A first year of blogging in 2009 – penning on the tenth anniversary of my first blog article (Part 1)

Ten years ago today, on January 29, 2009, I started blogging with the following opening in an article entitled, “Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late”:

“It was eleven years before the New Millennium, in February 1989 only several months with my Mathematics Ph.D. degree out of the University of California, Berkeley, when the notion “Mathematics for the New Century” circulating in the mathematics community made a strong impression on me. 1 A larger public-relations campaign was soon launched by then President George H. W. Bush and the U.S. state governors, spearheaded by a few including Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, for what would become the first National Education Summit held in September 1989 in Charlottesville, Virginia, where it was declared that, among other objectives, U.S. high school students would be leading the world in mathematics and science by the year 2000. 2 Subsequent efforts would lead to the Goals 2000 project later signed into law in 1994 as a centerpiece of President Bill Clinton’s education reform. 3

(“Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late (Part 1)”, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

As in the above passage, it was about mathematics, science and education at a national policy level in the United States in 1989, when I was a fresh Ph.D. out of the University of California, Berkeley, and in the years afterwards with a declared objective that by the year 2000 the U.S. would lead the world in high-school mathematics and science education.

But wait, and see what’s next:

“In 1989 I was a computer science faculty member at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, as an educator and researcher generally interested in good news for education and particularly impressed by declaration of lofty goals and projects to achieve them. Education, however, was often trumped by other more ominous or more urgent matters, such as the Gulf War in 1991; or at least that was what I would presume. But press archives indicate that on January 17, 1991, the day of the launch of Operation Desert Storm, or what Iraqi president Saddam Hussein called “Mother of all Battles”, 4 President Bush, Sr. actually met with his education advisory panel to hear about creating national standards for student performance, though he made no commitments on their proposal at the time according to panel member and former U.S. secretary of labor William Brock. 5

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

So it was also about education in contrast to war, namely the Gulf War then President George H. W. Bush launched in January 1991 against Iraqi forces which, under an aggressive President Saddam Hussein, had invaded a neighbouring country – even though President Bush still had some of his attention on national education.

Well, here comes more:

“Having grown up a peaceful child and done Ph.D. study under someone who happened to have a past background of vigorous opposition to the Vietnam War, I tended to look into things via more idealistic, less bombastic lenses, and my presumption could sometimes be quite naïve. The peaceful and beautiful British Columbia where I had moved to in 1988 was not all reclusive when it came to U.S. politics: the city of Nelson, B.C. was well-known as a haven for many of the Vietnam-era “draft dodgers”, 6 and U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Catherine Glaspie, who was in the news over the controversy of exactly what the U.S. government told Saddam Hussein in July 1990 just days before his launching invasion of Kuwait, was originally from Vancouver. 7

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

Aha, April Catherine Glaspie, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq in the news over the controversy of “exactly what the U.S. government told Saddam Hussein in July 1990 just days before his launching invasion of Kuwait”, was originally from the “peaceful and beautiful” British Columbia in Canada.

Obviously, Ambassador Glaspie must have tried to prevent the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and thus the Gulf War consequently, from taking place.

Let’s take a look at what The New York Times reported in March 1991, not long after the launch of the Gulf War:

“For more than seven months, April C. Glaspie kept silent on what she said or did not say to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq in their meeting eight days before his tanks rolled into Kuwait last August.

Despite criticism that as the American Ambassador to Iraq she was not tough enough in her remarks and that she somehow encouraged Mr. Hussein to invade Kuwait, Ms. Glaspie rejected the advice of friends and colleagues that she play the game of Washington guerrilla warfare by publicizing her side of the story.

“It’s a matter of service discipline,” she told them. “I won’t stoop to that.”

An austere, obedient, often stubborn Foreign Service officer who has been depicted as a scapegoat for a policy gone wrong, Ms. Glaspie today offered a defense of American policy and tried to clear her name. In doing so, she stayed true to character, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she was appearing before them “on instructions.” She offered no hint of the bitterness friends say she feels at not being allowed to return to Baghdad. Shunned by Baker’s Aides Ms. Glaspie is the first woman to head an American Embassy in the Middle East and one of only a handful of senior Arabists left in the State Department. After returning to Washington – she was in London enroute to the United States when Iraq invaded Kuwait – Ms. Glaspie was shunned by the inner circle of Secretary of State James A. Baker 3d. She watched stoically as the charge d’affaires, Joseph C. Wilson 4th, an African specialist with no previous experience in the Middle East, conducted the day-to-day diplomacy in Baghdad until the American Embassy was closed on the eve of the allied attack against Iraq.”

(“AFTER THE WAR: WOMAN IN THE NEWS; Envoy No Longer Silent: April Catherine Glaspie”, by Elaine Sciolino, March 21, 1991, The New York Times)

Oh No! Ms. Glaspie may have spoken too softly and “somehow encouraged Mr. Hussein to invade Kuwait”. She was then shunned by the inner circle of President Bush’s trusted friend, Secretary of state James A. Baker, 3rd, and her job in Iraq was taken over by another diplomat, Joseph C. Wilson, 4th.

