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WHEN MADNESS RULES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on May 22, 2015 at 12:04 am

Kim Jong-Un: Secretive, ruthless, egomaniacal, erratic at best, certifiably insane at worst.  Commanding the world’s fourth-largest army–and a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Given a lack of CIA “assets” within North Korea, the United States government has been forced to accept any scraps of reliable information it can get on Kim’s regime.

As a result, the White House, Pentagon and State Department may be forced to turn to another source in predicting Kim Jong-Un’s coming moves–and fate.

His name: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus–better known as Suetonius.

Suetonius, a historian and citizen of ancient Rome, chronicled the lives of the first twelve Caesars of imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Suetonius • Life of Caligula

His compilation of these biographies, The Twelve Caesars, is still available today.

Gaius Caligula was the fourth Roman to assume the title of Emperor and Caesar. His reign began in 37 A.D. and ended–violently–four years later.

Gaius Caligula

His full name was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. “Caligula”–“Little Boots”–was a nickname bestowed on him as a child by his father’s soldiers.

Accompanying his father, Germanicus, on military campaigns, Gaius often dressed up as a soldier to “drill” the troops, who loved his enthusiasm for military life.

Tiberius, the third Roman emperor, adopted Germanicus as his heir, and many Romans considered him as Rome’s Alexander the Great because of his virtuous character and military prowess.  There was widespread hope that he would succeed Tiberius when the emperor died.

But Germanicus died first, under mysterious circumstances.  Some blamed illness, others believed he had been poisoned. Tiberius was widely suspected of having murdered a potential rival.  And few mourned when Tiberius himself died in 19 A.D.

Upon Tiberius’ death, Caligula became emperor. The Romans welcomed his ascension due to their memory of his father, Germanicus.

His reign began well. He recalled those who had been banished from Rome by Tiberius, and publicly announced that “he had no ears for informers,” according to Suetonius.

He allowed judges unrestricted jurisdiction, without appeal to himself. To lighten the duties of jurors, he added a fifth division to the previous four. He also tried to restore the suffrage to the people by reviving the custom of elections.

He completed the public works which had been half-finished under Tiberius: the temple of Augustus and the theatre of Pompey.

But then Caligula underwent a change in character.  Suetonius  claimed that he suffered from an affliction that made him suddenly fall unconscious. The historian believed that Caligula knew that something was wrong with him.

He became increasingly egomaniacal. Among the titles he gave himself: “Child of the Camp,” “Father of the Armies,” and “Greatest and Best of Caesars.”

Eventually, he came to believe himself divine.

Without warning, he ordered one of his soldiers to execute his brother Tiberius. He drove his father-in‑law, Silanus, to commit suicide by cutting his throat with a razor.

Tiberius’ “crime” had been Caligula’s suspicion that he had taken an antidote against poison.  “There is no antidote against Caesar!” Caligula is said to have raged.

In fact, Tiberius had taken medicine for a chronic cough.

Silanus died because he had not followed Caligula when he put to sea in stormy weather. Caligula believed he had remained behind hoping to take possession of Rome if he perished in the storm.

Actually, Silanus suffered from sea-sickness and wanted to avoid the discomforts of the voyage.

Caligula committed incest with all his sisters, and “at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above.”

When his favorite sister, Drusilla, died, he announced a season of public mourning, making it a capital crime to laugh, bathe, or dine with one’s parents, wife, or children.

Having violated his sisters, he eagerly violated the wives of others.

At one wedding, he ordered that the bride be taken to his own house, and within a few days divorced her.  Two years later he banished her, suspecting that she had returned to her former husband.

At gladiatorial games, he would sometimes match decrepit gladiators against wild beasts, and have sham fights between men who were “conspicuous for some bodily infirmity.”

Objecting to the expense of cattle to feed wild beasts for a gladiatorial show, he selected criminals to be devoured.

On other occasions, he shut up the storehouses for threshed grain and condemned the people to hunger.

“Let them hate me, so long as they fear me,” he often said.  But he ignored the truth that hatred can override fear.

Just this happened among several members of his own security force, the Praetorian Guard. Caligula had repeatedly mocked Cassius Chaerea, one of its officers, for his weak voice, and assailed his masculinity.

On January 22, 41 A.D., Chaerea and other guardsmen attacked Caligula in an underground corridor of a gladiatorial arena and repeatedly stabbed him to death.

Upon hearing reports that Caligula was dead, Romans hesitated to rejoice, fearing that he had started the rumor to discover who wanted him dead.

If history truly repeats itself, Kim Jong-Un has good reason to be afraid.

WHEN MADENESS RULES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on May 21, 2015 at 10:48 am

Officials at the Pentagon and State Department constantly scramble for information that will enable them to penetrate the designs of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.

