Posts Tagged With: war

A Possible Coup in Saudi Arabia Signals the End of US Dominance in the Mideast……


If Saudi Arabia didn’t already have enough worries in a fast-changing Middle East, yet another crisis hit home for the desert kingdom: alleged hospitalization of King Salman, thought to have Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia. He only assumed the throne in January.

While the 79-year-old monarch’s hospital stay surprised many in the West, the question global affairs and security analysts ask is: What might the future look like for Saudi Arabia now that the controversial king is sidelined? Will the rest of the royal family accept and allow Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef to lead? Or will the kingdom’s royal family see division within the ranks?
These events could coalesce into a major political storm, significantly increasing the risk of instability not only within the kingdom but across the greater, strife-torn Middle East (if that’s even possible).

This turn of events comes on the heels of shocking news. London’s Guardian credits claims by an anonymous Saudi prince who states that two letters have circulated among senior members of the royal family encouraging them to stage a coup against King Salman. The rationale is the king and his powerful 30-year-old son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have pursued dangerous policies that are leading the kingdom to political, economic and military ruin. Disclosure of these memos raises serious concerns. I find myself recalling the assassination of King Faisal in 1975.

Should royal infighting reveal itself to the outside world, it’ll mark the start of the end for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we know it. Far-reaching consequences will resound not only economically and politically but religiously and geopolitically. How?

War in Yemen: The kingdom finds itself entangled in a conflict with a next-door neighbor with no end in sight. King Salman and his son miscalculated. The longer Saudi forces continue to engage the Houthis, the more likely internal dissension within the kingdom itself grows. Images broadcast on al-Jazeera show Saudi Arabia, an outrageously rich country, pummeling Yemen, one of the poorest in the Arab world. All this generates criticism of the Saudis and sympathy for Houthi rebels.

The driving force behind the kingdom’s engagement in Yemen is the king’s son, serving as defense minister, who wants to show the world that, despite his youth, he can make tough calls. However, his actions in Yemen thus far demonstrate his reckless approach to international affairs, lack of experience and the absence of an exit strategy, leading to mounting costs for the kingdom in blood and treasure and growing international criticism.

Economic chaos: The drop in oil prices by more than 50 percent the past year is sending the kingdom’s economy into a tailspin. Thinking among Saudi elites was to (a) maintain the kingdom’s level of global oil production; (b) fight for its global market share; and (c) allow oil prices to collapse. Theoretically, this would eventually drive the competition — especially the United States — out of the energy business, paving the way for a subsequent return to higher oil prices. But the strategy proved to be ill-conceived. The result is the kingdom’s deficit approaching 20 percent — more than $100 billion. This outcome compels the kingdom to deplete its huge foreign exchange reserves at a record rate (about $12 billion per month).

Tension with Iran: While Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s two holiest sites (Mecca and Medina), the latest tragedy — a stampede at the Hajj in Mecca that resulted in the deaths of at least 239 Iranian pilgrims (among many others) — has only fueled tensions between Iran and the kingdom. The two were already crossways over the nuclear issue and Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout the region. In addition, both countries are fighting through their proxies in Syria and Yemen.

I’ll argue Russia’s military intervention in Syria has escalated the political tensions to higher level. Of interest is the Iranian-Russian military coalition to keep the Assad regime in power and battle rebels that the kingdom and the United States support. Recently, Saudi Arabia shipped 500 TOW antitank missiles to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). These missiles, unlike other projectiles such as RPGs can be used from significant distance. This support, however, would not change the outcome.

Where from here? Russia’s airstrikes in Syria underscore a broader threat to the kingdom: Put all the problems together and Saudi Arabia, more than ever, looks politically vulnerable. Its dependence on the United States for its survival the last 70 years seems to be near an end. The United States is no longer in position to play its traditional role as the only guarantor of Middle East stability. One can only imagine the scenario in which the house of Al-Saud is forced to relinquish power to another entity from within that does not share Washington’s aspirations and/or agenda. That means our next president will face one more serious geopolitical headache: an unstable Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of oil, site of Islam’s holiest sites and a country equally bountiful in advanced American weapons and very angry Wahabi Sunni Muslims.

Categories: Middle-East, Saudi Arabia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alien Nuclear Wars Might Be Visible From Earth…..


Image NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center / Flickr
NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center / Flickr

In a recent New Yorker article, the nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein collected testimony from several people who saw, firsthand, the flash from the first successful detonation of the atomic bomb, at the infamous Trinity Test, on July 16, 1945.

Wellerstein has a writer’s feel for quotes and anecdotes. According to one general, the flash was a “golden, purple, violet, gray, and blue light” that illuminated “every peak, crevasse, and ridge” of a nearby mountain range, “with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described.” Wellerstein notes that several eyewitnesses described Trinity’s light as “cosmic.” This was apropos, he says, for nowhere else, “except in the interiors of stars do temperatures reach into the tens of millions of degrees,” as they do during a nuclear explosion.

A team of astronomers recently tried to determine whether Trinity’s light might be cosmic in a different sense. The Trinity test involved only one explosion. But if there were many more explosions, involving many more nuclear weapons, it might generate enough heat and light to be seen from nearby stars, or from the deeper reaches of our galaxy—so long as someone out there was looking.

And so, the thinking goes, maybe we should be looking. If every intelligent species eventually stumbles on nuclear technology, and not all of them manage it well, then it might be possible to spot an apocalypse in the heavens. Or several.

There are tens of billions of galaxies in the observable universe, each one a sea of stars. When astronomers watch these stars closely, they see them wobbling, the way our sun wobbles when its planets spin around it, tugging on its center of gravity. Astronomers also see these stars dimming ever so slightly, as though objects were passing in front of them, and this dimming occurs at predictable intervals, as though these objects were moving around the stars in regular orbits. For these reasons and others, astronomers now believe that nearly all stars play host to planets, and they are making plans to image these planets directly, by catching the faint light they give off with huge, ultra-sensitive telescopes.

What will this light tell us? A remarkable amount, it turns out. Light encounters all kinds of molecules as it makes its way through the universe, and it keeps a close record of these encounters, in its spectra. If sunlight were to beam through Earth’s atmosphere, and then out into the stars, it would travel with this detailed chemical record in tow. If, after some millennia, this earth-kissed light fell into a distant astronomer’s telescope, that astronomer would be able to determine what sorts of chemicals were present in our planet’s atmosphere. They would know that water vapor was present, and life too, because Earth’s atmosphere contains methane gas, breathed out by the trillions of organisms that live on its surface. Indeed, it’s precisely these sorts of “biosignatures” that Earth’s astronomers hope to find in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets.

Light from extrasolar planets might also tell us whether our universe is home to other tool-making beings. After all, some of our pollutants leave behind chemical traces that would never occur naturally. If we glimpsed these pollutants in a distant planet’s atmosphere, we could be reasonably certain that technological life lived on its surface at one time or another. And according to Adam Stevens, Duncan Forgan, and Jack O’Malley James from Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute, we might be able to know whether they used their technology to destroy themselves.

In July, Stevens, Forgan, and James published a paper that asked what a distant, “self-destructive civilization” might look like through the business end of a telescope. To do so, they gamed out several dystopian science fiction scenarios in great detail. They calculated the brightness of the gamma rays that would flash out from a massive exchange of nuclear weapons. They asked themselves what would happen if an engineered pathogen ripped through a large population of human-sized animals. What gases would fill a planet’s atmosphere, if its surface were strewn with rotting corpses? And would those gases be detectable across interstellar distances?

I asked Jill Tarter what she thought of the paper. Tarter is the former director of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute and the inspiration for Ellie Arroway, the heroine of Carl Sagan’s Contact, played by Jodie Foster in the film adaptation. Tarter told me the paper was “getting a bit of buzz” in the SETI community. But she also urged caution. “The problem is the signatures are detectable for cosmically insignificant amounts of time,” she said. Distant stars burn for billions of years, sending a constant stream of light toward Earth, but the flash from a nuclear war may last only a few days. To catch its light, you have to have impeccable timing.

Stevens, Forgan, and James acknowledge the ephemerality of their extinction signatures. According to their paper, some will last only 30 years, and others less than that. And even if a signal were to stick around for a hundred millennia, it would still be a tough needle to find in the vast spatiotemporal haystack that is our night sky. The universe has been manufacturing planets for billions of years. The odds that you’d train your telescope on a planet just as its resident civilization winks out are, in Tarter’s words, “a lot worse than Vegas.”

To beat odds like that, you’d need to take a detailed census of the galaxy. You’d need to eavesdrop on billions of planets, and for long stretches of time, and the tech for that kind of survey just doesn’t exist yet, and won’t for a while.

But it’s conceivable, in principle, and that itself is a miracle of human ingenuity. It’s wild to think that we may one day know something about the various fates that await beings like us. And it’s a useful prod toward deeper thoughts, about the sorts of flashes we are starting to send into the cosmos, especially this year, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the Trinity test.

Categories: aliens, Aliens and UFO's, area 51 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1812: The Inconsequential War That Changed America Forever…..


WHY SHOULD I CARE?

