The Guardian

The Guardian June 28, 2000

Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Lunar looniness

Truth is stranger than fiction, life imitates art and a satire on the US 
military would be a contradiction in terms.

This strange melange of thoughts was prompted by the disclosure of just 
what the reaction of the US military (and the government they influence) 
was to the launch of Sputnik back in the '50s.

While some US citizens saw the Soviet launch of an Earth satellite as 
indicating a crisis in US education, the Pentagon took it as a personal 
affront: after all, their strategy and their budgets were based on the US 
being the leading power, not number two.

They sought some way to quickly reclaim their rightful place as the most 
dangerous bunch of loonies on the planet. And according to US physicist 
Leonard Reiffel, a deputy director at NASA during the Apollo program, they 
came up with a lulu of an idea: hit the moon with a nuclear armed missile.

The resultant explosion would show the whole world just who was the 
real superpower. This demented scheme was actually put in hand, in 
great secrecy of course, under the cover of the innocuous-sounding project 
"A Study of Lunar Research Flights". Some research!

Reiffel directed the project, based at the former Armour Research 
Foundation (another innocuous cover name), now part of the Illinois 
Institute of Technology. A clearly embarrassed Reiffel recently said  in 
a small masterpiece of understatement  "Now it seems ridiculous and 
unthinkable, but things were remarkably tense back then."

Reiffel's team included the young astronomer Carl Sagan who was put to work 
on calculating the anticipated behavior of the dust and gas that would be 
generated by the blast. Sagan became in time a vocal campaigner for peace 
and disarmament.

The project was apparently scrubbed around 1959, but in a letter in the May 
4 issue of the US scientific journal Nature, Reiffel gives an 
insight into the military mind's approach to such a subject as setting off 
nuclear explosions on the moon.

He notes that scientists involved on the project registered concerns about 
contaminating the moon with radioactive material but adds that "There was 
lots of talk on the part of the Air Force about the moon being 'military 
high ground'."

* * *
Elian and the Mafia's role
The Miami Cuban mafia is still using every trick in the book to frustrate efforts to return six-year-old Elian Gonzales to Cuba with his father. More appeals are planned to tie the pair up in the interminable US legal system, while pressure both financial and psychological can be brought to bear upon the boy and his father. A Cuban-American radio station in Miami has placed billboard ads outside 22 major US airports, as well as in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, denouncing the US Immigration Service raid that finally extricated Elian from the clutches of Miami emigres who had been shamelessly using him as a political pawn (and source of income) for months. The ads, with the slogan "Wake Up, America!", use the now-famous photo of the heavily armed Federal agents confronting one of Elian's supposed Miami "relatives" who is holding the boy in front of him so that at first glance the agent seems to be pointing his machinegun at a six-year-old child. A suitably fruity quote from Thomas Jefferson, no less, tells viewers that "The hand of force may destroy but cannot disjoin them." Jorge Rodriguez, the owner of radio station WWFE in La Poderosa, describes his billboard campaign with earnest intensity as: "We want to show them [the American people] that there is an injustice being committed against the boy, first in the violent form they took him out of the home, and secondly in the way they intend to send him back to a totalitarian system where there are no parental rights." Our Jorge is clearly very well informed about communism and Cuba. One of the more interesting aspects of the Elian affair has been the way it revealed so publicly that most US citizens do not share Jorge's view of parenting in Cuba. That won't stop the Miami mafia and the Republican right from doing everything they can to delay Elian's return to Cuba, for the boy's well-being and happiness (let alone his father's) is the last thing they are really interested in.
* * *
"Sans Papier"
The discovery of a lorry at Dover containing the bodies of 54 men and 4 women points up the continued and worsening trade in human beings enticed by criminal gangs and false promises of a better life in the West. The 58 came from South-East China. They had been trying to enter Britain when they died. All were Sans Papiers, undocumented, "illegal immigrants". Victims of a heartless, failing system that even as it trumpets its technological achievements and skyrocketing shareprices is actually imploding, shedding jobs, driving more and more into poverty, resorting to war and various forms of fascism. Some commentators have attempted to portray the victims as poverty-stricken refugees from China, but all were reasonably well dressed and had paid an alleged $15,000 to the slave-traders organising their "escape". They were hardly paupers. However, they had fallen for the propaganda of high wages and a great life in the bars and kitchens of London's cafes, lounges and night clubs where most would end up. This trade in human misery is growing expotentially as the opportunity to employ cheap, unorganised workers who have absolutely no rights (as they are illegals) is seized upon by unscrupulous employers. This trade is the modern version of the slave trade of the 18th century. It may yet take another hundred years for the struggles of the people to bring an end to such immoral practices but capitalism's inability to utilise the resources both human and natural that are available to it and the growing refusal of the people to meekly accept its programs and schemes are clear indicators that the future surely belongs to socialism.

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