But that appeared counter-intuitive, i.e., contrary to the modern politically-correct wisdom of history stereotyping when it came to war and peace, didn’t it?

Ms. Glaspie was a diligent foreign service officer with a stellar background of knowledge and achievements relating to the Arab world, and had in the 1980s been praised as “a genuine heroine” by then Secretary of State George P. Shultz:

“Her detractors say she has a stubborn streak that prevents her from backing off from fixed positions; her supporters call it an overwhelming confidence that comes from knowing her brief better than most anyone else.

Born on April 26, 1942, in Vancouver, British Columbia, April Catherine Glaspie cultivated a love for the Arab world from members of her British mother’s family who had served with the British Army in British-mandate Palestine. A graduate of Mills College in history and government with a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies, Ms. Glaspie battled the Foreign Service bureaucracy to study Arabic when women were not encouraged to make their careers in the Arab world.

Fluent in Arabic and French, she rose through the ranks of the Foreign Service, serving in Amman, Kuwait, Stockholm, Beirut, Cairo, London, New York and Damascus. She has held the post of director of the State Department’s Arabic language school in Tunisia, and as the ranking American envoy in Damascus in June 1985 she convinced the Syrians to help free 104 Americans held hostage aboard a TWA plane. George P. Shultz, who was then Secretary of State, later praised her as “a genuine heroine.””

(Elaine Sciolino, March 21, 1991, The New York Times)

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in September 1990 The New York Times published a transcript, provided by the Iraqi government, of a July 25 meeting between Glaspie and Hussein prior to the invasion. Here are some of the key passages spoken by Glaspie to Hussein regarding Iraq’s possible intentions amassing troops near its border with Kuwait:

“… I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.

I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60’s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly. With regard to all of this, can I ask you to see how the issue appears to us?

My assessment after 25 years’ service in this area is that your objective must have strong backing from your Arab brothers. I now speak of oil. But you, Mr. President, have fought through a horrific and painful war. Frankly, we can only see that you have deployed massive troops in the south. Normally that would not be any of our business. But when this happens in the context of what you said on your national day, then when we read the details in the two letters of the Foreign Minister, then when we see the Iraqi point of view that the measures taken by the U.A.E. and Kuwait is, in the final analysis, parallel to military aggression against Iraq, then it would be reasonable for me to be concerned. And for this reason, I received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship – not in the spirit of confrontation – regarding your intentions.”

(“CONFRONTATION IN THE GULF; Excerpts From Iraqi Document on Meeting With U.S. Envoy”, September 23, 1990, The New York Times)

As the transcript recorded, Ambassador Glaspie stated that the U.S. government had “no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts”, that such had been her experience in Kuwait in the 1960s and was now also confirmed by Secretary of State James Baker. Glaspie, however, did express some concern and ask Hussein, “in the spirit of friendship”, what his intentions were in deploying “massive troops in the south”, i.e., near Kuwait.

Indeed, from April Catherine Glaspie, there was absolutely no advance and clear warning to Saddam Hussein that Iraq should not invade Kuwait or could face serious consequences.

That’s quite perplexing for an experienced American diplomat who had once been hailed as “a genuine heroine”.

To my understanding, this past history has never been adequately clarified. But one could understand that, after all, it was only patriotic to watch bombs drop on the foreign bad guys, no?

Thus, my first blog article, posted on January 29, 2009, was also about international politics, especially about war and peace.

But why “nearly a decade late” as in the article title? That would be around 1999, ten years after 1989 to recall the earlier history, but ten years before 2009.

Had I not done it late, it would have fit into a timeframe of then U.S. President Bill Clinton’s in the 1990s, which I commented on:

“By the time Bill Clinton became U.S. president and right away came to Vancouver for his first major international summit, the first Clinton-Yeltsin summit in April 1993, pitching different themes from the previous Bush administration’s, including the re-emergence of Richard Nixon as an elder statesman on U.S. foreign policy, 8 I was already out of the academia and bogged down in some politics of my focus, and was viewing the pomp and circumstance of the glitzy visit by the rare, distinguished guests to a place I had not long before been exiled from – part of the summit was held at the University of British Columbia – as a sort of ‘swan song’ by the departing Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, hardly noticing that at the time President Clinton was also transmitting his message to the U.S. Congress to legislate for Goals 2000, Educate America Act. 9

President Clinton loves Vancouver, British Columbia, obviously.”

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

As told, when Bill Clinton became the U.S. president in 1993, having defeated George Bush in the 1992 presidential election, he immediately came to Vancouver, British Columbia, for his first major international summit, one with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and he also began legislating for the “Goals 2000, Educate America Act”– demonstrating his priorities in international politics and in national education.

