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FOR REPUBLICANS: A WARNING ABOUT CLASS WARFARE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 26, 2018 at 12:07 am

A 2012 book offers timely advice for Republicans who believe that serving the interests of the wealthiest 1% will maintain their party in power.

It’s Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising use of American Power, by David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

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Divided into five sections, it dramatically covers the following subjects:

Afghanistan and Pakistan – How Obama sought to disengage from the former while readying plans to occupy the latter should its growing nuclear arsenal pose a threat to America.

Iran – To prevent the Iranians from building nuclear weapons, Obama authorized a malevolent virus to be inserted into that nation’s computer system.

Drones and Cyber – American drone attacks have wiped out much of Al Qaeda’s leadership—but increasingly strained U.S. relations with Pakistan.  And while America has launched cyber attacks on Iran, it remains vulnerable to similar attacks—especially by China.

Arab Spring – America was totally surprised by the popular revolts sweeping the Arab world.  And Obama had to balance  showing support for the revolutionaries against jeopardizing America’s longtime Arab—and dictatorial—allies.

China and North Korea – The United States found itself financially strained to meet its worldwide military commitments.  This forced Obama to use a both persuasion and containment against both these potential adversaries.

And in its section on the Arab Spring, there is an unintended warning to Republicans and their Right-wing followers.

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David Sanger (Copyright, Creative Commons)

Sanger analyzes why the vast majority of Egyptians felt no solidarity with Hosni Mubarak, the general/dictator who ruled Egypt from 1981 ti 2911. 

Mubarak came to power after Islamic fundamentalists assassinated President Anwar Sadat during a military review. They believed that Sadat had committed the unpardonable crime of signing a peace treaty with Israel.

Mubarack often warned Washington that only he could prevent Egypt from being dominated by fundamentalist, anti-American groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

But, writes Sanger, he achieved the very opposite:

“By leaving his citizens without a social safety net, by failing to invest in the country’s crumbling infastructure…he paved the way for the Brotherhood’s success….

“In a land where the state delivers so little, even the smallest [medical] clinic” as provided by the Brotherhood “will win respect and loyalty.

“So when it came time to vote, most Egyptians decided to cast their ballots for candidates they knew could provide something—Islamist or not, it almost didn’t matter….”

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Hosni Mubarak (Copyright, Presidenza della Repubblica)

One such Brotherhood supporter, who grew up in the poor, agricultural region of Beni Suef, was quoted as saying:

“The Muslim Brotherhood came into my village, and brought lorries of fruits and vegetables,” selling them at discounted prices.  “They supported medical clinics”–and thus won the hearts of the people they served.

Fast forward to Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee, and his vision for America.

As Romney saw it, questions about Wall Street scandals and income inequality were driven only by “envy.”

On January 11, 2012, after winning the New Hampshire primary, Romney appeared on NBC’s “The Today Show.”  Host Matt Lauer noted that many Americans were concerned “about the distribution of wealth and power in this country.”

“I think it’s about envy,” replied Romney, whose own fortune has been conservatively estimated at $250 million. “I think it’s about class warfare.

“I think when you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent… you’ve opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of ‘one nation under God.’”

Romney added that it wasn’t necessary to have a public debate about the inequality of wealth distribution in this country.

“I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like,” Romney said. “But the President has made this part of his campaign rally.

“Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it’ll fail.”

Romney did not mention that, in 2007, the richest 1% of the American populace—of which he is a member—owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%.

Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

Romney claimed that Obama’s focus on this issue was just “part of his campaign rally.”

Clearly, now-ousted rulers like Mubarak and Muammar Quaddaffi believed “it’s fine to talk about these things” like vast differences in wealth “in quiet rooms.”  That is, so long as they and their 1% rich supporters were doing the talking.

But over time their remoteness from the vast majority of their impoverished fellow citizens sealed their doom.  When enough people broke into open revolt, even the military decided to change sides.

Mubarack was forced to resign, and Quaddaffi—after waging war against his own people—was captured and murdered.

If Romney’s—and now Donald Trump’s—vision of “everything for the 1%” is allowed to prevail, they and their ultra-privileged supporters may truly learn the lessons of class warfare.  

“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE” COMES HOME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2018 at 12:15 am

According to the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (which cracks codes and listens to the telephone conversation of foreign leaders) it’s clear that Russian trolls and Intelligence agents played a major role in subverting the 2016 Presidential election.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, assigned in May, 2017, to investigate charges of Russian interference, believes there was collusion. He has secured criminal charges against 19 people, including five guilty pleas. And more are undoubtedly coming.