And with good reason: His country possesses nuclear weapons, and is headed by a leader who’s erratic at best and certifiably insane at worst.

Kim Jong-Un

He’s the third Kim to rule North Korea since 1948. The first was his grandfather, Kim II-sung, who seized power and ruled absolutely until his death in 1994.

His ordering  the invasion of South Korea in 1950 provoked American intervention and ignited the Korean War (1950-1953), which ended in stalemate.

He was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-il, who ruled from 1994 to 2011.  His regime was marked by widespread famine, partially due to economic mismanagement, suppression of human rights and the export of state terrorism.

As was the case with his father, Kim Jong-il’s reign ended only with his death in 2011. He was immediately succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-Un.

At Kim Jong-il’s memorial service, the eulogy seemed as much for his son as for the departed “Dear Leader”:

“Respected Comrade Kim Jong-un is our party, military and country’s supreme leader who inherits great comrade Kim Jong-il’s ideology, leadership, character, virtues, grit and courage.”

Born on January 8, 1983, Kim Jong-Un owes everything to an act of genetics–his being the son of an absolute dictator.

This alone has enabled him to hold a series of exalted titles:

  • First Secretary of the Workers’ party of Korea; the Chairman of the Central Military Commission;
  • Chairman of the National Defense Commission;
  • The Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army; and
  • Presidium member of the Politburo of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

On December 30, 2011–only 13 days after his father died–Kim Jong-Un was formally appointed as the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army.

North Korean military rally

In April, 2012, the Fourth Party Conference named him to the newly-created post of First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.  He was promoted to the rank of Marshal in the army in July, 2012.

Given a lack of CIA “assets” within North Korea, the United States government has been forced to accept any scraps of reliable information it can get on Kim’s regime.

It’s known, for example, that he is a man of immense egomania.  Following his father’s death, the cult of personality around Kim Jong-Un’s went into high gear.

He was hailed as the “great successor to the revolutionary cause of self-reliance,” “outstanding leader of the party, army and people” and “respected comrade who is identical to Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il.”

He was “a great person born of heaven,” declared the Korean Central News Agency. And, not to be outdone, the ruling Workers’ Party announced: “We vow with bleeding tears to call Kim Jong-Un our supreme commander, our leader.”

In November 2012, satellite photos revealed a half-mile-long propaganda message carved into a hillside in Ryanggang Province, reading, “Long Live General Kim Jong-Un, the Shining Sun!”

In 2013, Kim was named the world’s 46th most powerful person by the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People.  This derives from his commanding the fourth-largest standing army in the world–and an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

On March 7, 2013, North Korea threatened to launch a “pre-emptive nuclear attack” upon the United States.  North Korea has outlined its plans for target American cities for nuclear strikes, including Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Kim Jong-Un – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Then there are the purges–the motive for which may be Kim’s desire to erase all traces of his father’s rule.

By the end of 2013, three defense ministers and four chiefs of the army’s general staff had been replaced.  Among those purged was his uncle, Jang Sung-taek–who is thought to have been executed by machine gun.

Other victims of Kim’s regime reportedly include members of Jang’s family:

  • His  sister Jang Kye-sun;
  • Her husband and ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong-jin;
  • Jang’s nephew and ambassador to Malaysia, Jang Yong-chol; and
  • The nephew’s two sons, who were also reportedly murdered.

On May 13, 2015, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reported that Kim had ordered the execution of North Korea’s Minister of Defense, Hyon Yong Chol.

The charge: Treason.  And for “showing disrespect” to Kim by talking back to him and falling asleep at a military event.

Chol was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire with hundreds watching at a shooting range at Pyongyang’s Kang Kon Military Academy in late April.

S. Korea’s spy agency says N. Korea executed defense chief – AOL.com

Nor has this been the only major execution for 2015.  Reports claim that earlier this year, Kim had ordered the execution of 15 senior officials for challenging his authority.

Penetrating the secrets of a ruthless dictatorship is extremely difficult.  And any information obtained can often be considered no better than gossip.

Given these limitations, the White House, Pentagon and State Department may be forced to turn to another source in predicting Kim Jong-Un’s coming moves–and fate.

His name: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus–better known as Suetonius.

CENSORSHIP: THE AMERICAN WAY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Midway through Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 Vietnam epic, Full Metal Jacket, there’s an editorial meeting of The Sea Tiger, the official Marine newspaper.

The correspondents are discussing how best to portray America’s faltering efforts to win a war that most of the “grunts” have come to see as unwinnable.

Lieutenant Lockhart, who’s presiding, wants his reporters to make some changes in the way they report the war.

LOCKHART: Chili, if we move Vietnamese, they are “evacuees.” If they come to us to be evacuated, they are “refugees.”

CHILI: I’ll make a note of it, sir.

LOCKHART (reading): “A young North Vietnamese Army regular, who realized his side could not win the war, deserted from his unit after reading Open Arms program pamphlets.”

