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Posts Tagged ‘FRANCE’

DICTATORS AND THEIR HUBRIS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 23, 2022 at 1:06 am

On February 28, CNN’s website published the following headline: Russia faces financial meltdown as sanctions slam its economy.

The story opened:

“Russia was scrambling to prevent financial meltdown Monday as its economy was slammed by a broadside of crushing Western sanctions imposed over the weekend in response to the invasion of Ukraine.”  

That unprovoked attack opened on February 24, with missile and artillery attacks, striking major Ukrainian cities, including Kiev. 

Russia 'threatening Ukraine With Destruction', Kyiv Says | Conflict News - Newzpick

Ukraine vs. Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin had every reason to believe that the conquest of Ukraine would be a cakewalk. Intent on restoring the borders of the former Soviet Union, he had swept from one successful war to the next:

  • In 1999-2000, he waged the Second Chechen War, restoring federal control of Chechnya.
  • In 2008, he invaded the Republic of Georgia, which had declared its independence as the Soviet Union began to crumble. By war’s end, Russia occupied 20% of Georgia’s territory.
  • In 2014, Putin invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched only verbal condemnations.

The reasons:

  • Fear of igniting a nuclear war; 
  • Belief that Russia was simply acting within its own sphere of influence; and/or
  • Then-President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on NATO and displays of subservience to Putin.

NATO report says Pakistan wants peace deal in Afghanistan, India against it

NATO emblem

Russia had began massing troops on the Ukrainian border in 2021. 

When the invasion came, the United States and its Western European allies retaliated with unprecedented economic sanctions. 

Among the resulting casualties: 

  • The ruble crashed.
  • Russia’s central bank more than doubled interest rates to 20%.
  • The Moscow stock closed for the day.
  • The European subsidiary of Russia’s biggest bank was about to collapse in a massive Depression-era run by savers. 
  • Economists predicted the Russian economy could decline by five percent. 
  • The West—especially the United States—has frozen at least half of the $630 billion in international reserves that Putin had amassed to stave off tough sanctions.

On the battlefield, the war has bogged down for Russia:

  • Kiev remains unconquered. 
  • Ukrainian forces have driven Russians from the second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkov.  
  • The Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, was sunk on April 14 after being struck by two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles.

In short: The war is not going the way Putin assumed it would.

Vladimir Putin 17-11-2021 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin 

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This is not the first time a dictator has guessed wrong about the results of his actions.

On September 1, 1939, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler ordered his armies to invade Poland. 

Almost a year earlier—on September 29, 1938—he had bullied British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier into surrendering the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

The Munich Agreement—which Chamberlain boasted meant “peace in our time—only whetted Hitler’s appetite for greater conquests.

It also led him to hold France and England in contempt: “Our enemies are little worms,” he said in a conference with his generals. “I saw them at Munich.”

He believed he could conquer Poland, and Chamberlain and Daladier would meekly ratify his latest acquisition. 

Adolf Hitler

So he was stunned when, on September 3, 1939, Britain and France—however reluctantly—honored their pledged word to Poland and declared war on Germany.

“What now?” Hitler furiously asked his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Ribbentrop had no answer.

Hitler knew that Germany didn’t have the resources for a long war. He had intended to fight a series of quick, small wars, gobbling up one country at a time. Now he found himself locked in an endless war with heavyweights France and England.

In time, he would fatally add the Soviet Union and the United States to his list of enemies.

And he stayed locked into that war until he committed suicide on April 30, 1945, and the Third Reich officially collapsed on May 7.

Fast forward to March 21, 2003 and President George W. Bush’s launching of an attack on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. 

Related image

George W. Bush

The war got off to an impressive start with 1,700 air sorties and 504 Cruise missiles. 

Within roughly two weeks, American ground forces entered Baghdad, and after four days of intense fighting, the Iraqi regime fell. By April 14, the Pentagon reported that major military operations had ended.

On May 1, 2003, Bush declared that the war was won.

But then American forces became embroiled in an endless, nationwide guerrilla war. Eighteen years later, the United States was still fighting in Iraq. 

