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IS THERE A HITLER IN YOUR CEO?

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 27, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Would-be CEOs and Fuehrers, listen up: Character is destiny.

Case in point: The ultimate Fuehrer and CEO, Adolf Hitler.

Ever since he shot himself in his underground Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945, historians have fiercely debated: Was der Fuehrer a military genius or an imbecile?

With literally thousands of titles to choose, the average reader may feel overwhelmed.  But if you’re looking for an understandable, overall view of Hitler’s generalship, an excellent choice would be How Hitler Could Have Won World War II by Bevin Alexander.

Among “the fatal errors that led to Nazi defeat” (as proclaimed on the book jacket) were:

  • Wasting hundreds of Luftwaffe pilots, fighters and bombers in a half-hearted attempt to conquer England.
  • Ignoring the pleas of generals like Erwin Rommel to conquer Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia–thus giving Germany control of most of the world’s oil.
  • Attacking his ally, the Soviet Union, while still at war with Great Britain.
  • Needlessly turning millions of Russians into enemies rather than allies by his brutal and murderous policies.
  • Declaring war on the United States after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  (Had he not done so, Americans would have focused all their attention on conquering Japan.)
  • Refusing to negotiate a separate peace with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin–thus granting Germany a large portion of captured Russian territory in exchange for letting Stalin remain in power.
  • Insisting on a “not one step back” military “strategy” that led to the unnecessary surrounding, capture and/or deaths of hundreds of thousands of German servicemen.

As the war turned increasingly against him, Hitler became ever more rigid in his thinking.

He demanded absolute control over the smallest details of his forces.  This, in turn, led to astounding and needless losses in German soldiers.

One such incident was immortalized in the 1962 movie, The Longest Day, about the Allied invasion of France known as D-Day.

On June 6, 1944, Rommel ordered the panzer tanks to drive the Allies from the Normandy beaches.  But these could not be released except on direct order of theFuehrer.  As Hitler’s chief of staff, General Alfred Jodl, informed Rommel: The Fuehrer was asleep–and, no, he, Jodl, would not wake him. By the time Hitler awoke and issued the order, it was too late.

Nor could he accept responsibility for the policies that were clearly leading Germany to certain defeat.  Hitler blamed his generals, accused them of cowardice, and relieved many of the best ones from command.

Among those sacked was Heinz Guderian, creator of the German panzer corps–and thus responsible for its highly effective “blitzkrieg” campaign against France in 1940.

Heinz Guderian

Another was Erich von Manstein, designer of the strategy that defeated France in six weeks–something Germany couldn’t do during the four years of World War 1.

Erich von Manstein

Finally, on April 29, 1945–with the Russians only blocks from his underground bunker in Berlin–Hitler dictated his “Last Political Testament.”

Once again, he refused to accept responsibility for unleashing a war that would ultimately consume 50 million lives:

“It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939.  It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who either were of Jewish origin or worked for Jewish interests.”

Hitler had launched the war with a lie–that Poland had attacked Germany, rather than vice versa.  And he closed the war–and his life–with a final lie.

All of which, once again, brings us back to Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science.

In his classic book, The Discourses, he wrote at length on the best ways to maintain liberty within a republic.

In Book Three, Chapter 31, Machiavelli declares: “Great Men and Powerful Republics Preserve an Equal Dignity and Courage in Prosperity and Adversity.”

It is a chapter that Adolf Hitler would have done well to read.

“…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances.  And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.

“The conduct of weak men is very different.  Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess, and this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. 

And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.  

“Thence it comes that princes of this character think more of flying in adversity than of defending themselves, like men who, having made a bad use of prosperity, are wholly unprepared for any defense against reverses.”

Stay alert to signs of such character flaws among your own business colleagues–and especially your superiors.  They are the warning signs of a future catastrophe.

INVITING TERRORISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on March 23, 2015 at 5:44 pm

A group claiming affiliation with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claims to have posted online the names, photos,  street addresses, and, in some cases, ranks, of 100 American military service members.

And it called upon its Islamic “brothers residing in America” to kill them.

Calling itself Islamic State Hacking Division, the group said that it obtained this information by hacking military servers, databases and emails.

But an unnamed Defense Department official quoted by the New York Timesdownplayed the claim that government databases had been hacked.

Instead, he said most of the information could be found in public records, residential address search sites and social media.

Accompanying the release of this information was a message calling upon “lone wolf” Islamics to wage jihad stateside:

“These Kuffar [nonbelievers] that drop bombs over Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Khurasan and Somalia are from the same lands that you reside in, so when will you take action?

“Know that it is wajib [oblilgatory] for you to kill these kuffar! and now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for?

“Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking they are safe…”

After the information was posted, the Pentagon announced that it was investigating the matter.

So is the FBI.

Local police have been asked to step up patrols in the neighborhoods where the target service members live.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has shown itself at a loss to deal with this new threat of Islamic terrorists using the Internet as a recruiting tool.

The agency didn’t ask YouTube to take down the posted message until a CBS News reporter asked if it had done so.

And how is the United States Government responding to threats such as this?