And 65% of Americans believe that Mueller should be allowed to continue his investigation.

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Robert Mueller
Apparently, most Americans don’t like having their elections subverted by enemy nations.

Subverting the governments of other countries is a right that Americans have long reserved for themselves. Among those regimes that have been toppled:

  • Between 1898 and 1934, the United States repeatedly intervened with military force in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Americans staged invasions of Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925 to defend U.S. interests. These were defined as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company.
  • The United States occupied Nicaragua almost continuously from 1912 to 1933. Its legacy was the imposition of the tyrannical Somoza family, which ruled from 1936 to 1979.
  • The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. American banks had lent money to Haiti and requested American government intervention.
  • In 1918, 13,000 American soldiers joined armies from Europe and Japan to overthrow the new Soviet government and restore the previous Tsarist regime. By 1920, the invading forces proved unsuccessful and withdrew.

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Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918  

  • From 1946 to 1949, the United States provided military, logistical and other aid to the Right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek. Its opponent were Communist forces led by Mao Tse-Tung, who ultimately proved victorious.
  • In 1953, the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA to overthrew the democratically-elected government of of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. His crime: Nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913. He was succeeded by Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi. Whereas Mossadeddgh had ruled as a constitutional monarch, Phlavi was a dictator who depended on United States government support to retain power until he was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. His crime: Installing a series of reforms that expanded the right to vote, allowed workers to organize, legitimized political parties and allowed public debate. Most infuriating to American Right-wingers: His agrarian reform law, which expropriated parts of large land-holdings and redistributed them to agricultural laborers. The United Fruit Company lobbied the United States government to overthrow him—and the CIA went into action. Arbenz was replaced by the first of a series of brutal Right-wing dictators.
  • From 1959 until 1963, the United States government was obsessed with overthrowing the revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Although not democratically elected, Castro was wildly popular in Cuba for overthrowing the dictatorial Fulgencio Batista. On April 17, 1961, over 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban military forces crushed the invasion in three days.
  • Infuriated with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy authorized “Operation Mongoose” to remove Castro through sabotage and assassination. The CIA, wanting to please Kennedy, teamed up with the Mafia, which wanted to resurrect its casinos on the island. Among the tactics used: Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder police officials and Soviet technicians; sabotaging mines; using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry. None of these proved successful in assassinating Castro nor overturning his regime.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Fidel Castro

  • In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende from being democratically elected as president of Chile. When that failed, he ordered the CIA to overthrow Allende. Allende’s crime: A series of liberal reforms, including nationalizing large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking. In 1973, he was overthrown by Chilean army units and national police. He was followed by Right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who slaughtered 3,200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 and forced another 200,000 Chileans into exile.

And how did Americans react to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—at regime change?

Through indifference or outright support.

The popular 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible,” regularly depicted a CIA-type agency supporting regimes “we” liked or toppling those “we” didn’t.

Americans generally assume their Presidents and Congress know best who is a “friend” and who is an “enemy.”  America’s friends often turn out, for the most part, to be Right-wing dictators like Chiang Kai-Shek, Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet and Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi.

And its enemies often turn out to be liberal reformers like Augusto Sandino, Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende. 

Americans tend to favor intervention for the flimsiest of reasons. In 2003, President George W. Bush claimed Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had plotted 9/11 with Osama bin Laden. There was absolutely no proof to substantiate this, yet Americans overwhelmingly supported Bush’s unprovoked invasion of Iraq. 

But now the shoe is on the other foot. Except for President Donald Trump and his fanatical supporters, Americans are furious that a foreign power has dared to install “regime change” on them.

Americans are now tasting the medicine they have dished out to so many other countries. And they find it as repugnant as those countries have found the American brand.

BRAGGING WORDS AND DEFEAT’S REALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 20, 2018 at 12:07 am

By February, 1943, the tide of war had turned irrevocably for Nazi Germany.

The string of quick and easy victories that had started on September 1, 1939 was over:

  • Poland
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Holland
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Greece
  • France.

All had fallen under the heel of the Nazi jackboot. The swastika flag still flew triumphantly over the capitols of these once-free nations. 

And the word—and whim—of Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler remained law for their populations.

But by March, 1943, all except the most fanatical Nazis could see that Germany was on a collision course with disaster.