And Clinton “loves Vancouver”, as I noticed. In this case, it coincided with his promoting former Ambassador April Catherine Glaspie to a top position in the U.N. peace mission in Somalia, which I noted in a footnote in my article:

“International military or peacekeeping operations approved by the United Nations are not necessarily a panacea, nor do active political roles of women always lead to positive outcome; an example was the disastrous UN Somalia mission in 1993-94 and April Catherine Glaspie’s role in it…”

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

Oh, No! Ms. Glaspie did a poor job, again. Let’s see what this time it was about:

“The best part of Scott Peterson’s book is on Somalia, where he describes the miscalculations and stupidities of the key US players. President George Bush’s special envoy to the country was Robert Oakley, a retired ambassador and veteran of Cold War years in Vietnam. His preoccupation in Somalia was to ensure the safety of the 25,000 US forces sent to “save Somalia” as part of the 38,000 troops of the Unified Task Force who were intended to cut the circle of famine, warlords, and undeliverable food mountains. But, as Peterson puts it, Oakley made the initial decision “to leave the warlord arsenals intact and to make no concerted attempt to disarm Somalia”. The warlords’ prestige actually increased during the early days of the US involvement.

But the mission mandate changed between the Bush and Clinton presidencies. Another American figure from the past then played a key role. April Glaspie – the US foreign service officer notorious for having given Saddam Hussein the signal of US ambivalence on the eve of his invasion of Kuwait in 1990 – was made the UN number two in Somalia. Petersen reveals that Glaspie went well beyond the UN mandate in her involvement in the political and judicial systems, and in working openly to marginalise the powerful General Aidid.

Glaspie authorised the June 5, 1993 mission by a Pakistani UN unit to inspect Radio Mogadishu, source of anti-UN propaganda and a known weapons site. When Aidid’s men were notified of the impending inspection, the message “this means war” came back. The Pakistanis were not given that message, and went to their doom with minimal security precautions. Peterson sums it up: “The result of this American-approved ‘inspection’ was the largest single-day massacre of UN peace-keeping troops since 1961, when 44 Ghanaians were killed in the Congo.””

(“Continental rifts: Victoria Brittain laments the west’s failures of nerve in Africa”, by Victoria Brittain, May 20, 2000, The Guardian)

As in the above account, when Clinton took over the presidency Glaspie was made the United Nations’ No. 2 official in Somalia, and on June 5, 1993, a Pakistani unit authorised by her to inspect Radio Mogadishu suffered “the largest single-day massacre of UN peace-keeping troops since 1961”.

In short, Glaspie’s authorisation led to the worst UN troop loss in three decades.

What was the scope of the casualty? It was 24 Pakistani soldiers, and it also “ushered in a new round of violence” that soon increased the death counts to over 50 UN personnel and several hundred Somalis, according to an Oxfam working paper published in early 1994:

“The killing of 24 Pakistani UN peace-keeping troops in Mogadishu on 5 June 1993 ushered in a new round of violence in Somalia. The repercussions of that incident continue to reverberate. Between then and the time of writing, over 50 UN personnel have been killed and several hundred Somalis, including many women and children. …”

(Mark Bradbury, The Somali conflict: Prospects for Peace, An Oxfam Working Paper, 1994, Oxfam (UK and Ireland))

The escalating violent episodes climaxed with the infamous ‘Black Hawk Down’ battle in early October 1993, when Somali civilians joined the warlord militia in the beating and killing of American soldiers; the deadliest firefight for the U.S. military since the Vietnam War saw 18 U.S. soldiers killed, 73 wounded, a helicopter pilot captured and President Clinton’s subsequent decision to pull the U.S. military out of Somalia:

“This week marked the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu, the deadliest firefight U.S. forces had faced since Vietnam.

The incident ultimately pushed the U.S. out of Somalia, leaving a safe haven for extremist groups.

There was never even supposed to be a Battle of Mogadishu. In one of his final acts after losing the 1992 election to Bill Clinton, President George H.W. Bush sent American forces into Somalia on a humanitarian mission to bring food to the victims of a raging civil war and man-made famine.

But by the fall of 1993, the mission had expanded to one of restoring a government in Somalia. On Oct. 3, a special ops team was sent into Mogadishu to arrest two top lieutenants of the warlord Mohammed Aidid, who controlled the city.

About 40 minutes into the mission, one of the Black Hawk helicopters circling overheard was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, spun out of control and crashed. Not long after, a second Black Hawk was shot down. More men were sent in to secure the crash sites and get the soldiers out. But the rescue team itself got pinned down.

The 15-hour battle that ensued left 18 Americans dead and 73 injured. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Somalis were killed. U.S. Army pilot Mike Durant was captured and held by Somali militants for 11 days.

After the Battle of Mogadishu, Clinton said that it was a mistake for the United States to play the role of police officer in Somalia. He announced a six-month plan to remove U.S. troops from the country.”

(“What A Downed Black Hawk In Somalia Taught America”, October 5, 2013, National Public Radio)

In an October 1993 article in The Baltimore Sun shortly after this “Battle of Mogadishu”, journalist Roger Simon blamed the United Nations’ leading role in the peace mission for letting things get out of control, and for the Somali people’s hatred as recalled by the captured U.S. Army helicopter pilot, Mike Durant:

“Why are the people there killing our soldiers, stripping their bodies and dragging them through the streets?

Don’t they know that we came to feed them?

So why are they trying to kill us?

Examine the account of Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, the captured American helicopter pilot who was released yesterday.

“We lay there on the ground beside the aircraft,” Durant told a British journalist, “and I saw people coming out of tin shacks trying to get to us.”

