

How to use your mobile device to create awesome travel images

MOBILE PHOTOGRAPHY has become a full-blown movement. From San Francisco to Shanghai, amateur and professional photographers alike have been experimenting with various shooting and editing techniques on their mobile devices, finding they can achieve comparable and sometimes even more creative results than with their heavy cameras.
It’s been a few years since I switched into the smartphone realm, and my life as a traveler has changed completely. As an avid “fauxtographer,” as I like to call it, I believe the images taken and edited on phones and tablets can give professional photographers with expensive equipment and software a run for their money. Photo ops are often spontaneous and unpredictable, which is why being able to snap a quick photo with your phone over a traditional camera is sometimes a better option, especially while traveling. It’s a perfect hobby for travelers in transit.
While most traditional photography principles (composition, rule of thirds, etc.) also apply to mobile photography, there are some ways in which they differ thanks to the added versatility of portability and instant editing options. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when shooting and editing with your phone or tablet.

By Larissa Olenicoff

August 28, 2013

March on Washington organizers look back

Recollections of some of those who helped make the massive March on Washington happen 50 years ago.

WASHINGTON — As they look back half a century later, five organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom recall the thrill of the day — the sense that the cause of civil rights would advance.
Of course they remember the stirring "I Have a Dream" speech delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the giant crowd gathered before the Lincoln Memorial. But they also recall the fear that the march might not come off, that people wouldn't show up. Here are some of their recollections of that day, Aug. 28, 1963:
Clarence B. Jones
Clarence B. Jones remembers the "I Have a Dream" speech well — he was standing 50 feet behind King when he delivered it.
Jones was a lawyer, speechwriter and confidant of King and had helped draft the speech he was to deliver at the march. As Jones recalls, King was reading the prepared text when gospel great Mahalia Jackson shouted, "Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream."
King set aside his script and began speaking extemporaneously.
"I turned to the person who was standing next me and said, 'These people out there — they don't know it, but they're about ready to go to church,'" Jones said.
Jones, who with Stuart Connelly wrote the book "Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation," noted that King had spoken about his dream earlier, but those speeches had drawn scant attention. This speech, however, was carried live on television, and King, perhaps inspired by the huge audience in Washington and across the country, rose to the occasion.
"I had heard and seen Martin King speak many times before," Jones said. "Never ever had I heard him speak like that. Nor did I ever hear him speak like that ever again."
Jones, 82, is a visiting professor and diversity scholar at the University of San Francisco and a scholar at Stanford University's Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute.
He plans to be in Washington for the 50th anniversary.
Reflecting on the speech 50 years later, Jones said, "When I hear people say, 'Well, you know, much of the dream hasn't been realized' … that's true. There are cracks in the dream. But I have to remind people there are no signs anywhere in this country that say, 'Drinking fountains for colored only' or 'whites only.'"
Eleanor Holmes Norton
She had heard talk of plans for a giant march on Washington, but nothing had been nailed down and the question loomed: Could civil rights leaders pull it off?
Then, Eleanor Holmes Norton recalls, "I got the call, saying it is going to happen."
Holmes Norton, then a 26-year-old Yale Law School student from Washington, D.C., had been working in Mississippi for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. "The call" was from the committee, asking her to come to New York to join the staff organizing the march.
She went to work from the march's Harlem office. She remembers the address: 130th Street and Lenox. She recalls the challenge: "The march was an unprecedented exercise. Nobody could remember a mass march on Washington for anything, certainly not civil rights."
The day of the march, she boarded a plane to Washington, and before landing she could see the crowds assembling from the air — "enough to tell me the march would be successful."
Later, she took in the view from the Lincoln Memorial. "What was most impressive for me, after working on the march for weeks, was looking out from the base of the Lincoln Memorial itself and noting that I could not see to the end of the crowd," she said.
She recalls being moved deeply by one speaker after another. When it finally came time for King to speak, she thought to herself, "He had better be very good, because everything that went before him, I thought, was better than anything I had ever heard.'"
Holmes Norton, 76, went on to become the first female chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an agency that, she notes, was a key demand of the march. She is in her 12th term as the District of Columbia's nonvoting delegate in the House. She will be participating in the anniversary, including using the event to highlight another longtime cause: D.C.'s lack of voting power in Congress.
Norman Hill
On the day of the march, Norman Hill accompanied civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, one of the organizers of the event, on a visit to the National Mall, hours before the march was scheduled to begin.
Hill, then 30, was New York-based national program director for the Congress of Racial Equality. He became staff coordinator for the march, recruiting people to participate and raising money to help pay travel costs. But on that hot August morning, he and Rustin found the Mall still largely empty.
"I remember Bayard being surrounded by reporters who peppered him with questions. 'Where are the people? Is the march really going to take place?'" Hill recalled.
"Bayard reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a round watch, and inside his jacket pulled out a piece of paper, and looked back and forth at the watch and piece of paper and said, 'Gentlemen, everything is going according to Hoyle, right on schedule,'" Hill added. "What the reporters didn't know is that the piece of paper was blank."
