bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘IRAQ WAR’

TRUMP’S PREVIEW OF ADMINISTRATIVE INCOMPETENCE: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 9, 2019 at 12:09 am

In late July, 2016, Donald Trump’s new spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, accepted an impossible mission that even “Mission: Impossible’s” Jim Phelps would have turned down:

Convince Americans that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004.  

Appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on August 2, Pierson said: “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagements that probably cost his life.”

Related image

Katrina Pierson

Totally ignored in that scenario: 

  • President George W. Bush lied the nation into a needless war that cost the lives of 4,486 Americans and wounded another 33,226.
  • The war began in 2003—and Khan was killed in 2004.
  • Barack Obama became President in 2009—almost five years after Khan’s death. 
  • Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State the same year. 
  • Obama, elected Illinois U.S. Senator in 2004, vigorously opposed the Iraq war throughout his term. 

Twitter users, using the hashtag #KatrinaPiersonHistory, mocked Pierson’s revisionist take on history. Among their tweets: 

  • Hillary Clinton slashed funding for security at the Ford Theater, leading to Lincoln’s assassination. 
  • Obama gave Amelia Earhart directions to Kenya. 
  • Remember the Alamo? Obama and Hillary let it happen. 
  • Obama and Clinton kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.

Not content with blaming President Obama for the death of a man he never sent into combat, Pierson claimed that Obama started the Afghanistan war. 

Appearing again on CNN, Pierson said the Afghan war began “after 2007,” when Al Qaeda “was in ashes” following the American troop surge in Iraq.  

“Remember, we weren’t even in Afghanistan by this time,” Pierson said. “Barack Obama went into Afghanistan, creating another problem.”

In fact, President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

When your spokeswoman becomes a nationwide laughingstock, your own credibility goes down the toilet as well.  

In July, 2016, an Associated Press/GfK poll found that half of Americans saw Donald Trump as “racist”—and only 7% of blacks viewed him favorably.

There are numerous reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. 
  • His “birther” attacks on President Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya–and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency. 
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

Since 1964, blacks have overwhelmingly voted for Democratic Presidential candidates. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s won their loyalty with his support for and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Related image

President Johnson signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater opposed it—as did the majority of his party.

Since 1964, fewer than six percent of blacks have voted for Republican Presidential candidates. Whites have not only remained the majority of Republican voters but have become the single most important voting bloc among them.

To counter this, Donald Trump turned to his Director of African-American Outreach: Omarosa Manigault. 

Trump made the appointment just hours before the first night of the Republican National Convention. 

Related image

Omarosa Manigault

Manigault is best known as the villain of Trump’s reality-TV show, “The Apprentice”—where she was fired on three different seasons. Her credentials include a Ph.D. in communications, a preacher’s license, and topping TV Guide’s list of greatest reality TV villains in 2008.  

During the Clinton administration she held four jobs in two years, and was thoroughly disliked in all of them. 

“She was asked to leave [her last job] as quickly as possible, she was so disruptive,” said Cheryl Shavers, the former Under Secretary for Technology at the Commerce Department. “One woman wanted to slug her.”  

In her role as Trump’s ambassador to blacks, Omarosa inspired others to want to slug her. Appearing on Fox Business, she ignored Fox panelist Tamera Holder’s question on why blacks should support Trump, and then mocked her “big boobs.”   

Manigault wasn’t bothered that blacks regarded Trump so poorly in polls: “My reality is that I’m surrounded by people who want to see Donald Trump as the next president of the United States who are African-American.”

Appointing as your public relations director a woman who gratuitously insults and infuriates people is not the move of a smart administrator—or Presidential candidate.

Manigault followed Trump into the White House as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison. There her arrogance and rudeness got her fired in December, 2017. 

Although she had known Trump since 2004. But it was only in 2018, in a tell-all book, Unhinged, that she claimed she had discovered that her idol was a racist, a misogynist and in mental decline.

To make things worse for Trump, she had secretly taped conversations between herself and him. Asked to justify this, she offered: “You have to have your own back or else you’ll look back and you’ll have 17 knives in your back. I protected myself because this is a White House where everybody lies.”

