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HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 25, 2021 at 12:39 am

Next hero: Marie Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine (2016 – 2019). She had joined the Foreign Service in 1986, and served as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (2005 – 2008) and Armenia (2008 – 2011).

In May 2019, on President Donald Trump’s orders, the State Department recalled Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine. She had earned respect from the national security community for her efforts to encourage Ukraine to tackle corruption.

But she had been criticized by Right-wing media outlets—notably Fox News Network—and by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

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Marie Yovanovitch

CNN reported that Yovanovitch stopped Giuliani from interviewing witnesses in his search for politically damaging information against former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son, Hunter, had had business dealings in Ukraine.

On October 11, 2019, she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). She did so in defiance of orders by the White House and State Department to not attend.

“She was a hero even before she hit the hearing room,” wrote Charles Pierce for Esquire magazine.

“She told them to stuff their directives, she would answer a congressional subpoena like a citizen is supposed to do. And she didn’t sneak in through the basement. She walked into the Capitol through the front doors, and she didn’t do so to fck around.”

Testifying for nearly 10 hours, Yovanovitch said that Trump had removed her from her post owing to “unfounded and false claims” and “a concerted campaign against me.”

She believed that associates of Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani, might have thought “that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”

And she warned that the State Department was being “attacked and hollowed out from within. State Department leadership, with Congress, needs to take action now to defend this great institution, and its thousands of loyal and effective employees.”

Another victim on Trump’s hate-list was Chis Krebs.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda had played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote. But he got enough help from Putin to triumph in the Electoral College.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

And point man for this was Chris Krebs.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, Krebs had received a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1999, and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law in 2007.

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Chris Krebs

Krebs had served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and later worked in the private sector as Director for Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft.

Now he was director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. Among his duties:

  • Sharing Intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election went very smoothly. 

As a result of the vast increase in election security, Trump not only failed to win the popular vote again but couldn’t get the help he expected from Putin. 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

The reason: Krebs had not only countered Russian propaganda lies—he had dared to counter Trump’s as well. For example: He rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud: There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

In a November 17 story on the CNN website, CNN reporters Kaitlan Collins and Paul LeBlanc bluntly concluded:

“[Krebs’] dismissal underscores the lengths Trump is willing to go to punish those who don’t adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

“Since CNN and other outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has refused to accept the results, instead pushing baseless conspiracies that his second term is being stolen.”

Yet, by depriving Trump of Russian help, Krebs ensured a victory for democracy.

On January 6, the House and Senate counted the Electoral Votes—and pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the face of Trump terror.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2021 at 12:11 am

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

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich (September 25, 1906 – August 9, 1975)

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Nikolayevich 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.

Third hero—Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Graduating from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1992, he received his Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 2007.

From 2017 to 2018 he commanded the USS Blue Ridge. In November, 2019, he was given command of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

On March 24, 2020, reports circulated that three members of the crew had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day the number of stricken sailors increased to eight. A few days later, it was “dozens.” The sailors reportedly became ill at sea, two weeks after a port call at Danang, Vietnam.

The initial cases were airlifted to a military hospital. The Roosevelt was ordered to Guam. After the ship docked on March 27, 2020, all 5,000 aboard were ordered to be tested for the virus. But only about 100 stricken sailors were allowed to leave the ship. The rest remained on board.

On March 30, Crozier emailed a four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore. Given the crowded sleeping quarters and narrow passageways of the vessel, Crozier wrote that it was impossible to follow social distancing and quarantine procedures: 

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors….

“This is a necessary risk. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

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Brett Crozier

Crozier sent his letter via a non-secure, unclassified email to 20 to 30 recipients, as well as the captain’s immediate chain of command. He reportedly believed that his immediate supervisor would not allow him to send it.

And his superior later confirmed that he would not have allowed Crozier to send it.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated. A skeleton crew of 400 remained aboard to maintain the nuclear reactor, the fire-fighting equipment, and the ship’s galley. 

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

By that time, about 114 crew members—out of a total of around 4,000—reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.  

As Crozier disembarked, sailors loudly saluted him with a standing ovation: “Cap-tain Cro-zier!”   

Modly claimed that Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily. It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”

Actually, the Trump administration had frittered away January and February, with President Donald Trump giving multiple—and misleading—press conferences. In these, he played down the dangers of COVID-19, saying that “we’re on top of it”—even as the virus spread across the country. 