Eventually the Americans ran out of ammunition. “Then the people got to me and started to hit me,” Durant said.

The crowd pulled off Durant’s clothes and started carrying him through the streets.

“They held me up in the air,” Durant said. “Some people would break through the crowd and hit me.”

Durant was saved from the crowd. But why was the crowd angry at him?

We can understand why the soldiers of warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid would want to attack American soldiers. We are fighting Aidid and trying to capture or kill him.

But why would ordinary people rush out of their “tin shacks” and start beating wounded American soldiers?

We have not been “Ugly Americans” in Somalia. …

We have not brutalized the people of Somalia or tortured them.

So why do they hate us?

Because the United States is fighting as part of a United Nations mission. And if there is anything in the world that you want screwed up, you should let the United Nations handle it.”

(“A little-known massacre explains Somalian hatred”, by Roger Simon, October 15, 1993, The Baltimore Sun)

Roger Simon pointed his finger at UN Pakistani soldiers’ retaliatory massacre of Somali civilians and children on June 13, 1993, as where the UN messed up, and also at the bias President Clinton showed in his criticising Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid for killing UN troops but not the UN forces for the “slaughter of Somalian civilians”:

“Much has been made over the June 5 ambush of Pakistani United Nations forces in Mogadishu. Some 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by Aidid’s gunmen.

Very little has been made, however, of what followed eight days later:

Pakistani soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons on a crowd of civilians in Mogadishu.

A 10-year-old boy had the top of his head blown off. A 2-year-old boy was shot in the stomach by a high-velocity bullet. At least 20 civilians were slaughtered.

And then, as the survivors lay in the streets begging for help, the Pakistanis got in their U.N. vehicles and roared off.

“There was a man whose arm was almost severed,” Paul Watson, a reporter for the Toronto Star, said. “He was basically mush from the hips down. The guy was still alive when the U.N. trucks passed by, but they just kept on going.”

“I saw three trucks with Pakistani soldiers roll right past injured kids,” Alexander Joe of Agence France-Presse said. “The injured kids looked up at the Pakistanis as if to say, ‘Help,’ but they didn’t even look.”

“This is an absolute disaster,” a U.N. official said after the killings. “Before this, we had the moral high ground.”

Remember how angry you were last week when you saw pictures of our slain soldiers in Somalia? So how do you think the Somalis felt when they saw pictures of their slain children?

Four days after the massacre, President Clinton held a news conference. He strongly criticized Aidid for his killing of U.N. soldiers, but spoke not a word against the slaughter of Somalian civilians by U.N. forces.

This did not go unnoticed in Mogadishu.”

(Roger Simon, October 15, 1993, The Baltimore Sun)

Clinton may need some self-reflection.

The massacre very much appeared revenge killings for the June 5 attack on the Pakistani soldiers, when Somali women took part wielding knives and acting as human shields for warlord Aidid’s militia:

“The commander of the Pakistani peace-keeping contingent here – 23 of whose troops were ambushed and slain eight days ago by Somali gunmen – said his forces opened fire on the crowd today only after being shot at by the advancing Somalis. However, witnesses said they heard no shots before the concentrated Pakistani machine-gun fire.

It was the second straight day that Pakistani U.N. troops here opened fire on apparently unarmed demonstrators protesting United Nations-sponsored U.S. air attacks on arms depots and other installations associated with Somali clan leader and warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed in retaliation for his alleged role in instigating the June 5 attacks on the Pakistani troops.

Today’s violence seemed to confirm worries expressed by a number of U.N. and Western diplomats that some Pakistanis, angered over the slaying of their comrades last weekend, may be overreacting to Somali demonstrations and may even be eager for revenge. “The Pakistanis are very nervous,” one official said. “They are still upset about the attacks of Saturday, and obviously trigger fingers are a little itchy.”

U.N. military and diplomatic officials here have tried to explain the Pakistani action by saying that a favored technique of armed Somali militiamen here is to hide behind women who press in on unsuspecting troops.

This is apparently what occurred June 5 at a food distribution center near a crowded market, where Somali women diverted the attention of about a dozen Pakistani troops by surrounding them in close quarters, brandishing knives and acting as human shields for gunmen positioned behind them. Those Pakistanis tried shooting into the air, eventually ran out of ammunition and were overwhelmed by a mob that killed and mutilated several of them and held six others captive for two days.”

(“U.N. UNIT KILLS 14 SOMALI CIVILIANS”, by Keith B. Richburg, June 14, 1993, The Washington Post)

One can see that the hatred Somali civilians later unleashed against U.S. soldiers in the October 1993 Battle of Mogadishu had been exhibited against the Pakistani soldiers on June 5, thus calling into question the UN mission command’s judgment in initiating the armed operation on that earlier occasion.

But was it really the responsibility of April Catherine Glaspie, who obviously would not have been in a military command role?

Unfortunately, yes, it was concluded so:

“UNOSOM has four main divisions (see Diagram 5): Force Command, the Division for Humanitarian Relief and Rehabilitation (DHRR), the Division for Political Affairs, and the Justice Division.

