Connected by the Internet


The End of the Millennium Was not the End of the World...

The Internet: Transforming Society and Shaping the Future Through Chat.

- Dave Barry

The future has already arrived.  It's just not evenly distributed yet.

- William Gibson

For Stability, a Country Must Have Enemies to Unite Her as Well as Friends to Help

I will start this decade with a mention of the Gulf War.  On 17 July 1990, Saddam Hussein gave an ultimatum to Kuwait to forgive her debts (acquired during the Iran-Iraq war), to help pay for reconstruction and to stabilise oil prices - or face invasion.  He argued that Kuwait, which had become independent from Iraq in 1961 with Britain’s assistance, was still Iraq’s 13th province, that Iraq had waged war against Iran for the benefit of Kuwait and other Arab countries and that Kuwait had taken the valuable coastline on the Persian Gulf that Iraq now lacked.  He further accused Kuwait of oil overproduction and theft of oil from the Rumaila Oil Field.  A week later, the US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, told Hussein that the Iraq/Kuwait dispute was "an Arab matter", not one that affected the United States.  So Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2.  President George H W Bush frozes Iraqi and Kuwatti assets.  Shortly, economic sanctions were authorised.  Secretary of Defense Cheney visited Saudi Arabia.  Fighter squadrons were dispatched.  France and the USSR pressed for nonmilitary solutions (in part because Hussein offered free oil supplies to the USSR).

In defiance, Iraq annexed Kuwait.  The UN declared the annexation invalid.  Bush authorized calling up the reserves.  Hussein said he was willing to negotiate the occupation of Kuwait and would consider foreign participation in negotiations.  Libya's Qadhafi said Israel needed to be eliminated. The USSR showed reluctance to endorse the use of force against Iraq.  In November, the Democrats filed suit in Washington to force Bush to seek Congressional approval of military operations (this was ultimately unsuccessful).  Bush invited Tariq Aziz to Washington and offered to send Secretary of State James Baker to Baghdad - instead, the two men met in Geneva for over 6 hours but that meeting produced no results.

In January 1991 Congress voted to allow for US troops to be used in offensive operations.  On the 16th, Marlin Fitzwater announced, "The liberation of Kuwait has begun..."  The air war started 17 January with an Apache helicopter attack.  US warplanes attacked Baghdad, Kuwait and other military targets in Iraq.  Iraq launched SCUD Missile attacks.  Jordan's King Hussein lashed out against American bombardments and supported Iraq.

In February, US Bombers destroyed a bunker complex in Baghdad with several hundred citizens inside.  Nearly 300 people died.  Tariq Aziz travelled to Moscow to discuss a possible negotiated end to the war.  Ground war began with Marines, Army and Arab forces moving into Iraq and Kuwait.

In March, Iraqi leaders formally accepted cease fire terms and the US combat forces returned home.  General Schwarzpkopf allowed Iraqis use of helicopters which later suppressed Kurdish and Shiite revolts.  More than 300 tons of depleted uranium were fired by USA and UK aircraft and tanks.  In March and April uprisings of Kurds in the North and Shiites in the South were encouraged by the US - but the US did not give the expected direct aid, worried that Shiite independence would lead to unification with Iran and unrest in Saudi Arabia.  The Southern revolt was crushed; 1.5 million Kurds fled into northeast Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

In June 1996, a CIA-backed coup attempt against Saddam Hussein was foiled and 80 participants were executed.  The UN introduced the oil-for-food program, which allowed limited oil exports in return for food and medicine.  But life remained difficult for Iraqis - services deteriorated, living standards declined and unemployment rose.  In December 1998 the US and UK launched a bombing campaign, "Operation Desert Fox", to destroy Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.  More than 100 air strikes took place during 1999 and continued regularly over the next years.  Weakened by decades of war and sanctions, the economy was in tatters.  Unemployment and inflation were rampant, and the economy was contracting.  Hussein's regime, however, maintained its hold.

