bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘PETER O’TOOLE’

“VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER”–A SELF-DESTRUCTIVE MYTH

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 4, 2022 at 12:10 am

Victory Through Air Power is a 1943 Walt Disney animated Technocolor feature film released during World War II. It’s based on the book—of the same title—by Alexander P. de Seversky.

Its thesis is summed up in its title: That by using bombers and fighter aircraft, the United States can attain swift, stunning victory over its Axis enemies: Germany, Italy and Japan.

Although it’s not explicitly stated, the overall impression given is that, through the use of air power, America can defeat its enemies without deploying millions of ground troops.

The movie has long since been forgotten except by film buffs, but its message has not. Especially by the highest officials within the U.S. Air Force.

Although the Air Force regularly boasted of the tonnage of bombs its planes dropped over Nazi Germany, it failed to attain its primary goal: Break the will of the Germans to resist.

On the contrary: Just as the German bombings of England had solidified the will of the British people to resist, so Allied bombing increased the determination of the Germans to fight on.

Nor did the failure of air power end there.

On June 6, 1944—D-Day—the Allies launched their invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history. More than 160,000 troops landed—73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.

Allied air power bombed and strafed German troops out in the open. But it couldn’t dislodge soldiers barricaded in steel-and-concrete-reinforced bunkers or pillboxes. Those had to be dislodged, one group at a time, by Allied  soldiers armed with rifles, dynamite and flamethrowers. 

Soldier using flamethrower

This situation proved true throughout the rest of the war.

Then, starting in 1964, the theory of “Victory Through Air Power” once again proved a dud—in Vietnam.

From 1964 to 1975, seven million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia—more than twice the amount of bombs dropped on Europe and Asia in World War II.

Yet the result proved exactly the same as it had in World War II: The bombing enraged the North Vietnamese and steeled their resolve to fight on to the end.

Hanoi ordered the distribution of rifles to its citizens—to be used for shooting at American planes. Although this probably didn’t bring any planes down, it greatly increased morale among the populace.

American bomber

The belief that victory could be achieved primarily—if not entirely—through air power had another unforeseen result during the Vietnam war. It gradually sucked the United States ever deeper into the conflict.

To bomb North Vietnam, the United States needed air force bases in South Vietnam. This required that those bombers and fighters be protected.

So a force to provide round-the-clock security had to be maintained. But there weren’t enough guards to defend themselves against a major attack by North Vietnamese forces.

So more American troops were needed—to guard the guards.

North Vietnam continued to press greater numbers of its soldiers into attacks on American bases. This forced America to provide greater numbers of its own soldiers to defend against such attacks.

Eventually, the United States had more than 500,000 ground troops fighting in Vietnam—with no end in sight to the conflict.  

But it isn’t enough to subdue a conquered nation—it must be occupied. And air power alone will not suffice. 

Americans learned this to their dismay in Iraq after quickly taking Baghdad and subduing the forces of Saddam Hussein. On May 1, 2003, President George W. bush declared the war over.

Except that it wasn’t.

A nationwide insurgency quickly mushroomed—and there simply weren’t enough American troops to prevent or stop these attacks. These continued until the United States finally withdrew from Iraq in 2011.

Since February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed carpet-bombing attacks on Ukraine, Russia’s neighboring republic. They have leveled cities such as Mariupol with cluster bombs and phosphorus bombs.

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

Cluster bombs contain small explosive bombs called “sub-munitions.” Dropped from an aircraft or fired from the ground, they open in the air and release the sub-munitions. This scatters a carpet of bombs over a large area without any degree of accuracy.  

They don’t explode on impact but remain hazardous as anti-personnel landmines. Up to 87% of recorded victims are civilians. 

And yet Ukrainians continue to fiercely resist. At least seven Russian generals have been killed, and NATO estimates that Russia has lost between 21,000 and 45,000 in dead and wounded. 

Finally, pulverizing cities from the air comes with a cost—to those doing the pulverizing.

In the 1964 classic, Becket, England’s Chancellor, Thomas Becket (Richard Burton) has captured a French city for his king, Henry II (Peter O’Toole) and is about to lead a peaceful parade of soldiers into it.

“In my day,” complains an English baron, “we marched into a city and slaughtered the lot.”

“Yes—into a dead city,” retorts Becket. “I want to give the King living cities to increase his wealth.”

It’s more than a safe bet that Victory Through Air Power will prove as hollow a slogan in the future as it has in the past. 

A QUICK TEMPER, A DEADLY OUTCOME

In History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2016 at 12:01 am

There are many ways a Donald J. Trump Presidency could go fatally wrong. To learn just one, it’s necessary only to watch the 1964 classic, Becket.

This story of a 12th-century struggle between an English king and archbishop may seem irrelevant to the upcoming Trump Presidency.

In fact, it has a dangerous lesson to teach.

Becket (Richard Burton), a brilliant Saxon noble, is the favorite friend of England’s King Henry II (Peter O’Toole). They hunt, fight and bed women together. Henry even appoints him as Chancellor, the highest law enforcement officer in the country.

Where Becket is cold and calculating, Henry is impulsive, often explosive. Henry admires and resents Becket’s keen intelligence, knowing that Becket is better-suited for kingship than himself.