But in time the crowd grew — and grew and grew. When the march began, Hill recalls, the crowd was so eager to move that the march leaders had to rush to take their places at the front of the column.
He says that although the march is remembered as the largest civil rights demonstration in the nation's history, it also was intended to call attention to economic issues, such as a massive federal jobs program.
He looks back upon the day as a seminal moment in the nonviolent civil rights movement.
"It did away with the stereotypes of blacks as troublemakers," he said. "For me, the march was the fulfillment and implementation of the principles, vision and strategies of my mentors, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. It solidified for me my faith in them and their place in American history as great, monumental figures."
Hill is now president emeritus of the A. Philip Randolph Institute in Washington, named after the civil rights and labor leader and an organizer of the march.
Rachelle Horowitz
Rachelle Horowitz was the "bus lady."
She was a 24-year-old civil rights activist from Brooklyn assigned to serve as transportation coordinator for the march.
It was a tougher job than people today can imagine in the high-tech age, she says. When she talks to students, she mentions her use of mimeograph machines, "and they go, 'What?'"
"I say to kids, Dr. King gave that speech without Jumbotrons on the Mall," she said, noting how difficult it was for the crowd way down the Mall to see the speakers at the Lincoln Memorial.
"By the end of the day, there was really this moment when you thought, by God, we can have a beloved community, that everything Dr. King and John Lewis talked about can come true," she said.
But that hope, she noted, was dashed weeks later by the bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Four black girls were killed in the blast.
Horowitz went on to become political director for the American Federation of Teachers before retiring. She plans to be back on the National Mall for the 50th anniversary.
Joyce Ladner
Joyce Ladner was a 19-year-old college senior from Mississippi with a stage pass to history.
Thanks to that pass, she was on the podium, and she remembers looking out at the crowd. She says it was "the most extraordinary thing" she had ever seen.
Before them, stretching into the distance, was a giant crowd that seemed to go on forever.
"I dare say that Martin Luther King and no one else on that podium had ever seen that many people together before," Ladner said.
Ladner was a student at Tougaloo College in Mississippi and a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when she went to New York to work on organizing the march. She talked at churches, synagogues and union halls in the New York area about the civil rights struggle in the South to raise money for the travel costs of those who wanted to attend the march.
"We were trying to build a national base of support," she said.
On the day of the march, she first picketed the Justice Department to protest the arrest of three SNCC colleagues jailed in Georgia for sedition when they attempted to register voters. Then she headed over to the National Mall. She says it was still early in the morning, "and there weren't many people there at all."
She grew worried. "Are the people really going to show?" she wondered. Then about 8 a.m., busloads of people, mostly black but also white, began arriving with banners.
"And they just kept coming."
She recalls standing with Josephine Baker, the black Parisian nightclub legend, and Hollywood stars, including Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Diahann Carroll and, she notes with a laugh, Charlton Heston, whose politics later veered to the right.
Ladner says that when reporters approached Lena Horne for an interview, the singer-actress "thrust [her] in front the camera and said, 'Interview this young woman, because she lives in the Deep South. She can tell you the real story.'"
Looking back, Ladner says it's disappointing that King's "I Have a Dream" speech — and only part of it — is what most people remember about the day.
"I think it shortchanges him," she said. And people, she said, "often quote the more optimistic parts of the speech. They don't really talk about how to achieve his dream." The march, after all, was for "jobs and freedom," and yet black unemployment remains a serious problem.
Ladner, 69, who went on to become a prominent sociologist who served as interim president ofHoward University in Washington, says that after the march, she knew the event would generate additional support for the civil rights movement.
"But we were going back into the same conditions," she said. "The march would not have any effect on those Southern sheriffs and their deputies at all. That was our reality."
A few weeks later, she was on a school bus headed to Birmingham for the funeral of the four black girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
Her stage pass has been displayed at the Mississippi State Archives but is being returned to her. "It is the one memento I have that I want to pass on to my son and grandson," she said.

By Richard Simon

August 27, 2013

For U.S., Syria is truly a problem from hell

(CNN) -- What is widely recognized as the most authoritative study of the United States' responses to mass killings around the world -- from the massacres of Armenians by the Turks a century ago, to the Holocaust, to the more recent Serbian atrocities against Bosnian Muslims and the ethnic cleansing of the Tutsis in Rwanda -- concluded that they all shared unfortunate commonalities:

"Despite graphic media coverage, American policymakers, journalists and citizens are extremely slow to muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil. Ahead of the killings, they assume rational actors will not inflict seemingly gratuitous violence. They trust in good-faith negotiations and traditional diplomacy. Once the killings start, they assume that civilians who keep their head down will be left alone. They urge cease-fires and donate humanitarian aid."

This is an almost perfect description of how the United States has acted over the past two years as it has tried to come up with some kind of policy to end the Assad regime's brutal war on its own people in Syria.

Intervening in Middle East turmoil: Mission impossible?

