Saturday, August 19, 2017

Yeah, Cowgirl In The Sand-With Neil Young (and Crazy Horse) In Mind-Take Two

Yeah, Cowgirl In The Sand-With Neil Young (and Crazy Horse) In Mind-Take Two  

By Special Guest Lance Lawrence  

Zack James when he was younger, much younger back in the early 1960s younger, now too for that matter was, well, how can we put it, maybe women-addled would be best way to explain it to a candid world or at least once you get the lowdown to an understanding world. Ever since the end of high school, the beginning of college except for one short period he had always had some kind of woman relationship to confuse his sweet ass life (he hadn’t been very successful in high school too shy and too poor to make a hit with any of his female fellow high-schoolers so the end of high school seems the right place to start his women-addledness [sic, I think]). Of late that streak had taken a sudden stop his latest flame of the past few years, Loretta, had flown the coop, had given him his walking papers, had decided that they had drifted too far apart, that she wanted to find herself, see who she was and what she would do with the rest of her life. Fair enough although the pain of her departure for parts unknown left a big hole in his heart, left him bereft for a while. But had also given him time to see what he was about, where he wanted to head.   

A lot of what Loretta had said about the need for her to cut Zack loose was dead-on, was right as she had been usually right about what ailed Zack. He always found himself behind the curve when it came to what Loretta was thinking about, what he was able to reflect in the lonely hours that he had recently spent in the house they had shared together over the previous several years. Had had to agree that the last year of so as his health had declined with some fairly serious medical issues which had required that he take some medicines that seem to pile up on each other and had made him, well, grumpy and cranky, a grumpy cranky old man if the truth be known especially as those medical problems dove-tailed with his turning three score and ten, turning seventy to not be cute about it. Had made him aware as never before of his own mortality and instead of taking it easy, instead of increasingly relaxing, instead of being at peace with himself, instead of trying to put out the fire in his head he was more driven than ever to find his place in the sun, to have his life have meaning at the end. As to his relationship with Loretta he had let himself drift apart, left her unattended, and okay left her to seek her own newer world.

During some of those lonely hours in that desolate house which creaked eerily to his ears Zack began to think through his whole life, who was he kidding his whole relationship with the women who had festooned his sweet ass life, had made life bearable for him. What he had found out, was trying to think through is that he really needed, very much needed the companionship of a woman, and if it was not going to be Loretta, hell, she essentially left no forwarding address all he had was her cellphone number so she could be anywhere, then it had to be somebody else. Rather than go right out and jump into the “meat market,” that is what they called it when he was younger and if they had a different name for the process it was still the same ordeal he decided that he had better take stock of himself and where he has been, and what he wanted out of a relationship now. Any reflection on his apart about failed relationships, and there were plenty, always, always, always led him back to the “cowgirl in the sand,” always led him back to Mariah Welsh, back when he decided  he wanted his first serious relationship.       

That “cowgirl in the sand” was no cute inside joke and it still pained Zack to even think about Mariah and how she led him a merry chase in that one summer, the summer of 1966, they had stayed together. See Mariah was actually from the West, had grown up on a big cattle ranch just outside of Cheyenne out in Wyoming country and had some certain set western ways for a young woman of twenty. He had met her down in Falmouth, down in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts about fifty miles from where he lived, down near the beach in the summer of 1966 just after his sophomore year in college. He had been renting a place with several other fellow college students for the summer who were as dedicated to partying as he was and that was that.

He had actually seen her a couple of times on the beach at Falmouth Heights near where they had rented the cottage and thought that she looked very fine in her skimpy bikini (then skimpy which today would be considered modest) but was not sure how to approach her. One day he decided to go up and invite her to the weekly weekend party that his cottage put on and see what happened. (That weekend party almost literally true as the party would start early Friday afternoon and end at some Happy Hour bar early Sunday evening inevitably a few people, including Zack, would carry over until Monday or Tuesday if the spirit moved them or they had some hot date that kept the fires burning that long).