That’s good, Dave. But why say “North Vietnamese Army regular”? Is there an irregular?  How about “North Vietnamese Army soldier”?

DAVE:  I’ll fix it up, sir.

LOCKHART: “Search and destroy.” Uh, we have a new directive on this. In the future, in place of “search and destroy,” substitute the phrase “sweep and clear.” Got it?

Lt. Lockhart (right) briefs his Marine reporters 

JOKER:  Got it. Very catchy.

LOCKHART: And, Joker–where’s the weenie?

JOKER:  Sir?

LOCKHART The Kill, Joker. The kill. I mean, all that fire, the grunts must’ve hit something.

JOKER:  Didn’t see ’em.

LOCKHART Joker, I’ve told you, we run two basic stories here. Grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants–Winning of Hearts and Minds–okay?

And combat action that results in a kill–Winning the War. Now you must have seen blood trails … drag marks?

JOKER:  It was raining, sir.

LOCKHART:  Well, that’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending–say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper or an officer. Which?

JOKER:  Whichever you say.

LOCKHART Grunts like reading about dead officers.

JOKER Okay, an officer. How about a general?

LOCKHART Joker, maybe you’d like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, this is not a particularly popular war. Now, it is our job to report the news that these why-are-we-here civilian newsmen ignore.

* * * * *

Kubrick’s film is set in the South Vietnam of 1968.

This was a war where military newspapers like Stars and Stripes offered a gung-ho, all-systems-go version of constant American progress against a tough enemy.

And where civilian reporters like David Halberstam and Walter Cronkite saw the war for what it was and labeled it a brutal, wasteful and ultimately doomed effort.

Now, 47 years after the events depicted in Full Metal Jacket, the Obama administration wants to censor the American news media as the military censored its own.

The President wants the media to stop using footage from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during newscasts.

“We are urging broadcasters to avoid using the familiar B-roll that we’ve all seen before, file footage of ISIL convoys operating in broad daylight, moving in large formations with guns out, looking to wreak havoc,” Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for  the State Department, told Politico.

Stop using ISIL footage, Obama administration asks networks – Michael Crowley and Hadas Gold – POLITICO

The “B-roll” is stock footage that appears onscreen while reporters/commentators talk. It’s the stuff that keeps an audience watching the newscast, even if they ignore what’s being said.

“It’s inaccurate–that’s no longer how ISIL moves,” she added.

Since August, 2014, the United States and its allies have dropped thousands of bombs on ISIL–especially on its convoys–in Iraq and Syria.

As a result, claim U.S. officials, ISIL can no longer mass its forces in daylight–or move in large convoys.  Such large concentrations can be easily spotted–and attacked–from the air.

ISIL convoy

So how would the Pentagon like ISIL to be portrayed in file footage?

“One Toyota speeding down the road by itself at night with its headlights off,” said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren.

Warren added that some of the B-roll the networks are using comes from propaganda videos made by ISIL.

Senior State Department and Pentagon officials have begun contacting television network reporters to suggest news sources switch to using more U.S.-friendly videos, such as Iraqi army soldiers being trained, or footage from coalition airstrikes.

When contacted by Politico for comment, ABC, CNN, Fox and NBC refused to comment.

Covering how Americans behave in war has proven a challenge for American news media since the Vietnam conflict.

In 1966, New York Times reporter Harrison E. Salisbury was allowed to enter North Vietnam to cover the war from their perspective.

His reports of heavy American bombing raids and their resulting civilian casualties and infrastructure damage provoked national controversy.

Officials of the Johnson administration charged Salisbury with “aiding and abetting the enemy” by reporting North Vietnamese claims of loss.

Salisbury–and the Times–replied that of course they were reporting what North Vietnamese officials were saying.  That was why he was there–to get the other side’s point-of-view.

So long as freedom of the press exists in reality as well as theory, there will always be tension between those who want to report the news–and those who want to censor it.

A TIME OF SHAME: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 17, 2015 at 12:15 am

“John and Robert Kennedy knew what they were doing.  They waged a vicious war against Fidel Castro–a war someone had to lose.”

So writes Gus Russo in Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK, published in 1998.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert Kennedy–referring to the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor–had resisted demands for a “sneak attack” on Cuba by saying: “I don’t want my brother to be the Tojo of the 1960s.”

But in the fall of 1963, the Kennedys planned just such an attack on Cuba only one month before the November, 1964 Presidential election.