Most adult Americans today are unaware of what caused the War of 1812, who started it, what the outcome was, or even who the belligerents were. If I recall correctly, my grade school / high school History Class covered The War Of 1812 — aka America’s Second War Of Independence, or America’s Forgotten War — for a total of maybe one week. And what a worthless week it was. Like most history teachers I’ve ever had, they turned an exciting story into a dry bundle of boring crap … focusing on memorizing dates and random events without getting to the real story behind the story; i.e. why did it happen, how does the war affect us today, and what can we learn from it?  This is a crying shame because the war had a tremendous impact on American political development, territorial expansion, and national identity.

A 19th century French historian said, “History studies not just facts and institutions, its real subject is the human spirit.” The word ‘history’ comes from the Greek, and literally means “knowledge acquired by investigation”. So, let us investigate the War Of 1812, and the spirit of humanity which caused it … and changed America forever.

OVERALL SUMMARY

There were two major reasons given for the war.

First, Britain was at war with France since 1793. For twenty years the British claimed they had the right – as a legitimate and necessary wartime measure — to intercept American ships on the high seas, seize and keep their cargoes, and search the crews for British navy deserters. The British between 1807 and 1812 seized some 400 American ships and cargoes worth millions of dollars.

Second, was the British practice of ‘impressment’. A chronic manpower shortage in the Royal Navy led the Brits to stop American merchant vessels on the high seas and remove seamen. Between 1803 and 1812 the Brits captured an estimated six to nine THOUSAND Americans in its dragnet. These men were subjected to all the horrors of British naval discipline—enforced with the cat-o’-nine-tails—and made to fight a war that was not their own.

America felt this violated its rights as a neutral and sovereign nation. So, we declared war against the Brits in 1812.

THE END OF THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR SEEDED THE WAR OF 1812

Isn’t that often the case … that the end of one war, and the demands of the victor, eventually leads to yet another war? The war for American Independence lasted until 1783 when the peace treaty with the British was signed. Imagine the giddy feeling you would have had at that time. Freedom! Independence! But the rational exuberance was met with irrational naivete.

The American populace, including its politicians, assumed that the British would continue to allow access to British ports …. as if nothing at all happened! America assumed that the Brits needed our wheat, the British Navy needed our timber, hemp, and tar, and British colonies in the West Indies needed our fish, wheat, and salt to feed their slaves. This was a big miscalculation.

Canada and Ireland delivered most of the same goods. In fact, America needed the Brits more than they needed us as we depended on British manufacturing goods. America had zero leverage, and it was Britain that dictated foreign policy. They admitted American raw materials on a case-by-case basis, excluded manufactured goods altogether from entering England, and closed West Indian ports to American goods. Bullocks to America! What could America do? Nothing. We had no navy to back up our demands.

1801 – A PIVOTAL YEAR

George Washington negotiated the Jay Treaty in 1795. The Brits negotiated from a position of strength, and conversely, America from weakness. In a nutshell, the treaty granted the Brits virtually unlimited access to American markets in exchange for limited access to British markets in the West Indies. It also allowed British creditors to recover debts owed by Americans.

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson was elected president and James Madison was named his secretary of state. They quickly abrogated the treaty.

Madison took a hard-line approach towards the Brits. Even back in 1790, as a Congressman from Virginia, he championed the idea of countering British trade restrictions with a series of discriminatory tariffs via import taxes. George Washington and John Adams rejected the idea. Now, however, as Secretary of State, Madison hoped to implement what he believed was a long overdue aggressive trade policy against Britain. But, he shot himself in the foot big time …. by reversing the naval-building policies of John Adams

John Adams succeeded in his priority of strengthening the United States Navy. When he was elected in 1796, the navy had only three battleships. Five years later, in 1801, the navy had fifty … more than enough to defend America’s coastline and maintain a viable presence in the Caribbean.

Jefferson, and Madison, undid all this for several reasons. They felt maintaining a navy was too expensive. As Republicans they believed in frugal, tax-cutting government. And they believed that a large military posed a domestic threat in that the officer corps could harbor aristocratic ambitions and become a tool for would-be tyrants. Lastly, they felt navies led countries into unnecessary foreign entanglements. As such, Jefferson invested only in small gunboats for coastal patrols. The battleships atrophied. By 1812, the United States had only a dozen seaworthy battleships of any size.

Jefferson and Madison certainly were not stupid men. Yet, one must wonder “What were they thinking??” With no leverage (military power) to bring to the negotiating table, did they expect the Brits to just quietly and unquestioningly bend to American demands? Hardly! As should have been expected, Britain continued to apply both its commercial and naval power to dictate — by force as necessary —  trade and maritime policy to the United States.

MORE HALF-ASSED DECISIONS AND ERRONEOUS BELIEFS

All governments do dumb-shit things, even that of our Founding Fathers.

So, in 1807 Jefferson tried to pressure the Brits and French by convincing Congress to secure a radical embargo against all foreign trade. (Embargo!!! Our government still loves them to this very day. When will we ever learn?) American ships were forbidden from trading overseas. The embargo only hurt America. It was quickly scrapped.

It was replaced with the Non-Intercourse Act. This act had nothing to do with the cessation of attacking the pink fortress. It allowed trade with all countries except Britain and France. It also allowed the President to restore trade with either country IF either belligerent ended its maritime harassment. That only intercoursed the American people, and didn’t work out either.

So, in 1810 Madison signed the ridicules Macon’s Bill No.2. Even he didn’t like it, but he could not yet get Congress to pass a war resolution. The bill authorized Madison to impose trade restrictions against one offending country if the other lifted its trade restrictions against the United States. In other words, the United States would commercially punish country A if country B agreed to allow America to trade freely. Pitting two countries against each other didn’t work either.

What was the result of all these half-assed measures to intimidate the British? They shopped elsewhere! For example, between 1808-1812 the Canadian timber industry exploded with its exports to England, increasing by 500%. Canadian agricultural production also increased greatly. The Brits were eating beef, Americans were eating crow.

Madison was getting desperate. He was conjuring up even more rigorous measures against the British fearing that the window of opportunity for gaining concessions through commercial pressure would soon close forever. His conjuring included plans for war.

He figured it would be a little war, and a quick one. (How many times have our Dear Leaders told us that? Especially since 1960?)  Most of the British army and navy were bogged down in Europe, fighting a brutal war with Napoleon. The French controlled most of Europe, and the little Frenchie dictator assembled a 700,000-man army for an invasion of Russia. All Madison wanted was the right to trade freely and, gain the respect owed to the United States as an independent nation. He calculated that since he wasn’t seeking territory or conquest, that Britain would surely be willing to negotiate rather than have to deploy valuable ships and troops thousands of miles away from the war in Europe. Madison miscalculated. Madison was wrong to believe that the British would rush to negotiate with him. The British even refused Tsar Alexander I’s invitation to mediate in 1813.

Britain’s commitment to battle only strengthened over the first two years of the war. Madison was even wrong about the impact of the European war on America. He felt that when the European war ended, that the British would send the bulk of their armies to battle the United States. When you need popular support for a quick and easy war, you still need a little fear-mongering. “The British will come!!”  One reason the Brits didn’t redeploy their troops was that American military incompetence at the beginning of the war made it unnecessary. More fortuitously, after more than two decades of continual war, the Brits had had enough, and by 1814 were more than happy to soften their demands. (The British Invasion finally took place about 150 years later. But with guitars and drums.)

THE FRENCH CONNECTION — TAKING ADVANTAGE OF MACON’S BILL

The Brits had the world’s strongest navy, and couldn’t be coerced into lifting its restrictions. France, on the other hand, had everything to gain. Their Berlin (1806) and Milan (1807) decrees imposed severe trade restrictions against any country trading with Britain. But France’s navy was not sufficiently powerful enough to enforce these decrees. So, in compliance with Macon’s Bill, France could force the United States to restrict itself. In other words, France repealed its restrictions against the United States, thus forcing the United States to suspend its trade with Great Britain. Thus, on August 5, 1810 the French lifted the Berlin and Milan decrees. Madison, in turn, ended all trade with Britain on Feb. 2, 1811.

The New England Federalists — who were dependent upon trade with Britain for their economic sustenance — immediately attacked the announcement. The claimed Napoleon could not be trusted, and that it would lead America into war. They were correct. Napoleon refused to release American ships already held in French ports, and continued to harass American shipping. America would declare war on June 18, 1812.

MADISON FINALLY GETS HIS WAR

It’s not entirely fair to say, as some do, that this was strictly Madison’s war. He had help. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Henry Clay of Kentucky, his principal assistant, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, and other southern and western representatives were collectively known as “Warhawks” and pressured Madison into asking Congress to declare war against Great Britain.

The United States in 1812

MILITARY COMPARISONS

When the war started, the American army consisted of 7,000 regulars. (Theoretically, there were also thousands of citizen soldiers in the militia. While the Constitution granted the president the authority to call them into service to suppress insurrections and repel invasions … the legal consensus was that state militia could only be ordered to meet these duties in their own states). Anyway, the military was poorly trained. The army’s officer corps was a ragtag outfit …most had never seen combat … and the ones that did were old, having last seen service in the Revolution, thirty years earlier. West Point, established ten years earlier, had fewer than one hundred graduates ready to assume command. The navy, as mentioned above, was a puny force. By 1812, the US Navy counted only twelve ships of any size, and only three fully dressed battleships.