The author who wrote the scathingly critical history of how the United States has generally dithered in the face of genocide and mass killings went on to win a 2003 Pulitzer Prize for her book "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide."

A decade after winning the Pulitzer, that author is now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Her name, of course, is Samantha Power, and she is a longtime, close aide to President Barack Obama. She started working for Obama when he was a largely unknown junior senator from Illinois.

Power called her 610-page study of genocide "A Problem from Hell" because that's how then-U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher referred to the Bosnian civil war and the unpalatable options available to the U.S. in the early 1990s to halt the atrocities by the Serbs.

One of the U.S. officials that Power took to task in her book is Susan Rice who, as the senior State Department official responsible for Africa, did nothing in the face of the genocide unfolding in Rwanda in 1994.

Rice is quoted in the book as suggesting during an interagency conference call that the public use of the word "genocide" to describe what was then going on in Rwanda while doing nothing to prevent it would be unwise and might negatively affect the Democratic Party in upcoming congressional elections.

Rice later told Power she could not recall making this statement but also conceded that if she had made it, the statement was "completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant."

Rice is now Obama's national security adviser.

In 2012, at Power's urging, Obama announced the creation of an interagency task force to help stamp out atrocities around the world. Called the Atrocities Prevention Board, it was led by Power during its first year. Meanwhile, the body count in Syria kept spiraling upward.

For the past two years, Obama hasn't wanted to intervene militarily in Syria.

Who would? The country is de facto breaking up into jihadist-run "emirates" and Alawite rump states. It is also the scene of a proxy war that pits al Qaeda affiliates backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia against Hezbollah, backed by Iran.

Whoever ultimately prevails in this fight is hardly going to be an ally of the U.S. It's an ungodly mess that makes even Iraq in 2006 look good.

It is, in short, a problem from hell.

Power, Rice and Obama today face some of the very same unpalatable choices that have confronted other U.S. national security officials as they tried to prevent mass killings in other distant, war-torn countries.

They can continue to do little as the Syrian civil war drags on into its third year with 100,000 dead and rising. It's a state of affairs now compounded by the fact that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad appears not only to have crossed the "red line" with its use of chemical weapons but seems to have now sprinted past that line, killing hundreds with neurotoxins in a Damascus suburb, according to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. He's blasted those attacks as something that "should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality."

Doing nothing will not be treated kindly by future historians writing in the same vein as Power.

The issue now in Syria is not simply that al-Assad is massacring his own civilians at an industrial rate, but he is also flagrantly flouting a well-established international norm by this regime's reported large-scale use of neurotoxins as weapons against civilians. It seems inconceivable that the United States as the guarantor of international order would not respond to this in some manner.

But on what authority? There is scant chance of a U.N. resolution authorizing military action. When she was U.N. ambassador, Rice skillfully ushered a resolution through the Security Council that authorized military action in Libya in 2011. But Russia and China will almost certainly veto any similar kind of resolution on Syria.

Russia is one of Syria's few allies, and Russia and China are generally staunchly against any kind of international intervention in the affairs of other countries, no matter how egregious the behavior of those states might be.

That leaves the possibility of some kind of unilateral action by the United States.

The U.S. regularly infringes the sovereignty of countries such as Pakistan and Yemen with CIA drone strikes on the novel legal theory that terrorists planning strikes on the U.S. are living in those nations and those countries are either unable or unwilling to take out the terrorists on their territory -- and therefore their sovereignty can be infringed by drone attacks.

But making a claim that the Syrian regime threatens the U.S. is implausible, and therefore some kind of unilateral American action seems quite unlikely.

In 1986, the Reagan administration launched air strikes at the homes of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, but only after an incident in which Libyan agents had bombed a disco in Berlin, killing two American servicemen. No such casus belli exists with Syria today.

Since neither a U.N. authorized military mission nor a unilateral American strike seem likely, what options are left?

One appealing option could be something along the lines of the Kosovo model. The Kosovo War in 1999 was entirely an air war in which no American soldiers were killed. The goal of the air campaign was to push Serbian forces out of Kosovo. Russia was allied with the Serbs so, as in the Syrian case today, there was no chance a U.N. resolution authorizing force would pass.

Instead, the war was conducted under the NATO collective security umbrella. Kosovo is, of course, in Europe, and NATO is a Europe-focused security alliance while Syria is the Middle East, so NATO action there would be much more problematic.

(A NATO force does fight in Afghanistan today, but that is only because one of its member states, the United States, was attacked on 9/11 from Afghanistan by al Qaeda, which triggered NATO's Article 5, the right to collective self-defense of the members of the alliance.)

If an air war were to be launched against Syria, one scenario could be that Turkey, a member of NATO, could invoke Article 5 because Syria has fired into its territory on a regular basis.

So far, Turkey has proved reluctant to invoke Article 5 but the reported large-scale use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime might change the calculus of the Turks.

A further source of legitimacy for military action could be some kind of authorization by the Arab League. The Arab League is generally a toothless talking shop, which seemed to have surprised even itself two years back when it endorsed military action against Gadhafi.