Thus, after all these demonstrations of Trump’s incompetence as an administrator, millions of hate-filled Americans rushed to the polls to support him—because “he says what I’m thinking.”

TRUMP’S A PREVIEW OF ADMINISTRATIVE INCOMPETENCE: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 8, 2019 at 12:05 am

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, even the Secret Service couldn’t protect Donald Trump from the notoriety of his handpicked supporters. 

From August to November, 2016, the manager of Trump’s Presidential campaign was Steve Bannon, who made anti-Semitic remarks and was found to have been registered to vote at a vacant house in Florida.  

But before Bannon signed on, his predecessor was Paul Manafort, whom Trump hired to add stability to his often scattershot campaign.  

Related image

Paul Manafort

But Manafort came with a dangerous liability: His longstanding ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine—which inevitably led to Vladimir Putin.  

For years, Manafort worked for Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin protege who was deposed as Ukraine’s president in 2014 amid widespread demonstrations.  

In August, the New York Times unearthed handwritten ledgers that listed $12.7 million in cash payments to Manafort from Yanukovych’s political party between 2007 and 2012. 

In 2018, Manafort would be found guilty on eight counts:

  • Filing false tax returns
  • Bank fraud
  • Failing to disclose a foreign bank account
  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States and
  • Witness tampering.

Trump’s own ties to Putin were already facing increasing scrutiny for:

  •  His and Putin’s public expressions of admiration for each other’s toughness.
  • The removal from the Republican party platform, written at the convention in Cleveland in July, of references to arming Ukraine in its fight against pro-Russian rebels who have been armed by the Kremlin.
  • Trump’s inviting Russia to find 30,000 emails deleted from the private server used by Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State in the Obama administration: “I think you will probably be mightily rewarded by our press.”

Added to Manafort’s embarrassing ties to Russia was another minus: He and Trump didn’t get along. Trump had begun calling him “low energy”–a term he once aimed at his former GOP rival, Jeb Bush. 

Manafort wanted Trump to bring more self-discipline to the campaign and concentrate his fire solely on his Presidential rival, Hillary Clinton. Instead, in late July, Trump ignited a days-long feud with members of a Gold Star family, costing him support within the veterans community. 

Manafort also wanted Trump to establish a conventional chain-of-command organization typical of a Presidential campaign. But Trump resisted, preferring to improvise and rely on his instincts and the counsel of his family.  

In late August, Trump fired him.

Foreign policy nearly always plays a major role in Presidential elections. Yet Trump showed a total lack of knowledge or concern for it.

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

In late August, 2016, former Republican Congresswoman (2007-2015) Michele Bachmann claimed that she was now advising Trump on foreign policy.  

Related image

Michele Bachmann

A member of the Right-wing Tea Party, Bachmann has said that diplomacy “is our option” in dealing with Iran—but wouldn’t rule out a nuclear strike.

Among the statements she’s made:  

  • “I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?'”
  • “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”
  • “President Obama waived a ban on arming terrorists in order to allow weapons to go to the Syrian opposition….U.S. taxpayers are now paying to give arms to terrorists, including Al-Qaeda.”  
  • “I’m a believer in Jesus Christ.  As I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end time history.” 

A woman who believes that God causes earthquakes and hurricanes, and that mankind has arrived at “End Times,” could hardly be a comfort to rational voters.

Another Trump adviser was former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. His assignment: Prepare Trump for the upcoming fall debates with Clinton.

Roger Ailes, June 2013.jpg

Roger Ailes

Ailes’ appointment came shortly after he was fired, in July, 2016, from Fox News on multiple charges of sexual harassment.  

At first, only Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson dared accuse him. But then more than two dozen women came forward to accuse Ailes of sexual harassment.

On September 6, Carlson reached an out-of-court settlement with the parent company of Fox News for a reported $20 million.

At least two other women have settled with Fox, an anonymous source told the New York Times.  And others may be planning to file lawsuits.

All of which made Ailes the poster boy for sexual harassment.  

Trump has been married three times and has often boasted of his sexual conquests—including ones he believes he could have had.

Shortly after the 1997 death of Princess Diana, he told a radio interviewer he could have “nailed” her if he had wanted to.  