  • Under the unshakable leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Great Britain still remained a sworn enemy of the Third Reich.
  • After six months of spectacular victories against the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht  had become hopelessly bogged down in the snow before Moscow.
  • On December 11, 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor by his ally, Japan, Hitler declared war on the United States—thus pitting the Reich against the world’s two most powerful nations: America and Russia.
  • In November, 1942, at El Alamein, the British Army halted the advance of General Erwin Rommel and his famed Afrika Korps across North Africa.
  • On February 2, 1943, General Friedrich von Paulus surrendered the remains of the once-powerful Sixth Army at Stalingrad. The Reich suffered 730,000 total casualties, including nearly 91,000 German prisoners taken prisoner. 
  • On June 6, 1944, American, British and Canadian armies overwhelmed German’s “impregnable wall of death” on the Normandy beaches. 
  • In February, 1945, following the Vistula-Oder Offensive, the Red Army temporarily halted 37 miles east of Berlin. 

So, by March, 1943, Germany desperately needed to hear some good news.  And Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was eager to supply it. 

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Joseph Goebbels

He did so in one of his last public addresses, delivered to a large but carefully selected audience in Gorlitz. 

For Goebbels, the greatest challenge to the Reich lay in “the Bolshevist danger in the East.”  And, for him, the solution was clear: “Total war is the demand of the hour.” 

“Our soldiers, as soon as the great push on the Eastern Front gets under way, will ask no mercy and give no mercy.

“Already, our forces have begun softening up operations, and in the next weeks and months the big offensive will begin. They will go into battle with devotion like congregations going to a religious service.

“And when our men shoulder their weapons and climb into their tanks, there will be before their eyes the sight of their violated women and murdered children. A cry of vengeance will rise from their throats that will make the enemy tremble with fear!

“So, as the Fuhrer has overcome crises in the past, so will he triumph now.

“The other day he told me ‘I firmly believe that we shall overcome this crisis. I firmly believe that our army of millions will beat back our enemy and annihilate him. And some day our banners will be victorious. This is my life’s unshakable belief.’” 

Thunderous applause repeatedly interrupted Goebbels’ address. Yet this could not replace the enormous losses Germany had suffered since 1939. Nor could it reverse the march of the Allied armies as they closed in on the Reich from East and West. 

Now, fast-forward 74 years to November 23, 2017—Thanksgiving Day.   

Donald Trump, President of the United States, speaks by video teleconference to American forces stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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Donald Trump

President George W. Bus had flown into Baghdad in 2003 to spend Thanksgiving with American forces. He flew into Iraq once again to visit troops in June, 2006. 

And President Barack Obama visited American soldiers in Iraq in 2009, in Afghanistan in 2010, 2012 and 2014. 

Trump’s “visit” was unique—in that he addressed American troops from his Mar-a-Lago Club and Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. 

The address started off predictably enough: “It’s an honor to speak with you all and to give God thanks for the blessings of freedom and for the heroes who really have this tremendous courage that you do to defend us and to defend freedom.” 

But, being Trump, he could not resist paying homage to himself: “We’re being talked about again as an armed forces. We’re really winning. We know how to win, but we have to let you win. They weren’t letting you win before; they we’re letting you play even. We’re letting you win….

“They say we’ve made more progress against ISIS than they did in years of the previous administration, and that’s because I’m letting you do your job….”

In short: All those sacrifices you made under Presidents Bush and Obama went for nothing.  

“A lot of things have happened with our country over the last very short period of time, and they’re really good—they’re really good. I especially like saying that companies are starting to come back.

“Now we’re working on tax cuts—big, fat, beautiful tax cuts. And hopefully we’ll get that and then you’re going to really see things happen.” 

Or, put another way: Be grateful they elected me—because you’re about to see the 1% richest get even richer.  Too bad you won’t be so lucky.

A REPUBLICAN–AND RED–PRESIDENT?

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on April 16, 2018 at 4:36 pm

From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it would have been unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to find common cause with a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald Trump won, first, the Republican Presidential nomination and, then, the White House. Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even called on him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

“Russia, if you are listening,” Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida, “I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing—I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

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Donald Trump

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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Trump, however—as both Presidential candidate and President—has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia.  An example of this occurred during his exchange with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the third and final Presidential debate on October 19, 2016:  

CLINTON: So I actually think the most important question of this evening, Chris, is, finally, will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past?

Those are the questions we need answered. We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before. 

CHRIS WALLACE: Well?