That endorsement gave substantial international legitimacy to the subsequent air campaign against Gadhafi, led by the United States and other NATO countries such as France.

It is hard to believe that some kind of military action against Syria won't now take place, likely in the form of U.S. cruise missile attacks from ships in the Mediterranean.

Such attacks have the merit that they won't put U.S. aircraft at risk, which could well encounter problems with Syria's well-regarded air defense systems. And the operation will likely have the blessing of some mix of NATO and Arab League authorizations, giving it at least some semblance of international legitimacy.

By Peter Bergen

Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, a director at the New America Foundation and the author of"Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden -- From 9/11 to Abbottabad."

August 19, 2013

How Rwanda Threatens Its Future

By David Kampf
Collective guilt over the genocide in 1994 has shaped the world’s relations with Rwanda ever since. Without question, the systematic killing of 800,000 people is one of the foremost historic blights of the last century. And the international community deserves blame for ignoring facts and avoiding action when intervention could have saved thousands.
But it’s time to take off the kid gloves when dealing with this tiny, landlocked country with outsized influence in East Africa. If there’s any hope of Rwanda winning truly lasting stability, it must change course and stop fueling conflicts across its borders.
The progress Rwanda has made since the genocide is nothing less than remarkable. Any visitor to Kigali today will immediately note the clean new streets. The capital is filled with new malls catering to the wealthy, restaurants offering panoramic views of the city and cafés brewing Rwanda’s own world-renowned coffee.
Over the last decade, Rwanda’s economy has averaged above 8 percent growth per year, according to the I.M.F., and it is considered the best place in Africa to start a business, according to the World Bank’s latest rankings. Millions have been pulled out of poverty, people live more than 20 years longer than they did in the 1990s, maternal and child mortality rates have dropped dramatically, and health care coverage is nearly universal. When I was working with the U.S. Agency for International Development on health and economic projects in Rwanda, I couldn’t help but be impressed by how quickly the country was developing.
All of this has made Rwanda a darling of aid donors, and Rwandan leaders are deft at handling them. Officials feel at home at international summit meetings and President Paul Kagame — one of the most popular African leaders on Twitter — exudes confidence on the global stage.
This combination of international sympathy, impressive economic growth and political savvy has caused the United States, Britain and other powers to largely turn a blind eye to Kigali’s transgressions.
Simmering under the surface and threatening to explode after Kagame’s departure are ethnic and political tensions that now go mostly unaddressed. The hostility between Tutsis and Hutus is far from ended, and the governing system is entrenching one-man rule instead of building effective checks and balances. Progress is stunted by a lack of freedom, a repressive media environment, little protection for human rights and the sidelining of political opponents.
Nowhere is the need for international pressure on Rwanda to change its ways more evident than in Kigali’s stance toward its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of the Hutu perpetrators of the 1994 genocide fled to eastern Congo after a Tutsi-led opposition army seized control of Rwanda. Looking to prevent any future threat to their rule, Kigali’s leaders have been active in the Congo ever since. While Rwandan interference is largely due to a longstanding ethnic rivalry and the desire to create a protective buffer along the border, control of the region’s mineral wealth is another key factor.
In April 2012, a rebel group with ties to Kigali launched a campaign to liberate Congo. The group, known as M23, briefly held the city of Goma next to the border with Rwanda. Despite an international peace agreement in February, fighting flared again in May and July. Since the violence began, some 800,000 people have been displaced.
Rwanda’s meddling has been known for years, but public criticism is mounting. Last year, the United Nations accused Kigali of actively supporting M23, and last month Human Rights Watch warned that despite Kigali’s repeated denials the Rwandan military continues to support the rebels.
The crossing between Rwanda and Goma, the heart of the violence, is one of the starkest borders I’ve ever seen. Rwanda’s side has a man-made beach, a five-star hotel and beautifully paved roads; immediately across the border a potholed road leads to a land where the feeling of insecurity is palpable.
Rwanda cannot be blamed for all of Congo’s problems. This region has endured the world’s most deadly conflict since World War II, a war that left the country in ruins, its economic troubles and ethnic tensions compounded by inept and corrupt governance.
But Rwanda has come far enough to start acting differently toward Congo; it should work to ease that country’s problems rather than fuel them.
The United States, Britain and the rest of Rwanda’s supporters need to use their leverage — foreign funds make up around 40 percent of Kigali’s budget — to demand better behavior. They should forcefully and publicly condemn Kigali for its links to militant groups in Congo and its undemocratic tendencies at home. Although some countries froze assistance last year after allegations about Rwanda’s activity in Congo surfaced, more needs to be done.
Rwanda’s leaders recognize how critical it is to maintain international good will. They need to know that they risk losing more financial support. Further sanctions should be put on the table, along with additional incentives to reward good behavior.
The obvious concern, if Kigali doesn’t respond properly, is for the Rwandan people. The progress in health and economic well-being could be lost if the region spirals downward. The best way to exorcise the demons of Rwanda’s past is to minimize the risk of future turmoil. “Never again” must be the priority.
The Rwandan government deserves credit for making swift economic and political progress in the years since the 1994 genocide — progress that no one thought possible. But now Rwanda needs to become a more responsible regional actor, and deal forthrightly with the issues that threaten its future. The international community must put pressure on Kigali to do so.