These divisions are officially coordinated by, and report to, the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG). Since March 1993 the SRSG, and head of UNOSOM, is retired US Admiral Jonathan Howe. …

… Admiral Howe, a former National Security Advisor under Bush, seems to have been chosen to provide the continuity between the Bush and Clinton Administrations. …

Three political factions have developed in UNOSOM. One (‘the Hawks’) includes Howe, US adviser Teitlebaum, the American Ambassador Gosende, Generals Bir and Montgomery and, when she was in post, Howe’s senior adviser, April Glaspie (former US Ambassador to Iraq). It is this group which has dominated the policies of UNOSOM. It has been reported that Gosende and Glaspie were determined to marginalise Aideed, in preference for other more moderate leaders, such as General Mohamed Abshir.12  Glaspie has been identified as the one who approved the arms search of Radio Mogadishu which resulted in the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers on 5 June 1993.13 …”

(Mark Bradbury, 1994, Oxfam (UK and Ireland))

So, Americans would blame the United Nations, but over at the UN Somalia mission it was former Bush adviser Admiral Jonathan Howe in charge, and Clinton promotee Ms. April Glaspie in the role of senior adviser authorising an armed operation that turned out to trigger the escalating bloodsheds, and the U.S. military’s humiliating loss and subsequent withdrawal.

That was clearly a bad loss for President Clinton in international politics.

Clinton’s national education plan turned out not to be that successful, either, as I mentioned in my first blog article:

“When the new century, or rather the New Millennium as it was referred to by then, finally drew close the views on progress towards it were by no means universal. Some in fact were quite critical about perceived lack of progress in education despite the efforts: at the eve of the New Millennium, then The New York Times columnist Richard Rothstein described the movement toward “Goals 2000” as a failure’s shutout victory over the United States. 10

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

That said, the discussed matters in education or in politics were not the reasons, not directly anyway, of my being “nearly a decade late” in reviewing the history.

Immediately following the above quoted passage, I wrote the following in January 2009 about myself at the decade-earlier time, namely around the start of “the New Millennium”:

“Just before the New Millennium began I was joining the Silicon Valley in California (after another stint as an educator at the University of Hawaii, in Honolulu), arriving at the high-tech world among the dot-com and venture-capitalism rushes, which I wasn’t really part of. The ominous notion someone like me read and heard daily about the New Millennium at the time was not failure of education, but fears for Y2K (also called the ‘millennium bug’), and the tremendous amount of government and corporate efforts being made (and of course money being spent) to prevent disasters from materializing out of tiny numerical ‘legacies’ of computer programs. It was reported that one man in Ontario, Canada, had been preparing for the potential doomsday scenario for 20 years, burying 42 school buses deep underground as a home for himself. 11

Fortunately, when the New Year of 2000 finally came nothing of a catastrophic type happened, though among the worldwide euphoria of New Millennium celebrations one wondered if there might not be a few vampires arriving for the occasion and taking away with them some tormented souls. The U.S. government later reported only a number of small technical glitches at the moment of the arrival of the millennium, such as: …

At the Eve of New Year 2000, I myself was in a hotel in Hong Kong, having arrived in Hong Kong the morning of December 31, 1999, but prevented by unexpected shortage of bus seats from being able to get to Guangzhou (Canton) in mainland China, only 108 miles north, to be with my parents to welcome the new age at midnight. While lights were glittering in Hong Kong, it wasn’t so much in the hotel I was staying but there was a good-spirited celebration for the New Year countdown. I wondered at the time what it might be like at the moment of the New Year across the Chinese mainland border: the city directly across from Hong Kong was Shenzhen, the special economic zone where Chinese market-oriented economic reforms first began in 1979-80 which have transformed the country from reliance on Communist ideology to functioning as one of the main engines of the modern world economy; one of Shenzhen’s most thriving industries has been – you may not believe it – book printing for the rest of the world. 13

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

From what was later recalled, in late 1999 I was joining the Silicon Valley in California “among the dot-com and venture-capitalism rushes” and thus, as mentioned, would have been focused on high-tech and concerned with the myths of Y2K and related potential disasters at the turn of the New Millennium – more than with education or politics to write an article about at the time.

Yes and no.

Yes, because working in the computer industry was to be my career focus. However, over-preoccupation with potential disasters from technological glitches already seemed somewhat silly, like the above cited man in Ontario, Canada, who had spent 20 years building a safe home by “burying 42 school buses deep underground” – that turned out to be a waste of time.

That was about as much time, two decades, as China took transforming itself “from reliance on Communist ideology to functioning as one of the main engines of the modern world economy” as I commented – or at least when it came to “book printing for the rest of the world”.

And that was also only a few years more than I have now lived in the same Canadian province.

But no, I had other ideas as well around the start of the New Millennium: I also set up my own website with my first publicly posted article on – what else – education and politics.

As mentioned in the above quote, I had taught computer science at the University of Hawaii before joining Silicon Valley. Working as a university teacher in Honolulu, I had a webpage posting instructional materials – in the early years of the public World Wide Web.

Then, as the New Millennium began I decided to set up my first independent website, at Netscape.com, with a short article written in Chinese, recalling a decade earlier in 1989 teaching at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and watching TV news about, well, neither U.S. education nor international war that my first blog article later in January 2009 discussed, but pro-democracy protests on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.

I also connected with some aspiring young Chinese professionals, including several doing quite well at the first Miss China Internet competition, and sent them my website article for their reading.

The Miss China Internet competition was a nascent phenomenon promoting the fledgling Chinese World Wide Web, and a few years later for reasons unclear was discontinued, and is now largely forgotten. What is especially remarkable about the inaugural competition was that the top winner, Miss Fanhong Chen crowned in December 1999, had physical disabilities confining her to a wheelchair, could not perform some of the routines in traditional pageantry outside of computer and internet, and was nearly disqualified until popular support on the web pressured the organizing committee to revise the rules for her sake:

“On September 1, 1999, the first Ericsson Cup Qualification for Miss China Internet kicked off. Nearly 5,000 young females born in 1970s from different walks of life such as computer, communication, education and banking signed up. The selection was different from previous beauty contests in that the Organizing Committee highlighted that network knowledge and related understanding and application were the decisive factor and that participants must have their own homepage. Chen Fanhong, a girl from Zhejiang with the cyber name Cabbage Caterpillar, took the first place and won the title of first Miss China Internet.

Chen used to win awards in several network application contests and set up her own homepage Home to Cabbage Caterpillar in May 1998.

Meanwhile, due to her physical illness, she also participated in website building of the Health column of Ningbo Public Information Network. The contest fully displayed the charm of the first Miss China Internet as an intellectual woman in the new age. During the process of the contest, Chen was physically not allowed to participate in performance of rhythmic exercise and almost disqualified by the Organizating Committee for this reason. The twists and turns triggered the reflection and discussion on equality of people online and in reality. At last, with the support of the many netizens and efforts made by Zhejiang zone, on November 19, sponsor of China Internet Network Competition issued on its website an article titled … and Secretary General Hu Jiansheng made a statement on behalf of the Organizing Committee that Chen Fanhong was qualified to participate in the contest. The Committee eventually revised the grading method to encourage contestants to put into play their own unique talents. Chen Fanhong also posted an article titled … at her own website, hoping that issues such as equality of people online and in reality and true meaning of network could be further discussed in the following contest.”

(“History – 1999 – Key Events: On December 10, the first Miss China of Internet was born”, China Internet Museum)

I did not get to know the first Miss China Internet, only some who finished below her. In any case, in my email exchanges with the young Chinese professionals, and speaking to some of them when I visited China, they avoided discussing my website article.

And then at some point, all of a sudden and for no reason, the article on my Netscape.com website disappeared without a trace. Not expecting that, I had not kept a copy of my writing.

So that is an anecdote to do with being “nearly a decade late” in January 2009.

On the other hand, in January 2009 I was doing “blogging” for the first time, i.e., posting a “weblog” on a public blogging site.

In any case, the things discussed so far then became ‘small potatoes’, so to speak, when compared to what else soon happened around that decade-earlier time that took my, and the public’s, attention as I later described in January 2009:

“After the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States, the world’s attention focused on Al-Qaeda, and the George Bush, Jr. administration failed to link the attacks to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or find “weapon of mass destruction” in that country and instead found itself on the defensive regarding certain practices criticized as “manipulating intelligence”, such as in the case of alleged Iraqi import of “yellowcake” uranium from Niger, investigated by the State Department’s Joseph C. Wilson 25 who happened to have a past serving as the deputy chief of the U.S. embassy in Iraq headed by April Catherine Glaspie during the Iraq-Kuwait crisis in 1990. Many viewed the 2003 U.S.-led coalition operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein – without sanction of the United Nations 26 – as motivated by other agendas, such as President Bush’s desire to pursue “overarching triumph” of conservatism against perception of American weakness, who in doing so may have unwittingly brought back the “Vietnam Syndrome”. 27 There are however others who have continued to argue that the terrorist attacks may have been based on a broader network of involvement than the Al Qaeda per se, and that some sort of Iraqi role could not be ruled out. 28, 29

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

As told, the surprise terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, which brought down the World Trade Center in New York City and severely damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., focused the world’s attention on Al-Qaeda as well as on the subsequent second Gulf War launched by President George Bush, Jr. – son of President George H. W. Bush who had launched the first war in 1991 – to topple the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq; and Joseph C. Wilson, 4th, the former deputy of Ambassador April C. Glaspie in Iraq – of the first Gulf War origin controversy – was dispatched to Niger to find evidence of Hussein’s “weapon of mass destruction”.

Unlike Glaspie, Ambassador Wilson later publicly disputed with the U.S. government over whether such evidence was found, alleging that President Bush, Jr.’s administration “manipulated intelligence to build a case for war”:

“Wilson last year launched a public firestorm with his accusations that the administration had manipulated intelligence to build a case for war. He has said that his trip to Niger should have laid to rest any notion that Iraq sought uranium there and has said his findings were ignored by the White House.

Wilson’s assertions — both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information — were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.

The panel found that Wilson’s report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson’s assertions and even the government’s previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush’s January 2003 State of the Union address.

Yesterday’s report said that whether Iraq sought to buy lightly enriched “yellowcake” uranium from Niger is one of the few bits of prewar intelligence that remains an open question. Much of the rest of the intelligence suggesting a buildup of weapons of mass destruction was unfounded, the report said.”

(“Plame’s Input Is Cited on Niger Mission: Report Disputes Wilson’s Claims on Trip, Wife’s Role”, by Susan Schmidt, July 10, 2004, The Washington Post)

As reported, there was some controversy around interpretations of Mr. Wilson’s report, but no evidence of “weapon of mass destruction” was found by him and he made that clear publicly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Little wonder that, nearly a decade after these enormous events’ happening, the historical politics I focused on in my first blog article in January 2009 was about war and peace, rather than about pro-democracy protests.

Another historical anecdote at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks fitting both the theme of education and the theme of war and peace – as my first blog article on January 29, 2009 was – is what President George Bush, Jr. was caught doing at the time in 2001:

“On the morning of this day in 2001, President George W. Bush was at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota County, Florida, reading “The Pet Goat” to inner-city first graders and listening as the children recited the story back to him.

Earlier, Bush had been on the way from his hotel to the school in his motorcade when an aide called him to report that a passenger jet had crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. Bush said he initially believed that the crash was an accident caused, perhaps, by pilot error.

At 9:06 a.m. Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, entered the classroom. Without alarming the children, he quietly told the president that a second airplane had struck the South Tower and that the nation was under attack.

Bush remained seated for seven more minutes, following along as the children finished reading the book. He then commended them on their reading skills and encouraged them to continue to read more and to watch less television. He then posed for photos with the children, their teacher and school administrators.

While cameras clicked, a pool reporter asked him if he was aware of the attacks. “I’ll talk about it later,” Bush replied.”

(“Bush reads ‘The Pet Goat’ to schoolchildren, Sept. 11, 2001”, by Andrew Glass, September 11, 2015, Politico)

So President Bush was teaching children at the Emma E. Booker elementary school, reading the book, “The Pet Goat”, to them – clearly admirable presidential standard his father would have heartily approved.

Well, not really teaching, or even reading that time. President Bush was nearly nonverbal in that appearance, but smilingly listened to the pupils reading aloud their words for that lesson ending with “Kite, Kit, Steal, Playing, Must”, and proceeding to read “The Pet Goat” when White House chief of staff Andrew Card came in to give him bad news. He then continued to listen to the kids reading aloud from the book while staring at his copy. (“President Bush at Emma E. Booker Elementary School on 9/11/2001”, September 11, 2001, Getty Images)

President George W. Bush was not a polished communicator; but if others liked the messenger, or plainly liked the message they would, well, ‘keep the goat’. Speech and communication expert Richard Greene held that opinion:

“Veteran speech consultant and communications expert Richard Greene doesn’t mince words when it comes to criticizing President Bush as a public speaker. “He is the least articulate president that I’ve ever seen or I’ve ever listened to,” Greene told Salon, just before Bush’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. “He is a horrible communicator.”

Greene admits that Bush didn’t deliver the ultimate case for war with Iraq – but he says that’s not what the speech was meant to do. “Here’s the great truth about selling a case, whether it’s front of a jury or in front of the world like Bush was Tuesday night: If you like the messenger, if you feel a connection to the messenger, you will be receptive to the message. And his job last night was to make people like him and be more receptive to the message that was to come.” Bush pulled it off, Greene says.”

(““Horrible” speaker, great speech”, by Edward W. Lempinen, January 31, 2003, Salon)

In early 2009 when I began blogging, there was of course great euphoria with the November 2018 election of Barack Obama, the first African American to win the U.S. presidency, and with President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 that garnered everyone’s attention; and so I noted:

“… Only one year ago the prevailing wisdom was that Barack Obama would not become U.S. president, but with the slogan “Yes We Can!” Obama triumphed.”

(“Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late (Part 2)”, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

My first blog article also mentioned something less well known but relevant in this respect, that had taken place not long after the start of the New Millennium:

“When the New Millennium began, I and others didn’t know that in a couple of years, in 2002, a young American man by the name of Mark Ndesandjo, originally from Kenya, would move to Shenzhen and make his life there as a businessman and piano performer, and that – something many people today still don’t know – this young man is half brother of 2008 U.S. President Elect Barack Obama. 14

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

As noted, six years before the election of President Obama a half-brother of his, Mark Ndesandjo, had moved to work and live in the Chinese special economic zone of Shenzhen.