The Brits had 250,000 battle-hardened men in uniform. True, the bulk of those were in Europe. Nevertheless, 6,000 were stationed in Canada … augmented by 2,000 Canadians, and roughly 3,000 Indians. The British Navy consisted of 500 ships …. 80 of them permanently stationed in the West Atlantic between Canada and the Caribbean. It should have been a rout.

THE CANADIAN DEBACLE

In the long run, the American navy could not possibly defeat their British counterparts. American politicians concluded the most realistic path to pressuring Britain was by targeting Canada …. which seemed like an easy target with a population of only 500,000 compared to 7.7 million in the United States in 1812. Virginia Congressman John Randolph even stated the conquest of Canada would be“a holiday campaign … with no expense of blood or treasure on our part”.  (You know … just like that quick war in Iraq and Afghanistan which we were promised.)

Madison grossly miscalculated support from the Canadian populace. He believed the Canadians wished to be liberated from Britain … that they wanted their own 1776 moment. Why not? About two-thirds of the Canadian population had migrated there from the United States. So, the grand plan was to invade Canada when war broke out. The US Army would capture British territory, quickly, and force Britain to the negotiating table. After all, Britain certainly would not want to lose this colony, and they certainly would not divert troops from the European war, and therefore they would be delighted to negotiate favorable maritime rights America had been pursuing. In exchange, America would give Canada back (although there were some who wanted to make Canada part of America). Sounds logical. But, the devil is in the details, and this plan was SNAFU right from the get go.

The correct military strategy was to attack the British at Montreal. A concentrated force sailing up the Hudson River and over Lake Champlain probably could have captured the city. However, recall that the New England Federalists strongly opposed the war. Madison greatly feared that New England’s militias, most necessary to a concentrated attack on Montreal, would simply refuse to turn out for battle! On to to crappy Plan B!

Madison decided to launch a three-pronged northern invasion; 1) attack Montreal, 2) attack Fort Detroit in the far west, and 3) a third army would leave from Fort Niagara and into Canada at the western end of Lake Ontario. America lost the battle of Detroit without firing a shot. The Fort Niagara campaign was divided amongst two generals, neither had military experience, both were appointed political dogs who argued with each other and refused support at critical times, and out of 1,300 men, 900 were captured. The battle for Canada ended about as soon as it started.

Yes, folks, one can make the case that Canada — with a little help from their friends — defeated the United States in the War Of 1812. The immediate impact of the war was to strengthen Canada’s loyalty to England. The United States still had interest in conquering Canada – more half-assed ideas, really – but, by the 1890’s the two nations formed a permanent bond. For all practical purposes, the War Of 1812 was Canada’s war of independence, and they won.

A BRIEF REPRIEVE – US NAVAL VICTORIES

Old Ironsides defeats HMS Guerriere

Out-gunned and out-manned the US Navy did achieve some clear victories, even early in the war.  In 1812, the USS Constitution —aka, “Old Ironsides” — defeated HMS Guerriere in a ferocious battle off the coast of Nova Scotia. In the same year, the USS United States captured HMS Macedonian, a fully dressed 38-gun battleship. In September 1813, the United States achieved further naval success on Lake Erie. Also in 1813, Commander Perry’s fleet of ten ships outmaneuvered a squadron of six British ships despite being outgunned by the much larger enemy vessels. The same Perry who left Americans with a memorable line: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” A month later, William Henry Harrison – yes, the future president – crossed Lake Erie and defeated the British and their Indian allies in the Battle of the Thames. Tecumseh — leader of the pan-Indian confederation – was killed in that battle. Many of Britain’s Indian allies subsequently abandoned the alliance, and America’s northwest frontier was secured.

MORE BAD NEWS ON THE POLITICAL FRONT

On the political front there was much bad news. Commander Perry – the navy’s best field officer – was “promoted” to a desk job. William Harrison was accused by Secretary Of War, John Armstrong, of financial impropriety, and Harrison, another excellent field commander, was forced to resign.

The cost of the war broke the Treasury. By 1814, $34 million dollars (a hefty sum in its day) was borrowed to finance the war.

Madison sent a delegation (including John Quincy Adams) to meet with Czar Alexander in St. Petersburg, but the British left before the delegation arrived and the whole thing was an embarrassment.

Madison probably suffered a severe anxiety attack on May 30, 1814 — the day the French signed a peace treaty with Britain and its allies. Madison strongly believed that a good portion of Britain’s 250,000 troops would make their way to Canada.

THE HOUSE, THE HOUSE, THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE!!!

Madison didn’t have wait long for some of his fears to come to fruition. Two months after the French-British peace treaty Royal Navy ships carrying about 6,000 British regulars sailed into Chesapeake Bay. Secretary of War, John Armstrong, did not believe the Brits would attack the swampy and forest-shrouded city of Washington … that the British had more interest in the coastal cities. Bad call, muchacho! American forces actually outnumbered the Brits. However, poor intelligence – such as Americans being badly deployed – and a multitude of errors, and many American deserters, led to the British marching virtually unchallenged into the city. Then the Brits burned all public buildings except the Patent Office …. and the White House.

BASTARDS !!!!!!!!!!!!

[Worthy Of Further Study: Dolley Madison, the greatest First Lady of them all. Thomas Jefferson spent few resources on the presidential mansion, believing it would detract from the emphasis of a simple and frugal government. He also avoided elaborate social gatherings at the White House, as he believed they “stank” of the aristocratic courts of Europe. As such, when the Madisons moved into the White House in 1809, the building itself was in disrepair. Dolly established a new philosophy … that the White House should be decorated in a manner appropriate to the dignity of the office it represented. So, she completely refurnished the White House and transformed it into a compelling symbol for the new nation — not nearly as ostentatious as found in European palaces, but rather a quiet dignity within the framework of American political ideology. But, it was more than just a symbol. Dolly also turned it into an arena of governance. The many social events she planned were done with the intention of placing the White House at the center of Washington society … with her husband at the center of policy decisions and deal making. And as her beloved White House burned to the ground, she risked her life gathering up critical White House documents … as well as the great Gilbert Stuart portrait of President George Washington, and carried them away to safety.] 

SIZE MATTERS!!

To his credit (I suppose) Madison never wavered that the United States would eventually achieve victory. Where did that confidence come from? Let’s recap:

—— the Treasury is depleted, the Canada campaign was a disaster, the Navy which actually won battles has its best commanders sitting behind a desk, military desertions are significant, military ineptness abounds, New England not only won’t help the cause but it threatening to secede while at the same time trying to negotiate a separate peace deal with the Brits, even as 7,500 British soldiers were headed towards New Orleans, and now his capital is burned! Hooahhh!!

To understand the source of his confidence one must look thirty years earlier. During debates over the suitability of a republican form of government to a country as large as America, Madison argued that America’s size would prevent any faction or narrow interest group from dominating the government. Now he believed that the United States could absorb battles lost at Detroit, Niagara, and even Washington, and that it could prevail despite the disloyalty of the Federalists in New England. The United States was simply too large, and consequently, too resilient, to be defeated. In other words, America was too big to fail!

HOW DID THE SUPERIOR BRITS MANAGE TO F*** THIS UP?

It seems, at least in this instance, that Madison was right about America’s size. British fortunes suddenly turned for the worse.

After burning (and looting) the capital, the Brits marched to Baltimore … and met a different fate at the hands of a more skillfully deployed American force of both militia and army regulars. American sharpshooters picked off one-by-one the British division approaching the city from the south. Meanwhile, the big guns at Fort McHenry prevented the British fleet from entering the city’s harbor. By September, the British were forced to withdraw and abandon their campaign in the Chesapeake. Simultaneously, American forces stationed on Lake Champlain turned back a British invading army and 11,000 British troops were forced to retreat back into Canada. Mid-1814 ended relatively well for the Americans.

More importantly, back in England, British leaders lost the hearts & minds of their subjects. After 20 years of fighting France, and before that, fighting in the American Revolution … well, the people were simply fed up with war. The British became much more preoccupied in rebuilding Europe after the final defeat of Napoleon. A London newspaper even harshly criticized the burning of Washington. On top of all that, even military leaders were questioning whether victory was possible. The Duke of Wellington, the hero of Waterloo, was offered command of the British force in North America … and, he declined, saying the American continent could never be subdued. The loud drums of war fell deadly quiet.

WE WON! WE WON!!! Ummmmmm …. WHAT DID WE WIN?

This combination, military defeats in America and the loss of will to fight back in England, led to a peace treaty being signed in Ghent, Belgium on Dec. 24, 1814. The war would officially end in February 1815 after ratification by both governments.