David Kampf is director of communications at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He worked on development projects in Rwanda from 2006 to 2008.
August 16, 2013

August 16, 2013

40 years since US dropped its final bombs in Southeast Asia, victims still falling in Vietnam

DONG HA, Vietnam — Nguyen Xuan Thiet knew the copper band around the base of the American bomb left over from the Vietnam War could fetch him up to a dollar at the scrap yard. So he clasped the projectile between his bare feet, and began banging with a chisel to pry out the precious metal.
It was nearly the final act of his life. The bomb exploded, tearing both legs off below the knees and four fingers. Only the quick work of a friend — who lashed tourniquets around his limbs, hurled him on the back of a motorbike and sped to a hospital — saved his life.
On Aug. 15, 1973, the United States flew its final bombing mission over Southeast Asia, ending the country’s direct military involvement in the war. Forty years later, victims are still falling in one of the grimmest legacies of the conflict. Last year alone, there were at least 500 casualties in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from unexploded bombs and other ordnance, according to activists and government databases.
The most heavily contaminated province in Vietnam is Quang Tri, where fighting between U.S. and Vietnamese forces was at its fiercest. The region is now one of the poorest in the country. The prices of steel and copper are continually rising, maintaining incentives for collectors even as much of the lightly buried scrap has already been harvested.
“Unexploded ordnance is a resource; we have to exploit it,” said Thiet who after the accident in late 2011 had prosthetic limbs fitted courtesy of an American charity funded mostly by the U.S government. “If I hadn’t lost my legs, I would still go out to collect scrap metal.”
Collecting scrap is not illegal in Vietnam, but handling unexploded ordnance is. Many collectors say they now leave dangerous items in the field and concentrate on the tons of other war remnants like exploded bomb casing, machinery and vehicles. Scrap metal dealers also say they refuse live munitions.
Yet it is clear there are people prepared to defuse unexploded bombs to harvest and sell their casings as well as their explosives, which are used in the fishing and mining industry. Neatly sawn projectiles and other bomb parts are easy to find in roadside scrap yards.
“There are people who do that, but they keep it quiet,” said Nguyen Van Binh, a scrapyard owner who recently paid $4,000 for a large haul of war scrap from across the border in Laos, including 500-pound bomb casings and mounds of bomb fragments.
Most collectors are aware of the dangers, none more so than Nguyen Thi Tam. Her husband was killed dismantling a bomb 21 years ago, leaving her to bring up four children alone. Desperately poor, the 48-year-old has little choice but to continue with his trade.
One recent morning saw her shoulder a cheap metal detector and a hoe and cycle to a former battlefield dotted with grave stones of local villagers and clumps of wild pineapple. She passed the detector quickly over the sandy soil until her headphones began to squeal.
Without pausing, she hacked away the grass with the hoe, and then used a bare foot to swish away the dirt to reveal a projectile and the fuse of a rocket-propelled grenade. She left those where they were, and carried on working, pocketing several bomb fragments to take to the dealer.
“A bowl of blood for a bowl of rice,” she said, explaining the tradeoff she is willing to make for what earns her $5 on a good day. “I know very well it is dangerous, but I must go on.”
The United States dropped 7.8 million tons of munitions over Vietnam as it tried to bomb the impoverished nation into submission, more than it unleashed in World War II on Germany and Japan combined. It also fired off as much ordnance again from land and sea. An estimated 800,000 tons failed to detonate, contaminating around 20 percent of its land.
More than 100,000 people have killed or injured since 1975, the government says. But it doesn’t give out detailed information publicly and many casualties go unrecorded. Curious children picking up small cluster munitions make up a significant percentage of those killed or injured.
“In summer time, the kids come out in groups to play,” said Chi Hong Tran from Clear Path International, a mostly US-government funded charity that pays for medical and other expenses of those who fall victim. “When a bomb goes off, it takes everyone with them.”
The United States said it had spent over $65 million since 1998 in trying to make the country safe and was planning an increased focus on “U.S. origin” unexploded ordnance in Southeast Asia in coming years. Washington is keen on expanding ties with Vietnam as part of its strategic focus toward Asia and China’s rising might. In something of an irony, removing the ordnance it dropped 40 years ago can now be trumpeted as part of its renewed commitment to Vietnamese ties.
Vietnam has cooperated with international demining agencies since the mid-1990s. It could get more funds if it were to sign onto international treaties banning land mines and cluster munitions and create a civilian-led, transparent national authority to handle clearance and maintain a comprehensive database, experts say.
Vietnamese officials have stated it will take 100 years and $100 billion to clear the country of ordnance. But those working in the sector say removing every dangerous item in the country is unrealistic and unnecessary. The focus should instead be on having teams removing surface and lightly buried items, and developing a response plan for deeper buried items, such as in countries in Europe after World War II.
“Forget about this idea of clearing up every bomb and mine, said Chuck Searcy, an American vet who runs a demining and humanitarian agency. “We need to find a way to make Vietnam safe, that is a very different challenge, and one that is very achievable within 5 to 10 years.”