As Zack approached her she had brought him up short when she saw him coming and shouted out “Here comes the boy who has been checking me out, checking out my shape as far as I can tell from those sly looks he gave my way and who knows what else he was thinking about, but was afraid to come up and say hello.” Yeah, that was the kind of girl, young woman, Mariah was all through that hot summer relationship. She claimed one night when they had gotten better acquainted that unlike uptight people from the East Coast people from the West, from cattle country, were more plainspoken, less hung up about speaking out about what they wanted-or who they wanted.

Needless to say Zack and Mariah spent the rest of that afternoon talking about this and that, mostly dreary college stuff since Mariah was also a student at the University of Wyoming studying art. (She was an exceptionally good artist, had drawn a couple of charcoal drawings of him which he had kept for years afterward even when he was married to Josie, his first wife, and Josie had asked who had done it and he had foolishly told her and he had had to hide the damn things. Josie had later when they were separating torn the works up-yes, it was that kind of breakup). As they talked Mariah made no bones about showing off her very fine body, slender, small but firm breasts which he was attracted in women, well-turned long legs and thin ankles, blondish brown hair, sea blue eyes and a wicked smile that would melt butter on a cold day. They made that primal connection that said they had something to do together what it would be who knew but something.

Mariah had told Zack that she had come East with a couple of her college girlfriends since none of them had ever been east of the Mississippi and had been thrilled when they first saw the ocean, had frolicked in the waves and one girl had almost gone under when a sudden riptide which they were totally ignorant of started pulling her down. But that scare was soon over since the girl had allowed herself to drift until the current subsided. They were staying for the summer over on Maravista a few blocks away from the beach (and maybe half a dozen blocks away from Zack’s cottage) in a tiny cottage in back of the landlord’s yard which he usually let out to students who worked in the restaurants and such places for the summer. As the hot tanning sun began to fade a bit by four Zack then popped the question of whether she and her girlfriends were up for a party that weekend. All Mariah asked about though was would there be booze and dope there. When Zack answered yes Mariah said they would surely, her word, be there and she had better not see him talking to some other girl when she arrived. Bingo.

That booze and dope stuff needs a little explaining since Zack and his fellows were all under official drinking age (as were Mariah and her friends at least in Massachusetts) so they “hired” an older guy who was living with a bunch of his older friends up their street to “buy” for them and he would get a big bottle of liquor, usually scotch, as his service charge. The dope thing was a little more problematic since dope, marijuana, maybe some speed when a connection could be made, was not that widely used then by the youth fresh college generation although that movement was beginning to build up a head of steam. At that time “booze heads,” representing a more working class ethos and “dopers” were at loggerheads something that would get settled out later in the decade. “Jazz”, one of his roommates at their cottage and at school, had connections in Cambridge and so they never lacked for dope although more than a few girls would back off once they smelled the dope and didn’t know what the hell they were in for. So Mariah already was ahead of that crowd.       

As they were getting ready to part company after Zack gave Mariah his address and had told her to come by anytime on Friday afternoon or later Mariah told him to wait a minute until she put her street clothes on and they could walk off the beach together toward her car (Zack had walked over to the beach since he unlike several of his roommates did not have a car and was driven down to the Cape by Willy another roommate). Zack was shocked, mildly shocked anyway, when Mariah put on her blue jean shorts, a frilly lacy cowgirl-type blouse, and, get this, her cowboy boots, and her cowgirl hat what he would later find out was called a Ladies’ Stetson. She looked like she had just gotten ready to go to the rodeo, or the state fair. Something told Zack that this was going to be an interesting ride indeed. Mariah must have sensed that because as they approached her car for her to leave she asked Zack whether he liked her outfit, and then said in her plain spoken Western way, “Maybe you can play cowboy with me if things work out.” Giving Zack a soft sexy look like if things worked out she would give him a ride he would not forget. Whoa!                             