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” continued Modly. [Italics added] 

This was the United States Navy under Donald Trump—who threw “betrayal” and “treason” at anyone who dared reveal the truth about institutional crimes and failures.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 23, 2021 at 12:18 am

…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

Four heroes, three villains.

Two of the heroes are Russians; three are Americans.

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

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

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a major 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.

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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 26 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, 1937, 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.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

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 secret police sent to arrest him. 

NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI’S MASTER CLASS ON CONSPIRACIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 4, 2021 at 12:31 am

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, authored The Discourses on Livy, a work of political history and philosophy. In it, he outlined how citizens of a republic can maintain their freedoms.  

One of the longest chapters—Book Three, Chapter Six—covers “Of Conspiracies.”  In it, those who wish to conspire against a ruler will find highly useful advice.  

And so will those who wish to foil such a conspiracy.  

For conspirators, there are three ways their efforts can be foiled. 

  • Discovery through denunciation;
  • Discovery through incautiousness;
  • Discovery through writings.

The first has already been covered. Now for the second and third.

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Discovery through Writings: You may talk freely with anyone man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

Thus, you should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.

You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.  

If you are denounced, there are means of escaping punishment:

  • By denying the accusation and claiming that the person making it hates you; or
  • Claiming that your accuser was tortured or coerced into giving false testimony against you.

But the most prudent course is to not tell your intentions to anyone, and to carry out the attempt yourself.  

Even if you’re not discovered before you carry out your attack, there are still two dangers facing a conspirator:

Dangers in Execution: These result from:

  • An unexpected change in the routine of the intended target;
  • The lack of courage among the conspirators; or
  • An error on their part, such as leaving some of those alive whom the conspirators intended to kill.  

Adolf Hitler, who claimed to have a sixth-sense for danger, was famous for changing his routine at the last minute. 

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life. He had been scheduled to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “Old Fighters” of his storm troopers. 

But that evening he cut short his speech and left the beer hall. Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar—before which Hitler had been speaking.

Conspirators can also be doomed by their good intentions.  

In 44 B.C., Gaius Cassius, Marcus Brutus and other Roman senators decided to assassinate Julius Caesar, whose dictatorial ambitions they feared.

Cassius also intended to murder Mark Anthony, Caesar’s strongest ally. But Brutus objected, fearing the plotters would look like butchers, not saviors. Even worse, he allowed Anthony to deliver a eulogy at Caesar’s funeral.

This proved so inflammatory that the mourners rioted, driving the conspirators out of Rome. Soon afterward, they were defeated in a battle with the legions of Anthony and Octavian Caesar—and forced to commit suicide to avoid capture and execution.

Machiavelli closes his chapter “Of Conspiracies” with advice to rulers on how they should act when they find a conspiracy has been formed against them.  

If they discover that a conspiracy exists against them, they must, before punishing its authors, strive to learn its nature and extent. And they must measure the danger posed by the conspirators against their own strength.

And if they find it powerful and alarming, they must not expose it until they have amassed sufficient force to crush it. Otherwise, they will only speed their own destruction. They should try to pretend ignorance of it. If the conspirators find themselves discovered, they will be forced by necessity to act without consideration.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

The foregoing was taken from Book Three, Chapter Six, of Machiavelli’s masterwork, The Discourses on Livy, which was published posthumously in 1531. But elsewhere in this volume, he notes how important it is for rulers to make themselves loved—or at least respected—by their fellow citizens: 

Note how much more praise those Emperors merited who, after Rome became an empire, conformed to her laws like good princes, than those who took the opposite course. 

Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus and Marcus Auelius did not require the Praetorians nor the multitudinous legions to defend them, because they were protected by their own good conduct, the good will of the people, and by the love of the Senate.

On the other hand, neither the Eastern nor the Western armies saved Caligula, Nero, Vitellius and so many other wicked Emperors from the enemies which their bad conduct and evil lives had raised up against them.  

In his better-known work, The Prince, he warns rulers who—like Donald Trump–are inclined to rule by fear:

A prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.

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Donald Trump

By Machiavelli’s standards, Trump has made himself the perfect target for a conspiracy.