In a mid-March CNN/ORC poll, 73% of female voters voiced a negative view of Trump. Associating with a notorious sexual harasser like Roger Ailes could only make him even more unpopular among women.

TRUMP’S PREVIEW OF ADMINISTRATIVE INCOMPETENCE: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2019 at 12:05 am

“The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him. 

“When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful. 

“But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.”

So wrote the Italian statesman Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago in his famous treatise on politics, The Prince.  

And his words remain as true in our day as they were in his.

In fact, he could have been writing about the ability of Donald Trump to choose subordinates.

Related image

Niccolo Machiavelli

As a Presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly previewed his administrative incompetence—which he has continued to demonstrate as President. 

Of course, his favorite daughter, Ivanka, bitterly disagrees: “My father values talent. He recognizes real knowledge and skill when he finds it. He is color-blind and gender-neutral. He hires the best person for the job, period.”

But a close look at those he picked to run his campaign for President totally refutes this. 

From the outset of his Presidential campaign, Trump polled extremely poorly among Hispanic voters. Among the reasons for this—Trump’s verdict on Mexicans:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

And he promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” 

So statements like those of his supporters Marco Gutierrez and Ed Martin could only inflame Hispanic voters even more:

Founder of Latinos for Trump Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.” 

At a Tea Party for Trump rally at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus, Missouri, former Missouri Republican Party director Ed Martin reassured the crowd that they weren’t not racist for hating Mexicans.

“Donald Trump is for Americans first. He’s for us first. It is not selfish to support, or to be for, your neighbor, as opposed to someone from another nation. And Mexico, Mexicans, that’s not a race. You’re not racist if you don’t like Mexicans. They’re from a nation.”  

Related image

Donald Trump

Then there were the inflammatory words offered by Wayne Root, opening speaker and master of ceremonies at many Trump events. Root told Virginia radio host Rob Schilling that people on public assistance and women who get their birth control through Obamacare should not be allowed to vote

“If the people who paid the taxes were the only ones allowed to vote, we’d [Republicans] have landslide victories. But you’re allowing people to vote. This explains everything! People with conflict of interest shouldn’t be allowed to vote. If you collect welfare, you have no right to vote.

“The day you get off welfare, you get your voting rights back. The reality is, why are you allowed to have this conflict of interest that you vote for the politician who wants to keep your welfare checks coming and your food stamps and your aid to dependent children and your free health care and your Medicaid, your Medicare and your Social Security and everything else?” 

Related image

Wayne Root

According to a March, 206 Gallup poll, 70% of women—or seven in 10–had an unfavorable opinion of Trump.

Such comments as Root’s could only make Trump even more unpopular with women. Not to mention anyone who received Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security. 

Donald Trump’s new campaign manager, Steve Bannon, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness in 1996, after an altercation with his then-wife, Mary Louise Piccard,  in Santa Monica, California. 

Picard also said in a 2007 court declaration that Bannon didn’t want their twin daughters attending the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles because many Jewish students were enrolled there.  

Image result for images of Stephen Bannon

Steve Bannon

This undoubtedly contributed to Trump’s unpopularity among women, it also made him unpopular among Jews—especially in heavily Jewish states like New York and Florida.

In addition: Bannon and another ex-wife, Diane Clohesy, were registered to vote at a vacant house in Florida, a possible violation of election laws in a key swing state.

Republicans have vigorously denied voting rights to tens of thousands on the pretext of “voter fraud.” More than a dozen states still have voting restrictions in place since 2012.   

A Washington Post investigation found just 31 credible cases of voter fraud from 2000 to 2014, out of an estimated 1 billion ballots cast in the U.S. during that period.  

Meanwhile, voting rights groups have been fighting back–and winning.

“Voter ID” laws in Texas, Wisconsin and North Carolina have been found discriminatory against minorities–who traditionally vote Democratic.  

With evidence of Republican fraud like that supplied by Trump’s own campaign manager, victories against “Voter ID” laws may well increase.

TRUMP: CREATING HIS OWN WEHRMACHT—PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 11, 2019 at 12:02 am

Nazi Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler wasn’t crazy, as many of his critics charged. He knew what he wanted to achieve—and why.

He intended to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public. After he succeeded, Germany became a nation where there was:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtled toward a disastrous war that would leave Germany in ruins.