August 8, 2013

Emmy-Nominated Film Features Santa Barbara Students and Teachers

Alethea Tyner Paradis
Friendship Tours World Travel, a Santa Barbara based educational tour company founded by Alethea Tyner Paradis, a local teacher and Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award winner, is featured with her students in a 2013 Emmy-nominated documentary film. An ABCNews-produced documentary, Power of a Picture, was filmed in Santa Barbara and Vietnam and highlights the educational value of the photo of the iconic “Napalm Girl” for today’s students, 40 years after the Vietnam War.

The photo of Kim Phuc was Life Magazine’s cover image from June 1972. Historians credit it with helping end the Vietnam War. Symbolizing what words cannot convey, the iconic image of “Napalm Girl” still instructs us about the impact of photojournalism.

The documentary, Power of a Picture, fuses historical footage and modern analysis of the accidental bombing, examining the significance of the photograph then and now.

The documentary features Santa Barbara students and teachers traveling to the site of Kim’s tragic injury in Vietnam. The group visits with Kim’s surviving family, interviews veterans, photographers and witnesses. Ultimately, students understand the war through the lens of courageous journalism.

Alethea Tyner Paradis, a history teacher, founded Friendship Tours in 2005 to give her students an immersive educational experience lacking in mainstream youth tours. “It occurred to me and other like-minded educators that our nation hadn’t learned many important lessons from our controversial military adventures in SE Asia.” Recognizing a need for meaningful experiential education about the legacy of warfare, Tyner Paradis developed an integrative program that invites students to understand war—and the benefits of negotiated peace—from the perspective of people who live with its aftermath.

For several years Tyner Paradis has taken her students to visit and befriend Kim’s family in the city of Trang Bang. In 2012, Kim, who now lives in Canada, accepted Tyner Paradis’s invitation to share her story with Santa Barbara at the Lobero Theater to mark the 40-year anniversary of the photograph.

In addition to Vietnam, Friendship Tours has expanded with youth tours to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Cuba and Rwanda. Tyner Paradis now directs Friendship Tours year-round.

“By learning history’s lessons first-hand from those living with the legacy of war, students are better equipped to participate as ethical citizens of a global community.” Tyner Paradis says.

In May, Power of a Picture won the 2013 Edward R. Murrow award in regional market television broadcast.

For more information about Friendship Tours World Travel, go to or contact Alethea Tyner Paradis at (805) 252-1990, Alethea@FriendshipToursWorld.comTo see the Emmy-nominated documentary Power of a Picture go to: (26 mins)An excerpt of the film is also available at and from the Friendship Tours website,

August 7, 2013

The Hiroshima Myth

Every year during the first two weeks of August the mass news media and many politicians at the national level trot out the "patriotic" political myth that the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan in August of 1945 caused them to surrender, and thereby saved the lives of anywhere from five hundred thousand to one million American soldiers, who did not have to invade the islands. Opinion polls over the last fifty years show that American citizens overwhelmingly (between 80 and 90%) believe this false history which, of course, makes them feel better about killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians (mostly women and children) and saving American lives to accomplish the ending of the war.

The best book, in my opinion, to explode this myth isThe Decision to Use the Bomb by Gar Alperovitz, because it not only explains the real reasons the bombs were dropped, but also gives a detailed history of how and why the myth was created that this slaughter of innocent civilians was justified, and therefore morally acceptable. The essential problem starts with President Franklin Roosevelt's policy of unconditional surrender, which was reluctantly adopted by Churchill and Stalin, and which President Truman decided to adopt when he succeeded Roosevelt in April of 1945. Hanson Baldwin was the principal writer for The New York Times who covered World War II and he wrote an important book immediately after the war entitled Great Mistakes of the War. Baldwin concludes that the unconditional surrender policy