The war that Bush had deliberately provoked:

  • Took the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Cost the United States Treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Created a Middle East power vacuum.
  • Allowed Iran—Iraq’s arch enemy—to eagerly fill it.
  • Frightened and repelled even America’s closest allies.
  • Killed at least 655,000 Iraqis. 
  • Frightened China and Russia into expanding the size of their militaries. 

Bush came to a better end than Adolf Hitler: He retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.

And Putin? 

His attack on Ukraine was reportedly motivated, in part, to ensure that Ukrainians did not join NATO. 

If true, he must be enraged and disturbed that his invasion has frightened Sweden and Finland into joining NATO.

And NATO is now fully revitalized to meet future Russian threats.

Thus can the worst intentions of hubristic dictators come undone.

THE MYSTERY OF INSPIRED LEADERSHIP: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 27, 2022 at 12:12 am

They seem to come out of nowhere—people who have never had military training nor even any experience with violence. Yet they display an utter fearlessness and eloquence that inspires others to great deeds in the face of overwhelming danger.

For 13 days—from February 23 to March 6, 1836—about 200 frontiersmen defended a ruined mission in San Antonio, Texas, against an army of 2,000 Mexican soldiers.

Few of them had known each other before finding themselves besieged. None of them had had professional military training. Some had served in local militias or as irregulars fighting Indians under the command of frontier officers such as Andrew Jackson.

One of these was David Crockett, recently a Congressman from Tennessee. 

Since the vast majority of the garrison were volunteers, they could have deserted the fortress at any time.

Holding them in place was a former lawyer named William Barret Travis. Gifted with an eloquence beyond his 26 years, he gave purpose to their stand. 

William Travis — Badass of the Week

William Barret Travis (with sword) at the Alamo

As historian T.R. Fehrenbach writes in his monumental book, Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans:

“From the Alamo, from his first message before the arrival of the Mexicans to his last, his words had the ring of prophecy. The Texas historian who stated publicly that few people would want to have a son serve under William Barret Travis had forgotten, in the comforts of long security, the reasons why men make war.”

When the final assault came before dawn on March 6, 1836, the roughly 200 defenders killed and wounded about 600 of their enemies—inflicting a casualty rate of 33% on the Mexican army.

Travis’ body was found near his cannon on the north wall.

The garrison’s sacrifice inspired Sam Houston’s ragtag army to fall on the Mexican army at San Jacinto on April 21. Slaughtering about 800 soldiers, the Texans captured Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna—and forced him to surrender control of Texas in return for his life.

  • Volodymyr Zelensky (January 25, 1978 – ) is a former attorney, actor and comedian who, as the sixth president of Ukraine, now leads his country in a life-or-death struggle against the aggressive Russia of Vladimir Putin.

After earning a law degree from the Kiev National Economic University, he pursued a career in comedy. He created his own production company, Kvartal 95, which produced films, cartoons, and TV shows. His comedy, Servant of the People, starred Zelensky as the president of Ukraine.  

Volodymyr Zelensky Official portrait.jpg

Volodymyr Zelensky

In 2019, he announced his candidacy for president of Ukraine. He opposed the corruption that had been rife under the country’s luxury-loving president, Victor Yanukovych.

(In 2014, Ukrainians had rioted in Kiev and evicted Yanukovych. And that didn’t sit well with his “sponsor”—Russian President Vladimir Putin.)

A second feature of Zelensky’s presidential campaign: He promised to resolve the Russia-sponsored separatist movement in Donbas and end Ukraine’s protracted conflict there with Russia.

Zelensky won election by a landslide, with 72% of the vote.

In 2021, his administration came under mounting pressure from Russia. On February 24, Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Russia 'threatening Ukraine With Destruction', Kyiv Says | Conflict News - Newzpick

Ukraine vs. Russia

In the early hours of February 24, shortly before the start of the Russian invasion, Zelensky recorded an address to both Ukraine and Russia. As a Jew, he refuted Putin’s claims that there were Neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian government. 

And he appealed to Russians—in Russian—to pressure their leadership to prevent war.