That Friday evening Mariah and her two girlfriends arrived, guess what, dressed up very similarly to the way Mariah had been dressed as she and Zack left the beach a few days before which caused a sensation, a sensation at the novelty of the garb in Falmouth in the summer and also that the two girlfriends were “hot” as well. Zack fortunately was alone when they entered (he had earlier been talking to Cissie, an old flame whom he figured to rekindle a flame with that night since he had frankly given up the idea that Mariah was going to show, it would not have been the first time, or the last, some young thing had promised the moon to him and never showed up). Mariah came right over and asked if he had a joint, a joint she said to calm her nerves, make her feel good among the party-goers all of whom were eying her the guys for obvious reasons the women also for obvious reasons if they were with a guy.

Zack called over to “Jazz” who delivered a huge joint from dope he had “connected” with only that afternoon which made Mariah eyes widen and after taking a few “hits” said to Zack “You may be playing cowboy tonight after all.” In that instance her statement proved not to be true because she got so “wasted” that she fell asleep but the next night’s party, or really a continuation of Friday’s party she and Zack got it on in one of the empty bedrooms upstairs (not his room, the room where he had all his possessions, but nobody was particular about such arrangements when a “hot” date needed a place to put her head down).                          

What struck Zack about Mariah (beside that Western plain-spokenness that he was not used to with the local girls, mostly Irish girls who descended on the Cape with as the saying went “ten dollars and their virtue” and left with both intact or standoffish WASPish girls from the better colleges who were sometimes more trouble than they were worth in trying to get next to them if you were not seriously looking to be upward mobile after your college hijinks) was how sexually experienced and into doing sex she was even that first night when she did a lot of stuff that most other girls he knew were not into, like giving a good blow job. When they talked about it later Mariah told him that those cowboys out in the West, the ones who worked for her father broke her in early at thirteen and she liked it, liked it enough to read books in high school about various sexual positions and practices from a manual. (It turned out to be the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian bible of sex for those who are clueless).

So for several weeks that summer Zack and Mariah were what would be called an “item” today, were almost inseparable. Went to the beach, partied, had great sex (mostly based on her knowledge and Zack’s willingness as a subject) and Zack assumed would find some way to continue their relationship at summer’s end. When that time came though Mariah told him straight out that theirs was a summer fling and that she was heading back to school in Wyoming and back to her boyfriend. The night they parted though, despite Zack’s futile pleading that they stay together some way and then giving up when she cut him off which she said was also a Western way, she gave him a parting sexual bout that he still remembered with heat fifty years later. Yeah, Zack was women-addled, always was being played by them. Praise be.          

A History Of European Anarchism In Its Heyday- "The World That Never Was"- A Guest Book Review

Click on the headline to link to a Sunday Boston Globe book review, dated July 25, 2010, THE WORLD THAT NEVER WAS: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents

Frank Jackman comment:

It is always good to know more about our erstwhile leftist opponents, as it is of our implacable bourgeois opponents. In the case of the anarchists, especially here in America, the names of "Big" Bill Haywood, Vincent St. John, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, Carlos Tresca, Jim Cannon and a whole slew of anarchists, some who came over to communism in the wake of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, and some who did not, are worthy of study. And the Europeans as well. In many cases these were kindred spirits.

White Supremacy in the Age of Trump

The Economist coverWhite Supremacy in the Age of Trump
It’s quite easy to brand the working class as the most rabidly xenophobic and racist group of whites. Whether they’re brandishing Confederate flags or vociferously vowing to “Make America Great Again,” their beliefs about white supremacy are completely exposed for the world to witness. It’s much harder to see how those atop the economic pyramid not only greatly benefit from white supremacy but actually use racism to their advantage — generally from behind the scenes.  In short, when we hold the working class responsible for white supremacy, other whites are absolved of racial wrongdoing…  Certainly, there is no apology for the racism of working-class whites, nor any excuse; but we should seek to understand the ways in which white supremacy and power are completely intertwined…  By controlling key aspects of the economy, especially education, politics and the media, the white elite often very easily manipulate less affluent whites.   More

THE MONUMENTS MUST GO: An Open Letter From Great, Great Grandsons of Stonewall Jackson