Those are exactly the priorities of President Donald J. Trump. 

He has already assaulted the integrity of:

  • American Intelligence agencies: By publicly blaming the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Russian President Vladimir Putin—for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential elections.
  • American law enforcement agencies: By firing FBI Director James Comey for pursuing ties between his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • The press: By tweeting, on February 17, 2017: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • The Judiciary: By repeatedly attacking Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first anti-Muslim travel ban. 

Related image

Donald Trump

Now he’s turning his attention to the American military.

  • Trump appointed former Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense. But when Trump announced his intention to withdraw American military forces from Syria, Mattis resigned in December, 2018.
  • Mattis offered to stay in office until February, 2019, to ensure a smooth transition for his successor. But Trump, his ego outraged, forced Mattis to leave by the end of December.
  • The military sees foreign commitments as essential to American security—whether against ISIS or the former Soviet Union.
  • But Trump believes that alliances like NATO are “ripping off” the United States. And he believes he was elected to end foreign entanglements.
  • Trump appointed Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser. But after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for interfering in the 2016 Presidential election, McMaster said: “With the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible” of Russia cyber-meddling. 
  • This publicly contradicted Trump’s claim that reports of Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election were “a hoax.”
  • Six weeks later, McMaster was forced out of the administration. 

H.R. McMaster ARCIC 2014.jpg

H.R. McMaster

  • In November, 2018, Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace, during an interview with Trump, noted that retired Adm. William McRaven had said: “The President’s attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime.”
  • Trump then dismissed McRaven—who had spearheaded the operation that killed Al-Qaedar leader Osama bin Laden—as a “Hillary fan.” 
  • “He was a Navy SEAL 37 years,” said Wallace. Trump, refusing to give McRaven—one of the most highly respected men in the United States military—any credit, said: “Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?”

Some members of the military are responding favorably to Trump.

During his 2019 trip to Japan, Trump gave a Memorial Day address aboard the USS Wasp in Yokosuka. Many of the American service attending were photographed wearing patches inspired by his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” 

Related image

The matching patches showed the face of a man that’s presumably Trump (though notably more handsome) along with the text, “Make Aircrew Great Again.”

This may have violated the Pentagon’s strict rules barring soldiers from showing political preferences.

“All military personnel will avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign or cause,” the policy states.

Retired Army General Stanley McChrystal, during a December 30, 2018 interview on “This Week,” warned: “If the U.S. military becomes politicized, it will be something we’re not happy with.”

The incident on Memorial Day was not the first time active-duty service members displayed Trump-affiliated apparel.

In December, 2018, Trump engaged in campaign activities by by signing “Make America Great Again” caps for during an unannounced visit to Iraq. Dozens of troops were photographed bringing MAGA hats to the event for the president to sign. 

Other members of the military are responding—carefully—to Trump’s savage attacks on its members and his erratic style of government. 

According to a December 24, 2018 edition of the Palmer Report, military leaders are now going out of their way to avoid “interacting directly” with Trump. They fear that he might issue an impulsive and destructive order—which they would be legally obligated to follow.

More startling: Departing Secretary of Defense Mattis ordered them to, for the safety of the nation.

Mattis believed that Trump was dishonorable—and deranged enough to give destructive or incoherent military orders at any moment.

Columnist Bill Palmer warned that this amounted to a “soft coup.” 

But then he asked: “Then again, when the ‘President’ of the United States is merely a guy who treasonously conspired with a foreign enemy to rig the election in his favor, and was not legitimately elected to anything, can you even have a coup against him?”

TRUMP: CREATING HIS OWN WEHRMACHT—PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 10, 2019 at 12:05 am

President Donald Trump is notorious as a non-reader. Nevertheless, he seems poised to re-enact one of the most fateful events in 20th century history.

First, that event: On August 2, 1934, the aged German President Paul von Hindenburg died.

Adolf Hitler had been serving as Reich Chancellor—the equivalent of attorney general—since January 30, 1933. Within hours, the Nazi Reichstag [parliament] announced the following law, back-dated to August 1st:

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

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

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

Related image

Soldiers swearing the Fuhrer Oath

In the past, German soldiers had sworn loyalty to Germany. Now they had sworn it to a single man.