“When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI’S MASTER CLASS ON CONSPIRACIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 1, 2021 at 2:29 am

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, offered sound advice for would-be conspirators—and for rulers seeking to thwart conspiracies.

He did so in The Discourses on Livy, a work of political history and philosophy. In it, he outlined how citizens of a republic can maintain their freedoms.  

One of the longest chapters—Book Three, Chapter Six—covers “Of Conspiracies.”  In it, those who wish to conspire against a ruler will find highly useful advice. And so will those who might well become the targets of conspiracies—such as President Donald J. Trump.

Niccolo Machiavellil

The most dangerous time for a ruler comes when he is universally hated.

Niccolo Machiavelli: When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing the prince is widely loathed. 

A prince, then, should avoid incurring such universal hatred….

By doing this, he protects himself from such vengeance-seekers. There are two reasons for this:

(1) Men rarely risk danger to avenge a wrong; and

(2) Even if they want to avenge a wrong, they know they will face almost universal condemnation because the prince is held in such high esteem.  

Machiavelli draws a distinction between plots and conspiracies.

A plot may be formed by a single individual or by many. The first isn’t a conspiracy, since that would involve at least two participants.  

A single plotter avoids the danger faced by two or more conspirators: 

Since no one knows his intention, he can’t be betrayed by an accomplice.  

Anyone may form a plot, whether he is prominent or insignificant, because everyone is at some time allowed to speak to the prince. And he can use this opportunity to satisfy his desire for revenge.    

On the other hand, says Machiavelli, the dangers of assassination by a trusted intimate are slight.

Few people dare to assault a prince. Of those who do, few or none escapes being killed in the attempt, or immediately afterward. As a result, only a small number of people are willing to incur such certain death.  

Those who take part in a conspiracy against a ruler are “the great men of the state, or those on terms of familiar intercourse with the prince.”

These are men who have access to him. Julius Caesar, for example, was stabbed to death by members of the Roman Senate, who feared his assuming dictatorial powers.

And Adolf Hitler was conspired against by colonels and generals of the German Army. He was in fact holding a war conference when a briefcase bomb exploded, killing three officers and a stenographer, but leaving Hitler only slightly injured.

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Adolf Hitler

There are three ways a conspiracy can be foiled:

  • Discovery through denunciation;
  • Discovery through incautiousness;
  • Discovery through writings.

Discovery through Denunciation: This occurs through treachery or lack of prudence among one or more conspirators.  

Treachery is so common that you can safely tell your plans to only your most trusted friends who are willing to risk their lives for your sake.  You may find that you have only one or two of these. 

But as you are bring more people into the conspiracy, the chances of discovery greatly increase. It’s impossible to find many who can be completely trusted: For their devotion to you must be greater than their sense of danger and fear of punishment.  

Discovery through Carelessness: This happens when one of the conspirators speaks incautiously, so that a third person overhears it  Or it may occur from thoughtlessness, when a conspirator tells the secret to his wife or child, or to some other indiscreet person.  

When a conspiracy has more than three or four members, its discovery is almost certain, either through treason, imprudence or carelessness. 

If more than one conspirator is arrested, the whole plot is discovered, for it will be impossible for any two to agree perfectly as to all their statements.  

If only one is arrested, he may—through courage and stubbornness—be able to conceal the names of his accomplices. But then the others, to remain safe, must not panic and flee, since this is certain to be discovered.

If one of them becomes fearful—whether it’s the one who was arrested or is still at liberty—discovery of the conspiracy is certain. 

The best way to avoid such detection is to confide your project to your intended fellow conspirators at the moment of execution—and not sooner.  

A classic example of this occurred in ancient Persia. According to the Greek historian Herodotus: A group of nobles assembled to discuss overthrowing a usurper to the throne. The last one to arrive was Darius.

When one of the conspirators asked, “When should we strike?” Darius replied: “We must either go now at this very moment and carry it into execution, or I shall go and denounce you all. For I will not give any of you time to denounce me.”

At that, they went directly to the palace, assassinated the usurper and proclaimed Darius their new king.

HITLER, TRUMP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”—PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 26, 2020 at 12:14 am

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Nazi Fuhrer Adolf Hitler ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany:

“Destroy all German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants!”

If implemented, it would deprive surviving Germans of even the barest necessities after the war.  