An Open Letter From Great, Great Grandsons of Stonewall Jackson
We are native Richmonders and also the great, great grandsons of Stonewall Jackson. As two of the closest living relatives to Stonewall, we are writing today to ask for the removal of his statue, as well as the removal of all Confederate statues from Monument Avenue. They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display. Overnight, Baltimore has seen fit to take this action. Richmond should, too…  In fact, instead of lauding Jackson’s violence, we choose to celebrate Stonewall’s sister — our great, great, grand-aunt — Laura Jackson Arnold. As an adult Laura became a staunch Unionist and abolitionist. Though she and Stonewall were incredibly close through childhood, she never spoke to Stonewall after his decision to support the Confederacy. We choose to stand on the right side of history with Laura Jackson Arnold.    More

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Charlottesville, Trump, the Confederacy, Reparations & More

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Charlottesville, Trump, the Confederacy, Reparations & More
The casualties in the Civil War amount to more than all other wars—all other American wars combined. More people died in that war than World War II, World War I, Vietnam, etc. And that was a war for white supremacy. It was a war to erect a state in which the basis of it was the enslavement of black people. And so that, you know, these forces that I discussed, that really, you know, bubbled from the base of the Republican Party and that Trump nakedly activated, would then rally around the cause of the Confederacy makes complete sense…  And so, the notion that Donald Trump, when he has, you know, folks who provided that platform right in his—in the White House, would come out and provide some sort of strong statement against white supremacy, I don’t know where that expectation comes from. He is who he said he was. You know, you can say a lot about Trump, but, you know, he didn’t hide it. He is exactly who he said he was.   More

Historical Amnesia About Slavery Is a Tool of White Supremacy

Historical Amnesia About Slavery Is a Tool of White Supremacy
If in our national memory it is considered heroic both to kill in the defense of slavery and to die attempting to undo slavery’s legacy, then heroism has no meaning. But since we have failed to properly cast the Confederacy as a villain, or even to Image result for durham THE MONUMENTS MUST GOdefinitively state that the reason for its secession from the Union was the preservation of slavery, the standards for heroism are more malleable than they perhaps should be. Where we have (mostly) condemned slavery, we have refused to condemn its defenders, choosing to view their actions not as villainous but historical anomalies. We allow them the excuse of being “products of their time,” as if they had no hand in shaping the political and social dynamics of that time. We give them the cover of “states’ rights,” as though that has not always meant further tyranny visited upon black people.   More

DORCHESTER STANDOUT FOR BLACK LIVES Thursday September 21, 5:30-6:30 PM Ashmont T

*   *   *   *
Come to the next monthly 
Thursday September 215:30-6:30 PM 
(and the third Thursday of every month)
at Ashmont T station plaza


Kelley writes:
The expressions of racist hatred and the murder in Charlottesville, and the reactions by the president heightened the sense that an August Standout for Black Lives was seriously needed. The addition of twenty new participants, along with two canine comrades, Sophie and Eli, as well as a number of very young sign holders, reflected that these feelings were widely shared. The horns beeping in support of the banner declaring that "We believe Black Lives Matter" have multiplied each month (even MBTA buses). This month we also had an influx of new people from the neighborhood as well as the continued support from Veterans for Peace, First Parish Church, Milton for Peace and folks from the Jamaica Plain vigil. It is a congenial atmosphere in which we are making a visible public statement about our opposition to racism. Thanks to all who came (especially the gentleman who brings us free food) and we welcome anyone interested in joining us next month. 

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact Kelley, or Becky,, or call Dorchester People for Peace 617-282-3783

The Truth About The Vietnam War From The Guys Who Fought It-Full Disclosure Volume 2 Newspaper Now Available!

Full Disclosure Volume 2 Newspaper Now Available!

The expanded to 28-pages Full Disclosure – Truth About America’s War in Vietnam Vol. 2 is now available!
The paper is especially important in relation to the upcoming Burns/Novick documentary about the Vietnam War, which will not present the war as the massive U.S. crime based on lies and betrayals that it was. This paper clearly, definitively and very articulately, does. It is a concise, very readable and important reference for anyone who wishes to present or speak about the truth. Thank you all. – Tarak Kauff, Veterans For Peace Board Member

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VFP Summer Newsletter Bundles Available

Submit this form​, if you would like to receive a bundle of 25 newsletters.
  • Masahide Ota, Presente!
  • Reflections on Memorial Day in D.C.
  • An Invitation from Your President
  • Peace at Home: Mourning Philando
  • Peace Abroad: VFP Delegation to Cuba
  • Poetry
  • Book Review: Failure to Quit:Reflections of an Optimistic Historian 
  • Veterans For Peace Chapter Reports
  • Q&A: How did you become a Veteran For Peace?