For men of honor in uniform, conspiracy against the Führer now meant betrayal of the Fatherland itself. They considered this oath sacred, overriding all others. And the vast majority would fanatically obey it right to the end of the disastrous war Hitler was leading them into.

Yet even that didn’t give Hitler the absolute control over the Armed Forces that he sought. 

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. But how? 

Accident played a part in the case of Blomberg.

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 was infuriated at having served as a witness to the ceremony.

But he also 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.

Adolf Hitler

Hitler had a timetable of conquest:

  • On March 7, 1936, he seized the Rhineland, the demilitarized zone between Germany and its arch-enemy, France.
  • On March 12, 1838, he “unified” Austria with Germany by annexing it.
  • In September, 1938, he seized a large portion of western Czechoslovakia after that nation’s British and French “allies” sold it out at the infamous Munich Conference.
  • On March 15, 1939, he ordered the Wehrmacht to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia.
  • On September 1, 1939, he ordered the invasion of Poland—unintentionally igniting World War II and the eventual destruction of Nazi Germany.

No one yet knows if Donald Trump has a plan of conquest outside the United States. But he seems intent on attacking the top command of its armed services—and its sacred traditions.

Donald Trump

On January 1, 2019, Trump—in a tweet—declared war on retired Army General Stanley McCrystal: “‘General’ McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!”

The reason for Trump’s ire: McCrystal had given a December 30, 2018 interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Asked if he thought Trump was “a liar,” he replied: “I don’t think he tells the truth.”  Asked: “Is Trump immoral, in your view?” McCrystal replied: “I think he is.”

McChrystal had become a legend among Special Warfare soldiers during the 2003 Iraq War. He had turned Joint Special Operations Command into one of the most efficient killing machines in history.  

In 2010, McChrystal resigned as the commander of the Afghan War. Some officers on his staff made disparaging remarks about top officials working for President Barack Obama. Even worse, they made them to a Rolling Stone reporter.  

Trump took office with strong support by military brass. Among his appointees:

  • Retired four-star Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense.
  • Retired four-star Marine General John Kelly as, first, Secretary of Homeland Security and then Chief of Staff.
  • Retired three-star Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn for National Security Adviser.
  • Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster succeeded Flynn as National Security Adviser after Flynn was forced out of the White House for lying about his ties to Russian oligarchs.

But now Trump is eager to tear down the generals.

BILLIONS FOR BUILDINGS AND WARS, NONE FOR THE POOR

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2019 at 9:41 am

On April 15, millions across France gasped in horror at the sight of Notre Dame Cathedral going up in flames.  

The Cathedral, perhaps the most iconic building in Paris, is visited by more than 14 million people every year. Built between 1160 and 1345, it has long been one of the most important sites in Christendom. 

A law passed in 1905 classified the cathedral as a Historical Monument and thus the property of the state. But its use is dedicated exclusively to the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics are estimated to comprise between 41% and 88% of France’s population.

But by April 19, for untold numbers of French citizens, horror and sadness had been replaced by anger.  

So what had happened to arouse this? 

First, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation to speak about the fire. In doing so, he totally ignored the violent protests against inequality that have erupted throughout the country since last November.

Low-paid workers and pensioners have accused Macron’s government of favoring the rich. The activists are named Yellow Vests—after the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to keep in their cars.

Second, in just a few hours, billionaires pledged hundreds of millions of dollars (euros) to help restore the damaged cathedral.

“You’re there, looking at all these millions accumulating, after spending five months in the streets fighting social and fiscal injustice. It’s breaking my heart,” Ingrid Levavasseur, a founding leader of the movement, told The Associated Press.

“What happened at Notre Dame is obviously a deplorable tragedy. But nobody died,” Levavasseur said. “I’ve heard someone speaking of national mourning. Are they out of their minds?”

“The yellow vests will show their anger against the billion found in four days for stones, and nothing for the needy,” wrote Pierre Derrien on Facebook.

More than $1 billion has been pledged for the cathedral’s restoration, and many French citizens believe the money could be better spent elsewhere. And the billionaires’ donations entitle them to huge tax deductions.

“If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” CGT trade union leader Philippe Martinez said.