In 2000, several countries, notably France, Russia, and Jordan, protested the continuation of UN sanctions by sending humanitarian flights containing food and medicine.  But conditions for lifting the sanctions called for UN weapons inspections, which Iraq resisted.  By 2003, Iraq was under heavy threat of US-led international intervention, as Hussein's regime was strongly suspected of concealing chemical and biological weapons and evading inspections.  By all indications, the Iraqi economy remained in tatters.

With Iraq holding some 40% of the world's known oil reserves, foreign powers and exiled opposition groups mulled plans for postwar reconstruction.

Is It the Oil?

"Welcome to the Post-Cold-War Era,"
10 August 1990 published by the Washington Post Source:

In early August 1990 Iraqi soldiers invaded and annexed Kuwait, threatening Saudi Arabia and stranding more than 3,000 American citizens.  US President George Bush identified the "integrity of Saudi Arabia" as a "vital interest," and called the invasion of Kuwait "unacceptable."  Initial US military deployment to the Persian Gulf theatre of war began.  Herb Block saw in Hussein's aggressive action the opening salvo of a new global era of tension and hostility played out across the oil rich sands of the Middle East.

"It's the Speak-Loudly-and-Poke-'em-with-a-Big-Stick Policy,"
26 August 2001 published by the Washington Post Source:

This is the last cartoon Herb Block drew in August 2001.  He criticised what he perceived as US President George W Bush's tendency toward unilateralism in American foreign policy.  His satirical swipe alluded to President Theodore Roosevelt's appropriation of an African proverb to describe his approach toward foreign relations: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."


This Was My Favourite Millennium Cartoon
It was created by Tom Toles when he worked for the Buffalo News.
Toles later transferred to the
Washington Post- where he replaced long-time political cartoonist Herbert Block.

I would like to take the opportunity to mention the one achievement of this period that I feel has had profound and far-reaching positive effects - that is the world-wide access to and acceptance of the Internet.  I am amazed at the amount of information I now have at my fingertips - more that my neighbourhood library had when I was young.  It has changed my life deeply.  In the long term, I presume the total changes it has brought will be seen as for the better, though it the short term is may mainly serve to remind some people of what there is to be had that they will never get.

Last Five Years of the Net in the 20th Century

by Danny Bradbury

Just a decade ago, the $3 billion flotation of Netscape signalled the start of the mass internet age.  The web has conquered the world - and changed our lives...

1995 - Browsers and Portals

On 9 August Netscape floated, ushering in a 5-year boom.  The $3 billion flotation was the most spectacular in a series of commercial landmarks that included the launch of (in July) and direct internet services from CompuServe (April) and AOL (October), which allowed subscribers to the different services to exchange e-mails.  But it was the mass availability of Netscape's user-friendly browser (launched in 1994) that brought the internet to ordinary people with PCs and Macs rather than specialists with Unix terminals.

bulletAnnual fee introduced for the registration of domain names.
bulletMicrosoft starts giving away Internet Explorer 1.0 with its Windows 95 operating system.
bulletRealAudio launched.
bulletThe Vatican releases a web site.
bulletAltaVista search engine launched.

1996 - Online Travel Took Off

Expedia and Travelocity launched their online travel services in the US.  Pioneers of the internet phenomenon of "disintermediation" (cutting out the middleman), these sites paved the way for no-frills airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair (which went online in 1998 and 2000 respectively) to sell their services at hitherto unimaginably low prices.  The ease, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of internet booking has subsequently brought scores of once exotic locations within financial range of British travellers, transforming local economies around the world.

bulletIsraeli company Mirabilis introduced instant messaging with its ICQ service.
bulletYahoo floated.  Company value hit $1 billion.
bulletNetscape's share of browser market peaked at 87%.  (Internet Explorer had 4%.)
bulletTesco began Tesco Direct service.
bulletEbay's AuctionWeb received its millionth bid and is renamed eBay.