TRUMP: [After insisting that Clinton wanted “open borders” and “people are going to pour into this country,” Trump finally deigned to address Wallace’s question.]  Now we can talk about Putin. I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me. 

CLINTON: … that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race.

So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We’ve never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election.

We have 17–17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.  And I think it’s time you take a stand…

TRUMP: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else….

CLINTON: …17 intelligence—do you doubt 17 military and civilian…

TRUMP:  And our country has no idea.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that there has been “no collusion” between himself and anyone from Russia. 

But he has tried hard to shut down any investigation of ties between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

He has attacked reputable news organizations—such as CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times—as “fake news” for reporting on the expanding network of proven ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

On February 15, 2017, Trump privately asked FBI Director James Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey resisted that demand. 

On May 9, 2017, Trump suddenly fired Comey, claiming his motive for doing so was that Comey had mistreated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential race. 

But on May 10, he unintentionally gave away the real reason. It happened during a meeting in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.  

Kislyak was reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He had been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Flynn.  

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Comey’s firing resulted in demands for a Special Counsel to investigate Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 election. On May 17, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Meuller III to do so. 

Since then, Trump has repeatedly threatened to fire Mueller to shut down the investigation. 

On April 15, during an interview on ABC’s “20/20” to promote his upcoming book, A Higher Loyalty, Comey was asked: Do you think the Russians have compromising material on Trump? 

And he answered: “I think it’s possible. I don’t know. These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible.”

WHY REPUBLICANS REALLY SUPPORT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 12, 2018 at 12:05 am

As President Donald Trump lurches daily from one crisis to another—most of them of his own making—many Americans ask: “Why do Republicans continue to support him?” 

The answer lies in what happened 73 years ago in Berlin—when the “Thousand-Year” Third Reich collapsed after little more than 12 years.

While the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.” 

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And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no German admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

American and British soldiers couldn’t find any German veterans willing to admit they had ever fought against Western, democratic nations. All the once-proud legionaries of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS swore they had been fighting “the real enemy”—the Russians—on the Eastern front.

Countless Germans claimed to have hidden Jews in their attics. If so, how had six million Jews died horrifically before the Reich fell? 

And almost universally, they blamed the conflict on the man they had embraced as their Fuhrer.

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

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“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.” 

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8, 2017 after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Comey revealed that, on February 14, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, offered a more accurate explanation of Trump’s motives. Speaking on The PBS Newshour, Brooks said:

“We are a nation of laws. Donald Trump lives in an entirely different cultural universe. He is more clannist, believing in clan, believing in family, believing in loyalty, not recognizing objective law, not recognizing the procedures that is really how modern government operates….

“It’s not only that he doesn’t know the rules, but at all along and throughout his presidency, he has sort of trampled on the rules almost as a matter of policy, as a matter of character, because he doesn’t believe in that kind of relationships. It’s all personal loyalty, not about laws and norms and standards.”

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Meuller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

GREATNESS IN HEROES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 11, 2018 at 12:04 am

Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) also became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

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Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person….

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Meanwhile, Stalin has been universally condemned as one of history’s greatest tyrants.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Third hero—James Brien Comey (December 14, 1960)

Comey served as United States Attorney (federal prosecutor) for the Southern District of New York (2002-2003).

As United States Deputy Attorney General (2003-2005), he opposed the warrantless wiretapping program of the George W. Bush administration. He also argued against the use of water boarding as an interrogation method.

In 2005, he entered the private sector as General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Lockheed Martin, the biggest contractor for the Department of Defense. 

On July 29, 2013, the United States Senate voted 93 -1 to confirm Comey as director of the FBI, the seventh in its history.

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James B. Comey

He directed the FBI from his appointment in 2013 by President Barack Obama until his firing on May 9 by President Donald Trump.

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump gave no warning of his intentions. Instead, he sent Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard, to the FBI with a letter announcing Comey’s dismissal.

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.
  2. Trump had tried to coerce him into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  3. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

As a Presidential candidate and President, Trump:

  • Steadfastly denied those revelations;
  • Repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post; and
  • Attacked the Intelligence agencies responsible for America’s security. 

On May 10—the day after firing Comey—Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

During that meeting he gave the Russians sensitive Intelligence on ISIS that had been supplied by Israel. 

Two days later, on May 12, Trump tweeted a threat to the fired FBI director: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.” 

But shortly afterward, it appeared Trump was the one who should worry: Reports surfaced that Comey had written memos to himself immediately after his private meetings with Trump. 