In what is almost certainly the definitive account of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Russo reaches some startling–but highly documented–conclusions:

  • Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy.
  • He did it alone.
  • Oswald, a former Marine, was a committed Marxist–whose hero was Castro.
  • The CIA’s ongoing campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate Castro was an open secret throughout the Gulf.
  • Oswald visited New Orleans in the spring of 1963.
  • There he learned that Castro was in the crosshairs of the CIA.
  • Oswald told his Russian-born wife, Marina: “Fidel Castro needs defenders.  I’m going to join his army of volunteers.” 
  • Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, murdered Oswald because he was distraught over Kennedy’s death. 
  • Ruby was not part of a Mafia conspiracy to silence Oswald. 
  • Skeptics of the Warren Commission–which concluded that Oswald had acted alone–asked the wrong question: “Who killed Kennedy?” 
  • They should have asked: “Why was he killed?”
  • The answer–according to Russo: “The Kennedys’ relentless pursuit of Castro and Cuba backfired in tragedy on that terrible day in November, 1963.”

Lee Harvey Oswald

Another book well worth reading about America’s Cuban obsession during the early 1960s is American Tabloid, by James Ellroy.

Although a novel, it vividly captures the atmosphere of intrigue, danger and sleaziness that permeated America’s Cuba obsession in a way that dry, historical documents never can.

“The 50s are finished,” reads its paperback dust jacket.  “Zealous young lawyer Robert Kennedy has a red-hot jones to nail Jimmy Hoffa.  JFK has his eyes on the Oval Office.

“J. Edgar Hoover is swooping down on the Red Menace.  Howard Hughes is dodging subpoenas and digging up Kennedy dirt.  And Castro is mopping up the bloody aftermath of his new Communist nation….

“Mob bosses, politicos, snitches, psychos, fall guys and femmes fatale.  They’re mixing up a Molotov cocktail guaranteed to end the country’s innocence with a bang.”

Among the legacies of America’s twisted romance with anti-Castro Cubans:

  • Following the JFK assassination, there was a coverup–to safeguard the reputation of the United States government and that of its newly-martyred President.
  • Thus, the CIA and FBI concealed the anti-Castro murder plots from the Warren Commission investigating Kennedy’s assassination.
  • Other participating officials in the cover-up included Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • This secrecy ignited the widespread–and false–belief that the President had died at the hands of a government conspiracy.
  • Robert Kennedy feared that his relentless pursuit of Castro might have backfired against JFK, leading Castro to “take out” the President first.
  • Fearing his own assassination if he continued Kennedy’s efforts to murder Castro, President Johnson ordered the CIA to halt its campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate the Cuban leader.
  • The huge Cuban community throughout Florida–and especially Miami–continues to exert a blackmail influence on American politics.
  • Right-wing politicians from Richard Nixon to Newt Gingrich have reaped electoral rewards by catering to the demands of this hate-obsessed voting block.
  • As a result, the United States still refuses to open diplomatic relations with Cuba–even though it has done so with such former enemies as the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam.
  • Cuban ex-patriots still hope that the United States will launch a full-scale military invasion of the island to remove Castro.
  • These alleged Cuban patriots fear to risk their own lives by returning to Cuba and launching an uprising against him.  

That crisis stemmed from our twisted obsession with Cuba, an obsession that continues today.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul is correct:

“But I think it’s time…to quit this isolation business of not talking to people. We talked to the Soviets. We talk to the Chinese. And we opened up trade, and we’re not killing each other now.

“We fought with the Vietnamese for a long time. We finally gave up, started talking to them, now we trade with them. I don’t know why…the Cuban people should be so intimidating.”

It’s time to end the half-century contamination of American politics by those Cubans who live for their hatred of Fidel Castro and those political candidates who live to exploit it.

It’s long past time to end this wag-the-dog relationship.  A population of about 1,700,000 Cuban exiles should not be allowed to shape the domestic and foreign policy of a nation of 300 million.

Those who continue to hate–or love–Castro should be left to their own private feud.  But that is a feud they should settle on their own island, and not from the shores of the United States.

A TIME OF SHAME: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 16, 2015 at 12:05 am

On April 17, 1961, the U.S. Navy landed 1,700 CIA-trained Cuban exiles ashore at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs.

President John F. Kennedy–wanting to disguise the role of the United States in the invasion–refused to commit U.S. Marines and Air Force bombers to the attack.

Long forewarned of the coming invasion, Fidel Castro sent in his forces to decimate the invaders.

Kennedy took responsibility for the failure.  But privately he blamed Castro for refusing to be overthrown.

As a result, Kennedy and his brother, Robert–then Attorney General–created  their own covert operation to depose Castro.

Robert and John F. Kennedy

Known as the Special Group, and overseen by Robert Kennedy, it launched a secret war against the Castro regime, code-named Operation Mongoose.

“We were hysterical about Castro at about the time of the Bay of Pigs and thereafter,” Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara later testified before Congress about these efforts.  “And there was pressure from JFK and RFK to do something about Castro.”

Robert S. McNamara

Nor was everyone in the CIA enthusiastic about the “get Castro” effort.