Letters Needed: Protect Freedom to Boycott

WRITE! for Justice, Human Rights, and International Law in Palestine.
The article speaks for itself with admirable clarity, describing the provisions and ramifications of a legislative proposal currently before the U.S. Senate that would impose stiff penalties on boycotters. American freedom is at stake.
 Here is the text of the proposed legislation (S. 720, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act).
Please WRITE! to The Washington Post using this address:
From the website of The Post:
Letters should be fewer than 200 words and take as their starting point an article or other item appearing in The Post. They may not have been submitted to, posted to or published by any other media. They must include the writer's full name -- anonymous letters and letters written under pseudonyms will not be considered. For verification purposes, they must also include the writer's home address, e-mail address and telephone numbers. Writers should disclose any personal or financial interest in the subject matter of their letters.

Save the Dates: Upcoming Events

Aug 20 - Women Gained Right to Vote in US (1920)

Aug 27 - Signing of Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928)
Sept 21 - International Day of Peace

Sept 22-24 No War 2017: War and the Environment Conference in Washington, D.C.

Sept 26 - Anniversary of 43 Ayotzinapa Students Disappearance

Veterans For Peace, 1404 N. Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102

Veterans For Peace appreciates your tax-exempt donations.

Diplomacy, Not Bombs – An Emergency Appeal from Veterans For Peace

Diplomacy, Not Bombs – An Emergency Appeal from Veterans For Peace

The governments of the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have recently escalated the threat of nuclear attacks.Especially this week, the danger has become still greater, to the point of threatening to trigger World War III.
Veterans For Peace pledges to do everything we can to prevent the beginning of this new conflict and strongly urges the U.S. government to open a dialogue with the DPRK without any preconditions, and call on all countries to promote the same.
Some Ways to Take Action:

From Socialist Alternative- Cornel West & Kshama Sawant: Build the Movement Against the Far Right

To  t  

Draft Bernie Town Hall 
& People’s Convergence Conference
September 8-10 in Washington D.C.

The vicious violence in Charlottesville and white supremacist actions around the country have acted as a collective wake up call, while Trump’s abhorrent response has only added further fuel to the growth of right wing bigotry.

A powerful left challenge and mass movement must be built against racist violence. Leaders like Bernie Sanders, alongside the unions, civil rights, immigrant, socialist, and other progressive organizations must step up to coordinate major national protests to drive back far-right forces. These protests should be linked to a clear anti-corporate, anti-racist, pro-worker program to unite the vast majority of working people against racism and bigotry.

But to push back against the rise of white nationalism, or to build an effective resistance, requires a conscious political strategy to isolate the far-right.

Join Cornel West, Kshama Sawant and others on September 8-10 in Washington D.C. for the People’s Convergence Conference and Draft Bernie Town Hall.  The conference will feature a strategy discussion for our movements on “How to Defeat the Right”.

Register for the Conference Today!

While we meet this immediate and vile threat from the far right, we also need to be laying the groundwork for an independent, left political challenge to the corporate politics of both the Democratic and Republican Party leaderships. Trump is a con man who convinced a section of middle- and working class people that he would bring back good jobs.

To defeat Trump and the Republicans we need to provide a clear, anti-corporate alternative with policies like Medicare for All and a major green infrastructure program to create union jobs that can undercut support for right populism. The pro-corporate policies of the neo-liberal leadership of the Democratic Party helped paved the way for Trump and the growth of right wing populism through their close links to Wall Street and Corporate America.