It’s vastly increasing the numbers of potential terrorists within the United States.

According to a December 9, 2014 press release by the U.S. Department of State:

“We applaud the 25 countries that have agreed to resettle Syrian refugees, including some who will be accepting UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] referrals for the first time.

“The United States accepts the majority of all UNHCR referrals from around the world.  Last year, we reached our goal of resettling nearly 70,000 refugees from nearly 70 countries.  And we plan to lead in resettling Syrians as well.

“We are reviewing some 9,000 recent UNHCR referrals from Syria.  We are receiving roughly a thousand new ones each month, and we expect admissions from Syria to surge in 2015 and beyond.”

Click here: U.S. Plans To Lead in Resettling Syrian Refugees

Not only are swelling numbers of potential Islamic terrorists arriving almost daily in the United States, they are being provided, gratis, with assistance millions of hard-working Americans desperately need.

Assistance such as:

  • homes
  • furniture
  • clothes
  • English classes
  • help in enrolling their children in school
  • job training
  • health care

These will be provided by

  • the International Organization for Migrationtation to the United States;
  • networks of resettlement agencies
  • charities
  • churches
  • civic organizations
  • and local volunteers.

And what is the reason for the United States’ shipping so many potential terrorists into its borders?

Nothing more than simple liberal guilt for the sins of the world.

From the State Department’s press release:

“As the flow of [Syrian] refugees has grown to a mass exodus, countries hosting refugees in the region have contended with overcrowded hospitals and schools, shortages of everything from housing to water, economic pressures and recent evidence of mounting public resentment.

“But these very real burdens must pale in comparison to the daily struggles of Syrians themselves.

“Imagine losing practically everything – your loved ones, your home, your profession, and your dignity. Imagine the frustration of languishing for years, unable to work or send children to school, exhausting your resources and relying on handouts. Imagine fearing that this situation is never going to end.

“For Syrians and for other victims of violence and persecution – resettlement offers not just an escape, but a chance to start over.”

Of course, the State Department press release omits this startling fact:

Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hizbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support–only murderers who have long served a tyrant and now wish to become the next tyrant.

Thus, flooding the United States with thousands–if not millions–of potential terroristic Fifth Columnists poses a genuine threat to present and future generations of Americans.

While Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off.   Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

Read the rest of this entry »

VIETNAM IN THE MIDDLE EAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on March 19, 2015 at 11:55 am

Michael Hastings was the Rolling Stone reporter whose article on “The Runaway General” ended the illustrious military career of General Stanley McCrystal.

In 2012, Hastings greatly expanded on his article with a vividly-written book: The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.

According to its hardcover dust jacket: “General Stanley McCrystal, the innovative, forward-thinking, commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was living large.  He was better known to some as Big Stan, M4, Stan, and his loyal staff liked to call him a ‘rock star.’

General Stanley A. McCrystal

“During a spring 2010 trip across Europe to garner additional allied help for the war effort, McCrystal was accompanied by journalist Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone.

“For days, Hastings looked on as McCrystal and his staff let off steam, partying and openly bashing the Obama administration for what they saw as a lack of leadership.

“When Hastings’ piece appeared a few months later, it set off a poltical firestorm: McCrystal was ordred to Washington where he was fired uncereminously.”

But there is an even deeper element to be found within Hastings’ book–that is, for anyone with even a general knowledge of the war in Vietnam.

Hastings does not make any direct parallels between the almost 14-year conflict in Afghanistan and the  conflict that raged in Vietnam from 1961 to 1975.  But those parallels are definitely there for anyone to see.

Consider:

  • Ngo Dinh Diem, the “president” of South Vietnam (1955-1963) was a Catholic mandarin who was alienated from an overwhelmingly poor, 95% Buddhist country.
  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014t) is from a wealthy Pashtun family and is alienated from members of other Afghan tribes.
  • Diem’s authority didn’t extend far beyond Saigon.
  • Karzai’s authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul.
  • Diem didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring it to Vietnam.
  • Ditto for Karzai–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring democracy to Afghanistan.
  • Diem was widely regarded in Vietnam as an illegitimate leader, imposed by the Americans.
  • Ditto for Karzai.

Ngo Dinh Diem

Hamid Karzai

  • American soldiers were sent to Vietnam because America feared Communism.
  • American soldiers were sent to Afghanistan because America feared terrorism.
  • Americans were ordered to train the South Vietnamese to defend themselves against Communism.
  • American troopss were ordered to train the Afghan army to defend themselves against terrorism.
  • Americans quickly determined that the South Vietnamese army was worthless–and decided to fight the Vietcong in its place.
  • Americans quickly determined that the Afghan army was worthless–and decided to fight the Taliban in its place.

American soldiers in Vietnam

  • There was massive distrust between American and South Vietnamese soldiers.
  • Ditto for relations between American and Afghan soldiers.
  • American soldiers in Vietnam felt surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • Ditto for American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.
  • President John F. Kennedy doubted that Americans could win a war in Vietnam and tried to contain the conflict.
  • President Barack Obama came into office determined to contain the Afghan conflict and withdraw American troops as soon as possible.
  • In the early 1960s, the Pentagon saw Vietnam as “the only war we’ve got” and pressed to insert greater numbers of men.
  • In 2001, the Pentagon saw Afghanistan as “the only war we’ve got” and pressed to insert greater numbers of men.