Opposing him was Albert Speer, his favorite architect and Minister of Armaments. 

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!” 

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” order.

Trained as an architect, Speer had joined the Nazi Party in 1931. He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year. 

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years. “If Hitler had been capable of friendship,” Speer said after the war, “I would have been that friend.”

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that would be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich—-perhaps even the only one—with such power to influence actors’ willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler. 

* * * * *

As the Third Reich came to its fiery end, Adolf Hitler blamed the German people for being “unworthy” of his “genius” and losing the war he had started.

His attitude was: “If I can’t rule Germany, then there won’t be a Germany.”

In his infamous “Nero Order,” he decreed the destruction of everything still remaining–industries, ships, harbors, communications, roads, mines, bridges, stores, utility plants, food stuffs.

Fortunately for Germany, one man—Albert Speer—finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order. Even more important, he successfully blocked such destruction and persuaded influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

Fast forward 75 years: Facing the end of his Presidency, Donald Trump desperately seeks to remain in power. Having “joked” about being “President-for-Life,” he’s now fighting to make that a reality. 

Unlike his 44 predecessors, he rejects the will of the voters and for almost three weeks denied his successor access to the resources he needs to launch a smooth transition.

Donald Trump

Even worse: Instead of showing concern for the country he claims to love, Trump is now relentlessly destroying those institutions that guarantee American freedom and safety:

  • The Pentagon
  • The CIA
  • The FBI
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

His attitude clearly is: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.” 

Meanwhile, House and Senate Republicans have embraced his most outrageous lies—or refused to openly refute them—as the COVID-19 pandemic slaughters about 1,000 Americans a day.

Even Republicans who privately admit the Trump era is ending realize that 70 million hate-filled Americans voted for him in 2020. And eagerly await the coming of the next would-be Fuhrer.

They will also eagerly vote out of office any Republican who dares break with the man they worship like a cult leader. 

For Congressional Republicans, staying in office—and keeping their power and perks—is their top priority.

On November 25, 2019, CNN political correspondent Jake Tapper interviewed Representative Adam Schiff on Donald Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

What would it mean if Republicans uniformly oppose any articles of impeachment against Trump? asked Tapper.

“It will have very long-term consequences, if that’s where we end up,” replied Schiff.

“And if not today, I think Republican members in the future, to their children and their grandchildren, will have to explain why they did nothing in the face of this deeply unethical man who did such damage to the country.” 

In the end, only one of 53 Republican Senators—Mitt Romney—dared to vote for impeachment. And he became an instant pariah for it.

On March 18, 1945, Albert Speer, opposing Hitler’s plans to destroy Germany’s infrastructure, addressed a memo to his Fuhrer, in which he wrote: “No one has the right to take the viewpoint that the fate of the German people is tied to his personal fate.”

The country is still waiting for a Republican Albert Speer to step forward and save America from the self-destructive brutalities of its own would-be Fuhrer.

HITLER, TRUMP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”—PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 25, 2020 at 12:32 am

President Donald Trump may be getting ready to fire his handpicked CIA director.

He believes that Gina Haspel has stonewalled the release of documents supposedly exposing “deep state” plots against his 2016 campaign during the Obama administration.

[In fact, the Obama administration acted entirely within the law during the 2016 Presidential campaign. The FBI has a legal mandate to keep track of subversive activities—especially when they involve members of a Presidential candidate’s campaign.

[On July 9, 2016, high-ranking representatives of the Trump campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Gina Haspel official CIA portrait.jpg

Gina Haspel

[The participants included:   

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort;
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of “having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.”

[The reason for the meeting: To dig up “dirt” the Russians might have on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent for the White House.] 

Trump is also angry at FBI Director Christopher Wray—who replaced James B. Comey in May, 2017. Trump had fired Comey for daring to investigate ties between his 2016 campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

Chris Wray official photo.jpg

Christopher Wray

The reason for his anger at Wray: Wray has dared to contradict Trump’s false claims that

  • “Rampant voter fraud” was a widespread problem; and
  • Antifa poses a greater terrorism danger than white supremacist groups. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, had quickly assessed Trump as an egotistical narcissist. By appealing to Trump’s vanity, Putin expected to sharply reduce the military and political threat the United States represented to a resurgent Russia.