However, the Ghent talks actually started earlier in the year in August 1814. Madison sent five delegates – including John Quincy Adams and John Clay – and amongst American demands were the end of impressment ….  and turning over Canada to the United States. Madison had balls! The Brits made even more ridicules demands; a new Canadian border located farther to the south, the creation of an independent Indian state in the northwest, British navigation rights on the Mississippi River, the exclusion of American fishing boats from the Grand Banks and the the exclusion of the American Navy from the Great Lakes. The Brits had no brains!

But, in Ghent by December 1814 all parties dropped their aggressive demands. A simple ceasefire was proposed, prisoners of war would be exchanged, and captured territories from both sides would be returned.

STUNNINGLY, impressment – one of the two major reasons for going to war in the first place — was not even mentioned. Maritime issues and trade policies – the other major reason for going to war – was mentioned, but only that it would be addressed at some future conference1.

Strangely, the American diplomats were ecstatic. Why??? After all that bloodshed and destruction, the Ghent Treaty insured that both sides gained absolutely nothing … as if the war never happened. A Canadian historian wrote;

“It was as if no war had been fought, or to put it more bluntly, as if the war that was fought was fought for no good reason. For nothing has changed; everything is as it was in the beginning save for the graves of those who, it now appears, have fought for a trifle.”

[1NOTE: By Dec 1814 the British practice of impressment had all but ended. And, since France was no longer an enemy of Britain, the Royal Navy no longer needed to stop American shipments to France. Nevertheless, the United States and Britain would argue about trade restrictions and access to markets for the next fifteen years after Ghent!  By 1830, the West Indies were far less important to American exporters than new markets in Latin America. Also by 1830, Britain’s commitment to mercantilism had been replaced internally by support for free trade. In other words, the issues that so bothered Madison would have been resolved of their own accord in due time … WITHOUT A WAR. The War of 1812 wasn’t concluded at Ghent …. it died of old age.]

INJUN INTERLUDE #1: UP A CREEK

Worthy of much further study than I have room for here, is the significant victory by Jackson over the Creek Nation. At one time or another the Brits, French, Spanish, and even other Indian Nations (Tecumseh and his Shawnee) aligned with various factions within the Creeks to make war against the United States. The war against the Creeks officially ended in the Treaty of Fort Jackson just five months before the war’s final battle at New Orleans.

A couple staggering statistics; 1) about 15% of the Creek population was decimated and, 2) the treaty resulted in an enormous land grab as the Creeks lost 36,000 square miles of their territory (half of Alabama, and southern Georgia).

The Creeks, and to a lesser extent other Indian tribes, were to play a significant role in the British alliance to attack New Orleans. Had the Creeks won their war, the combined forces might very well have overcome Jackson’s army, and New Orleans might have been lost.

INJUN INTERLUDE #2: TECUMSEH, THE GREAT SHAWNEE WARRIOR

Tecumseh was sick and tired of seeing the social and cultural deterioration, inter-tribal conflict, and white encroachment on Indian lands. So, he developed a plan. Indians needed to restore control over their lives. The only way to do this, he said, was to be unified, to overcome tribal differences, rebuild their integrity, and create a Pan-Indian alliance strong enough to defeat the military forces supporting white expansion. Starting in 1807, he and his brother (Tenskwatawa – “The Prophet”) traveled throughout the interior of America building this alliance of Indian tribes. The obstacles were huge, especially overcoming the decades of inter-tribal prejudices, fears, and wars. But, Tecumseh was a powerful and compelling orator.

In village after village he preached unity to a dispirited people. He urged them to reject the pollutants of the white man; alcohol, European dress, Christianity. He also preached great patience. He said they must avoid all confrontations with the whites until the confederation was large and strong enough to effectively resist the power of white armies. Isolated skirmishes would only weaken them. They must wait until the time was right,

Legend has it that Tecumseh said he would send a message when the time was right. He would stamp his foot—and when he did, the earth would shake, the buffalo would stampede, the skies would become dark with birds taking flight, huge cracks would open in the earth’s surface, and the great river would flow backwards.

But, his brother, the Prophet, couldn’t wait. He launched into a fiery oratory and convinced his followers of his own bullshit – that the white man’s bullets could not harm them. So, in Nov. 1811 the Prophet battled an American force led by William Henry Harrison at Tippecanoe Creek. The Prophet lost, and the dream of a Pan-Indian alliance died with it. Tecumseh would go on to align his small remnant of the Indian confederation with the British, fought in the battle of Detroit, and was killed at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, disbanding the alliance forever.

Most interestingly though, on Dec. 16, 1811, just over a month after the disaster at Tippecanoe, a great earthquake shook Arkansas and was felt throughout the Mississippi Valley, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico – the New Madrid earthquake. According to eyewitnesses, buffalo stampeded, the skies became dark with birds taking flight, huge cracks opened in the earth’s surface, and the great Mississippi River flowed backward.

Tecumseh’s prophecy had come to pass …. just not the way he expected.

WHAT THE HELL …. LET”S HAVE ONE MORE BATTLE IN NEW ORLEANS

The popular opinion amongst historians is that there simply wasn’t enough time to cross the oceans to stop the British attack on New Orleans. I don’t buy it.

The Ghent Peace Treaty was signed on Dec.24, 1814. On Dec. 13th, a British fleet had landed about forty miles east of New Orleans. It must have taken at least a month to get there. The Brits commenced fire on January 8, 1815. The British Commanders and Generals surely must have known that peace talks were in process. So, a prudent thing to do would have been to at least wait to see the results.

And don’t forget that the Ghent talks were initiated way back in August. Even during those negotiations the dastardly Brits had four invasions planned or underway; 1) the destruction of Washington, 2) the destruction of Baltimore, 3) the Battle of Plattsburgh – where 10,000 British troops tried to cut off New England, and 4) and the Battle Of New Orleans. The treacherous British had an Olive Branch in one hand, and a Murderous Dagger in the other.

Two things made this battle so important. First, a victory in New Orleans would have been a major boon for the British giving them access to the interior of the U.S. via the Mississippi River. Secongly, it would have given the Brits greater ability for their desire to seal off the United States from the Gulf of Mexico, further isolating the nation. (Furthermore — and this is my pure conjecture — it could have led to a reversal of the Louisiana Purchase, cutting the size of the United States in half.) But, this much is absolutely certain; it would have given the Brits a major trump card in negotiating the Ghent Treaty.

A popular opinion is that the British would have honored the Ghent Treaty even if they won the battle. Of course, we’ll never know but, I find that opinion enormously preposterous. The Brits, still butt-sore about the beating they took in the Revolutionary War – a war they still would not admit they lost in 1814 – hated America and wanted revenge and destruction. And what history is there of Britain – or any country – winning a huge major battle and then just walking away from it? None. A major victory such as New Orleans would absolutely have resulted in the United States being forced into major concessions. If fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it would have led to an outright abrogation of the treaty. The Brits were ruthless bastards when it suited them, and never forget, they really hated America.

What should be crystal clear is that far from being a senseless battle, a British victory at New Orleans would have drastically changed the future of America. But, they didn’t win. They were annihilated. Let’s look at some interesting details.

The British force consisted of roughly 8,000 troops — including Royal Fusiliers, Highlanders, Light Infantry, and Light Dragoons — disciplined troops with plenty of battle experience, having just defeated the French.

Why capture New Orleans? Lord Castlereagh, the British foreign secretary, said that once the large seaport towns of America were “laid in ashes” and New Orleans captured, that the British would have command of “all the rivers of the Mississippi valley and the Lakes … the Americans would be little better than prisoners in their own country.” The Brits also intended to prevent America from havingany access to all of the Gulf Of Mexico.

General Andrew Jackson first had to prepare the city’s defenses … not an easy task. New Orleans had a very diverse population and resisted organization. So, Jackson threatened to blow up the provincial legislature if it did not comply with his demands, one of which was to suspend habeas corpus. So, he declared martial law, turned the city into a military camp, and took over complete control of the city’s resources. This got their attention.

He organized all available manpower—frontiersmen, militiamen, regular soldiers, Indians, slaves, townspeople including the city’s unusually large population of free blacks and even the famous river pirate, Jean Lafitte — about 4,000 in total. And then he built the “Jackson Line” –a defensive line between the city and the approaching British forces. Rodriguez Canal was a ten-foot-wide millrace located just off the Mississippi River. Using local slave labor, Madison widened the canal into a defensive trench. He then built an eight foot tall earthen rampart, twenty feet wide in parts, buttressed with timber, and protected by eight artillery batteries When completed, it stretched nearly a mile from the east bank of the Mississippi to a nearly impassable marsh. Jackson told his men “Here we shall plant our stakes and not abandon them until we drive these red-coat rascals into the river, or the swamp.”

batnolamaps

The British commander, Cochrane, felt the area could be taken with minimal forces with the help of the Spanish, Indians, and even the people of New Orleans who he felt would welcome the British as liberators. In retrospect, fairly idiotic assumptions.

The bottom line; it was a hopeless tactical situation for the British with a swamp to the east of the American lines, and the Mississippi River to west. This left the British with only one route of attack—straight into the guns of the American forces tucked inside a dry canal.