American soldiers in Afghanistan

  • The Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) posed no threat to the security of the United States.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • The far Right embraced the Vietnam war as a way to assert American power in Asia.
  • The far Right embraced the Afghan war–and later the war on Iraq–as a way to assert American power in the Middle East.
  • Counterinsurgency was preached as the key to defeating the Vietcong in Vietnam–where it didn’t work.
  • Counterinsurgency is now being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan–where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Vietnam without an exit strategy.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

From this, the United States should draw several conclusions:

  • Commit forces only when American security is truly threatened.
  • Go in with overwhelming force, destroy as much of the enemy as quickly as possible, then get out.
  • Occupations are costly in lives and treasure–as Napoleon and Hitler discovered–and should be avoided.
  • Don’t try to remake the cultures of other nations–especially those of a primitive, alien nature such as Afghanistan.

Hastings’ book does not cover the Afghan war to its end.  It can’t, since there is no telling when that war will end.

But by the end of its 379 pages, it’s clear what that outcome will be: Another futile exercise in “nation-building” at an exorbitant cost in American lives and treasure.

TERROR AND TRUTH(LESSNESS): PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 6, 2015 at 12:09 am

During World War II, British singer Vera Lynn comforted her war-weary fellow citizens with a poignant rendition of “The White Cliffs of Dover.” A portion of its lyrics goes:

There’ll be love and laughter And peace ever after. Tomorrow, when the world is free.

The shepherd will tend his sheep. The valley will bloom again. And Jimmy will go to sleep In his own little room again.

Click here: Vera Lynn: The White Cliffs of Dover – YouTube

The appeal of the song lay in its promise that, once Nazi Germany was defeated, peace and normality would return.

And despite being threatened with invasion in 1940 and devastated by massive bombing raids in 1940-41, citizens of Great Britain could take heart in the following:

Nazi Germany had a capitol–Berlin–and a single, all-powerful leader–Adolf Hitler. Once Berlin was occupied and Hitler dead or captured, the war would be over.

And, for all their ferocity, German soldiers were easy to recognize: They wore gray uniforms, spoke German and waved flags emblazoned with swastikas or imperial eagles.

Wehrmacht soldiers marching through conquered France

Today, Western nations under attack by Islamic “holy warriors” face none of those advantages. Islam has no single capitol city–or leader.

The American occupation of Baghdad in 2003 triggered a nationwide insurgency.  And deposing Saddam Hussein unleashed a religious war between Shia and Sunnis throughout Iraq.

Nor do Islam’s jihadist legions wear uniforms.  Many of them don’t speak Arabic or wear clothing associated with Arabs, such as flowing robes and headdresses.

More ominously, millions of Islam’s potential “warriors” live within the very Western nations they despise.  They can get all the instruction and inspiration they need to wreck havoc simply by going to the Internet.  Or, if they have the money, by traveling overseas to such terrorist-recruiting centers as Syria.

And yet, faced with an unprecedented threat to their security, many Western leaders refuse to publicly acknowledge this fundamental truth:

Even if the West isn’t at war with Islam, Islam is at war with the West. Leaders like President Barack Obama, who insisted, at a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February: “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

David Cameron

And leaders like British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said on August 29, 2014: “Islam is a religion observed peacefully by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a poisonous ideology observed by a minority.”

It was at this same press conference that Cameron announced that United Kingdom authorities would soon begin revoking the passports of British citizens traveling to Syria.

Arthur M. Cummings, the FBI’s executive assistant director for national security, has no use for such Politically Correct terms as “man-caused disasters” to refer to terrorism.  Nor does he shy away from terms such as “jihadists” or “Islamists.”

“Of course Islamists dominate the terrorism of today,” he says bluntly.

In May, 2014, Steven Emerson, a nationally recognized expert on terrorism, posted an ad in The New York Times, warning about the dangers of PC-imposed censorship:

“Our nation’s security and its cherished value of free speech has been endangered by the bullying campaigns of radical Islamic groups, masquerading as ‘civil rights’ organizations, to remove any reference to the Islamist motivation behind Islamic terrorist attacks.

“These groups have pressured or otherwise colluded with Hollywood, the news media, museums, book publishers, law enforcement and the Obama Administration in censoring the words ‘Islamist’, ‘Islamic terrorism’, ‘radical Islam’ and ‘jihad’ in discussing or referencing the threat and danger of Islamic terrorism.

“This is the new form of the jihadist threat we face. It’s an attack on one of our most sacred freedoms—free speech—and it endangers our very national security. How can we win the war against radical Islam if we can’t even name the enemy?”

He has a point–and a highly legitimate one.

Imagine the United States fighting World War II–and President Franklin Roosevelt banning the use of “fascist” in referring to Nazi Germany or “imperialist” in describing Imperial Japan.