“In light of the barbarous violence of the neo-nazis and white nationalists in Charlottesville, it’s critical working people, youth, people of color, activists and progressive leaders come together to discuss the way forward for our movement and how we can build a political left alternative to isolate and defeat the right wing threat.  I think the People’s Convergence Conference is an important event to do just that.” said Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative Seattle City Councilmember.

This three-day event will cost over $20,000 to organize.  Socialist Alternative, Movement for the 99% and other endorsing organizations do not have the deep pockets of the billionaires, but we have a more potent weapon: the collective power of supporters like you. 

Please contribute $25 today.

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Organize Against Racism, Xenophobia, Hate, and Deportations!

Organize Against Racism, Xenophobia, Hate, and Deportations!

The government in Washington has launched a generalized assault on our lives, rights and living conditions. From the racist attacks on Muslims, Migrants, and African-Americans to attacks on healthcare, women, and LGBT folks, to attacks on our environment and education, to perpetual wars, working people are under fire. The leading edge of this assault is the criminalization and attacks on Migrants. Enough is enough! An injury to one is an injury to all.

Join with us to discuss next steps:
Boston May Day Coalition
Sunday, August 20, 3:00 PM
Encuentro 5
9A Hamilton Place, Boston, MA
(Park Street T Stop, next to Orpheum Theater)


Please paste it into a document and make copies.


From: John []
Sent: Friday, August 18, 2017 10:18 PM
To: ''; ''
Subject: Flier for Sunday

Hi Folks,

Attached is the flier that was agreed to by myself and Chiuba. It was ready in the afternoon and I sent it to Matt but not to the list serve. Sorry for the lapse. Please check it out and make copies if you get a chance.


Stephen Kinzer: It's Far too Easy for Donald Trump to Start Nuclear War

Stephen Kinzer: It's Far too Easy for Donald Trump to Start Nuclear War

It’s far too easy for Donald Trump to start a nuclear war

By Stephen Kinzer AUGUST 18, 2017

Wherever the President of the United States travels, a military
aide-de-camp carrying “the football” is just a few steps away. It
isn’t the kind Tom Brady throws. In the laconic jargon that national
security officers use, “the football” is a briefcase that allows the
President to launch a nuclear attack.

These days “the football” seems closer to being used than at any time
in the last half-century. President Trump has issued thinly veiled
threats of a nuclear first strike against North Korea. His emotional
volatility makes those threats terrifying. Because of a deep flaw in
our legal order, this is an existential fear rather than a theoretical

American law allows the President to launch a nuclear strike on the
basis of nothing more than his own impulse. He need not provide any
reason or consult anyone else. Vice President Dick Cheney seemed to
salivate when he described the breadth of a president’s authority to
incinerate nations.

“The president,” Cheney told an interviewer in 2008, “could launch a
kind of devastating attack the world’s never seen. He doesn’t have to
check with anybody. He doesn’t have to call the Congress. He doesn’t
have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the
nature of the world we live in.”

Framers of our Constitution, acutely aware of how monarchs and tyrants
had misused their authority, took great pains to limit presidential
power. Thanks to their foresight, presidents may not declare war or
levy taxes. They may name cabinet secretaries and ambassadors only
with the consent of the Senate. The Supreme Court may reject laws they
sign. Their freedom to act is remarkably limited.

The framers could not have imagined the apocalyptic power of nuclear
weapons. Recent events make clear that this is the gaping hole in our
system of checks and balances. President Trump cannot remove a local
school board member, but if the impulse should strike him while he is
relaxing at Mar-a-Lago, or if he is seized by anger when awoken and
informed of some violent provocation in a distant land, he can call
for “the football.” Nuclear weapons would be in the air within

“I could leave this room, and in 25 minutes, 70 million people would
be dead,” President Richard Nixon told members of Congress in 1973.
Was he considering it? Was he joking? Was he drunk? None of that
matters. The key fact is that he was correct. Secretary of Defense
James Schlesinger, according to later reports, became so concerned
about Nixon’s mental health that he ordered officers in the nuclear
chain of command to check with him before following any “unusual
orders.” Trusting that today’s Pentagon is similarly engaged is a leap
of faith.