During the assault by Russian troops on the capital of Kiev, the Biden administration urged Zelensky to evacuate to a safer location and offered to help him do so. Zelensky refused, saying: “The fight is here [in Kiev]; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

As CBS correspondent Scott Pelley put it: “The moment Zelensky told his people he refused to flee, they refused to fall.”

Russia expected Kiev to fall in three days. But 61 days after the invasion, Kiev still remains defiant—and in the hands of Ukrainians.

When he wasn’t broadcasting defiance at Russia and rousing Ukrainians to heroism, he was often visiting the battlefront.  

Interviewed on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Zelensky said: “I don’t want to make myself out to be a hero. I love my family. I want to live many more years, but choosing between running or being with my people, of course I’m ready to give my life for my country.”

Since the start of the invasion, he has reportedly been the target of more than a dozen assassination attempts.

Other world leaders have applauded his courage and leadership. Historian Andrew Roberts compared him to Winston Churchill. 

The Harvard Political Review said that Zelensky “has harnessed the power of social media to become history’s first truly online wartime leader, bypassing traditional gatekeepers as he uses the internet to reach out to the people.”

Zelensky sees Ukraine’s struggle as the opening round of Russia’s war against the West.

“Some are….saying, ‘We can’t defend Ukraine because there could be a nuclear war.’ I think that today, no one in this world can predict what Russia will do. If they invade further into our territory, then they will definitely move closer and closer to Europe. They will only become stronger and less predictable.”

THE MYSTERY OF INSPIRED LEADERSHIP: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 26, 2022 at 12:10 am

Joan of Arc.  William Barret Travis.  Volodymyr Zelensky.

The first two names long ago burned themselves into the pages of history. The third one is now doing the same.

They seem to come out of nowhere—people who have never had military training nor even any experience with violence. Yet they display an utter fearlessness and eloquence that inspires others to great deeds in the face of overwhelming danger.

  • Joan of Arc (c. 1412 – 30 May 1431) was an illiterate peasant girl who, in France’s darkest hour, became its greatest hero. 

In 1428, when she was about 17, Joan traveled to Vaucouleurs and asked for an armed escort to King Charles V11. She said that she had received visions from the archangel Michael, Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine of Alexandra, instructing her to deliver France from English domination.

An image of a woman dressed in silver armor, holding a sword and a banner.

Joan of Arc

Her request was rejected twice, but eventually Robert de Baudricourt, the garrison commander, relented and gave her an escort to meet Charles at Chinon. She had never seen Charles, but even though he disguised himself among his courtiers, she instantly recognized him.

After their interview, Charles sent Joan at the head of a relief army to lift the siege of Orléans.

She had never wielded a lance or sword, or even ridden a war horse. She had never studied military strategy nor even seen a battlefield. Yet nine days after arriving at Orléans, she lifted the siege on May 8.

On May 4, her army attacked the outlying fortress of Saint Loup. She arrived just as the French soldiers were retreating after a failed attempt. Her sudden appearance roused the soldiers to cheer and launch another assault—which overwhelmed the fortress.

In June, Joan decisively defeated the English at the Battle of Patay. She then advanced on Reims,  entering the city on July 16. The next day, Charles was consecrated as the King of France in Reims Cathedral with Joan at his side.

These victories paved the way for the final French victory in the Hundred Years’ War at Castillon in 1453.

Joan never attributed her success to anyone but God. She referred to herself as “Joan the Maid” and demanded that her soldiers refrain from sexual activity. At her orders, prostitutes—the camp followers of both French and British armies—were driven out of her encampments.

She did not expect to live a long life—and warned that the French had only about a year to claim their victories before she died.

On May 23, 1430, while relieving the siege of Compiegne, she was captured by Burgundians troops and exchanged to the English. Tried for heresy, she was declared guilty and burned at the stake on May 30,1431. 

Only 19 when she died, she had, through her inspired leadership, restored the kingdom of France.

  • William Barret Travis (August 1, 1809 – March 6, 1836) was a South Carolina lawyer whose courage and eloquence inspired 200 Texans to hold back a Mexican army at the Alamo.