Imagine CNN-like coverage of the Nazi extermination camps, with their piles of rotting corpses and smoking gas ovens, while a commentator reminds us that “Nazism is an ideology of peace.”

Then consider these Islamic terrorist outrages of our own time:

  • The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., which snuffied out the lives of 3,000 Americans.
  • The 2004 bombing of Madrid’s commuter train system.
  • The attack on the London subway in 2005.
  • The killing of 13 U.S. Army personnel at Fort Hood, Texas, by a Muslim army major in 2009.
  • The hacking of a British soldier to death on a London street in 2013.
  • The bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013.
  • The kidnapping of 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram in 2014.

In every one of these attacks, the perpetrators openly announced that their actions had been motivated by their Islamic beliefs.

In his groundbreaking book, The Clash of Civilizations (1996) Samuel Huntington, the late political scientist at Harvard University, noted: “The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.”

All-in-all, the future looks better for would-be Islamic conquerors than for those in the West awaiting the next Islamic atrocity.

TERROR AND TRUTH(LESSNESS): PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 4, 2015 at 3:47 am

The headline on the CNN website said it all–or seemed to: “Religion’s Week From Hell.”

Then came the first paragraph: “Whether you believe that religious violence is fueled by faith or is a symptom of larger factors–political instability, poverty, cultural chaos–one thing seems clear: Last week was hellish for religion.”

The story–published on February 18–then went on to outline a series of atrocities committed in the name of religion:

“Across several continents, including North America, Europe, Central Asia and Africa, scores of religious believers suffered and died in brutal attacks over the past seven days.”

And here was the day-by-day chronicle of slaughter:

Monday:

  • Boko Haram, the Islamic group based in Nigeria, attacked several towns in Cameroon, kidnapping 20 people. They also exploded a car bomb in Niger.  At the time, the death toll was unclear.

Tuesday:

  • Craig Hicks, an athiest who ranted against religion on the Internet, was charged with killing three young Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Wednesday:

  • The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacked Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.  At least 31 people were killed in Baghdad by ISIS bombs.

Thursday:

  • Al Qaeda seized a key military base in Baihan, Yemen, killing four Yemeni soldiers.  They then took control of the town’s weaponry.
  • With the United States’ having already closed its embassy in Yemen, Italy, Germany and Saudi Arabia did the same.

Friday:

  • Boko Haram killed 21 people in attacks on Mbuta and Akida villages in Nigeria.
  • The Islamic terror group also killed four civilians and a soldier in neighboring Chad.
  • In Peshawar, Pakistan, the Taliban attacked a Shia mosque, killing 19 and wounding dozens.

Saturday: 

  • In Copenhagen, Denmark, an Islamic gunman fired at attendees of a free-speech forum, where a Swedish cartoonist was scheduled to speak.  His alleged crime: Depicting the Prophet Mohammed.  Casualties: Three officers wounded and one 55-year-old man killed.
  • Hours later, the same terrorist visited a Copenhagen synagogue.  Opening fire, he wounded two officers and killing a private security guard.

Sunday:

  • ISIS released a video showing its members beheading more than a dozen members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority on a Libyan beach.

* * * * *

So much for “religion’s week from hell.”

Except that the title of this story was completely misleading. It would have been more accurately entitled: “Islam’s Week of Hell.”

ISIS member beheading a helpless captive

Of the 13 atrocities detailed above, all but one showcased Islamics as the murderers.

The single exception was that of Craig Hicks, an athiest who was charged with shooting three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

It was this case–and not any of the others–that brought Muslims to demand “justice.” Muslims immediately urged the Obama administration to investigate the murders as a hate crime.

Suzanne Barakat, the sister of one of the victims, said the students had been murdered because they were Muslims. She said that the killings should be considered an act of terrorism: “It’s time people call it what it is.”

But getting Islamics to label other Islamics as terrorists is an entirely different matter.

According to author Ronald Kessler, this has caused serious problems for the FBI. In his 2011 book, The Secrets of the FBI, Kessler notes the refusal of the Islamic community to identify known or potential terrorists within its ranks.

Says Arthur M. Cummings, the Bureau’s executive assistant director for national security: “I had this discussion with the director of a very prominent Muslim organization here in [Washington] D.C. And he said, ‘Why are you guys always looking at the Muslim community?'”

“I can name the homegrown cells, all of whom are Muslim, all of whom were seeking to kill Americans,” replied Cummings. “It’s not the Irish, it’s not the French, it’s not the Catholics, it’s not the Protestants.  It’s the Muslims.”

Occasionally, Muslims will condemn Al Qaeda.  But “rarely do we have them coming to us and saying, ‘There are three guys in the community that we’re very concerned about.'” said Cummings.

“They don’t want anyone to know they have extremists in their community.  Well, beautiful.  Except do you read the newspapers?  Everybody already knows it. The horse has left the barn.

“So there’s a lot of talk about engagement. But, realistically, we’ve got a long, long way to go.”