He had also told close aides that Trump was trying to pressure him into dropping the investigation into close ties between Russian Intelligence agents and Trump campaign staffers.

As for Trump’s threat of having tapes of his and Comey’s conversations: Like Trump’s claim that he could prove that Barack Obama wasn’t an American citizen, this, too, proved to be a lie.

And Comey’s firing led directly to a result Trump did not anticipate: Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yielded to demands from Democrats and appointed former FBI Director Robert Meuller III as a special prosecutor to investigate those ties.

GREATNESS IN HEROES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2018 at 3:03 pm

…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.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Three heroes, two villains.

Two of the heroes are Russian; the third is an American.

The villains: One Russian (actually, Georgian); one American.

First up—in order of disappearance: Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (pronounced too-ka-chev-sky)

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a leading Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

Image result for images of mikhail tukhachevsky

Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning—and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin—the son of a Georgian cobbler—resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family. A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do—frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 20 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again—rightly—considered a Russian hero and military genius. And Stalin is universally—and rightly—seen as a blood-stained tyrant.

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends–to his ultimate misfortune–was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him. 

AMERICA: TIME TO AVOID WORLD WAR III IN SYRIA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 9, 2018 at 12:03 am

On April 8, President Donald Trump attacked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Twitter for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria. 

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad.

“Big price…….to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”

In fact, there are ten excellent reasons for withdrawing American soldiers from their current war on ISIS forces in Syria.  

1.  It’s been less than seven years since the United States disengaged from its disastrous war in Iraq.  On December 18, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–killed 4,487 service members and wounded another 32,226. 

2. The United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan. Although the American military role formally ended in December, 2014, airstrikes against Taliban positions continue and U.S. troops remain in combat positions.

3.  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 detonate stockpiles of Syrian chemical weapons—and kill hundreds or thousands of Syrians.

U.S. warship firing Tomahawk Cruise missile

Islamics will see the United States waging a war against Islam, and not simply another Islamic dictator.

4.  Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism. Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez—the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

5.  There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support—only murderers who have long served a tyrant or now wish to support the next tyrant. With no history of democratic government, Syrians aren’t thirsting for one now.

6. The United States didn’t create the dictatorial regime of “President” Bashir al-Assad.

Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it since 2011.

7.  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 Trump hasn’t stated what his “state policy” is toward Syria. 

8. 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. 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 241 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. Besides plotting 9/11, It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.

Examples of these sectarian 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.

9.  The United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia.

The Russians have shipped bombers, tanks and artillery units to Syria, in addition to hundreds of Russian troops. This is an all-out effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to bolster President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime—and show that Russia is once again a “major player.”

What happens if American and Russian tanks and/or artillery units start trading salvos? Or if 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.

But unlike the Great Powers of 1914, today’s Great Powers have nuclear arsenals.

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

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

The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them. In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Damascus, their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge. And Hezbollah will do so.

Similarly, when Hezbollah destroys a mosque, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.

No American could instill such hatred in Al-Qaeda for Hezbollah—or vice versa. This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.

This conflict 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.”

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.

A POIGNANT ANNIVERSARY FAST APPROACHING

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 5, 2018 at 12:09 am

Fifty years ago, the Reverend Martin Luther King was shot to death as he stood on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. He had come there to lead a march of striking garbage workers.

New York United States Senator—and now Presidential candidate—Robert Francis Kennedy had been scheduled to give a speech in Indianapolis, Indiana, before a black audience.

Just before he drove into the city to deliver his address, he learned of King’s assassination. There was a real danger that rioting would erupt. Police who had been assigned to protect him said they wouldn’t accompany him into the inner city.

Kennedy drove off anyway, leaving behind his police escort.

Standing on a podium mounted on a flatbed truck, Kennedy spoke for just four minutes and 57 seconds.

His waiting audience hadn’t yet learned of King’s death. Kennedy broke the news to gasps, and then gave an impromptu speech eulogizing the slain civil rights leader.

For the first time since the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, he spoke publicly of that killing. He noted that JFK—like King—had also been killed by a white man.

And he called upon the crowd to “dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.”

Riots erupted in 60 cities following King’s death—but not in Indianapolis.

Fifty years ago, Robert Kennedy aroused passions of an altogether different sort from those aroused by Donald Trump.

Kennedy had been a United States Attorney General (1961-1964) and Senator from New York (1964-1968). But it was his connection to his beloved and assassinated brother, President John F. Kennedy, for which he was best known.