Tennessee and Kentucky riflemen laid withering fire against the advancing British lines, killing or wounding more than 2,000 British soldiers, including three generals and seven colonels, in less than an hour. One British veteran of the Napoleonic Wars claimed it was “the most murderous fire I ever beheld before or since.” American casualties were about 13 killed, and 39 wounded.

[NOTE: Considerably more Americans were killed in the skirmishes leading up to the final battle. For example, 6,000 British troops snuck into the British headquarters at Villeré’s plantation. Jackson resolved to attack immediately before the British advance was reinforced and organized. He assembled 1,800 men in a battle called “Night Attack”, and repelled the British, but not before suffering 215 casualties.)

New Orleans was a tremendous victory—one which made Andrew Jackson a national hero, and propelled him into the office of President. And, regardless of the reason for the battle, whether or not it was necessary, Madison certainly knew the fine art of Presidential spinning; — necessary war, reluctantly entered, rights, patriotism, and heroes – all in one brief sentence. (He might as well have been talking about Iraq.)

“the late war, although reluctantly declared by Congress, had become a necessary resort to assert the rights and independence of the nation. It has been waged with a success which is the natural result of the wisdom of the legislative councils, of the patriotism of the people, of the public spirit of the militia, and of the valor of the military and naval forces of the country Peace.”

A good detailed account of the battle can be found here: http://www.the-american-interest.com/2014/10/10/the-battle-for-the-big-easy/

THE AFTERMATH AND LEGACIES: 10 LESSONS

1)- First and foremost, let’s be brutally frank about the REAL reason for this war; PRIDE and PATRIOTISM! The Brits didn’t respect our independence. The French didn’t. Spain didn’t. Most of the world thought it was just a fluke. Madison was convinced the country had to prove to the rest of the world, as well as to itself, that this new experiment in republican government was a permanent fixture in the family of nations. And the way to go about that was to confront Britain – the world’s most powerful nation – that violating American rights would not go unchallenged or unpunished. Unbridled Patriotism …so sweet in the Revolutionary War, souring in the War Of 1812, and look where it got us today.

2)- The war reinforced the Executive branch’s de facto monopoly over foreign policy. When all’s said and done, this was Madison’s war. Another example: John Quincy Adams would defend Gen. Andrew Jackson’s invasion of Spanish Florida in the undeclared war on the Seminoles. Dissenting members of Congress could do nothing but gripe.

3) A NEW way of looking at the Constitution emerged. Henry Clay said (emphasis mine); —

A new world has come into being since the Constitution was adopted. Are the narrow, limited necessities of the old thirteen states … as they existed at the formation of the present Constitution, forever to remain a rule of its interpretation? Are we to forget the wants of our country? I trust not, sir. I hope for better and nobler things.” Evidently, the concept of a Living Constitution took root a long, long time ago.

4)- The war changed how Americans viewed the military. The Army and Navy became professional. The State Militia took a back seat. Now the nation embraced military spending as a necessity … even during times of peace.

“The most painful, perhaps the most profitable, lesson of the war was the primary duty of the nation to place itself in a state of permanent preparation for self-defense” —— future President John Quincy Adams

Many learned that connection with the military is great for one’s political career. Of the eleven presidents between Madison and Lincoln, seven of them got their start in public life or boosted their public careers during the War of 1812.

It only took 29 years after the end of the Revolutionary War for America to declare its first war. Strangely enough, this war was a complete and utter waste of human and capital resources. The precedent was set. It wouldn’t be the last such time America fought such a war.

5)—Politicians learned that with proper spin and propagandizing the people can be rallied to LOVE A GOOD WAR. Precious few citizens were in strong favor of the war when it first started. But, at war’s end, the people were ecstatic. A common refrain throughout the country is depicted in this piece written in 1815 by a group known as “republican citizens of Baltimore” stating that the war;

“ … has revived, with added luster the renown which brightened the morning of our independence: it has called forth and organized the dormant resources of the empire: it has tried and vindicated our republican institutions: it has given us that moral strength, which consists in the well earned respect of the world, and in a just respect for ourselves. It has raised up and consolidated a national character, dear to the hearts of the people, as an object of honest pride and a pledge of future union, tranquility, and greatness.”

War is good for slogans and jingoes. “Don’t give up the ship” and “We have met the enemy and they are ours” and “Uncle Sam” and cute names for war equipment “Old Ironsides”, and populist songs abounded. Symbols, slogans, songs and sayings; that’s how you condition people’s minds as to what it means to be an American. Mold ‘em like clay into whatever form you want. At least there’s no record of Madison proclaiming “America is the greatest country in the world!!”.

6)- The war permanently changed America’s economic model. Previous presidents, especially Jefferson, championed an agrarian economy. He hoped that commerce would not dominate America or its politics since that preoccupation would inevitably draw the country into perpetual international turmoil. Shortages caused by the various embargos, as well as the war itself, led to the fast growth of the manufacturing sector in the United States. Manufactures wanted protection from foreign competition once peace was restored, even forming the ‘American Society of the Encouragement of American Manufacturers’, a pro-tariff group. Active promotion of commerce required further expansion of American military strength. In other words, America would promote “free trade” with the government’s help in aggressively opening foreign markets ….. and threatening retaliation in the case of uncooperative regimes by displaying the military card. It wasn’t all that long before “free trade” gave way to mercantilism — a special-interest economic protectionism.

7)- The devious and greedy amongst us started to notice that war is damn good racket. Shortly after the war, in 1817, the New York Stock Exchange was founded … born in a bubble created by the war. One year later the bubble burst in The Panic Of 1818. The war showed that hard money was for weenies. Paper money was the way to go, and reams of it was printed so the government could borrow it and finance the war. Note-issuing banks spread like wildfire. Once the war ended, imports swelled which led to falling commodity prices which led to big trouble for war-grown manufacturers. Businesses went bust while simultaneously some became filthy rich.    See book —- >https://mises.org/library/panic-1819-reactions-and-policies

8)- Politicians learned that war makes government more powerful … and a great way to increase taxes.  Albert Gallatin, secretary of the Treasury from 1801 to 1814, said that because of the war, the “people are more American; they feel and act more as a nation ….. the war has laid the foundation ofpermanent taxes and military establishments, which the Republicans had deemed unfavorable to the happiness and free institutions of the country.”

9)- The war ended a political party. The Federalist Party, the party of Washington and Adams, the party that had dominated national affairs during the 1790s, was all but dead after the war. They were staunchly against the war. They were even ready to introduce legislation requiring a two-thirds vote of approval for all future declarations of war, and that legislation restricting trade, such as the embargo, should also require a two-thirds vote. That is, until the stunning news of Jackson’s victory at New Orleans arrived in Washington. They picked the wrong cause. The country was in no mood for an anti-war party. And, within a few years of the war, they just faded into oblivion.

10)- Expansionism. The victory over not only the Brits, but also over the Indians in the Northwest and Southwest, opened up the West as never before, and resulted in huge territorial gains. Westward expansion, in turn, indirectly led to the Civil War forty six years later because it was bitter disagreement about the expansion of slavery, rather than its existence in the Old South, which was a key reason for the War of Northern Aggression.

GOOD, BAD, or UGLY?

I originally titled this article “1812: The War That Changed America Forever For Worse”. I’m not sure whether or not that conclusion is 100% accurate. The “inconsequential” war certainly and drastically changed America, of that there is no doubt. Whether for the good, or bad, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

On the positive side, the war did cement American independence. It proved that to defeat America on its home ground, a very, very large army, and a great commitment to prolonged and bloody war, was going to be needed. At the start of the war even Americans wondered whether the republic could survive a real crises. Many felt with Governor Morris did, that — ‘it was as vain to expect the permanency of democracy as to construct a palace on the surface of the sea.’ Now they had their answer.

Americans would no longer be oriented towards Britain. We achieved freedom from Europe. We would turn to developing our own vast resources, and forget about Europe. Our National Government was here to stay.

The end of the war led to a burst of patriotism in the USA as evidenced, in part, by the immediate and widespread popularity of “The Star Spangled Banner” The Nile Register wrote — “Who would not be an American? Long live the republic! All hail! Last asylum of oppressed humanity!”   Such a comment would have never been made before the war. A whole new national identity arose in “the dawn’s early light”.

On the negative side; the war left the country with constitutional revisionism, centralized power, protectionism, mercantilism, expansionism, blind patriotism, and militarism. That decentralist small-government thingy conceived by the Founding Fathers didn’t last very long, did it? One must wonder“War, what is it good for? Was it all worth it?”

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Deep sea salvage: Finding long lost treasures of the deep…


Gold coins brought up from the SS Republic by Odyssey Marine ExplorationRaiding Davy Jones’s Locker: Gold coins brought up from the SS Republic by Odyssey Marine Exploration

Far beneath the ocean waves, nestling silently on cold dark sea beds around the world, lie the remains of about three million shipwrecks.

And that’s a conservative estimate by Unesco (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

They have fascinated generations of artists, writers, anthropologists and scientists.

Many mark the final resting place of their crew and passengers. Some are hundreds of years old, a time capsule from distant ways of life.

All are guardians of the treasures that sank along with them – be they in the form of uniquely preserved cultural heritage or cold hard cash.