“Everyone at CIA was surprised at Kennedy’s obsession with Fidel,” recalled Sam Halpern, who was assigned to the Cuba Project.  “They thought it was a waste of time.  We all knew [Castro] couldn’t hurt us.  Most of us at CIA initially liked Kennedy, but why go after this little guy?

“One thing is for sure: Kennedy wasn’t doing it out of national security concerns.  It was a personal thing.  The Kennedy family felt personally burnt by the Bay of Pigs and sought revenge.”

It was all-out war.  Among the tactics used:

  • Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder Cuban police officials and Soviet technicians.
  • Sabotaging mines.
  • Paying up to $100,000 per “hit” for the murder or kidnapping of Cuban officials.
  • Using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry.

“Bobby (Kennedy) wanted boom and bang all over the island,” recalled Halpern. “It was stupid.  The pressure from the White House was very great.”

Among that “boom and bang” were a series of assassination plots against Castro, in which the Mafia was to be a key player.

Chicago Mobster Johnny Rosselli proposed a simple plan: through its underworld connections in Cuba, the Mafia would recruit a Cuban in Castro’s entourage, such as a waiter or bodyguard, who would poison him.

The CIA’s Technical Services division produced a botulinus toxin which was then injected into Castro’s favorite brand of cigars. The CIA also produced simpler botulinus toxin pills that could be dissolved in his food or drink.

But the deputized Mafia contacts failed to deliver any of the poisons to Castro.

Fidel Castro

As Rosselli explained to the CIA, the first poisoner had been discharged from Castro’s employ before he could kill him, while a back-up agent got “cold feet.”

Other proposals or attempts included:

  • Planting colorful seashells rigged to explode at a site where Castro liked to go skindiving.
  • Trying to arrange for his being presented with a wetsuit impregnated with noxious bacteria and mould spores, or with lethal chemical agents.
  • Attempting to infect Castro’s scuba regulator with tuberculous bacilli.
  • Trying to douse his handkerchiefs, tea and coffee with other lethal bacteria.

Americans would rightly label such methods as “terrorist” if another power used them against the United States today.  And the Cuban government saw the situation exactly the same way.

So Castro appealed to Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, for assistance.

Nikita Khrushchev

Khrushchev was quick to comply:  “We must not allow the communist infant to be strangled in its crib,” he told members of his inncer circle.

By October, 1962, the Soviet Union had sent more than 40,000 soldiers, 1,300 field pieces, 700 anti-airctaft guns, 350 tanks and 150 jets to Cuba to deter another invasion.

Khrushchev also began supplying Castro with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles–whose discovery, on October 15, 1962, ignited the single most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War.

Suddenly, the two most powerful nuclear countries–the United States and the Soviet Union–found themselves on the brink of nuclear war.

John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office

At the time, Kennedy officials claimed they couldn’t understand why Khrushchev had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba.  “Maybe Khrushchev’s gone mad” was a typical musing.

None of these officials admitted that JFK had been waging a no-holds-barred campaign to overthrow the Cuban government and assassinate its leader.

The crisis ended when, after 13 harrowing days, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba.  Behind its resolution lay a  promise by the Kennedy administration to not invade Cuba.

But President Kennedy was not finished with Castro.  While continuing the campaign of sabotage throughout Cuba, the Kennedys were preparing something far bigger: A fullscale American invasion of the island.

On October 4, 1963, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted its latest version of the invasion plan, known as OPLAN 380-63.  Its timetable went:

  • January, 1964:  Infiltration into Cuba by Cuban exiles.
  • July 15, 1964:  U.S. conventional forces join the fray.
  • August 3, 1964:  All-out U.S. air strikes on Cuba.
  • October 1, 1964:  Full-scale invasion to install “a government friendly to the U.S.”

But then fate–in the otherwise unimpressive form of Lee Harvey Oswald–suddenly intervened.

A TIME OF SHAME: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 15, 2015 at 12:10 am

On January 23, 2012, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul–all seeking the Republican nomination for President–attended a candidates’ debate in Tampa, Florida.

Gingrich, Santorum and Romney played to the huge–and influential–Cuban community in Florida, especially in Miami.

All three had carefully avoided military service.  But all three “chickenhawks” now wanted to show how eagerly they could send others into harm’s way.

Former House Speaker Gingrich spoke for all three when he said: “The policy of the United States should be aggressively to overthrow the [Castro] regime and to do everything we can to support those Cubans who want freedom.”

Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul

Only Texas Congressman Ron Paul–who had served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force from 1963 to 1968–dared to call for normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.