1997 - The Boom

AOL's subscriber base reached 10 million (up from 5 million in 1996), while recorded its millionth customer.  The latter's initial public offering (which raised $54 million) highlit the potential of e-commerce.  The scramble for web "presence" accelerated.  Its importance had already been seen in December 1996, when Harrods won the right to use the domain name from a cybersquatter who had tried to charge it £100,000 for the privilege.  In January the domain sold for $150,000.  Two years later it sold again for $7.5 million.

bulletNASA's website received 46 million hits when Pathfinder sent back pictures from Mars.
bulletFirst recorded use of the term "weblog" to describe an online journal (by Jorn Barger).
bulletMembers of online Heaven's Gate cult committed mass suicide.

1998 - Rise of Search Engines

Google, started by two Stanford graduates, initially served 10,000 queries per day, but within a year was answering 3 million.  Today it serves over 250 million per day - almost half of all US-originated queries - and indexes 8 billion pages.

bulletOnline Drudge Report broke the story of the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship.  When the Starr Report into the scandal was released online 8 months later, the internet had its busiest day ever.
bulletLaunches of Egg online banking,, and
bulletEvery nation in the world was by now online.

1999 - File-Sharing

Student Shawn Fanning launched the Napster peer-to-peer service, enabling computers to share files directly with each other.  Within months, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) began legal action for copyright infringement.  Further lawsuits followed and, although its user base reached 26 million by 2001, Napster died out, selling its name to Roxio.

bulletSETI@Home service was launched, using spare computing power on PCs worldwide to analyse radio signals from space for signs of alien life.
bulletBlackBerry launched in US.
bulletMelissa virus infected 1 million PCs worldwide.
bulletA list of MI6 agents was released on the web.
bulletTesco launched online shopping.
bulletEgg launched UK's first internet credit card.
bulletUS Department of Commerce described online sales as "a major indicator of [US] economic health".

2000 - The Bubble Burst

AOL agreed to a $350 billion merger with "old media" giant Time Warner.  The Nasdaq new-tech share index peaked at 5,048.62.  By the end of 2002 the index had fallen to 1,114.11 - and AOL/Time Warner posted a loss of $99 billion.  Time Warner dropped AOL from its name the following year.

bulletThe "I Love You" worm became the costliest in the history of the internet.
bulletPopbitch celebrity gossip website launched.
bulletThe scientist Laurence Godfrey won £15,000 in damages from Demon Internet for failing to remove "squalid, obscene and defamatory" remarks about him. was valued at £800m on flotation.

Source: © 2005 Independent News and Media (NI)

The internet years falling in the 21st century may be found near the end of the 2nd page following this one.

Berlin Holocaust Memorial

I put these photos up because I thought the visual effect was stunning and I liked the fact that the memorial was located in the heart of Berlin.  My complaint is that the Jewish victims have mourners with money and power enough to see that something like this is erected.  But I feel the monument should also have commemorated the 5 million other victims of the Nazis, including Poles, homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others - and I can see little reason why it didn't.  I don't understand why all victims are not honoured equally as a show of solidarity to all who underwent such a terrible experience.  Someone may feel they are more special in life - but death is the great leveller.  In the military section of the large cemetery near my house, all ranks are buried together under the same size tombstones.  It gives a peaceful positive feeling - like, worldly concerns aside now, they're all valued friends (see Their Boundless Energy Flagged at Last)...

Perimeter landscaping would help

Some appear to be much shorter than others...

This is my favourite

This provides a good perspective

The Information Center is located beneath the slabs.  This is a modest, functional and overwhelming site - 5 big rooms.  In the first, the rise and crimes of the Nazis in sparse, dry words, accompanied by photos.  I was relieved to notice that the description does not omit the mass-murder committed by the Nazis against non-Jews - Roma and Sinti, the mentally ill, homosexuals, Slavic "subhumans", prisoners-of-war and German opponents of the regime.

If I had been asked, I would have devoted a special room to enlargements of the faces of the Germans - soldiers, policemen, ordinary citizens - who are clearly recognisable in the photos of the annihilation in all its stages, shouting, mistreating, laughing, doing their job, which happened to be murder. In the rooms, total silence.  Even the children were quiet.  I looked at the faces of the Germans when they came out of this underground site.  They looked shattered, talking in whispers.  Some recorded their feelings in the guestbook: "shocking", "impossible to grasp", "how could this have happened?", "we must make sure this cannot happen again."