An early advocate of Texas’ independence from Mexico, Travis entered the newly-formed Texas army as a regular officer. Although he had no experience in battle, he burned for glory as a cavalryman. But he accepted the order of Governor Henry Smith to go to San Antonio and defend the Alamo from the approaching Mexicans.

William B. Travis by Wiley Martin.JPG

William Barret Travis

Arriving there, he found himself overshadowed by the popularity of co-commander James Bowie, the legendary knife fighter. But when Bowie collapsed with pneumonia on February 23, 1836—the first day of the siege—Travis took command.

According to historian T.R. Fehrenbach:

“The true measure of this man, with his soldier’s cap, his sword, his exalted ideas of honor, and his florid rhetoric, was that he captured these violent frontiersmen and bent them to his purpose.

“No competent Texas historian really believes Travis drew his line on the ground with his sword and invited his men to leave or stay. That was not Buck Travis’ style. He intended to keep his command on the walls regardless of what the men wanted. He was consciously guarding the ramparts of Texas.”

A sprawling complex of buildings with low walls sits in a shallow valley overlooked by rolling hills.

The siege of the Alamo

On February 23, 1836, Travis penned one of the most famous letters in early American history. Addressing it “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” he wrote: 

“I am besieged with a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna [the president and dictator of Mexico]….

“The enemy has demanded our surrender at discretion, otherwise the garrison is to be put to the sword. I shall never surrender or retreat. Thus, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, and everything dear to the American character, to come to my aid with all dispatch…

“If this call is neglected I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country. VICTORY OR DEATH.” 

On March 3, Travis wrote his last letter, addressing it to the newly-declared Republic of Texas. “I shall have to fight the enemy on his own terms….The victory will cost the enemy so dear it will be worse for him than a defeat.”

On March 6, 1836, his prophecy came true.

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2022 at 12:11 am

On November 3, 80 million voters elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

President Donald Trump had often “joked” that America needed a “President-for-Life.” Now he demanded that he be awarded that title.

Trump refused to accept that verdict. 

Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, he said: “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.”

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt.

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud.

He claimed:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots had been systematically destroyed.
  • Tampered voting machines had turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. More than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

For 20 days, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy refused to release $7.3 million in transition funding and Federal resources to the President-elect’s team.

Under the law governing presidential transitions, Murphy was responsible for determining the winner based on publicly available information before the actual Electoral College vote. 

Finally, on November 23, Murphy released the transition funding and resources.

Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House to persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

Nothing changed. 

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session to convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

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

None of them branded Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as those of a tyrant.

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, did Americans seem paralyzed to end the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, 10 months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

There were basically three ways America’s slide into tyranny could have been stopped:

First, Congressional Republicans could have revolted against Trump’s authority and/or agenda.

They could have demanded that Trump accept the verdict of the electorate—as every other past President had.

But they didn’t.

Republicans feared that if they openly defied him, his fanatical base would turn on them in coming elections—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President.

A case could easily have been made that Trump, emotionally distraught over his loss and determined to circumvent the will of the electorate, had been rendered unfit to continue in office.

This did not happen.

Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly feared him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. Vice President Mike Pence in particular had set new records for sycophancy. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate owing to a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

Gaius Caligula

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Trump had similarly behaved arrogantly toward his Secret Service guards. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. He also forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them had been stricken with this often lethal disease as a result. 

During Adolf Hitler’s 12-years reign of Nazi Germany, high-ranking military officers tried to kill him at least 42 times. 

The best-known of these attempts occurred on July 20, 1944, when Colonel Count Claus Shenk von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a conference room attended by Hitler and his generals. Hitler survived only by sheer luck. 

By contrast, no similar plot was aimed at Donald Trump.

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 28, 2022 at 12:10 am

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?”       

It’s a question millions of Americans asked themselves after Donald Trump became President of the United States.

Millions of Germans asked themselves the same question throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Germans paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their cities. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

The answer seems to be half-yes, half-no.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President.