In October, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, his wise counsel helped steer America from the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. As a U.S Senator he championed civil rights and greater Federal efforts to fight poverty.

Robert F. Kennedy campaigning for President

Millions saw RFK as the only candidate who could make life better for America’s impoverished—while standing firmly against those who threatened the Nation’s safety.

As television correspondent Charles Quinn observed: “I talked to a girl in Hawaii who was for [George] Wallace [the segregationist governor of Alabama]. And I said ‘Really?’ [She said] ‘Yeah, but my real candidate is dead.’

“You know what I think it was? All these whites, all these blue collar people who supported Kennedy…all of these people felt that Kennedy would really do what he thought best for the black people, but, at the same time, would not tolerate lawlessness and violence.

“They were willing to gamble…because they knew in their hearts that the country was not right. They were willing to gamble on this man who would try to keep things within reasonable order; and at the same time do some of the things they knew really should be done.”

Campaigning for the Presidency in 1968, RFK had just won the crucial California primary on June 4—when he was shot in the back of the head.

His killer: Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian furious at Kennedy’s support for Israel.

Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. on June 6.  He was 42.

On June 8, 1,200 men and women boarded a specially-reserved passenger train at New York’s Pennsylvania Station. They were accompanying Kennedy’s body to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.

As the train slowly moved along 225 miles of track, throngs of men, women and children lined the rails to pay their final respects to a man they considered a genuine hero.

Little Leaguers clutched baseball caps across their chests. Uniformed firemen and policemen saluted. Burly men in shirtsleeves held hardhats over their hearts. Black men in overalls waved small American flags. Women from all levels of society stood and cried.

A nation says goodbye to Robert Kennedy

Commenting on RFK’s legacy, historian William L. O’Neil wrote in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960′s:

“…He aimed so high that he must be judged for what he meant to do, and, through error and tragic accident, failed at….He will also be remembered as an extraordinary human being who, though hated by some, was perhaps more deeply loved by his countrymen than any man of his time.

“That too must be entered into the final account, and it is no small thing. With his death something precious disappeared from public life.”

America has never again seen a Presidential candidate who combined toughness on crime and compassion for the poor.

Republican candidates have waged war on crime—and the poor. And Democratic candidates have moved to the Right in eliminating anti-poverty programs.

RFK had the courage to fight the Mafia—and the compassion to fight poverty. At a time when Americans long for candidates to give them positive reasons for voting, his kind of politics are sorely missed.

MACHIAVELLI WARNED AMERICA ABOUT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2018 at 3:36 pm

As a Presidential candidate, Donald Trump was fiercely attacked by Democrats and his fellow Republicans. But one of his sharpest critics lived more than 500 years ago

He was Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesmen and father of modern politics. 

For openers: Trump had drawn heavy criticism for his angry and brutal attacks on a wide range of persons and organizations—including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, other countries and even celebrities who have nothing to do with politics.

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Donald Trump

Now consider Machiavelli’s advice on gratuitously handing out insults and threats:  

  • “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.”
  • “For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy–but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

Trump, in turn, casually dismissed the criticism he had received:

“I can be Presidential, but if I was Presidential I would only have–about 20% of you would be here because it would be boring as hell, I will say,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Superior, Wisconsin.

Trump admitted that his wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka, had urged him to be more Presidential.  And he promised that he would. 

“But I gotta knock off the final two [Republican candidates—Ohio Governor John Kasich and Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Cruz] first, if you don’t mind.”

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli offered a stern warning:

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful. But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure.”
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it…”
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.”

Niccolo Machiavelli

Then there was Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

This totally contrasted with the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.”  
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And Machiavelli gave a related warning on the advising of rulers: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

During the fifth GOP debate in the Presidential sweepstakes, host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump this question:

“Mr. Trump, Dr. [Ben] Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad.

“The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision.

“What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?”

[The triad refers to America’s land-, sea- and air-based systems for delivering nuclear missiles and bombs.]

Nuclear missile in silo

Trump’s reply: “Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing.  That is so powerful and so important.”

He then digressed to his having called the Iraq invasion a mistake in 2003 and 2004. Finally he came back on topic:

“But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear.

“Nuclear changes the whole ballgame.  The biggest problem we have today is nuclear–nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon.

“I think to me, nuclear, is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

Which brings us back to Machiavelli:

  • “…Some think that a prince who gains the reputation of being prudent [owes this to] the good counselors he has about him; they are undoubtedly deceived.”
  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

All of which led Niccolo Machiavelli to warn: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

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