But even Paul’s courage ignored a great many ugly historical truths.  Among these:

  • In 1959, Fidel Castro swept triumphantly into Havana after a two-year guerrilla campaign against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
  • Before Castro’s takeover in 1959, Cuba had been a playground for wealthy American businessmen–and Mafiosi.
  • Castro quickly nationalized Cuban businesses–especially the sugar-producing ones.
  • Gangsters who had been heavily involved in running casinos were arrested, imprisoned or unofficially deported to the United States.
  • The Mob–eager to reclaim its casino investments–agreed to help the CIA assassinate Castro.
  • Among the conspirators were such powerful mobsters as Santos Trafficante, Carlos Marcello, Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana.
  • Almost immediately, hundreds of thousands of Cubans began fleeing to America.  The first emigres were more than 215,000 Batista followers.
  • The exodus escalated, peaking at approximately 78,000 in 1962.

  • In October, 1962, Castro stopped regularly scheduled travel between the two countries, and asylum seekers began sailing from Cuba to Florida.
  • Between 1962 and 1979, hundreds of thousands of Cubans entered the United States under the Attorney General’s parole authority.
  • The overwhelming majority of Cubans who immigrated into the United States settled in Florida, whose political, economic, and cultural life they transformed.
  • By 2008, more than 1.24 million Cuban Americans were living in the United States, mostly in South Florida, where the population of Miami was about one-third Cuban.
  • Many of these Cubans viewed themselves as political exiles, rather than immigrants, hoping to return to Cuba after its communist regime fell from power.
  • The large number of Cubans in South Florida, particularly in Miami’s “Little Havana,” allowed them to preserve their culture and customs to a degree rare for immigrant groups.
  • These discontented immigrants became a potential force for politicians to court.
  • Unsurprisingly, most of their votes went to Right-wing Republicans.

John F. Kennedy was the first President to face this dilemma.

John F. Kennedy

During the closing months of the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA had begun training Cuban exiles for an invasion of their former homeland.

The goal: To do what Castro had done–seek refuge in the mountains and launch a successful anti-Castro revolution.

But word of the coming invasion quickly leaked: The exiles were terrible secret-keepers.  (A joke at the CIA went: “A Cuban thinks a secret is something you tell to only 300 people.”)

Kennedy insisted the invasion must appear to be an entirely Cuban enterprise.  He refused to commit U.S. Marines and Air Force bombers.

The invasion force was quickly overwhelmed at the Bay of Pigs, with hundreds of its men taken prisoner.

Kennedy publicly took the blame for its failure: “Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.”  But privately he seethed, and ordered the CIA to redouble its efforts to remove Castro at all costs.

To make certain his order was carried out, he appointed his brother, Robert–then Attorney General–to oversee the CIA’s “Castro removal” program.

It’s here that America’s obsession with Cuba entered its darkest and most disgraceful period.

The CIA and the Mafia entered into an unholy alliance to assassinate Castro–each for its own benefit.

The CIA wanted to please Kennedy.  The Mafia wanted to regain its casino and brothel holdings that had made Cuba the playground of the rich in pre-Castro times.

The CIA supplied poisons and explosives to various members of the Mafia.  It was then up to the mobsters to assassinate Castro.

The available sources disagree on what actually happened.  Some believe that the Mob made a genuine effort to “whack” Fidel.

Others are convinced the mobsters simply ran a scam on the government.  They pretended to carry out their “patriotic duty” while in fact making no effort at all to penetrate Castro’s security.

The mobsters hoped to use their pose as patriots to win immunity from future prosecution.

The CIA asked John Roselli, a mobster linked to the Chicago syndicate, to go to Florida in 1961 and 1962 to organize assassination teams of Cuban exiles.  They were to infiltrate their homeland and assassinate Castro.

John Roselli

Rosselli called upon two other crime figures: Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana and Santos Trafficante, the Costra Nostra chieftain for Cuba, to help him.

Giancana, using the name “Sam Gold” in his dealings with the CIA, was being hounded by the FBI on direct orders of Attorney General Kennedy.

Sam Giancana

A FADING GLORY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on April 9, 2015 at 12:27 am

Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II epic, opens with a scene of an American flag snapping in the wind.

Except that the vivid red, white and blue we’ve come to expect in Old Glory has been washed out, leaving only black-and-white stripes.

And then the movie opens–not during World War II but the present day.

It makes you wonder: Did Spielberg know something–such as that the United States, for all its military power, has become a pale shadow of its former glory?

Consider the following:

May, 30, 1945, marked the first Memorial Day after World War II ended in Europe.

On that day the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery became the site of just such a ceremony. The cemetery lies near the modern Italian town of Nettuno.

In 1945, it held about  20,000 graves. Most were soldiers who died in Sicily, at Salerno, or at Anzio.

One of the speakers at the ceremony was Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., the US Fifth Army Commander.

Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Unlike many other generals, Truscott had shared in the dangers of combat, often going over maps on the hood of his jeep with company commanders as bullets or shells zipped close by.