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Donald Trump

Upon taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • Repeatedly attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.
  • Giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded.
  • Trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Allowing the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, infecting (to date) 14.8 million Americans and killing 282,000.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Ordering his Right-wing followers to defy states’ orders to citizens to “stay-at-home” and wear of masks in public to halt surging COVID-19 rates.

And throughout all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

A typical example:

On June 4, 2020, during protests over the police murder of black security guard George Floyd, a curfew was imposed on Buffalo, New York. As police swept through Niagara Square, Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old peace activist with the Catholic Worker Movement, walked into their path as if attempting to speak with them.

Two officers pushed him and he fell backwards, hitting the back of his head on the pavement and losing consciousness. 

On June 9, Trump charged that Gugino was part of a radical leftist “set up.” Trump offered no evidence to back up his slander.

Typical Republican responses included:  

  • Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say whether Trump’s tweet was appropriate.
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the tweets.” 
  • Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said he hadn’t seen the tweet—and didn’t want it read to him: “I would rather not hear it.”
  • Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander: “Voters can evaluate that. I’m not going to give a running commentary on the President’s tweets.”

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters outvoted 74,196,153 Republican voters to elect former Vice President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

HITLER/TRUMP: “I AM GERMANY/AMERICA”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 12, 2021 at 12:10 am

After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, many people feared he would embark on a radical Right-wing agenda. But others hoped that the Washington bureaucracy would “box him in.”

The same sentiments echoed throughout Germany after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

The 1983 TV  mini-series, The Winds of War, offered a dramatic example of how honorable men can be overwhelmed by a ruthless dictator. 

Based on the bestselling 1971 historical novel by Herman Wouk, the mini-series factually re-created the major historical events of World War II.

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One of those events took place on November 5, 1939.

General Walther von Brauchitsch is summoned to the Chancellery in Berlin to meet with Adolf Hitler. He carries a memorandum signed by all the leaders of the German Wehrmacht asserting that Case Yellow—Hitler’s planned attack against France—is impossible.

Meanwhile, at the German army headquarters at Zossen, in Berlin, the Wehrmacht’s top command wait for word from von Brauchitsch. 

ZOSSEN: 

Brigadier General Armin von Roon: I must confide in you on a very serious matter. I have been approached by certain army personages of the loftiest rank and prestige with a frightening proposal.

Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder:  What did you reply?

Von Roon: That they were talking high treason. 

Image result for Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in The Winds of War

Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in “The Winds of War”

THE WHITE HOUSE:

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to September 5, 2018.

On September 5, 2018, The New York Times publishes an anonymous Op-Ed essay by “a senior official in the Trump administration.”  This spotlights massive dysfunction within the White House—and put the blame squarely on the President. 

Among the revelations:

  • “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
  • “We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
  • “On Russia…the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain….But his national security team knew better—such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.”
  • “From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.” 

ZOSSEN: 

Von Roon: The conspiracy has been going on that long—since Czechoslovakia [1938)?

Halder: If the British had not caved in at Munich [where France and Britain sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia]—perhaps. But they did. And ever then, ever since his big triumph, it has been hopeless. Hopeless.

Von Roon: Empty talk, talk, talk. I am staggered.

Halder: A hundred times I myself could have shot the man. I can still at any time. But what would be the result? Chaos. The people are for him. He has unified the country. We must stick to our posts and save him from making military mistakes. 

THE WHITE HOUSE:

On September 11, 2018, legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward publishes a devastating take on the Trump administration: Fear: Trump in the White House. The text features explosive revelations about the disdain Trump’s staffers have for him: 

  • Trump was about to sign a letter canceling a free-trade agreement with South Korea. To prevent this, Eric Cohn, his national economic council director, swiped it from Trump’s desk. Trump didn’t notice it missing.
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Trump has the understanding of “a fifth or sixth grader.”
  • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Trump an “idiot” and “unhinged.” 

General Walther von Brauchitsch fails to convince Hitler to postpone “Case Yellow”—the invasion of France. Hitler insists that it commence in seven days—on November 12.

And he issues a warning to the entire German General staff: “I will ruthlessly crush everybody up to the rank of a Field Marshal who dares to oppose me. You don’t have to understand. You only have to obey. The German people understand me. I am Germany.”