When I returned home, I heard that a fight had broken out between some private initiative to fly young Israelis to Auschwitz and the Ministry of Education.  The ministry wants to retain the monopoly on organising these flights, which serve to indoctrinate youngsters with a hate-filled nationalism, in the spirit of the song All the World is Against Us.

Source: from Wagner at the Holocaust Memorial by Uri Avnery 24 May 2005

Going to the Heart of the Holocaust

Berlin - Thousands of bullet-gray concrete blocks rise crookedly from the earth like fresh gravestones along what was once barren no man's land surrounding the Berlin Wall.  Deep underground is the wartime bunker built for Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister.  The site of the razed Reich Chancellery, where Adolf Hitler plotted the extermination of the Jews, is about 100 yards away.

60 years after the end of World War II in Europe, Berlin officials unveiled a monument to the Holocaust in the centre of the German capital.  The Memorial was built after years of wrenching argument in Germany over how far the nation must still go to acknowledge its responsibility for the crimes of the Third Reich.  Its detractors have slammed the design - an open graveyard-like field of rectangular charcoal-gray pillars - as ugly, overly abstract and a sitting duck for vandals.  From a distance, the site looks like a dusky, placid ocean.  As one descends on uneven, sloping ground into the memorial, the concrete blocks grow more imposing, tilt at irregular angles, and street noise fades.  "The experience is intended to create feelings of unease and loneliness.  The field looks like it's reasonable, lined up, then you find the stones are not perfectly horizontal or vertical.  There is a warping sensation - it's unsettling - when you get into it it's out of control," said the designer, American architect Peter Eisenman.  "The power of the field is that you can only experience it by going inside," said Guenter Schlusche, a consultant on the project.  "At first, people just see a mass of concrete blocks," he continued. "It's much, much more.  Once you get inside, you feel alone.  You lose your normal ways of orientation."

The memorial is a maze of 2,711 unadorned concrete rectangular slabs that cover a city block not far from the Brandenburg Gate and the construction site of the new US Embassy.  The slabs tilt slightly as the ground rises and falls.  Visitors must find their way through the labyrinth.  Organisers said the number of slabs had no symbolic significance but was dictated by the size of the site.  At the request of the government, the dark field of pillars has been complemented with an underground information centre which documents the stories of individual Jews killed by the Third Reich.

In 2001, the memorial foundation was forced to pull down fund-raising posters which awkwardly tried to grab the attention of passers-by with the title "The Holocaust never happened."  And in October 2003, construction was briefly interrupted after it emerged that the parent of Degussa, the company supplying anti-graffiti protection for the memorial's pillars, provided Zyklon B gas pellets used in Nazi extermination camps.  Along this bumpy road, skeptics have questioned what the pillars have to do with the Holocaust, attacked the decision to put the memorial in its high-profile location and wondered aloud about why it is for the Jews and not other Nazi victims.

Source: (broken)  Wednesday 4 May 2005 and Friday 6 May 2005 by Craig Whitlock and others

I have to wonder for whom these Holocaust memorials are aimed.  What, exactly, are they intended to accomplish?  The prevention of which acts by which people?  There are many of them - some are huge imposing works of art and they are found in many places in Germany.  Since most victims and perpetrators are now dead, who is now supposed to be learning what lessons?  If it's the old "never again" lesson, it must just mean never again do it to Jews, because it is happening to other groups from time to time (see North Korea Tested Lethal Gas on Humans or North Koreans Eating Human Flesh) and very little if anything is being done.  Never again by Germans?  They seem no more likely to do so than any other Western nation.

Also, what was the point in blaming the Degussa company?  No one who works there today will have been around then.  Time moves on.  I'm afraid some of the lessons being learned here may be the wrong ones.

For more on modern history including both widely-known and little-known facts, opinions (mine and others), a few political cartoons, some photos, a map or two, rants, politicians, geology, speculation and more, click the "Up" button below to take you to the Index for this History section.

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