At one community meeting, an Islamic leader suggested to Cummings that then-FBI director Robert Meuller III should pose for a picture with his group’s members. The reason: To show that Islamics are partners in the “war on terror.”

“When you bring to my attention real extremists who are here to plan and do something, who are here supporting terrorism,” said Cummings, “then I promise you, I will have the director stand up on the stage with you.”

“That could never happen,” replied the Islamic leader.  “We would lose our constituency.  We could never admit to bringing someone to the FBI.”

REMEMBERING THE ALAMO: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military on March 4, 2015 at 1:00 am

On the night before the final Mexican assault, one man escaped the Alamo to testify to the defenders’ courage. Or so goes the most famous story of the 13-day siege.

He was Louis Rose, a veteran of theNapoleonic wars and the dreadful 1812 retreat from Moscow.  Unwilling to die in a hopeless battle, he slipped over a wall and sneaked through Mexican siege lines.

At Grimes County, he found shelter at the homestead of Abraham and Mary Ann Zuber. Their son, William, later claimed that his parents told him of Rose’s visit–and his story of Travis’ “line in the sand” speech.

In 1873, he published the tale in the Texas Almanac.

But many historians believe it is a fabrication.  The story comes to us third-hand–from Rose to the Zubers to their son.  And it was published 37 years after the Alamo fell.

After a 12-day siege, Santa Anna decided to overwhelm the Alamo.

Some of his officers objected.  They wanted to wait for bigger siege cannon to arrive–to knock down the Alamo’s three-feet-thick adobe walls.  Without shelter, the defenders would be forced to surrender.

But Santa Anna insisted on an all-out assault: “Without blood and tears, there is no glory.”

The first assault came at about 5 a.m. on March 6, 1836.

The fort’s riflemen–aided by 14 cannons–repulsed it.  And the second assault as well. But the third assault proved unstoppable.

The Alamo covered three acres, and held at most 250 defenders–against 2,000 Mexican soldiers.  When the Mexicans reached the fort, they mounted scaling ladders and poured over the walls.

Travis was one of the first defenders to fall–shot through the forehead after firing a shotgun into the Mexican soldiery below.

Death of William Barrett Travis (waving sword)

Mexicans broke into the room where the ailing James Bowie lay. In Three Roads to the Alamo, historian William C. Davis writes that Bowie may have been unconscious or delirious.  Mistaking him for a coward, the soldiers bayoneted him and blew out his brains.

But some accounts claim that Bowie died fighting–shooting two Mexicans with pistols, then plunging his famous knife into a third before being bayoneted.  Nearly every Alamo movie depicts Bowie’s death this way.

Jim Bowie’s death

As the Mexicans poured into the fort, at least 60 Texans tried to escape over the walls into the surrounding prairie.  But they were quickly dispatched by lance-bearing Mexican cavalry.

The death of David Crockett remains highly controversial. Baby boomers usually opt for the Walt Disney version: Davy swinging Old Betsey as Mexicans surround him.  Almost every Alamo movie depicts him fighting to the death.

David Crockett’s death

But Mexican Colonel Jose Enrique de la Pena claimed Crockett was one of seven Texans who surrendered or were captured and brought before Santa Anna after the battle.  Santa Anna ordered their immediate execution, and they were hacked to death with sabers.

Only the 2004 remake of The Alamo has dared to depict this version. Although this version is now accepted by most historians, some still believe the de la Pena diary from which it comes is a forgery.

An hour after the battle erupted, it was over.

That afternoon, Santa Anna ordered the bodies of the slain defenders stacked and burned in three pyres. Contrary to popular belief, some of the garrison survived:

  • Joe, a black slave who had belonged to William B. Travis, the Alamo’s commander;
  • Susannah Dickinson, the wife of a lieutenant killed in the Alamo, and her baby, Angelina;
  • Several Mexican women and their children.

Also contrary to legend, the bravery of the Alamo defenders did not buy time for Texas to raise an army against Santa Anna. This didn’t happen until after the battle. But their sacrifice proved crucial in securing Texas’ independence:

  • The Alamo’s destruction warned those Texans who had not supported the revolution that they had no choice: They must win, die or flee their homes to the safety of the United States.
  • It stirred increasing numbers of Americans to enter Texas and enlist in Sam Houston’s growing army.
  • Santa Anna’s army was greatly weakened, losing 600 killed and wounded–a casualty rate of 33%.
  • The nearly two-week siege bought time for the Texas convention to meet at Washington-on-the-Brazos and declare independence from Mexico.

On April 21, 1836, Santa Anna made a crucial mistake: During his army’s afternoon siesta, he failed to post sentries around his camp.

That afternoon, Sam Houston’s 900-man army struck the 1,400-man Mexican force at San Jacinto. In 18 minutes, the Texans–shouting “Remember the Alamo!”–killed about 700 Mexican soldiers and wounded 200 others.

The next day, a Texas patrol captured Santa Anna. Resisting angry demands to hang the Mexican dictator, Houston forced Santa Anna to surrender control of Texas in return for his life. The victory at San Jacinto won the independence of Texas.