So notorious was the role played by Russian hackers in misleading American voters in 2016 that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

The man ultimately tasked with this mission was Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency run by DHS.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. Among his duties:

  • Sharing Intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic information head-on.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Trump’s—the 2020 election went very smoothly.

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

The reason: Krebs had not only countered Russian propaganda lies—he had dared to counter Trump’s as well. For example: He rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud: There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

Trump fired Krebs by tweet—and accompanied the outrage with yet another lie:

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud, including dead people voting, poll watchers not allowed into polling locations, glitches in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

In a November 17 story on the CNN website, CNN reporters Kaitlan Collins and Paul LeBlanc bluntly concluded:

“[Krebs’] dismissal underscores the lengths Trump is willing to go to punish those who don’t adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

“Since CNN and other outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has refused to accept the results, instead pushing baseless conspiracies that his second term is being stolen.

“This includes falsely claiming during an election night address that he had already won reelection, that he had won states that were actually still up in the air at the time and that his opponents were perpetrating a fraud.”

Seventy-five years earlier, on March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Adolf Hitler ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.  

Opposing him—at first openly, and later secretly—was Albert Speer, his former architect and now Minister of Armaments. 

Speer argued that there must be a future for the German people: “If our enemies wish to destroy us, why help them?  We must leave the people something.”

But Hitler refused to back down: “I don’t want to hear any more.”

He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

Speer could not directly promise to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order. So he gave Hitler a vague answer that essentially committed him to nothing: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

HITLER, TRUMP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”—PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 24, 2020 at 12:09 am

On November 3, Joe Biden became President-elect of the United States by winning 79,658,000 votes, or 51% of the vote, compared to 73,886,400 votes, or 47.2% of the vote cast for President Donald Trump.

In the Electoral College—which actually determines the winner—the results were even more stunning: 306 votes for Biden, compared with 232 for Trump. It takes 270 votes to be declared the victor.

Joe Biden's Next Big Decision: Choosing A Running Mate | Voice of America - English

Joe Biden

Despite this, Trump has steadfastly refused to concede. He has made a series of baseless claims that he was cheated of victory by vote fraud. By illegal aliens being allowed to vote. By a sinister computer program that turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

He has repeatedly filed legal challenges to the vote, claiming himself the victim of massive fraud. This despite the utter lack of evidence of it.

On November 13, nine cases meant to attack President-elect Joe Biden’s win in key states were denied or dropped. A law firm challenging the vote count in Pennsylvania withdrew from the effort.

In Michigan, his attorneys dropped their federal suit to block the certification of Detroit-area ballots.

By November 21, Trump had lost in 30 cases dismissed by judges or withdrawn by his own attorneys. 

Meanwhile, top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—have refused to congratulate Biden as the winner.

Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg

Mitch McConnell

In a November 17 analysis, entitled ” “Donald Trump Doesn’t Seem to Want to Do His Job Anymore,” CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza wrote:

While Trump has relentlessly asserted that he won the 2020 election, “he’s done next to nothing—at least publicly—to suggest he plans to continue doing the job in any serious manner through January 20.”  

According to Cillizza, since losing the election, Trump has filled his days with:

  • Golfing
  • Tweeting
  • Making controversial military decisions
  • Firing people 

Specifically:

Golfing: He played golf at his club in Virginia twice on the weekend of November 14-15. He was golfing the previous weekend, when Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 race by CNN and other media outlets.

Tweeting: He has tweeted numerous lies and conspiracy theories, claiming he won a second term but was cheated by the counting of fraudulent votes. This has let Twitter to flag a large number of his tweets as “inaccurate.”

Making controversial military decisions: The Pentagon signaled it was planning—on Trump’s orders—to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. [American forces have been warring with the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2001; they have been warring against Iraqi insurgents since 2003.] 

And in a move that is truly frightening: The New York Times reported that Trump asked his top advisers for options to strike at Iran’s nuclear capabilities before he left office. This would embroil the United States in a war that could easily turn nuclear.

Firing people: On November 9, Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Four senior civilian officials have since been fired or resigned—Esper’s chief of staff and the top officials overseeing policy and intelligence. They were replaced with flunkies loyal to Trump personally.

[This was in fact how Adolf Hitler took control of the Wehrmacht.