Excavators of the Tudor ship the Mary Rose, which sank off the English coast in 1545, found 500 pairs of shoes among the 19,000 artefacts retrieved from the site, many of which are now on display.

The SS Gairsoppa on the other hand, a steam ship sunk by a German U-boat off the Irish coast in 1941, went down with over 110 tonnes of silver on board.

In 2010 a US-based company called Odyssey Marine Exploration won a tender put out by the government to retrieve that silver from its resting place, 4,500m below sea level – one mile deeper than the Titanic.

Artefacts on display from the wreck of the Mary RoseArtefacts on display from the wreck of the Mary Rose
The Odyssey ExplorerThe Odyssey Explorer

Deep down

That sort of depth can only be reached by machine (the deepest recorded human scuba dive is currently 332m, according to Guinness World Records) and getting there is, to put it mildly, a technical challenge.

“Ten years ago you couldn’t possibly have done it,” Andrew Craig, senior project manager onboard Odyssey Marine vessel Explorer, told the BBC.

“It would have cost so much. Just getting a work class ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) to 5,000m – they’re just not built because there’s so little requirement for them.”

It took 3.5 hours for Explorer’s onboard ROV, a 6.5-tonne vehicle named Zeus, to make each journey between the ship and the site of the wreck.

Odyssey's eight-tonne remotely operated vehicle (ROV), ZeusOdyssey’s eight-tonne remotely operated vehicle (ROV), Zeus, is launched from the surface vessel, Odyssey Explorer, for descent to a deep-ocean shipwreck site
Zeus works at the rudder of the SS Republic shipwreck site, 1,700 feet below the ocean surfaceZeus works at the rudder of the SS Republic shipwreck site, 1,700ft below the ocean surface
Zeus finds a porthole on the site of the SS RepublicZeus finds a porthole on the site of the SS Republic

With any sort of deep sea exploration, positioning is crucial. The proverbial needle in the haystack is much harder to find when it’s floating in gallons of sea water, surrounded by marine life, and you can’t use your fingers to feel for it.

“You want to know to within 10-15 cm where things are – and you need to be able to go back to them repeatedly,” says Mr Craig.

In addition to Explorer’s onboard sonar scanners and magnetometers (a kind of deep sea metal detector also used by the military to seek out submarines), Zeus has been equipped with an Inertial Navigation System.

This captures a range of data from numerous sensors, not only to navigate a path, but also to remember where it has been. It cost over £100,000 ($157,000; €126,000) and is just one of many sensors used by the team in guiding the ROV.

Better batteries

The technology advances still on Andrew Craig’s wish list are surprisingly familiar.

The first is better wireless communication – ROVs still need to send data and receive instructions by fibre-optic cable, meaning they remain tethered to the ship.

The second is truly universal – better battery life.

“On our largest dive the ROV spent five and a half days on the bottom,” he says.

“But we had to come up when the battery went on the beacon.”

SS Gairsoppa shipwreckA ladder leading up onto the forecastle deck of the SS Gairsoppa shipwreck approximately 4,700m deep. One of the cargo holds can be seen on the left
The SS Gairsoppa had an emergency stern steering station on the top of the poop deckThe SS Gairsoppa had an emergency stern steering station on the top of the poop deck
A side-scan sonar image of the SS GairsoppaA side-scan sonar image of the SS Gairsoppa

It’s fair to say that deep sea shipwreck exploration is eye-wateringly expensive.

The cost of running a research ship such as the Explorer is about $35,000 (£22,000; €28,000) per day, including staff.

Those boats can get through five to 10 tonnes of fuel per day at $1,000 per tonne.

“You can be onboard for six months to a year to do a proper exploration,” says Mr Craig. “You’re into the millions very quickly.”

Not surprisingly, funding is hard to obtain.

Odyssey Marine operates by keeping – and selling – a share of valuable hauls, while retaining items of cultural note and offering them up for display in museums. The firm kept 80% of the value of SS Gairsoppa’s silver as part of its tender agreement.

“Odyssey Marine Exploration is very open about its business model,” says Dr Sean Kingsley, founder of Wreck Watch and a company consultant.

“The concept ensures that unique cultural artefacts are permanently retained for museum display, while types of trade goods known by the thousands in museums across the world are considered for sale to cover expedition costs.

“Income is cycled back to pay for the expensive science: make no bones about it, deep sea wreck studies is by far the most expensive arena in archaeology,” he adds.

Not everybody agrees with this commercialisation.

When Unesco drew up its Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Convention in 2001 it specifically blocked what it called “commercial exploitation”, and encouraged “in situ preservation” as its “preferred option” – permitting the removal of artefacts and the lifting of wrecks only for cultural rather than financial reasons.

Critics of the convention point out that iconic excavation projects like the raising of the Mary Rose would have been inconceivable under its rules, and just 44 of Unesco’s 195 member states have ratified it to date.

Odyssey's Andrew Craig (right) on the deck of the Odyssey ExplorerOdyssey’s Andrew Craig (right) on the deck of the Odyssey Explorer
A silver bar recovered from the wreck of the SS GairsoppaA silver bar recovered from the wreck of the SS Gairsoppa
Recovering silver bullion from the SS GairsoppaRecovering silver bullion from the SS Gairsoppa

Diving down

Of course, not all of the world’s wrecks are overwhelmingly inaccessible.

It is not uncommon for amateur scuba divers and even beach walkers to also find themselves in possession of shipwreck bounty.

In the UK, a government official called the Receiver of Wreck is responsible for identifying and trying to trace the ownership of any artefacts from the seabed in UK waters – or brought into the country from elsewhere.

In 2013 the department received more than 300 reports detailing more than 36,000 found items – and the majority came from recreational divers, deputy receiver Beccy Austin told the BBC.

The most commonly reported artefacts include portholes, fixtures and fittings, navigational equipment, and ship bells, she says.

The department has one year to attempt to establish ownership.

“The law says the onus is on the owner to prove ownership, but lots of owners don’t realise they are the owners,” says Ms Austin.

“Reaction is varied – some are really interested, others see their wreck as a liability.”

A number of 19th Century ceramic transfer print soap dishes handed to the Receiver of WreckA number of 19th Century ceramic transfer print soap dishes handed to the Receiver of Wreck
A United East India Company bronze cannon dated 1807A United East India Company bronze cannon dated 1807. The number four was used to ward off evil

Often those owners will be government defence ministries or insurance companies.

Many simply allow the finder to keep their find, although they have no legal right to do so, she adds.

Astonishingly, about 60% of finds are traced to their rightful owner, but if the investigation fails, the artefact becomes the property of the Crown.

Either way, the finder is entitled to a salvage award, which is negotiated by the finder and owner – a fair combination of a percentage of the market value plus the effort gone to by the salver. It can be up to 90%.

The Crown, however, does not pay the award – the Receiver will generally try to find a suitable museum for the artefact.

Sometimes ancient material can find a surprising new lease of life once it is back on land.

In 2010 Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics used 120 ingots of lead, retrieved from a Roman shipwreck, to conduct a major investigation into neutrinos.

The ancient lead was useful because it had lost all its radioactivity – but Donatella Salvi, an archaeologist at the National Archaeological Museum in Cagliari where it had been kept, admitted to the science journal Nature that handing the ingots over was “painful”.

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The Amercian Soldier….


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New map may explain Lee’s decisions at Gettysburg…..


On the second day of fighting at Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee listened to scouting reports, scanned the battlefield and ordered his second-in-command, James Longstreet, to attack the Union Army’s left flank.

It was a fateful decision, one that led to one of the most desperate clashes of the entire Civil War — the fight for a piece of ground called Little Round Top. The Union’s defense of the boulder-strewn promontory helped send Lee to defeat at Gettysburg, and he never again ventured into Northern territory.

Why did the shrewd and canny Lee choose to attack, especially in the face of the Union’s superior numbers?

While historians have long wrestled with that question, geographers and cartographers have come up with an explanation, by way of sophisticated mapping software that shows the rolling terrain exactly as it would have appeared to Lee: From his vantage point, he simply couldn’t see throngs of Union soldiers amid the hills and valleys.
“Our analysis shows that he had a very poor understanding of how many forces he was up against, which made him bolder,” said Middlebury College professor Anne Knowles, whose team produced the most faithful re-creation of the Gettysburg battlefield to date, using software called GIS, or geographic information systems.

Developed for the Smithsonian Institution to mark Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary, the panoramic map went live on the Smithsonian website Friday, giving history buffs a new way to look at the Civil War’s pivotal battle, which took place July 1-3, 1863.

“Our goal is to help people understand how and why commanders made their decisions at key moments of the battle, and a key element that’s been excluded, or just not considered in historical studies before, is sight,” Knowles said.

Long before the advent of reconnaissance aircraft and spy satellites, a general’s own sense of sight — his ability to read the terrain and assess the enemy’s position and numbers — was one of his most important tools. Especially at Gettysburg, where Lee was hampered by faulty intelligence.

“We know that Lee had really poor information going into the battle and must have relied to some extent on what he could actually see,” Knowles said.