But the 13-day siege and fall of the Alamo remains the most famous and celebrated part of that conflict. Like Thermopylae, the battle of the Alamo proved both a defeat–and a victory.

REMEMBERING THE ALAMO: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military on March 3, 2015 at 12:48 am

Americans “remember the Alamo”–but usually for the wrong reasons.

Some historians believe the battle should have never been fought.

The Alamo was not Thermopylae–a narrow mountain pass blocking the Persian march into ancient Greece.  Santa Anna could have simply bypassed it.

Mexican troops advancing on the Alamo

In fact, several of Santa Anna’s generals urged the Mexican dictator to do just that–leave a small guard to hold down the fort’s defenders and wipe out the undefended, widely-separated Texas settlements.

But pride held Santa Anna fast to the Alamo.  His brother-in-law, General Perfecto de Cos, had been forced to surrender the old mission to revolting Texans in December, 1835.  Santa Anna meant to redeem the fort–and his family honor–by force.

In almost every movie made about the Alamo, its two co-commanders, James Bowie and William Barret Travis, are portrayed as on the verge of all-out war–with each other.

James Bowie

William B. Travis

In John Wayn’e heavily fictionalized 1960 film, The Alamo, Bowie and Travis agree to fight a duel as soon as they’ve whipped the Mexicans besieging them.

In fact, the frictions between the two lasted only a short while.  Just before the siege, some of Bowie’s volunteers–a far larger group than the regular soldiers commanded by Travis–got drunk.  Travis ordered them jailed–and Bowie ordered his men to release them. Bowie then went on a roaring drunk.

The next day, a sober Bowie apologized to Travis and agreed they should share command.  This proved a wise decision, for just as the siege started, Bowie was felled by worsening illness–typhoid-pneumonia or tuberculosis.

In Wayne’s film, Bowie repeatedly leaves the Alamo to ambush unsuspecting Mexicans.

In reality, he stayed bed-ridden and lay close to death throughout the 13-day siege.

Most people believe the Texans intended to make a suicidal stand.

Not true. From the first day of the siege–February 23–almost to the last–March 6, 1836–messengers rode out of the Alamo seeking help. The defenders believed that if they could cram enough men into the three-acre former mission, they could hold Santa Anna at bay.

It’s widely believed that no reinforcements reached the Alamo.

Not so. On March 1, 32 men from Gonzalez–the only ones to answer Travis’ call–sneaked through the Mexican lines to enter the Alamo. Meanwhile, the largest Texan force lay at Fort Defiance in Goliad, 85 miles away.

This consisted of 500 men commanded by James Walker Fannin, a West Point dropout. Fannin was better-suited for the role of Hamlet than military commander. Upon receiving a plea of help from Travis, he set out in a half-hearted attempt to reach the mission.

But when a supply wagon broke down, he returned to Fort Defiance and sat out the rest of the siege.

After it became obvious that the Alamo would not be sufficiently reinforced, the Texans still refused to evacuate. “I’ll die before I run” might have been their official motto.

The Alamo garrison was fully prepared to confront the Mexican army.

False.

When the Mexicans suddenly arrived in San Antonio on the morning of February 23, 1836, they caught the Texans completely by surprise.

The previous night, they had been celebrating the birthday of George Washington. The Texans rushed headlong into the Alamo, hauling all the supplies they could hastily scrounge.

Santa Anna sent a courier under a flag of truce to the Alamo, demanding unconditional surrender.  In effect, the Texans were being given the choice of later execution. Travis replied with a shot from the fort’s biggest cannon, the 18-pounder.

Santa Anna ordered the hoisting of a blood-red flag and the opening of an artillery salvo.  The siege of the Alamo was on.

Many Americans believe that San Houston, who was elected general of the non-existent army of Texas, desperately tried to relieve the siege.

Not so.

At Washington-on-the-Brazos, 169 miles east of San Antonio, Texan delegates assembled to form a new government. When news reached the delegates that Travis desperately needed reinforcements, many of them wanted to rush to his defense.

Sam Houston

But Houston and others declared they must first declare Texas’ independence.  On March 2, 1836, they did just that. Houston spent a good deal of the time drunk.

Did Travis draw a line?

Easily the most famous Alamo story is that of “the line in the sand.” On the night of March 5–just prior to the final assault–there was a lull in the near-constant Mexican bombardment. Travis assembled his men and gave them a choice:

They could surrender and hope that Santa Anna would be merciful. They could try to escape. Or they could stay and fight.

With his sword, Travis drew a line in the dirt and invited those who would stay to cross over to him. The entire garrison did–except for two men.

One of these was bed-ridden James Bowie. He asked that his sick-bed be carried over to Travis.

The other was a veteran of the Napoleonic wars–Louis Rose.

REMEMBERING THE ALAMO: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In History, Military, Politics on March 2, 2015 at 11:08 am

On March 2, 1836–179 years ago today–Texas formally declared its independence from Mexico, of which it was then a province.

Sixty-one delegates took part in the convention held at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Their signed statement proclaimed that the Mexican government had “ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived.”

Meanwhile, 169 miles away, the siege of the Alamo–a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio–had entered its ninth day.