Adolf Hitler

[Since taking command of Germany in the summer of 1934, Hitler wanted to replace two high-ranking military officials: General Werner von Fritsch and Colonel General Werner von Blomberg. Both were convinced that Hitler’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy was putting Germany on a collision course with war—a war the Fatherland could not win. 

[Hitler, in fact, meant to go to war—and despised Fritsch’s and Blomberg’s hesitation to do so. He decided to rid himself of both men. 

[On January 12, 1938, Blomberg married Erna Gruhn, with Hitler and Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring attending as witnesses. Soon afterward, Berlin police discovered that Gruhn had a criminal record as a prostitute and had posed for pornographic photographs.

[Marrying a woman with such a background violated the standard of conduct expected of German officers. Hitler saw the scandal as an opportunity to dispose of Blomberg—who was forced to resign.

[Shortly after Blomberg was forced out in disgrace, the SS—Hitler’s private police force—presented Hitler with a file that falsely accused Werner von Fritsch of homosexuality. Fritsch angrily denied the accusation but resigned on February 4, 1938. 

[From that point on, Hitler was in de facto command of the German Armed Services.]

Eighty-two years later, on November 3, 2020, President Donald Trump lost the 2020 Presidential election to former Vice President Joe Biden.

But that hasn’t stopped him from behaving as if he—not Biden—will take the oath of President on January 20, 2021.

Besides wreaking havoc on the Pentagon, Trump is reportedly going to fire CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Trump has accused Haspel of stonewalling the release of documents that would supposedly expose “deep state” plots against Trump’s campaign and transition during the Obama administration.

[In fact, the Obama administration acted entirely within the law during the 2016 Presidential campaign. The FBI has a legal mandate to keep track of subversive activities—especially when they involve members of a Presidential candidate’s campaign.] 

HITLER, TRUMP AND “SCORCHED EARTH—PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 23, 2020 at 12:34 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler—the man he had idolized for 14 years—had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

On September 1, 1939, Hitler had triggered World War II with the invasion of Poland. This led to a series of quick, spectacular victories—over Poland, Norway, Denmark and France.

Then, on June 22, 1941, Hitler turned on his ally, the Soviet Union, with which he had signed a non-aggression pact in August, 1939.

It had taken the Wehrmacht six weeks to conquer France. Hitler believed that was how long it would take to defeat the Soviet Union.  

German troops in Russia, 1941 : ww2

German soldiers invading the Soviet Union

Again, a series of spectacular battlefield victories followed—before the Wehrmacht was halted at the gates of Moscow. A year later, still enmeshed in Russia, the turning point came at Stalingrad, with the loss of the elite Sixth Army and 800,000 soldiers.

Starting in 1943, the Red Army slowly but steadily regained ground it had lost—the western half of Russia—and began pushing back the Germans. By March, 1945, it was fighting inside Germany—and heading straight for its capital: Berlin.

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Hitler ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war. And he entrusted the campaign to Albert Speer, his favorite architect-turned-Minister-of-Armaments.

Click here: Hitler’s “Scorched Earth” Decree and Albert Speer’s Response

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Seventy-five years after Adolf Hitler planned the destruction of Germany, Donald Trump now plans the same fate for the United States.

On November 3, Trump lost his bid to win another four years as President of the United States. In the early hours of November 4, he poured out his fury and self-pity in a televised address from the White House:

“Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it, we will not stand for it.” 

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Donald Trump

For a man who had tried—often successfully—to deprive millions of their right to vote, Trump made it clear that he didn’t know what disenfranchisement means.

Sounding like a petulant child whose party has been called off, Trump continued:

“We were getting ready for a big celebration, we were winning everything and all of a sudden it was just called off. The results tonight have been phenomenal…I mean literally we were just all set to get outside and just celebrate something that was so beautiful, so good, such a vote, such a success.” 

It was Trump-not his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden—who was demanding that the electoral process be halted. And that those votes that had not yet been counted be, in effect, flushed down the toilet.

“The citizens of this country have come out in record numbers, this a record, there’s never been anything like it to support our incredible movement….Most importantly, we’re winning Pennsylvania by a tremendous amount of votes. We’re up 690,000 votes.” 