The Nixon experience might have led Congress to impose some limit on
the ability of presidents to set off nuclear war. It did not. Today
the challenge is more urgent than ever. President Trump has asserted
that he is prepared to set off horror “the likes of which the world
has never seen before.” That should focus attention on the reality
that under American law, this single individual has the right to
launch a nuclear war.

It would be a horror without precedent. The atomic bomb attacks on
Japan in 1945 were of an entirely different magnitude. Nuclear weapons
of that era were primitive by modern standards. More important, Japan
had no nuclear weapons with which to retaliate. Attacking North Korea
would likely set off a holocaust.

President Harry Truman, who ordered the bombing of Japan, was not
required to seek approval from anyone before doing so. Nonetheless he
did. Truman wanted to assure himself that others with more experience
and expertise shared his belief that a nuclear attack on Japan was
justified. He secretly created what he called the Interim Committee —
so named because it was established to make only a single
recommendation — and asked for its opinion. Secretary of War Henry
Stimson was the chairman. Its other members were the president of
Harvard, the president of MIT, and senior representatives of military
and security agencies. The Interim Committee reviewed intelligence and
interviewed physicists who had developed the nuclear bomb, including
Enrico Fermi and J. Robert Oppenheimer. After three weeks of
deliberation, it advised Truman that it agreed with his decision to

Some in Washington, shaken by President Trump’s rhetoric, are seeking
to restrict his power to launch a unilateral nuclear attack. Nine
members of the House of Representatives have filed a bill called the
Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act. Its principle is not
new, but in recent weeks it has taken on a new urgency. Under its
provisions, presidents would be allowed to launch a nuclear first
strike only after Congress has declared war and authorized such a
strike. One of the co-sponsors, Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon,
asserted that since “Trump has already threatened nuclear war,”
Congress needs “tools to prevent him from stumbling into the
destruction and utter annihilation of millions of lives.”

Congress has not shown even the courage to limit a president’s power
to wage conventional war. Determined to avoid responsibility for major
national security decisions, it allowed wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and
Afghanistan to rage for years without fulfilling its constitutional
duty to declare or refuse to declare war. Congress is unlikely
suddenly to grow a spine and assert its right to play a role in making
what could be the most consequential war-or-peace decision in world

Questioning the president’s power to launch a nuclear first strike can
be dangerous. During a training session in 1973 — when Nixon was at
his most volatile — an officer posted at Vandenberg Air Force Base in
California asked what may have seemed a reasonable question: “How can
I know that an order I receive to launch my missiles came from a sane
president?” The answer came quickly. The inquiring officer, Major
Harold Hering, was discharged from the Air Force for “failure to
demonstrate acceptable qualities of leadership.” He became a truck

Can there be any restraint if presidents refuse to consult something
like Truman’s Interim Committee, if Congress will not act, and if the
military considers it taboo to question how it should respond to an
order from a berserk president? During the 1980s Roger Fisher, a
pre-eminent expert on conflict resolution, offered a provocative

“Put that needed code number in a little capsule, and then implant
that capsule right next to the heart of a volunteer,” Fisher
suggested. “The volunteer would carry with him a big, heavy butcher
knife as he accompanied the President. If ever the President wanted to
fire nuclear weapons, the only way he could do so would be for him
first, with his own hands, to kill one human being. . . He has to look
at someone and realize what death is — what an innocent death is.
Blood on the White House carpet. It’s reality brought home.”

More than 200 years ago, James Madison wrote that consolidating power
in the hands of a single leader “may justly be pronounced the very
definition of tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson asserted that the only way to
avoid such tyranny was to elect a leader and then “bind him down from
mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” They and the other
Founders took pains to assure that no president would ever be able to
order arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, or suppression of public
liberty. If they could have imagined the power of nuclear weapons,
they certainly would have taken a comparable precaution. Giving one
individual the power to set off nuclear war would have been abhorrent
to the framers of our Constitution. Limiting that power would honor
their memory while increasing the odds for humanity’s survival.

Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for
International and Public Affairs at Brown University.
Cole Harrison
617-466-9274 (rings home & cell)
Twitter: rozziecole

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