was perhaps the biggest political mistake of the war…. Unconditional surrender was an open invitation to unconditional resistance; it discouraged opposition to Hitler, probably lengthened the war, costs us lives, and helped to lead to the present aborted peace.
The stark fact is that the Japanese leaders, both military and civilian, including the Emperor, were willing to surrender in May of 1945 if the Emperor could remain in place and not be subjected to a war crimes trial after the war. This fact became known to President Truman as early as May of 1945. The Japanese monarchy was one of the oldest in all of history dating back to 660 B.C. The Japanese religion added the belief that all the Emperors were the direct descendants of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. The reigning Emperor Hirohito was the 124th in the direct line of descent. After the bombs were dropped on August 6 and 9 of 1945, and their surrender soon thereafter, the Japanese were allowed to keep their Emperor on the throne and he was not subjected to any war crimes trial. The Emperor, Hirohito, came on the throne in 1926 and continued in his position until his death in 1989. Since President Truman, in effect, accepted the conditional surrender offered by the Japanese as early as May of 1945, the question is posed, "Why then were the bombs dropped?"
The author Alperovitz gives us the answer in great detail which can only be summarized here, but he states, "We have noted a series of Japanese peace feelers in Switzerland which OSS Chief William Donovan reported to Truman in May and June [1945]. These suggested, even at this point, that the U.S. demand for unconditional surrender might well be the only serious obstacle to peace. At the center of the explorations, as we also saw, was Allen Dulles, chief of OSS operations in Switzerland (and subsequently Director of the CIA). In his 1966 book The Secret Surrender, Dulles recalled that 'On July 20, 1945, under instructions from Washington, I went to the Potsdam Conference and reported there to Secretary [of War] Stimson on what I had learned from Tokyo — they desired to surrender if they could retain the Emperor and their constitution as a basis for maintaining discipline and order in Japan after the devastating news of surrender became known to the Japanese people.'" It is documented by Alperovitz that Stimson reported this directly to Truman. Alperovitz further points out in detail the documentary proof that every top presidential civilian and military advisor, with the exception of James Byrnes, along with Prime Minister Churchill and his top British military leadership, urged Truman to revise the unconditional surrender policy so as to allow the Japanese to surrender and keep their Emperor. All this advice was given to Truman prior to the Potsdam Proclamation which occurred on July 26, 1945. This proclamation made a final demand upon Japan to surrender unconditionally or suffer drastic consequences.
Another startling fact about the military connection to the dropping of the bomb is the lack of knowledge on the part of General MacArthur about the existence of the bomb and whether it was to be dropped. Alperovitz states,
MacArthur knew nothing about advance planning for the atomic bomb's use until almost the last minute. Nor was he personally in the chain of command in this connection; the order came straight from Washington. Indeed, the War Department waited until five days before the bombing of Hiroshima even to notify MacArthur — the commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific — of the existence of the atomic bomb.
Alperovitz makes it very clear that the main person Truman was listening to while he ignored all of this civilian and military advice, was James Byrnes, the man who virtually controlled Truman at the beginning of his administration. Byrnes was one of the most experienced political figures in Washington, having served for over thirty years in both the House and the Senate. He had also served as a United States Supreme Court Justice, and at the request of President Roosevelt, he resigned that position and accepted the role in the Roosevelt administration of managing the domestic economy. Byrnes went to the Yalta Conference with Roosevelt and then was given the responsibility to get Congress and the American people to accept the agreements made at Yalta.
When Truman became a senator in 1935, Byrnes immediately became his friend and mentor and remained close to Truman until Truman became president. Truman never forgot this and immediately called on Byrnes to be his number-two man in the new administration. Byrnes had expected to be named the vice presidential candidate to replace Wallace and had been disappointed when Truman had been named, yet he and Truman remained very close. Byrnes had also been very close to Roosevelt, while Truman was kept in the dark by Roosevelt most of the time he served as vice president. Truman asked Byrnes immediately, in April, to become his Secretary of State but they delayed the official appointment until July 3, 1945, so as not to offend the incumbent. Byrnes had also accepted a position on the interim committee which had control over the policy regarding the atom bomb, and therefore, in April, 1945 became Truman's main foreign policy advisor, and especially the advisor on the use of the atomic bomb. It was Byrnes who encouraged Truman to postpone the Potsdam Conference and his meeting with Stalin until they could know, at the conference, if the atomic bomb was successfully tested. While at the Potsdam Conference the experiments proved successful and Truman advised Stalin that a new massively destructive weapon was now available to America, which Byrnes hoped would make Stalin back off from any excessive demands or activity in the post-war period.
Truman secretly gave the orders on July 25, 1945 that the bombs would be dropped in August while he was to be in route back to America. On July 26, he issued the Potsdam Proclamation, or ultimatum, to Japan to surrender, leaving in place the unconditional surrender policy, thereby causing both Truman and Byrnes to believe that the terms would not be accepted by Japan.
The conclusion drawn unmistakably from the evidence presented, is that Byrnes is the man who convinced Truman to keep the unconditional surrender policy and not accept Japan's surrender so that the bombs could actually be dropped thereby demonstrating to the Russians that America had a new forceful leader in place, a "new sheriff in Dodge" who, unlike Roosevelt, was going to be tough with the Russians on foreign policy and that the Russians needed to "back off" during what would become known as the "Cold War." A secondary reason was that Congress would now be told about why they had made the secret appropriation to a Manhattan Project and the huge expenditure would be justified by showing that not only did the bombs work but that they would bring the war to an end, make the Russians back off and enable America to become the most powerful military force in the world.