The geographer applied GIS to find out what Lee could see and what he couldn’t.

To reconstruct the battlefield as it existed in 1863, researchers used historical maps, texts and photos to note the location of wooden fences, stone walls, orchards, forests, fields, barns and houses, as well as the movement of army units. High-resolution aerial photos of the landscape yielded an accurate elevation model. All of it was fed into a computer program that can map data.
But a GIS-generated map, with illuminated areas showing what Lee could see and shaded areas denoting what was hidden from his view, indicates the terrain concealed large numbers of Union soldiers.

“What really came through as a new discovery for us in this project was seeing how few federal forces Lee could see, particularly on Day 2, when he decides to send Longstreet,” Knowles said.

Historian Allen Guelzo, who wasn’t involved in the project, agreed that Lee’s view probably misled him. Guelzo, director of Civil War-era studies at Gettysburg College, took a visitor up to the school’s cupola and motioned toward the peak of Little Round Top, just visible in the distance.

“You can see a lot from up here, and Robert E. Lee might have thought on July 2 that he had seen everything,” said Guelzo, who has written a new book on the Battle of Gettysburg. “But, in fact, the dips and folds of the ground, the foliage as it was on the ground in various groves and woods, all of that concealed what turned out to be the deadly truth.”

Conversely, the Union Army occupied higher ground, and used it to great advantage.
Union Gen. Gouverneur Warren spied Longstreet’s troops just as they were about to launch their attack on an undefended Little Round Top. Frantic, Warren dispatched an officer to round up reinforcements. They got there just in time, and withstood the Confederates.

In Warren’s case, GIS confirmed what historians have long known.

For Knowles, the mapping project and the mysteries it revealed helped Gettysburg come alive.

“Commanders always had to make decisions with really limited information … committing men’s lives to scraps of information or intuition, or what you can see at a certain day or a certain time,” she said. “This analysis, for me, is making the battle more human.”
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/A-Cutting-Edge-Second-Look-at-the-Battle-of-Gettysburg.html

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THE INDIANS AND THE WHITE MAN….Whose Land Is It?


(A point of view we seldom hear but worth consideration.)

At this point the following questions might be asked: What about the Indians? Weren’t they here first? Didn’t we (the white race) take this land away from the Indian? Doesn’t the Indian have the rightful title to America?

Since we are dealing with a conflict between two nations or races, the white race and the Indian race, we need to turn to the Law of Nations or International Law for the solution. The following are some basic maxims of the International Law:

FIRST: That every nation possesses and exclusive sovereignty and jurisdiction in its own territory.

SECOND: That no state or nation can by its law directly affect or bind property that lies outside of its own territory, or persons not resident therein.

THIRD: That whatever force the laws of one country have in another depends solely on the municipal laws of the latter.(5)

The first principle listed here would seem to suggest that all of America was the possession of the Indians prior to the age of discovery of the white race. However, the Indians never laid claim to all the “territory” of America because they had no understanding of its size and boundaries. The Indian only claimed the land he was inhabiting and that which he used for hunting, burial, etc. At the time of discovery (circa 1500 A.D.), the American Indian numbered about 700,000 inhabitants, sparsely scattered over what is now America. Thus the Indians never had a legal claim to much more than 3% of the land at any one time. So it can be said that the Indians did have a legal claim to America, 3% of it, which was considered their “own territory.”

In light of this, it cannot be said that the white race violated the second principle of International Law either, since 97% of America was not legally the “property” of anyone. When America was claimed by the English, French, and Spanish, they claimed the entire breadth and width of the land, from sea to sea, from one boundary to the next. However, the lands that the Indians occupied within these European claims were still Indian land.

It must also be addressed as to whether the white man encroached upon and took possession of the lands that were legally claimed by the Indian. The third maxim of International Law says we have to look at the Indian’s law, and that whatever measures or acts the white man took in regards to Indian land must be pursuant to Indian law. The following are some of the laws that were generally held by the Indians:

1. It was a law common among Indians that the stronger of two tribes or people (nations) has the right to conquer and subdue the weaker.

2. Under Indian common law it was understood that land claims existed by inhabiting the land and by any use of the land.

3. When any land was unoccupied or not used for one year, the land was free for anyone to claim and settle.

This first law of the Indian could actually render all other arguments of land rights academic. This law was almost a way of life with the Indian, which is why they were always warring among themselves. The wars and conflicts between the white race and the Indian race throughout history were numerous, and the fact that the white race was the stronger cannot be doubted.

According to the third Indian law listed, the white man, or any man or nation, had the right to possess the vast lands that were uninhabited or unclaimed by the Indian in America. Since the Indians never claimed the American continent from Atlantic to Pacific the lands claimed by right of discovery are valid. Thus, the only legal conflict that can exist lies with the 3% of land the Indian had a legal claim to in America, in accordance to the second Indian law listed.

In spite of the legal right the white race has to America we often are confronted with the anti-American propaganda that the white race wronged the Indian by attacking and killing them and driving them out of their land. We thus need to look at the first conflicts that existed between the Indians and the colonial settlers. A summary of these first conflicts shows they were always initiated by the Indians:(6)

• Shortly after the first colony was established at Jamestown in 1607, the settlers were attacked by the Indians, who wounded seventeen men and killed one boy.

• After the above conflict, peaceful relations prevailed, due to the wise policy of the Captain John Smith and the good will of Powhatan, head chief of the Indian Confederacy. When Powhatan died in 1618, his brother Opechancanough, who disliked the English, began to plot war. In March 1622, the Indian tribes went on the warpath, and swept through a line of settlements marked by a trail of blood. In the white settlements, nearly 400 men, women, and children, were cruelly put to death before the ravages of the Indians could be checked.

• For 22 years after the massacre of 1622 there was peace. But Opechancanouch, at last head chief, only waited for another opportunity. In 1644, there was a civil war in England, and he through the expected moment was at hand. The massacre he waged left over 300 white settlers slain in two days. Again the white took up arms in defense, and in 1646 the aged chief himself was taken and killed – there was never again a general uprising in Virginia.

• In the Plymouth colony, a peace compact was established between the Indian chief Massasiot and Governor Carver. As time went on, the friendly old chief died. When his son, King Philip, came to be ruler of the Wampanoag tribe, trouble began to brew for the colonists. Urged on by his braves, King Philip began sending messages to friendly tribes, inviting them to join in a mighty war on the “pale faces”. The war that followed was a terrible one. The Indians, avoiding the white troops, dodging them, and never meeting them face to face in the open field, carried on the contest in their savage way of massacring the helpless, and burning villages. Many a fair and quite settlement was made desolate. Women and children were ruthlessly murdered, and burned in the houses. But by the end of 1675 the force of the Indians was broken.

• In the New Haven colony the situation with the Indians (the Pequets) was similar. At first there were peaceful relationships between them and the white settlers. During 1637, the Pequots attempted to organize a confederacy, but unable to secure the help of the Narragansetts due to the influence of Roger Williams, they took the warpath alone. They did not come out in open to battle, but waylaid a party of whites and killed thirty of them. In response to this, a small party of English, along with some seventy friendly Indians, attacked the Pequet stronghold, killing over 450 of that tribe. The great Pequet tribe was crushed, and nearly forty years of Peace ensued.

History reveals that all the early hostilities and wars between the American Indians and the white settlers, were instigated or started by the Indians without just cause. Even though the white settlers had legal title to the land by way of purchase or claim of unoccupied lands, the Indian was always the one to disrupt peaceful relations with attacks, massacres, and wars. The retaliation by the white settlers were merely acts of self defense and self preservation in accordance with the law of nature. Thus it was the Indian who was the intruder and violator of land rights and of his own law. It was the Indian who, in the beginning, wronged the white man. The Indian’s treachery, barbaric and warlike manner, and sneak attacks on the colonists was positive proof of the anti-social nature of the red man. This exhibit of the Indian’s character caused much distrust of the Indian, and became the “code of conduct” which the Indians continued to live by and uphold in the future.

Thus, the white race has a rightful and legal claim and title to America pursuant to international law, the Indian’s law, the law of nature, and by a combination thereof.

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Even Death cannot stop a war…..UK cities in tug-of-war over bones of Richard III


Two English cities are doing battle over the bones of King Richard III.
This week scientists announced that a skeleton found under a parking lot in the city of Leicester belonged to the king, who died in 1485. Officials say he will now be reburied in Leicester Cathedral.
But York, 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the north, is laying claim to the monarch, who belonged to the House of York and had strong ties to the city.
York City Council said Wednesday that it is writing to the government and Queen Elizabeth II, arguing that “one of the city’s most famous and cherished sons” should be buried there.
Leicester is refusing to yield, and the two cities have launched rival petitions to the government that have gathered thousands of signatures.

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Where is the white flag?…….


The shortest war on record was fought between Zanzibar and England in 1896. Zanzibar surrendered after 38 minutes.

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Birds of a feather? Obama, Muslim Brotherhood…….


Administration abandoned Gadhafi as supremacist movement ascended.
===================================================

What caused Barack Obama to turn against the late Libyan dictator, Muammar Gadhafi?