Due to foul weather, Hitler is forced to postpone the invasion of France until June, 1940. But the German General staff can’t ultimately put off the war that will destroy them—and Germany.

President Donald Trump:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community.
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Praised brutal Communist dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.
  • Tried to extort Ukraine into smearing former Vice President Joseph Biden, his 2020 rival for the White House.
  • Tried to illegally overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election, which elected Biden.

Like Hitler, he could equally say: I am the destiny of America.  

Hitler’s dictatorship ultimately destroyed Germany and reshaped the map of Europe. Trump’s attempted dictatorship almost destroyed democracy in America. History has yet to see if Trump will succeed where Hitler failed.

ONCE AGAIN, ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 8, 2020 at 12:15 am

Once he became the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

On November 3, 80 million voters decided they wanted a change—and elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

Trump refused to accept that verdict. Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, he said:

“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.”

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt.

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. Specifically:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots had been systematically destroyed.
  • Tampered voting machines had turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. And, one by one, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

For 20 days, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy refused to release $7.3 million in transition funding and Federal resources to the President-elect’s team. Under the law governing presidential transitions, Murphy was responsible for determining the winner based on publicly available information before the actual Electoral College vote. 

Finally, on November 23, Murphy released the transition funding and resources.

Losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House to persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

Nothing changed. 

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

Meanwhile, top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—have refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. None of them branded Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as those of a tyrant.

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, did Americans seem paralyzed to put an end to the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, 10 months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

There are basically three ways America’s continuing slide into tyranny could have been stopped:

Congressional Republicans could have revolted against Trump’s authority and/or agenda. They could, for example, have demanded that Trump accept the verdict of the electorate—as every other past President had. But they didn’t.

Invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President.

A case could easily have been made that Trump, emotionally distraught over his loss and determined to circumvent the will of the electorate, had been rendered unfit to continue in office. But, once again, Republicans let fear be their guide.

He had fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. Vice President Mike Pence in particular had set new records for sycophancy. 

The “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

Gaius Caligula

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Trump had similarly behaved arrogantly toward his Secret Service guards. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. He also forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them were stricken with this often lethal disease as a result. 

During the 12 years that Adolf Hitler ruled Nazi Germany, at least 42 assassination plots were launched against him.

The best-known of these literally exploded on July 20, 1944, when Colonel Count Claus Shenk von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a conference room attended by Hitler and his generals. Hitler survived only by sheer luck. 

By contrast, no similar plot was aimed at Donald Trump.

ONCE AGAIN, ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 7, 2020 at 12:24 am

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?” 

It’s a question millions of Americans have asked themselves since Donald Trump became President of the United States.

Millions of Germans asked themselves the same question throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Berliners paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their city. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

The answer seems to be half-yes, half-no.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President.

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters outvoted  74,196,153 Republican voters to elect former Vice President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

Related image

Donald Trump

Upon taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • Repeatedly attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.
  • Giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded.
  • Trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Allowing the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, infecting (to date) 14.8 million Americans and killing 282,000.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Ordering his Right-wing followers to defy states’ orders to citizens to “stay-at-home” and wear of masks in public to halt surging COVID-19 rates.

And throughout all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

A typical example:

On June 4, 2020, during protests over the police murder of black security guard George Floyd, a curfew was imposed on Buffalo, New York. As police swept through Niagara Square, Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old peace activist with the Catholic Worker Movement, walked into their path as if attempting to speak with them.

Two officers pushed him and he fell backwards, hitting the back of his head on the pavement and losing consciousness. 

On June 9, Trump charged that Gugino was part of a radical leftist “set up.” Trump offered no evidence to back up his slander.

Typical Republican responses included:  

  • Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say whether Trump’s tweet was appropriate.
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the tweets.” 
  • Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said he hadn’t seen the tweet—and didn’t want it read to him: “I would rather not hear it.”
  • Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander: “Voters can evaluate that. I’m not going to give a running commentary on the President’s tweets.”

On November 3, 2020, 80 million voters decided they wanted a change—and elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

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!”

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