If the surrender by the Japanese had been accepted between May and the end of July of 1945 and the Emperor had been left in place, as in fact he was after the bombing, this would have kept Russia out of the war. Russia agreed at Yalta to come into the Japanese war three months after Germany surrendered. In fact, Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945 and Russia announced on August 8, (exactly three months thereafter) that it was abandoning its neutrality policy with Japan and entering the war. Russia's entry into the war for six days allowed them to gain tremendous power and influence in China, Korea, and other key areas of Asia. The Japanese were deathly afraid of Communism and if the Potsdam Proclamation had indicated that America would accept the conditional surrender allowing the Emperor to remain in place and informed the Japanese that Russia would enter the war if they did not surrender, then this would surely have assured a quick Japanese surrender.
The second question that Alperovitz answers in the last half of the book is how and why the Hiroshima myth was created. The story of the myth begins with the person of James B. Conant, the President of Harvard University, who was a prominent scientist, having initially made his mark as a chemist working on poison gas during World War I. During World War II, he was chairman of the National Defense Research Committee from the summer of 1941 until the end of the war and he was one of the central figures overseeing the Manhattan Project. Conant became concerned about his future academic career, as well as his positions in private industry, because various people began to speak out concerning why the bombs were dropped. On September 9, 1945, Admiral William F. Halsey, commander of the Third Fleet, was publically quoted extensively as stating that the atomic bomb was used because the scientists had a "toy and they wanted to try it out…." He further stated, "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment…. It was a mistake to ever drop it." Albert Einstein, one of the world's foremost scientists, who was also an important person connected with the development of the atomic bomb, responded and his words were headlined inThe New York Times "Einstein Deplores Use of Atom Bomb." The story reported that Einstein stated that "A great majority of scientists were opposed to the sudden employment of the atom bomb." In Einstein's judgment, the dropping of the bomb was a political — diplomatic decision rather than a military or scientific decision.
Probably the person closest to Truman, from the military standpoint, was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Leahy, and there was much talk that he also deplored the use of the bomb and had strongly advised Truman not to use it, but advised rather to revise the unconditional surrender policy so that the Japanese could surrender and keep the Emperor. Leahy's views were later reported by Hanson Baldwin in an interview that Leahy "thought the business of recognizing the continuation of the Emperor was a detail which should have been solved easily." Leahy's secretary, Dorothy Ringquist, reported that Leahy told her on the day the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, "Dorothy, we will regret this day. The United States will suffer, for war is not to be waged on women and children." Another important naval voice, the commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest J. King, stated that the naval blockade and prior bombing of Japan in March of 1945, had rendered the Japanese helpless and that the use of the atomic bomb was both unnecessary and immoral. Also, the opinion of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was reported to have said in a press conference on September 22, 1945, that "The Admiral took the opportunity of adding his voice to those insisting that Japan had been defeated before the atomic bombing and Russia's entry into the war." In a subsequent speech at the Washington Monument on October 5, 1945, Admiral Nimitz stated "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war." It was learned also that on or about July 20, 1945, General Eisenhower had urged Truman, in a personal visit, not to use the atomic bomb. Eisenhower's assessment was "It wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing … to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime." Eisenhower also stated that it wasn't necessary for Truman to "succumb" to Byrnes.
James Conant came to the conclusion that some important person in the administration must go public to show that the dropping of the bombs was a military necessity, thereby saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, so he approached Harvey Bundy and his son, McGeorge Bundy. It was agreed by them that the most important person to create this myth was Secretary of War, Henry Stimson. It was decided that Stimson would write a long article to be widely circulated in a prominent national magazine. This article was revised repeatedly by McGeorge Bundy and Conant before it was published in Harper's magazine in February of 1947. The long article became the subject of a front-page article and editorial in The New York Times and in the editorial it was stated "There can be no doubt that the president and Mr. Stimson are right when they mention that the bomb caused the Japanese to surrender." Later, in 1959, President Truman specifically endorsed this conclusion, including the idea that it saved the lives of a million American soldiers. This myth has been renewed annually by the news media and various political leaders ever since.
It is very pertinent that, in the memoirs of Henry Stimson entitled On Active Service in Peace and War, he states, "Unfortunately, I have lived long enough to know that history is often not what actually happened but what is recorded as such."
To bring this matter more into focus from the human tragedy standpoint, I recommend the reading of a book entitled Hiroshima Diary: The Journal of a Japanese Physician, August 6, September 30, 1945, by Michiko Hachiya. He was a survivor of Hiroshima and kept a daily diary about the women, children and old men that he treated on a daily basis in the hospital. The doctor was badly injured himself but recovered enough to help others and his account of the personal tragedies of innocent civilians who were either badly burned or died as a result of the bombing puts the moral issue into a clear perspective for all of us to consider.
Now that we live in the nuclear age and there are enough nuclear weapons spread around the world to destroy civilization, we need to face the fact that America is the only country to have used this awful weapon and that it was unnecessary to have done so. If Americans would come to recognize the truth, rather than the myth, it might cause such a moral revolt that we would take the lead throughout the world in realizing that wars in the future may well become nuclear, and therefore all wars must be avoided at almost any cost. Hopefully, our knowledge of science has not outrun our ability to exercise prudent and humane moral and political judgment to the extent that we are destined for extermination.
By John V. Denson