Owing to the Coronavirus pandemic—which Trump had refused to aggressively address from its outset in January—millions of Americans had voted by mail. The idea of standing in Coronavirus-infected lines had not appealed to them. And they believed they could perform their civic duty in a far less dangerous way via the Postal Service.

“These aren’t even close, this is not like, Oh, it’s close. With 64% of the vote in, it’s going to be almost impossible and we’re coming into good Pennsylvania areas where they happen to like your president. We’re winning Michigan…I said ‘Wow, that’s a lot’… 

“And we’re winning Wisconsin…so when you take those three states in particular and you take all of the others…and all of a sudden it’s not like we’re up 12 votes and we have 60% left, we won states and all of a sudden, I said, ‘What happened to the election? It’s off.’ And we have all these announcers saying, ‘What’s happened’ and then they said, ‘Ohhh.’” 

But this did not alter the reality that Joe Biden became President-elect of the United States by winning 79,106,010 votes, or 51% of the vote.

THE PRICE OF HUBRIS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 6, 2020 at 12:19 am

The ancient Greeks defined hubris as overweening pride. For them, acting as if you were equal to or more powerful than the gods—or trying to defy them—was the most serious crime you could commit. And it came with a divine punishment. 

Donald Trump has acted with hubris his entire life—but never more so than once he declared himself a Presidential candidate in 2015.

He savagely insulted his opponents. From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions—including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, countries and even celebrities unconnected with politics.

Donald Trump

During debates, he belittled his Republican and Democratic opponents with insulting nicknames.

Political pundits expected that voters would reject Trump for violating long-held niceties of political discourse. But they never did.

He openly called for Russia to intervene in an American Presidential election.

On July 22, 2016, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

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Although this amounted to treason, he was never prosecuted.

He fired FBI Director James Comey. 

On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of he 2016 Presidential race.

Although he clearly did this to subvert an FBI investigation, Republicans solidly backed him and he remained unimpeached.

He gave CIA secrets to Russia, which had intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win.

On May 10, 2017—the day after he fired Comey—Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

He hypocritically claimed “I am your President of law and order” after a lifetime of law-breaking.

He has been forced to shut down a fraudulent university and a fraudulent charity. He has bragged about buying politicians. He has been impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He ordered police and military forces to attack peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park so he could stage a photo op there. 

* * * * *

Donald Trump’s rise to power has been fueled by bribery and intimidation. These methods served him well—until the advent of Coronavirus. The pandemic remains impervious to bribes or intimidation. 

He has repeatedly lied about it:

  • It’s a Democratic hoax.
  • “One day, it will disappear.”
  • There is no need for wearing masks or social distancing.
  • There is a cure for COVID-19—the malaria drug hyroxychloroquine.

Yet the deaths continue to mount—210,000 by October 5. And he has offered only one “remedy” for it: “Reopen the country!” This has resulted in asssive infection rates across the nation.

Trump planned to win re-election as the President who had created a booming economy and high employment. But businesses across the country remain shuttered because of Coronavirus fears—or likely soon will be. Nearly half of all Americans are unemployed.

To force frightened Americans back to unsafe working conditions, Trump demanded they send their children back to COVID-19-threatened schools.

Meanwhile, Trump continued to violate the health guidelines of his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—holding massive indoor rallies, refusing to wear a mask, refusing to socially distance himself from others.

For a time he seemed impervious to the virus that had struck down so many others.

Then, on October 3, Trump himself became a casualty of the plague he had so long derided. Rushed to Walter Reed Hospital, he was given a cocktail of experimental anti-Coronavirus drugs that are beyond the price range of most Americans.

On October 5, a still-positive Trump demanded that he be released and returned to the White House. And he got his way.

At least 18 White House staffers have tested positive—including his wife, First Lady Melania; his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany; his personal adviser, Hope Hicks; and his longtime adviser Kelleyanne Conway.

Suddenly, Coronavirus—the issue he had sought to ignore or downplay since January—had emerged front and center. And, with it, his arrogant refusal to address it.

In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride—pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is nothing in the sight of the gods.”

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And, in the pages of The Histories lies this warning: “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.” 

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime committing crimes. Holding the Presidency is his only defense against prosecution—since a sitting President cannot be indicted. If he is turned out of office, prosecution awaits him at the state level in New York—and possibly at the federal level as well.

Trump’s lifelong glimpse of happiness may be about to end.

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