But this is generally how the rich and powerful react to the needs of the neediest.

In 2016, returning to Congress after their traditional summer recess, House Republicans planned to cut $23 billion in food stamps for the poor. This included ending waivers that allowed some adults to get temporary assistance while they were in school or training for a job.  

The cuts were to include drug tests of applicants and tougher work rules. As Republicans see it: There’s no point in “helping” the poor if you can’t humiliate them.

The food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, served more than 46 million Americans and cost $74 billion in 2015. 

Meanwhile, Republicans were eager to spend billions of dollars for another project: An unnecessary war with Syria.

One of these right-wingers was Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard—and one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

Related image

Bill Kristol

He—like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration—falsely claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

Another Kristol lie: Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie—or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

In a September, 2013 column, Kristol called for a return to slaughter—not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the [Bashar al-] Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that [President Barack] Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

Among Republican U.S. Senators calling for war were Arizona’s John McCain and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who issued a joint statement:

“Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on  the ground.”

In addition: A major weapon for “degrading Assad’s air power” would be Tomahawk Cruise missiles. A single one of these costs $1,410,000.

Firing of a Tomahawk Cruise missile

A protracted missile strike would rain literally billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles on Syria.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon was spending about $27 million a week to maintain the increased U.S. Navy presence in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East region to keep watch over Syria and be prepared to strike.

Navy officials said it cost about $25 million a week for the carrier group and $2 million a week for each destroyer.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this?

Yes.

Powerful people—whether generals, politicians or the wealthy—will always find abundant money and resources available for pet projects they consider important.

It’s only when it comes to projects that other people actually need that the powerful will claim there is, unfortunately, a cash shortage.

TRUMP ON THANKSGIVING: “I’M THANKFUL FOR—ME”

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 23, 2018 at 12:09 am

Thanksgiving Day is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a legal holiday for people to be thankful for what they have.” 

So what did President Donald Trump give thanks for on November 22, 2018?

“For having a great family and for having made a tremendous difference in this country. I’ve made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office that you wouldn’t believe it. 

“And I mean, you see, but so much stronger people can’t even believe it. When I see foreign leaders they say we cannot believe the difference in strength between the United States now and the United States two years ago. Made a lot of progress.”

Anyone expecting Trump to show even the slightest humility on this occasion had only to recall his first appearance at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

This occurred on January 21, 2017—his first full day as President.

Officially, he was there to pay tribute to the men and women who serve on the front lines of America’s Intelligence community. Who dedicate their lives to finding out when and where America’s enemies are planning to strike—and to countering those threats.

And now Trump was appearing before what, to CIA employees, was the agency’s most sacred site: The star-studded memorial wall honoring the 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty.

Related image

Donald Trump at the CIA

So what did Trump spend much of his time talking about?

Himself, of course.

Here are the major excerpts:

“….You know, when I was young and when I was — of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30, 35, 39. Somebody said, are you young? I said, I think I’m young. You know, I was stopping — when we were in the final month of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young….

“When I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars….We don’t win anymore. The old expression, “to the victor belong the spoils” — you remember.

“I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil….

“Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it….if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay.  Maybe you’ll have another chance….

“And the reason you’re my first stop is that, as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth.

“And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number-one stop is exactly the opposite — exactly. And they understand that, too.

“And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech?  I’ve been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. 

“I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, million and a half people….

“And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech….

“But, you know, we have something that’s amazing because we had — it looked — honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was….

Crowds at Trump and Obama Inaugurals

“We had 250,000 people literally around — you know, in the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument, was packed. So we caught them, and we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.

“So a reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine. Like, if Tom Brady is on the cover, it’s one time, because he won the Super Bowl or something, right?

“I’ve been on it for 15 times this year. I don’t think that’s a record….that can ever be broken.  Do you agree with that? What do you think?”

* * * * *

At least one former CIA director thought that Trump’s remarks were “despicable.” In a tweeted statement, Nick Shapiro, John Brennan’s former deputy chief of staff, said:

“Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes. Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself.” 

OLD GLORY’S FINEST HOUR–AND ITS LOWEST

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 28, 2018 at 12:40 am

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

Except that the brilliant colors of Old Glory have been washed out, leaving only black-and-white stripes and black stars.

