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Treading the fine line between past and present, This Week, in History is a round-up of the latest historical events and findings which continue to impact the world today. This week, we look at the city of New Orleans as if confronts its Confederate past, how the NSA spied on Japan and retro Irish advertisements.
New Orleans Begins the Process of Removing its Confederate Memorials
The removal has commenced of four controversial Confederate monuments from the streets of New Orleans on Monday after the proposal was first raised almost thirty-six years ago. Led by the city’s Mayor, Mitch Landrieu, the Liberty Place obelisk was the first to be taken down and temporarily relocated to a government storage facility, until it can be “placed in a proper context” in the near future.
The forty foot obelisk, erected in 1891 has acted as a memorial for the Democratic-Conservative Crescent City White League who fought in the Battle of Liberty Place on September 14th 1874 during the Reconstruction-era. The League, consisting of Confederate veterans enraged by the threat of racial integration clashed with the Republican Metropolitan Police and state militia. In the end, despite losing 19 men, they won the battle and proceeded to remove the state governor, William Pitt Kellogg for a total of three days. In response, then president Ulysses S. Grant demanded federal troops intervene, successfully doing so while also reinstating Kellogg.
Seventeen years later, the monument was raised on Canal Street as a symbol of Confederate resistance. Then, in 1932 a plaque was added, declaring that the “national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” This was only replaced with a new message in 1993, which sought to dedicate the monument to the fallen on both sides. However, simply altering the ideological slant of the plaque seemed only a temporary move to the greater cause, which was getting rid of it entirely.
Attempts to remove the monument began in 1981, but they only gained some traction in the 1990’s when the city council voted 6 to 1 to have it placed in storage. It had become a notorious gathering point for members of the Ku Klux Klan, then led by David Duke, but naturally voices of dissent emerged, dismayed at the idea of erasing the negative aspects of the United States. Protests though, were not confined to far right groups.
Writing in a 1992 edition of the Times-Picayune, NPR’s Vice President for Diversity in News and Operations Keith Woods stated,
“Put the Liberty Monument back. Do it to preserve the truth. Do it for white children. Black parents will always have to explain prejudice, with or without monuments. We can go on hiding each new shameful monument to failed race relations. But one day, we’ll run out of warehouse space. And then what?”
When the proposal was raised again in December of 2015, as a reaction to the racially charged Charlestown massacre carried out by Dylann Roof, this time the onus was on Mayor Landrieu who had previously tried at classifying the obelisk a public nuisance. Again, uproar sprang from within the Confederate community as city council was confronted with a petition containing 31,000 signatures all opposed the idea. Still the Mayor persevered until Monday last, when at 1.30am council workers, whose identities were concealed to ensure their own safety brought down the monument while a candle-light vigil stood by.
NSA! Gotta Catch ‘Em All
Glenn Greenwald’s online investigative magazine The Intercept alongside Edward Snowden and Japanese television network NHK have uncovered new information surrounding Japan’s relationship with the National Security Agency (NSA) following the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s downing of Korean Airlines Flight 007 on September 1st, 1983.
The attack, which resulted from the commercial airliner briefly entered Soviet airspace prompted Russian forces to dispatch two fighter jets from Dolinsk-Sokol to “destroy the intruder”. Struck by a missile, Flight 007 crashed into the sea a few miles north of Japan. All two hundred and sixty nine passengers and crew on board were killed.
On the day, the Soviet Union’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Gromyko gave this response,
“An unidentified plane coming from the direction of the Pacific Ocean, entered the airspace of the Soviet Union over the Kamchatka Peninsula and then for the second time violated the Soviet airspace over the Sakhalin Island. The plane did not have navigation lights, did not respond to queries and did not enter into contact with the radio control service.
“Fighters of the Anti-Aircraft Defense, which were sent aloft towards the intruder plane, tried to give it assistance in directing it to the nearest airfield. But the intruder plane did not react to the signals and warnings from the Soviet fighters and continued its flight in the direction of the Sea of Japan.”
The next day, the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union repeated this claim, noting that warning shots had been fired because the jet was not using its navigational lights. Then, on the 4th, Soviet General Grigory Romanov stated that this error was the reason for the jet’s crashing.
Although the Soviet Union adamantly denied their involvement in the attack, The Intercept found that a Japanese spy base had managed to tap Russian communications proving their involvement. However, according to NSA documents given by Snowden, once the U.S. attempted to obtain these recordings, they were unable to do so without prior approval by a “shadowy Japanese surveillance group” known as “G2 Annex”.
Amidst a dispute between the two allies, eventually the U.S. were granted access to the recordings, which were sent to Washington, before being forwarded on to the U.S Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick on September 6th. Kirkpatrick then proceeded to denounce the Soviet Union at a U.N. Security Council for their telling of “lies, half lies and excuses” surrounding its role in the strike. Going on to play back the recording for the council, in doing so, she exposed Japan’s intelligence services, creating a major setback in the NSA’s relationship with Japan until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The release of these classified papers shed further light on the NSA’s six decade relationship with Japan, as it revealed that the agency had been granted a presence in at least three US military bases; the Hardy Barracks in Minato, Yokota in Fussa and Misawa, while the Japanese government had also provided over half a billion dollars in financial support to the organisation. In exchange, the NSA agreed to equip Japanese spies with additional “surveillance tools and shared intelligence”, while also using this opportunity to spy on Japanese officials and institutions.
… and finally, the Irish Film Institute launches the Irish Adverts Project
Classic advertisements, otherwise known as your mother’s final solution to thaw the icy mood created at the family Christmas dinner table after grandmother has been called a Nazi by cousin Jonathan who found Marx during his Freshers week at college.
Now, mother can relax a little, as the Irish Film Institute has offered to help us all build up a sufficient knowledge on the subject with the launch of The Irish Adverts Project, which has seen the restoration and cataloging of over 8,000 rolls of 35mm film, all containing Irish advertisements from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. Featuring a nun thanking the heavens for Odlums, woeful puns and jingles courtesy of Spar, Miriam O’Callaghan praising the creaminess of Avonmore and another woman complimenting said company on their ability to design a milk carton that is “a nice size for handling”, this is nostalgic viewing at its peak.