When it came his turn to speak, Truscott moved to the podium–and then did something truly unexpected.

Looking at the assembled visitors–which included a number of Congressmen–Truscott turned his back on the living to face the graves of his fellow soldiers.

Among Truscott’s audience was Bill Mauldin, the famous cartoonist for the Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes.  Mauldin had created Willie and Joe, the unshaved, slovenly-looking “dogfaces” who came to symbolize the GI.

Bill Mauldin and “Willie and Joe,” the characters he made famous

It is from Mauldin that we have the fullest account of Truscott’s speech that day.

“He apologized to the dead men for their presence there.  He said that everybody tells leaders that it is not their fault that men get killed in war, but that every leader knows in his heart that this is not altogether true.

“He said he hoped anybody here through any mistake of his would forgive him, but he realized that was asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances….

“Truscott said he would not speak of the ‘glorious’ dead because he didn’t see much glory in getting killed in your late teens or early twenties.

“He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out.  He said he thought it was the least he could do.

“It was the most moving gesture I ever saw,” said Mauldin.

Then Truscott walked away, without acknowledging his audience.

Fast forward 61 years–to March 24, 2004.

At a White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.

One year earlier, he had invaded Iraq on the premise that its dictator, Saddam Hussein, possessed WMDs he intended to use against the United States.

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night.

While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope-–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had lost comrades or suffered grievous wounds to protect America from non-existant WMDs.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube 

Then fast forward another 11 years–to February 27, 2015.

The Republican Party’s leading presidential contenders for 2016 gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Although each candidate tried to stake his own claim to the Oval Office, all of them agreed on two points:

First, President Barack Obama had been dangerously timid in his conduct of foreign policy.

Second, they would pursue aggressive military action in the Middle East.

“Our position needs to be to re-engage with a strong military and a strong presence,” said Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida.

And Bush added that he would consider sending ground forces to fight ISIS.

Scott Walker, the current governor of Florida, equated opposing labor unions to terrorists, and said: “If I could take on 100,000 protesters (in Wisconsin), I can do the same across the world.”

Neither Bush nor Walker saw fit to enter the ranks of the military he wishes to plunge into further combat.

And Bush and Walker are typical of those who make up the United States Congress:

Of those members elected or re-elected to the House and Senate in November, 2014, 97–less than 18%–have served in the U.S. military.

Small wonder that, for many people, Old Glory has taken on a darker, washed-out appearance.

A DEVIL’S BARGAIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 8, 2015 at 12:01 am

The 1989 movie, Fat Man and Little Boy, provides useful insights into the real-life workings of bureaucracies.

In it, the brilliant and ambitious physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Dwight Schultz) comes–too late–to realize he’s made a deal with the devil.

The same proved true for the J. Robert Oppenhiemer of history.

Paul Newman as General Leslie Groves and Dwight Schultz as J. Robert Oppenheimer 

Hired by Army General Leslie Groves (played by Paul Newman) to ramrod construction of an atomic bomb, Oppenheimer has no qualms about using it against Nazi Germany.

It’s believed, after all, that German scientists are furiously pursuing work on such a weapon.

The full horror of the extermination camps has not yet been revealed.  But “Oppie” and many other Jewish scientists working on the Manhattan Project can easily imagine the fate of Jews trapped within the borders of the Third Reich.

Then something unforeseen happens. On May 8, 1945, the Third Reich collapses and signs unconditional surrender terms.

Almost at the same time, the U.S. military learns that although German physicists had tried to make an atomic bomb, they never even got close to producing one.

So Oppenheimer finds himself still working to build the most devastating weapon in history–but now lacking the enemy he had originally signed on to destroy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government has invested nearly $2 billion in the Manhattan Project–at a time when $2 billion truly meant the equivalent of $1 trillion today. Is all that money to go for nothing?

What to do?

Oppenheimer doesn’t have to make that decision. It’s made for him—by Groves, by Groves’ superiors in the Army, and ultimately by the new President, Harry S. Truman.

The bomb will be used, after all. It will just be turned against the Japanese, who are even more hated by most Americans than the Germans. It doesn’t matter that:

  • The Japanese lack the technological skill of the Germans to produce an atomic bomb.
  • They are rapidly being pushed across the Pacific to their home islands.
  • American bombers are incinerating Japanese cities at wil.
  • The Japanese are desperately trying to find a way to surrender without losing face.

What matters is that Pearl Harbor is still fresh in the minds of Americans generally and of the American military in particular.

And that now that the Japanese are being pushed back into their home islands, they are fighting ever more fanatically to hold off certain defeat.

General Douglas MacArthur, who is scheduled to command the invasion of Japan, has estimated a million American casualties if this goes forward.

Oppenheimer, who has taught physics at the University of California at Berkeley, now finds himself being taught a lesson: That, once set in motion, bureaucracies–like objects–continue to move forward unless something intervenes to stop them.

And, in this case, there is no one willing to say: Stop.

So, on July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb in history is detonated at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Atomic bomb test at Los Alamos: July 16, 1945

Then, on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber drops “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. An estimated 80,000 people die instantly.

By the end of the year, injury and radiation bring total casualties to 90,000-140,000.

On August 9, it’s the turn of Nagasaki. Casualty estimates for the dropping of “Fat Man” range from 40,000 to 73,884, with another 74,909 injured, and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying due to fallout and other illness caused by radiation.

For Oppenheimer, the three years he has devoted to creating an atomic bomb will prove the pivotal event of his life. He will be praised and damned as an “American Prometheus,” who brought atomic fire to man.

Countless Americans–especially those who would have been ordered to invade Japan–will revere him as the man who brought the war to a quick end.

And countless Americans–and non-Americans–will condemn him as a man whose arrogance and ambition led him to arm mankind with the means of its own destruction.

Witnessing the first successful atomic explosion, Oppenheimer had been stunned by the sheer magnitude of destructiveness he had helped unleash.

Quoting the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, he murmured: “Now I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.”

Faced with the massive toll of lives taken by the device he had created, Oppenheimer became convinced that the only hope for humanity lay in abolishing nuclear weapons.

He vigorously opposed the creation of a “super” hydrogen bomb. His advice was overruled, however, and construction of this went forward at the same pace that Oppenheimer had once driven others to create the atomic bomb.

The first test of this even more terrifying weapon occurred on November 1, 1952.

By 1953, just as Oppenheimer had predicted, the Soviet Union had launched its own H-bomb test.

In a famous meeting with President Truman, Oppenheimer reportedly said, “Mr. President, I have blood on my hands.”

Truman later claimed that he had offered Oppenheimer a handkerchief, saying, “Here, this will wash it off.”

It didn’t.

During the hysteria of the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts, Oppenheimer found himself accused of being a Communist traitor. In 1954, he was stripped of his government security clearance.

Unable to prevent the military bureaucracy from moving relentlessly to use the atomic bomb, he could not halt the political bureaucracy from its own rush into cowardice and the wrecking of others’ lives.

GOOD NEWS IN THE TERROR WARS

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2015 at 12:19 am

On February 7, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released some encouraging news for those fighting Islamic terrorism.

More than 210,000 people have been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war.

Conflict began on March 15, 2011.  The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

According to the Observatory, which is based in Coventry, England:

  • The estimated death toll now stands at 210,041.
  • More than 35,827 rebels have been killed and over 45,385 Syrian army soldiers.
  • The umber of foreign fighters killed is nearly 25,000.
  • The real number of non-Syrian casualties is estimated to be 85,000 more than the documented number.

The Observatory’s director, Rami Abdelrahman, damned not the killers but those nations refusing to be sucked into this constantly escalating violence:

“It is shameful that the international community has done nothing to show that it will defend human rights.  They are just looking on at this tragedy. The Syrian people dying are just statistics to them.”

If those dying in Syria are “just statistics,” then they are statistics of terrorists and potential terrorists who will never pose a threat to the United States.

Think of it:

  • In four years, 210,000 actual or potential enemies of Western Civilization have chosen to slaughter each other.
  • Additional thousands are certain to follow their example.
  • And the United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it.

Here are seven excellent reasons why America should not send soldiers to bomb and/or invade Syria.

1. Intervening in Syria could produce unintended consequences for American forces–and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism.

American bombs or missiles could land on one or more sites containing stockpiles of chemical weapons.  Imagine the international outrage that will result if the release of those weapons kills hundreds or thousands of Syrians.

Within the Islamic world, the United States will be seen as waging a war against Islam, and not simply another Islamic dictator.

Almost certainly, an American military strike on Syria would lead its dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to attack Israel–perhaps even with chemical weapons.

Assad could do this simply because he hates Jews–or to lure Israel into attacking Syria.

If that happened, the Islamic world–which lusts to destroy Israel more than anything else–would rally to Syria against the United States, Israel’s chief ally.

2.  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 other murderers who now wish to become the next tyrant.

3.  The United States doesn’t know what it wants to do in Syria, other than “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.”  But President Barack Obama hasn’t stated what he intends gain by attacking Syria.

Obama has said he’s “not after regime-change.”  If true, that would leave Assad in power–and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

4. The Assad regime is backed by–among others–the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

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 considers Shiite Muslims to be “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 sthese ectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

When your enemies are intent on killing each other, it’s best to stand aside and let them do it.

5.  China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.

This reflects badly on them–not the United States.

6.  The United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia and/or China.

What happens if American and Russian warships–or armies–start exchanging fire?  Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War l.

7.  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.

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 brings us 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.

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