And then the movie opens—not during World war II but the present day.  

Did Spielberg know something that his audience could only sense? Such as that the United States, for all its military power, has become a pale shadow of its former glory?

May 30, 1945, marked the first Memorial Day after World War II ended in Europe. On that day, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, near the town of Nettuno, held about 20,000 graves.  

Most were soldiers who died in Sicily, at Salerno, or at Anzio. One of the speakers at the ceremony was Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., the U.S. Fifth Army Commander. 

Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Unlike many other generals, Truscott had shared in the dangers of combat, pouring over maps on the hood of his jeep with company commanders as bullets or shells whizzed about him.  

When it came his turn to speak, Truscott moved to the podium. Then he turned his back on the assembled visitors—which included several Congressmen.

The audience he now faced were the graves of his fellow soldiers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Truscott walked away, without acknowledging his audience of celebrities.  

Fast forward 59 years later—to March 24, 2004. 

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

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

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

“Those Weapons of Mass Destruction have gotta be here somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners of the Oval Office.  

“Nope—no weapons over there! Maybe there’s under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.  

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

In short: Ha, ha! And you thought there were WMDs in Iraq? The joke’s on you, dummies!

Then fast forward another 12 years—to November 8, 2016.  

That was when the Republican party elected a five-times draft dodger named Donald Trump as President of the United States. A man who:

  • Claimed that “bone spurs” made it impossible for him to serve his country during the Vietnam war.
  • Had equated his reckless sex life during the 1970s with the risks members of the military ran in Vietnam. 
  • Has relentlessly defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against all criticism, even as he’s slandered literally hundreds of his fellow citizens on Twitter.   
  • Authorized his son, Donald, Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, to meet with Russian Intelligence agents at Trump Tower in June, 2016. The reason for the meeting: To obtain “dirt” the Russians claimed to have on Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
  • Has rejected the findings by the FBI and CIA that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help him win the White House.
  • Ruthlessly attacked the integrity of FBI and CIA agents charged with defending the nation against subversion.
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Refused to condemn Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia—as if those who opposed Fascism were as evil as those who idolized Adolf Hitler.
  • Has “joked” that it would be “great” if the United States had a “President-for-Life”—like China.

Small wonder then, that, for many people, Old Glory has taken on a darker, washed-out appearance—in real-life as in film.

A FAST-FADING GLORY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 30, 2017 at 12:23 am

Donald Trump repeatedly boasted that, if elected President, he would “make America great again.”  

He would do well to re-watch Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II epic.

This opens with a scene of an American flag snapping in the wind. Except that the brilliant colors of Old Glory have been washed out, leaving only black-and-white stripes and black stars.

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

Did Spielberg know something that his audience could only sense? Such as that the United States, for all its military power, has become a pale shadow of its former glory?

May 30, 1945, marked the first Memorial Day after World War II ended in Europe. On that day, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, near the town of Nettuno, held about 20,000 graves.  

Most were soldiers who had died in Sicily, at Salerno, or at Anzio. One of the speakers at the ceremony was Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., the U.S. Fifth Army Commander. 

Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Unlike many other generals, Truscott had shared in the dangers of combat, pouring over maps on the hood of his jeep with company commanders as bullets or shells whizzed about him.  

When it came his turn to speak, Truscott moved to the podium. Then he turned his back on the assembled visitors–which included several Congressmen.

The audience he now faced were the graves of his fellow soldiers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Truscott walked away, without acknowledging his audience of celebrities.  

Fast forward 61 years later–to March 24, 2004. 

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

One year earlier, he had ordered the invasion of Iraq, claiming that its dictator, Saddam Hussein, possessed WMDs he intended to use against the United States.  

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were simply the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.  

“Those Weapons of Mass Destruction have gotta be here somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners of the Oval Office.  

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

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

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had lost comrades or suffered horrific wounds to protect America from a threat that had never existed.  

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

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

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

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

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

Neither Bush nor Walker had seen fit to enter the ranks of the military he wished to plunge into further combat. And Donald Trump, who would win the Republican nomination and the Presidency, was a five-time draft dodger while the Vietnam war raged.