The Alamo. The mission that became a fortress.  The fortress that has since become a shrine.

The Alamo Chapel

The combatants: 180 to 250 Texans (or “Texians,” as many of them preferred to be called) vs. 2,000 Mexican soldiers.

On the Texan side three names predominate: David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis. “The Holy Trinity,” as some historians ironically refer to them.

Crockett, at 49, was the most famous man in the Alamo. He had been a bear hunter, Indian fighter and Congressman. Rare among the men of his time, he sympathized with the Indian tribes he had helped subdue in the War of 1812.

David Crockett

He believed Congress should honor the treaties made with the former hostiles and opposed President Andrew Jackson’s effort to move the tribes further West.

Largely because of this, his constituents turned him out of office in November, 1835. He told them they could go to hell; he would go to Texas.

James Bowie, at 40, had been a slave trader with pirate Jean Lafitte and a land swindler. His greatest claim to fame lay in his skill as a knife-fighter.

James Bowie

This grew out of his participating in an 1827 duel on a sandbar in Natchez, Mississippi. Bowie was acting as a second to one of the duelists who had arranged the event.

After the two duelists exchanged pistol shots without injury, they called it a draw. But those who had come as their seconds had scores to settle among themselves–and decided to do so. A bloody melee erupted.

Bowie was shot in the hip and then impaled on a sword cane wielded by Major Norris Wright, a longtime enemy. Drawing a large butcher knife he wore at his belt, he gutted Wright, who died instantly.

The brawl became famous as the Sandbar Fight, and cemented Bowie’s reputation across the South as a deadly knife fighter.

William Barret Travis had been an attorney and militia member. Burdened by debts and pursued by creditors, he fled Alabama in 1831 to start over in Texas. Behind him he left a wife, son, and unborn daughter.

William Barret Travis

From the first, Travis burned to free Texas from Mexico and see it become a part of the United States.

In January, 1836, he was sent by the American provisional governor of Texas to San Antonio, to fortify the Alamo. He arrived there with a small party of regular soldiers and the title of lieutenant colonel in the state militia.

On the Mexican side, only one name matters: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, president (i.e., absolute dictator) of Mexico. After backing first one general and would-be “president” after another, Santa Anna maneuvered himself into the office in 1833.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Texas was then legally a part of Mexico. Stephen F. Austin, “the father of Texas,” had received a grant from Spain–which ruled Mexico until 1821–to bring in 300 American families to settle there.

The Spaniards wanted to establish a buffer between themselves and warring Indian tribes like the Comanches.

These immigrations continued after Mexico threw off Spanish rule and obtained its independence.

But as Americans kept flooding into Texas, the character of its population changed, alarming its Mexican rulers.

The new arrivals did not see themselves as Mexican citizens but as transplanted Americans. They were largely Protestant, as opposed to the Catholic Mexicans. And many of them not only owned slaves but demanded the expansion of slavery–a practice illegal under Mexican law.

In October, 1835, fighting erupted between settlers and Mexican soldiers. In November, Mexican forces took shelter in the Alamo, which had been built in 1718 as a mission to convert Indians to Christianity. Since then it had been used as a fort–by Spanish and then Mexican troops.

Texans lay siege to the Alamo from October 16 to December 10, 1835. With his men exhausted, and facing certain defeat, General Perfecto de Cos, Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, surrendered. He gave his word to leave Texas and never take up arms again against its settlers.

Texans rejoiced. They believed they had won their “war” against Mexico.

But others knew better. One was Bowie. Another was Sam Houston, a former Indian fighter, Congressman and protégé of Andrew Jackson.

Still another was Santa Anna, who styled himself “The Napoleon of the West.”  In January, 1836, he set out from Mexico City at the head of an army totaling about 7,000.

He planned the 18th century version of a blitzkrieg, intending to arrive in Texas and take its “rebellious foreigners” by surprise.

His forced march proved costly in lives, but met his objective. He arrived in San Aotonio with several hundred soldiers on February 23, 1836.

The siege of the Alamo–the most famous event in Texas history–was about to begin.

THE HIGH COST OF GOOD DEEDS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on February 25, 2015 at 12:01 am

On the September 28, 2014 edition of 60 Minutes, President Barack Obama spoke about his recent decision to commit American troops to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“When trouble comes up anywhere in the world,” said Obama, “they don’t call Beijing.  They don’t call Moscow.  They call us.”

And, according to former CIA agent Michael Scheuer, that’s the problem: America can’t learn to mind its own business.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran–as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Michael Scheuer

From 1996 to 1999 he headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He is currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism:Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror  (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).

Scheuer says that Islamics don’t hate Americans because of “our way of life”–with its freedoms of speech and worship and its highly secular, commercialized culture.

Instead, Islamic hatred toward the United States stems from America’s six longstanding policies in the Middle East:

  • U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments
  • U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula
  • U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis’ thrall
  • U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low
  • U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan
  • U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants

Scheuer contends that no amount of American propaganda will win “the hearts and minds” of Islamics who can “see, hear, experience, and hate” these policies firsthand.

But there is another danger facing America, says Scheuer, one that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts that threat: The “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”

Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.

Within that group are:

  • politicians
  • journalists
  • academics
  • preachers
  • civil servants
  • military officers
  • philanthropists.

“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.

But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common.

According to Scheuer, that belief is “an unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.

Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.

During his September 28 appearance on 60 Minutes,  President Obama admitted that the mostly Sunni-Muslim Iraqi army had refused to combat the Sunni army of ISIS.

Then followed this exchange:

Steve Kroft: What happens if the Iraqis don’t fight or can’t fight?

President Obama: Well…

Steve Kroft: What’s the end game?

President Obama: I’m not going to speculate on failure at the moment. We’re just getting started. Let’s see how they do.

It was precisely such a mindset that led the United States, step by step, into the Vietnam quagmire.

As in the case of Vietnam, the United States lacks:

  • Real or worthwhile allies in Iraq or Syria;
  • A working knowledge of the peoples it wants to influence in either country;
  • Clearly-defined goals that it seeks to accomplish in that region.

America rushed to disaster in Vietnam because its foreign policy elite felt it had to “do something” to fight Communism anywhere in the world.

And it is continuing to rush toward disaster in the Middle East because its foreign policy elite once again feels is must “do something.”

During his interview with the “Today” show, Carl Mueller–the father of Kayla, who went to Syria to help Syrians caught up in their own civil war–said:

“How many mistakes have we all made in life that were naïve and didn’t get caught at? Kayla was just in a place that was more dangerous than most. And she couldn’t help herself. She had to go in there and had to help.”

But there were plenty of communities within the United States that could have used the help of a truly caring social activist.  And plenty of organizations–such as Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Relief Services–that would have been thrilled to have her services.

And she could have made lives better without constantly facing the dangers of kidnapping by Islamics determined to humiliate and slaughter Americans.

Michael Sheuer is right: The United States should learn to mind its own business and quit intervening in the affairs of Middle Eastern governments and peoples.

Kayla Mueller is proof of the rightness of that assertion.

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on February 18, 2015 at 2:58 am

Sometimes your worst enemies aid you in ways you could never help yourself.

From July 10 to October 31, 1940, hundreds of badly-outnumbered pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) fought off relentless attacks by Germany’s feared Luftwaffe.

But Adolf Hitler wasn’t prepared to give up.  He believed he could so terrorize Britons that they would demand that their government submit to German surrender demands.

From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England–and especially London–to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.

The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940

More than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities.  During 267 days (almost 37 weeks):

  • London was attacked 71 times;
  • Birmingham, Plymouth and Liverpool were attacked eight times;
  • Bristol was attacked six times; Glasgow, five; Southampton four; and
  • There was also at least one large raid on another eight cities.

Between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed.  About 139,000 others were wounded.

Clearly, what Great Britain desperately needed most was a miracle.

Exactly that happened on June 22, 1941.

With 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

German tank commander

Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned.  The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

Now they were locked in a fight to the death.

People in England were also surprised–but also suddenly hopeful.   Britain now had an ally whose resources might tip the balance against Hitler.

Fast-forward to 2015.

On February 18, news reports surfaced that members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may have burned to death 45 people in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi.

Al-Baghdadi lies just five miles from an air base stafffed by several hundred U.S. Marines.  The victims might have included members of the security forces that clashed with ISIS for control of the town.

This latest atrocity comes only days after ISIS released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.

And still earlier this month–on February 3–ISIS released a a video showing the barbaric “execution” of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh.

Al Kasaesbeh, locked in a steel cage like an animal, could only watch stoically as an ISIS member ignited a trail of flammable liquid leading directly to him.  The pilot stood upright throughout the ordeal until the flames at last consumed him.

In response to the beheadings of the 21 Egyptians, Egypt carried out a series of airstrikes against ISIS militants in Libya.

And two days after the murder of its pilot, Jordanian fighter jets launched airstrikes against ISIS training centers, arms and ammunition depots.

“This is just the beginning and you shall know who the Jordanians are,” the armed forces said in a statement on state TV.

Today–just as England was saved by the misjudgment of Nazi Germany in attacking the Soviet Union–  the United States faces just such an opportunity.

The Islamic world–which has been at war with the United States for 36 years–is now at war with itself.

In Syria, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).

United Nations officials estimate that more than 191,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war since conflict began on March 15, 2011.  The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics.  A sworn enemy of Israel, it has  kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion.  It is intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Al-Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.   Examples of sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

While Islamic nations wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to launch attacks against the United States.

Every dead Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda member makes the United States that much safer. 

Every dead supporter of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda makes the United States that much safer.

Every dead ISIS member makes the United States that much safer.  

And every ISIS victim stirs up greater hate against ISIS.

No American could instill such hatred against Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah or ISIS.  This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.  A war where each fighter is convinced that “Allah is on my side.”

These conflicts could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

As Congress and President Obama move ever closer to committing American forces to yet another Middle East conflict, it’s well to remember Truman’s words.

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other.  Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

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