In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 12, 2020 at 12:10 am

On August 2, 1934, German President Paul von Hindenburg died. Adolf Hitler was then serving as Reich Chancellor—the equivalent of attorney general. Within hours, the Nazi Reichstag [parliament] announced the following law, back-dated to August 1st:

“The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.” 

Immediately following the announcement of the new Führer law, the German officer corps and every individual soldier in the German Army was made to swear a new oath of allegiance:

“I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German Reich and People, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unconditional obedience, and that I am ready, as a brave soldier, to risk my life at any time for this oath.” 

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Soldiers swearing the Fuhrer Oath

For Germans—especially officers of the Wehrmacht—taking an oath was a holy act. Previously they had sworn obedience to the German state. Now they swore personal allegiance to Adolf Hitler.

On September 1,1939, Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland—and unintentionally ignited World War II. By 1943, the war had gone increasingly badly for Nazi Germany. And growing numbers of military officers felt torn between the oath they had taken to Hitler and the obligation they felt to save their Fatherland from total destruction. 

Now President Donald Trump wants to resurrect “the German experiment.”

On May 6, Foreign Policy magazine carried an alarming story under the headline: “Trump Taps Point Man to Remove Pentagon Officials Seen as Disloyal.” 

Specifically: “Michael Cutrone, who has been detailed as Vice President Mike Pence’s top national security aide for South Asia, is set to arrive at the Pentagon to serve in a behind-the-scenes role vetting Defense Department officials for loyalty to the president, according to two current administration officials.” 

An anonymous Defense official said of Cutroone: “He is pushing to replace and remove civilians in OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] that are not aligned with the White House. [Secretary of Defense Mark] Esper has no say in who the key people are going into senior positions.”

Cutrone is reportedly now serving as a CIA analyst. 

Veteran Pentagon officials fear that the few remaining professional appointees who can resist illegal or irrational  policy ideas will be removed from their posts or undermined. This will ensure far tighter White House control than had been the case under Defense Secretary James Mattis,

In February, Republicans refused to hold Trump accountable via impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Since then, the President has purged independent officials throughout government—and appointed political loyalists in their places. 

One such ousted official was Michael Atkinson, the Intelligence community’s top oversight official. Atkinson had enraged Trump by telling Congress the truth: That a whistleblower had filed a complaint about Trump’s attempted extortion of the president of Ukraine in return for his smearing former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic Presidential rival in the 2020 election.

In 1935, Adolf Hitler appointed his crony, Hermann Goring, as Reichsmarshall of the Luftwaffe, the German air force. In December, 1941, he promoted himself Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht, the German army. 

Adolf Hitler

Both appointments proved disastrous.

Goring, a World War 1 fighter pilot, lost more than 1,700 planes in his attempt to conquer England in the battle of Britain (August – October, 1940). Many of the 2,662 casualties were experienced pilots, and the Luftwaffe never fully recovered.

Similarly, Hitler, a corporal during World War 1, presided over a succession of German defeats that ultimately led to the Red Army storming Berlin in 1945.

William Kristol—a Right-wing political analyst—has been dubbed “the godfather of neoconservatism.” And with good reason. 

Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, was one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

But on February 15, 2019, Kristol posted on Twitter: 

“Members of Congress take this oath of office (see Title 5, Section 3331 of the United States Code): ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.'”

On May 7, in a blistering attack on his fellow Republicans, he posted “the new GOP Congressional oath”:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend Donald Trump against all oversight; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to him; that I take this obligation despite mental reservation and in the spirit of evasion of duty. So help me God.”

No doubt Kristol, who considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, remembers all too well the fate of those who took a similar oath to Adolf Hitler.

The lucky ones were sent to concentration camps. The unlucky ones wound up on meat hooks.

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