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

Of those members elected to the House and Senate in November, 2016, only 102–less than 19%–have served in the U.S. military.

Small wonder then, that, for many people, Old Glory has taken on a darker, washed-out appearance, in real-life as in film.

HEROES: NOT WHAT THEY USED TO BE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 21, 2017 at 12:20 am

Steven Pressfield is the bestselling author of several novels on ancient Greece.

Steven Pressfield Focused Interview

 Steven Pressfield

In Gates of Fire (1998) he celebrated the immortal battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans held at bay a vastly superior Persian army for three days.

In Tides of War (2000) he re-fought the ancient world’s 25-year version of the Cold War between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta.

n The Virtues of War (2004) he chronicled the military career of Alexander the Great–through the eyes of the conqueror himself.

And in The Afghan Campaign (2006) he accompanied Alexander’s army as it waged a vicious, three-year counterinsurgency war against native Afghans.

Besides being an amateur historian of armed conflict, Pressfield is a former Marine. His novel, Gates of Fire, has been adopted by the Marine Corps as required reading.

So Pressfield knows something about the art–and horrors–of war. And about the decline of heroism in the modern age.

Consider the events of November 9, 2012.

On that date, General David Petraeus suddenly resigned his position as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He had held this just slightly more than a year.

The reason: The revelation of–and his admission to–an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, the woman who had written an admiring biography of him called All In.

Ironically, this happened to be the same day that “Skyfall”–the latest James Bond film–opened nationwide.

Since Bond made his first onscreen appearance in 1962’s “Dr. No,” England’s most famous spy has bedded countless women.  And has become internationally famous as the ultimate ladykiller.

But real-life doesn’t quite work the same way.

What is permitted–and even celebrated–in a fictional spy is not treated the same way in the real world of espionage.

Prior to this, Petraeus had been the golden boy of the American Army–the best-known and most revered general since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

David  Petraeus

The man who

  • had given 37 years of his life to protecting the nation;
  • had rewritten the book on how to fight counterinsurgency wars;
  • had turned around the stagnated war in Iraq;
  • had presided over the winding down of the war in Afghanistan.

As President Barack Obama put it:

“General Petraeus had an extraordinary career.  He served this country with great distinction in Iraq, in Afghanistan and as head of the CIA.

“I want to emphasize that from my perspective, at least, he has provided this country an extraordinary service.  We are safer because of the work that Dave Petraeus has done.

“And my main hope right now is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career.”

It’s why Pressfield candidly admits he prefers the ancient world to the present:

“If I’m pressed to really think about the question, I would answer that what appeals to me about the ancient world as opposed to the modern is that the ancient world was pre-Christian, pre-Freudian, pre-Marxist, pre-consumerist, pre-reductivist.

“It was grander, it was nobler, it was simpler. You didn’t have the notion of turn-the-other-cheek. You had Oedipus but you didn’t have the Oedipus complex. It was political but it was not politically correct.”

To illustrate what he meant, Pressfield cited this passage from Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, on how ancient-world politics took on its own tone of McCarthyism:  

To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member.  

To think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward. Any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character. Ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.

As if speaking on the scandal involving David Petraeus, Pressfield states:

“Our age has been denatured. The heroic has been bled out of it.

“The callings of the past––he profession of arms, the priesthood, the medical and legal professions, politics, the arts, journalism, education, even motherhood and fatherhood–every one has been sullied and degraded by scandal after scandal.

“We’re hard up for heroes these days, and even harder up for conceiving ourselves in that light. That’s why I’m drawn to the ancient world. It’s truer, in my view, to how we really are.

“The ancient world has not been reductified and deconstructed as ours has; it has not been robbed of all dignity. They had heroes then. There was such a thing, truly, as the Heroic Age. Men like Achilles and Leonidas really did exist.

“There was such a thing, truly, as heroic leadership. Alexander the Great did not command via satellite or remote control.  He rode into battle at the head of his Companion cavalry; he was the first to strike the foe.”

Today, generals command armies while stationed thousands of miles from the front. And they face more danger from heart attacks than enemy bullets.  

And commanding American generals is Donald Trump, a five-times draft-dodger who equates avoiding sexually-transmitted diseases with surviving the Vietnam war: “It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

%d bloggers like this: