May 19, 2020

President Trump’s COVID-19 Catch-22

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — It was in the winter of 1962, on a short weekend trip from Mexico City to San Francisco, that I first came across a novel written by a former World War II pilot.

The novel follows Captain John Yossarian, a B-25 United States Air Force bombardier stationed on the Italian island of Pianosa, as he struggles to complete the requisite number of missions required for discharge. Every time he gets close, the number gets raised.

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May 7, 2020

It’s Time for Iran to Release Siamak Namazi

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — Forty years ago last month, the relationship between the United States and Iran went on lock down.

By April of 1980, it had been five months since Iranian students had overrun the U.S. embassy in Tehran and taken fifty-two U.S. diplomats hostage. President Jimmy Carter, intent on preserving diplomatic channels to communicate with the new Iranian regime — technically a provisional government of Iranian revolutionaries, but in truth controlled by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his band of mad mullahs — had allowed Iran’s embassy in Washington to remain open. But after weeks of fruitless attempts at negotiation, Carter had had enough. The U.S. froze Iranian assets and ended diplomatic relations.

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April 18, 2020

Living a Different Irony, but the Same Agony, as the Spanish Flu

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — This is the part of the story that I cannot get over, the magical part that is hard to believe, even now. In December of 1918, in the middle of the deadliest pandemic in history, which had taken more lives in their South Philadelphia neighborhood than any other American city, my parents did something profoundly hopeful in the face of tragedy.

They got married.

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July 18, 2019

North Korea: What Would Harry Truman Do?

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — Early in his presidency, Harry Truman received a distinguished visitor at the White House: Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist known as the “father of the atomic bomb.”

Oppenheimer, as Truman biographer David McCullough recounts, was “in a state of obvious agitation” about helping to create a weapon that had wreaked such devastation on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That didn’t sit well with Truman; the president couldn’t stand Oppenheimer’s “self-pitying, ‘cry-baby’ attitude,” according to McCullough. “The blood is on my hands,” he told Oppenheimer, “Let me worry about that.”

For Truman, the “buck stops here” wasn’t just a saying. He was a man who said what he did — and did what he said. His friends and enemies alike could trust that he would keep his promises and follow through on his threats. Above all, he made tough decisions and took full ownership of their consequences.

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June 21, 2019

Playing the Trump Card in Iran

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — Before we consider why Iran may or may not have attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week (it definitely did), whether it attacked four other tankers in international waters near the United Arab Emirates last month (it probably did), and why it shot down a United States drone this week that it claimed had entered Iranian airspace (which it likely did, but the U.S. denies), let’s talk about the man in Tehran who calls the shots on decisions like these: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

You probably know that Khamenei is the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, meaning he has the final say on all matters of state. You probably know that he has been running the country from the shadows for 30 years, that he preaches moderation in public, and that he routinely denounces Western-style capitalism as corrupt. What you probably don’t know is that as the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration bite further into Iran’s economy, Khamenei — along with his fellow ruling imams and a small group of state-connected cronies — are desperate to have their fellow countrymen focus on anything but them.

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March 22, 2019

The Real Threat from North Korea

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — It reads like the plot of an Avengers movie in which the good guys fail to stop a cataclysmic event and America is thrown into catastrophic and irreversible ruin.

A sneak attack renders military bases across the country unable to function. Our national electric grid, including backup generators, completely fails, taking out everything — from fresh water and sewage management to cell service, emergency hospital generators, and all means of communication — along with it. Without electricity to cool them, 99 nuclear reactors across America completely melt down, sending radioactive clouds into the atmosphere while choking millions in the communities around them. Within hours, riots and civil unrest engulf every city, as anxiety and fear give way to looting and rioting.

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January 21, 2019

How President Trump Can Get Out of the Border Wall Mess

by Stanley A. Weiss

WASHINGTON-While few Americans know who he was or how he’s connected to the debate raging over President Donald Trump’s border wall, the first time I heard the name Jacobo Arbenz was the fall of 1953, when I was a young American building a mining business in Mexico.
A mutual friend had introduced me to a young journalist named Flora Lewis and her husband, Sydney Gruson, who was the New York Times’ correspondent in Mexico. Since the newspaper had a rule then that married couples couldn’t both work there – which “she understood, but didn’t like,” – she became a freelance writer.

She crossed the border into Guatemala for a story on Arbenz, the country’s democratically-elected president. A reformer and admirer of Franklin Roosevelt, Arbenz was a democratic-socialist elected on a platform of agrarian land reform. With the US-Soviet Cold War heating up and America fearful of a Russian beachhead in Central America, Flora Lewis was dispatched to determine whether Guatemala, as she wrote, was “the one place in the Americas where devoted, angry-tongued Communists have deeply entrenched themselves,” including in the presidency itself.

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December 21, 2018

America Needs a 21st Century Defense Budge

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-If President Donald Trump gets his way, our first line of defense against a Russian invasion of Europe might well be the Greek army.

It would, of course, be a spectacularly short battle. On one side: Russian tanks, missiles, and aircraft, all built for a European war. On the other: aging Greek pensioners wielding weapons designed to fight Greece’s supposed arch-rival, Turkey – not a military superpower.

That Greece is woefully unprepared to fight the Russian military is likely no surprise. But if you had picked one member of NATO to take on Russia based on President Trump’s favorite measure – how much that country spends on defense as a percentage of its gross domestic product – Greece would be second only to the United States.  But Greece spends over 70 percent of those defense expenditures on personnel, including pensions for retirees; meanwhile, Denmark spends a smaller percentage on defense but is one of the top NATO troop contributors in Afghanistan.

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December 6, 2018

Erdoğan is Not Our Friend

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-In 1941, Uncle Sam made a new friend.

His name was Uncle Joe. Uncle Sam and Uncle Joe shared the same goals. Uncle Sam was determined to beat the Nazis; so was Uncle Joe. Uncle Sam was making huge sacrifices on the battlefields of Europe. So was Uncle Joe. Uncle Sam was powerful enough to define the world order that emerged from World War II. So was Uncle Joe.

There was just one problem: Uncle Joe was Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator whose iron rule led to mass imprisonments and executions at home. But when Stalin joined the Allies to fight against the Nazis, common cause soon led Americans to overlook Stalin’s cruelty and forget his signing of a non-aggression pact with Hitler’s Germany. It was FDR who began to call him“Uncle Joe.” Hollywood churned out pro-Stalin movies. One Department of Defense propaganda poster showed a smiling Russian soldier, captioned: “this man is your friend.”

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June 23, 2018

In Mexico, Beware the Clash of the Populists

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-“Let’s kill the Americans!”

It was December 7, 1941, and my friend Jack Vietor – a magazine publisher and heir to the Jell-O fortune – was staying in a hotel in the city of Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and America declared war. But much to Jack’s surprise, the mob that showed up in the town plaza wasn’t chanting about Japan, or Germany. They were wielding machetes and shouting, “Let’s kill the Gringos!”

The crowd had seen the headlines announcing that Mexico had declared war – and automatically assumed the headlines referred to the United States. Jack hid under his bed, terrified, until the hotel owner assured him everything was okay.

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