Education being a focus, in my first blog article I devoted most of its second half to the story of the mathematician John Nash, for the reason that, while he is widely known as a ‘mad’ mathematical genius, it had been Nash’s obsession with starting “a world peace movement”, namely his intense interest in international peace politics, that got him into the supposed ‘madness’:

“… The 1998 book “A Beautiful Mind” by The New York Times correspondent Sylvia Nasar about the mysterious but often sad life stories of the mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., told of the tremendous interest on the part of the University of Chicago’s mathematics department including the mathematician Shiing-shen Chern, a patriarch figure in mathematics, 64 toward an up-and-coming, flamboyant but abrasive John Nash in 1958-1959, who at the time was on the faculty of MIT but was fancying himself as the “the prince of peace”, the leader of a great movement for world peace, and “the left foot of God”; 65 when Prof. Adrian Albert of the University of Chicago made an offer of a “prestigious chair” to John Nash, Nash responded that he had to decline because he was “scheduled to become Emperor of Antarctica”. 66 Such undiplomatic response and related uttering prompted then MIT president Julius Stratton to call John Nash “a very sick man”. 67 Nash, however, confidently told others that he was receiving encrypted, important political “messages” communicating to him through The New York Times. 68

So in early 1959 the very promising mathematician John Nash chose not to go to Chicago, staying at MIT in Boston and talking out loud about forming a world peace movement, but soon (on or around April 8, 1959), he was involuntarily sent to McLean Hospital, committed and diagnosed as suffering from ‘paranoid schizophrenia’. 69

John Nash nevertheless did not really believe that he had a mental illness. …”

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

As told, John Nash was trying to start a world peace movement in early 1959 when he was diagnosed as suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia” – five decades earlier from when I wrote the above in 2009.

About the Nash saga, I noted a marked difference between the real-life story in the 1998 book “A Beautiful Mind” and the story in the later movie adaptation, that in the movie Nash’s obsession to start a world peace movement became instead fancying himself as secretly working for national security:

“… This sad story has been dramatized somewhat differently in the Ron Howard movie adaptation of “A Beautiful mind”, with Nash portrayed by actor Russell Crowe, in which Nash was fancying himself as having been invited to work for a shadowy, secretive agency that was probably part of the Pentagon, analyzing data related to national security. 70 In the real-world story according to Sylvia Nasar’s book, Nash’s claim was that he received messages through The New York Times, and although years before his world-peace ideas Nash had done some consulting work for the military and political think-tank the RAND Corporation, his association with RAND ended at the height of the McCarthy era in 1954 when he was napped by the police for engaging in homosexual activity. 71

(Part 2, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

Perhaps adherence to political correctness can be for every stripe, especially when the movie’s world premiere happened to be three months following the September 11 terrorist attacks, in December 2001 – on December 13, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

(“World Premiere of ‘A Beautiful Mind’ Set for Thursday, December 13 At The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences”, December 6, 2001, Universal Pictures, seeing-stars.com)

In January 2009 there was also some of my own family history to write about, when it involved early Chinese Christian heritage that was a consequence of historical events of war and peace:

“… While India, where Rev. John Welch Dulles served as an American Presbyterian missionary from 1849 to 1852, 49 was a British colony under the control of the East India Company, China never lost its national independence and during the first half of 19th century was practically closed to the outside world, with the southern city of Canton as its sole trading port with the West…

… Eventually, it was the Opium War of 1839-1842 that forced China to open more ports for trade, cede the island of Hong Kong to Britain (later Macao to Portugal), and subsequently permit Christianity to be preached and legally practiced in that country. 56, 57

My sister Ning, cousin Ying and I, our maternal family’s heritage had close links to the arrivals of Protestant missionaries in China, to the German-Swiss Lutheran and English Presbyterian missionaries (and with interaction to the American Baptist missionaries), and to the ups-and-downs of western missionaries in southern China; the years 1849-1852 when Rev. John Welch Dulles served in India, happened to be the same years when one of the two first-ever Swiss Basel missionaries to China founded and led his first church in the mainland of China – in a small coastal village that happened to be our maternal grandmother’s ancestral village – before his expulsion by the local government and subsequent concentration on proselytizing among a different regional population who were closely affiliated with the Taiping Rebellion. 58, 59

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

And then, the election of the first African-American U.S. president also brought to attention some history of slavery relevant to China:

“When Rev. Robert Morrison of Scotland came from London to Canton, China in 1807 – the first Protestant missionary in history to come to the country and practically the first western missionary of his time to do so – slave trade was being abolished in Britain but slavery remained legal in the British Empire. 52, 53 It was with the East India Company Rev. Morrison came to Canton, and he stayed for decades within the confine of the Company, working as a Chinese language translator while on the side labouring on the first Chinese version of the Bible; and when Rev. Morrison died in Canton on August 1, 1834, at a premature age of 52, it happened to be on the very same day when all slaves officially became “apprenticed labourers” in the British Empire by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 – but with the notable exception of the territories of the East India Company. 54, 55 …”

(Part 1, January 29, 2009, Feng Gao’s Space: Analysis of Current Affairs, Politics and History)

By this point, readers may have noticed that my first blog article had many labelled footnotes. As a matter of fact, many of the footnotes were, could be, or were intended to be little stories in themselves – several of the quotes and discussions in the present article have originated from these footnotes – but would have made my first blog article too long, and too much to bear.

Instead, soon on February 20, 2009, I started posting my second blog article, or more precisely a series of blog posts through the year 2009, this time focusing on Canadian politics.

(Continuing to Part 2)

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Filed under Education, History, News and politics, Peace activism, Politics, Technology, War and peace

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