What is clear is that the moment Gadhafi became inconvenient to the Muslim Brotherhood, Gadhafi became inconvenient to Obama.

In April 2011, during the height of the Arab Spring, Christopher Stevens arrived in Benghazi, Libya, aboard a Greek cargo ship carrying a dozen American diplomats with enough guards, vehicles and equipment “to set up a diplomatic beachhead in the middle of an armed rebellion,” as the New York Times reported.

Stevens’ goal in landing in Benghazi in 2011 was to represent the Obama administration in support of the rebels who were trying at that time to oust Gadhafi from power.

Yet, only a year before, in April 2010, Gadhafi gave a speech calling Obama a “friend” who was a blessing to the Muslim world.

“Now ruling America is a black man from our continent, an African from Arab descent, from Muslim descent, and this is something we never imagined – that from Reagan we would get to Barack Obama,” Gadhafi said.

“He is someone I consider a friend. He knows he is a son of Africa. Regardless of his African belonging, he is of Arab Sudanese descent, or of Muslim descent. He is a man whose policy should be supported, and he should be assisted in implementing it in any way possible, since he is now leaning toward peace.”

In reviewing the history, Gadhafi had close and long-standing economic ties to Obama and those close to Obama, including his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright; Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan; and Raila Odinga, the current prime minister of Kenya.

Still, it’s unlikely Stevens and the State Department would never have landed in Benghazi in 2011 if Obama did not want Gadhafi toppled.

Did the Obama administration abandon Gadhafi because he stood in the way of the Muslim Brotherhood plan to ride the Arab Spring to power, replacing established dictatorships with Islamist states?

WND has reported the penetration of Muslim Brotherhood influence in the inner circles of the White House and the State Department.

WND has also reported that the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya harbored al-Qaida and that an al-Qaida operative released by the United States from Guantanamo Bay turns out to have led the attack that killed Stevens, the diplomat who went to such personal lengths to help the Libyan rebels depose Gadhafi.

What the establishment media is ignoring is how deep and long-standing the ties between Obama and Gadhafi truly were and the national security danger Obama may well have invited by allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to enter the inner circles of power under his watch as president.

Wright and Farrakhan visit Libya

In 1984, Wright accompanied Farrakhan to Libya, where they met with Gadhafi.

Referring to the relationship between Libya and the Nation of Islam, theology professor Mattias Gardell, in his book “In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam,” commented on pages 205-206 that Gadhafi has “for many years been the Nation’s most prominent supporter in the Islamic heart-land and regularly has assisted the Nation of Islam whenever the need has arisen.”

Farrakhan found great affinity with the revolutionary Islamic socialism professed by Gadhafi.

Gardell noted: “The mutual sympathy and appreciation between the Nation of Islam and the Libyan leadership began as a continuation of the friendly relationship that, to the annoyance of the CIA, was established between Elijah Muhammad and [Gadhafi’s] first mentor, Gamal abd al-Nassar.”

In 1972, in a second tour of the Muslim world, Elijah Muhammad and a personal delegation that included boxer Muhammad Ali visited Libya as honored guests of state and met with Gadhafi.

The same year, Libya provided an interest-free, never-repaid loan of $3 million to the Nation of Islam, permitting it to buy and renovate a Greek Orthodox Church on Chicago’s South Side that became its national headquarters.

WND has reported gave an additional $5 million to Farrakhan in 1985 for the Nation of Islam’s “economic development” programs.

On the occasion of Gadhafi’s first visit to the United States in 2009, to address the United Nations, Farrakhan was still thanking Gadhafi for his 1972 largess as well as the additional $5 million.

Gadhafi also provided the funding for Farrakhan’s dozen of international trips before and immediately after the Million Man March in 1991, a Nation of Islam event attended by both Wright and Obama.

In a 1995 interview with the Chicago Reader, Obama acknowledged that he took time off from his first political campaign, for the Illinois state Senate, to participate in the Million Man March.

When the Chicago Reader article surfaced, Obama supporters tried to distance Obama from the march, arguing he had attended the event as an observer, not as a participant.

Still, Obama’s reaction at the time was enthusiastic.

“What I saw was a powerful demonstration of an impulse and need for African-American men to come together to recognize each other and affirm our rightful place in the society,” he told the Chicago Reader. “There was a profound sense that African-American men were ready to make a commitment to bring about change in our communities and lives.”

Gadhafi funds Odinga

In 2007, after he lost the Kenyan presidential election to Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga claimed election fraud. The charge led to a wave of tribal violence in which the Luo tribe of which Obama and Odinga are members killed some 1,500 Kikuyu, the majority tribe in Kenya to which Kibaki belongs. The violence displaced another estimated 350,000 to 500,000 who fled their homes.

In a horrifying incident following the election, at least 50 people, including women and children, were killed when an angry Luo mob forced Kikuyu Christians into an Assemblies of God church in Eldoret, a small village about 185 miles northwest of Nairobi, setting fire to the church and hacking to death with machetes any of the Christians who tried to escape the flames.

Intervention by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama calmed the tribal violence by negotiating an extra-constitutional arrangement in which Kibaki as president of Kenya would be co-head of state, with Odinga elevated to the newly created position of Kenyan prime minister.

Odinga ends up having deep ties to both Gadhafi and Obama.

Odinga’s wealth traces back to oil revenue set up by the Al-Bakri Group in Saudi Arabia and by Gadhafi in Libya.

In 2006, during his senatorial trip to Kenya, Obama campaigned so extensively for Odinga, then running for president of Kenya, that government spokesman Alfred Mutua went on television to accuse Obama of meddling inappropriately in Kenyan presidential politics.

In the final weeks of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, an internal funding memo smuggled out of the campaign accounting section of the Odinga campaign was obtained by WND in Kenya.

The funding memo listed 72 top individuals and organizations contributing to Odinga’s presidential campaign, including $1 million donated by “Friends of Senator BO,” widely interpreted as friends of Senator Barack Obama. A second contribution of approximately $1 million was donated by Seif-Al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Muammar al-Gadhafi.

Little noticed in the deal Obama arranged to merge Chrysler with Italian automaker Fiat – which cost taxpayers $7 billion and Fiat virtually no cash – is how Gadhafi benefited.

Libya at the time of the transaction owned a 2- to 3-percent equity stake in Fiat, thus making Gadhafi, who then controlled the wealth of Libya, a direct beneficiary of the transaction designed to favor Fiat, as pointed out by columnist Scott Wheeler in Townhall.com.

Obama funds Gadhafi

A public address delivered by Gadhafi on June 11, 2008, scheduled to mark the anniversary of the 1986 U.S. air raid President Reagan directed on Gadhafi’s bunker in Tripoli, suggested the Libyan dictator may have found a way to contribute financially to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

As translated by the Middle East Research Institute, or MEMRI, here is what Gadhafi said:

There are elections in American now. Along came a black citizen of Kenyan African origins, a Muslim, who had studied in an Islamic school in Indonesia. His name is Obama. All the people in the Arab and Islamic world and in Africa applauded this man. They welcomed him and prayed for him and his success, and they may have even been involved in legitimate campaign contributions to enable him to win the American presidency.

Gadhafi did not elaborate on how he may have contributed to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, but the implication is certainly that he did.

In 2010, Obama earmarked $400,000 of taxpayer funds for two Libyan charities, Gadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation, run by Gadhafi’s son, and Wa Attassimou, run by Gadhafi’s daughter Aicha, as reported by author Camie Davis in the American Thinker.

What did Gadhafi do with the funds?

Gadhafi’s International Charity and Development Foundation bankrolled the Amalthea, the Moldovan-flagged Greek-registered cargo ship carrying 15 pro-Palestinian activists and 2,000 tons of food and medicine that tried to run the Israeli blockade in July 2010 by heading toward port in Gaza, only to sail for the Egyptian port of El-Arish after the Israelis threatened to intercept the ship to prevent it from reaching the Gaza coastline.

None other than Chicago-based former Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers and his radical wife, Bernardine Dohrn, masterminded the Gaza flotilla campaign through the Free Gaza Movement, a coalition of leftist groups that included radical activist and Democratic Party fundraiser Jodie Evans, the co-founder of Code Pink.

Friend turned tyrant?

On Oct. 20, 2011, after video of Gadhafi being killed was shown worldwide, Obama appeared in the Rose Garden to announce, “The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted.”

Remarkably, few in the establishment media bothered to examine what happened to change a seemingly close relationship between Obama and Gadhafi that included Obama reaching out at a Group of Eight summit in 2009 to be the first U.S. president to shake hands with Gadhafi.

Clearly, Gadhafi must have been surprised to see Obama turn on him.

As late as March 19, 2011, Gadhafi sent a message to Obama, calling Obama “our son,” asking the U.S. president to defend Gadhafi’s decision to send the military to attack the rebels seeking to overthrow him.

The ascendency of the Muslim Brotherhood caused the demise of Gadhafi, but will the same be true of Obama?

The Romney campaign may be well advised to reframe President Reagan’s famous question for foreign policy as well: “Are we safer today than we were as a nation four years ago?”

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