Meanwhile, the power of the Catholic Church is rising. Henry needs a highly-placed ally against its power. When the Archbishop of Canterbury dies, Henry appoints Becket in his place.

Suddenly the entirely secular Becket undergoes a religious conversion–and an unexpected change in allegiance. He insists that priests accused of criminal offenses be tried only in the church’s own courts–thus making them immune from Henry’s secular ones.

For Henry, this isn’t simply a conflict between church and state. It’s an unforgivable betrayal of friendship. And it means all-out war.

He falsely charges Becket with embezzlement during his time as Chancellor.

Becket flees to France, where he’s given asylum by King Louis VII (John Gielgud). 

From there, Becket proceeds to Rome, where he meets with the Pope.

He begs the Pope to let him renounce his position as Archbishop and retire to a monastery as an ordinary priest.

But the Pope refuses: Becket must return to England and defend the Church against civil interference in its affairs.

Becket asks Louis to arrange a meeting with Henry on the shores of Normandy to hopefully negotiate a reconciliation.

Henry grudgingly lifts all charges against Becket and allows him to return to England.

But the feud isn’t over–for Henry.

While Becket focuses on his duties as Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry drinks and broods over his lost friendship with Becket.

His barons fuel this hatred by pointing out that the returned Archbishop has become a hero to the vanquished Saxons. They resent their Norman conquerors, and see Becket as the only man brave enough to stand up against them.

Finally, in a drunken rage, Henry blurts out: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

At that, four of his barons ride to Canterbury Cathedral and hack Becket to death with their swords.

When he learns the news, Henry is shocked.  He has lost more than a former friend.

His reign–his soul–are now in mortal peril.

His words have caused the murder of the highest religious official in England.

His kingdom could be torn apart in civil war between Becket-loving Saxons and the Normans who conquered them in 1066. 

Even worse, Henry could be excommunicated by the Pope and damned to eternal hellfire for this most unthinkable of crimes.

So Henry seeks redemption in the only way he can: He does penance by allowing himself to be publicly whipped by Saxon monks.  And he proclaims Thomas Becket a saint.

Like Henry II, Donald Trump is infamous for his quick temper.

According to the The New York Times, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump aimed nearly 4,000 tweets at 281 different targets.

Donald Trump

His Twitter assaults have often dominated entire news cycles for days on end.

As President-elect, he has continued these assaults–the most recent one occurring on November 18.

On that evening, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a Broadway performance of the hit musical “Hamilton.”

After the curtain call, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon–who plays Aaron Burr–respectfully addressed Pence:

“We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Dixon–who is black–is rightly alarmed.

Trump has received the open and enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. Since his election, white thugs have assaulted blacks and other non-whites across the country.

Trump’s reaction to Dixon’s plea came in two Twitter rants:

“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

And: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

What happens if some of Trump’s 5.9 million Twitter followers decide–like Henry’s barons–to “rid” him of “this meddlesome actor”?  Or the whole “meddlesome cast” of “Hamilton”?  

And if not Dixon, then whoever next arouses the ire of this most easily-offended egomaniac?

Because he won’t stop. 

When the victims of his weaponized tweets appear in hospitals or morgues, will Congress dare to hold him accountable through impeachment?

And, if so, will a Trump Presidency suddenly become a Pence one?

It’s only a matter of time before the explosion occurs.

RELIGION VS. SECULAR

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 15, 2016 at 12:55 am

In 1964, Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, once again struggled against King Henry II for power over English citizens.

This time, the conflict was fought across thousands of movie screens, with Richard Burton as Becket and Peter O’Toole as Henry, as portrayed in Jean Anouilh’s 1959 play.  

A quick summary:

Becket, a brilliant Saxon noble, is the favorite friend of Henry. They hunt, fight and bed women together. Henry even appoints him as Chancellor, the highest law enforcement officer in the country. 

But there is a storm on the horizon: The power of the Catholic Church is steadily rising, and Henry needs a highly-placed ally against its power. When the Archbishop of Canterbury dies, Henry appoints Becket in his place.  

But suddenly the entirely secular Becket undergoes a religious conversion–and an unexpected change in allegiance. He insists that priests accused of criminal offenses be tried only in the church’s own courts–thus making them immune from Henry’s secular ones.  

As a moviegoer, it’s easy to root for conscience-stricken Becket, as played by the charming Burton. Henry, as played by O’Toole, is a brutish adolescent, alternately fearful and enraged at his own incompetence.

But in rooting for Becket/Burton, the audience can overlook the significance of allowing religious doctrine to trump secular law.  

The consequences of this are now becoming clear in Indiana.

On March 26, 2015, its governor, Mike Pence, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This will allow any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Related image

Mike Pence

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons will have the legal right to refuse to do so.  

The same applies for a hospital that doesn’t want to provide care to a gay or lesbian patient. 

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature. And signed into law by a Republican governor. 

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Mike Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Bill-signing ceremonies are usually highly public events. Governors–and presidents–normally want their constituents to see them creating new legislation.

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

It’s almost as if Pence sensed that he was about to push open a door into a danger-filled room.  And this may well be the case.

Through that door may soon march the First Church of Cannabis. The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved–and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL. Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL. Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

And Levin had a personal comment for the governor who had made it all possible:

“Dear Mikey Pence…

“DUDE!.. keep crapping all over the state.. and I will plant a seed of LOVE, UNDERSTANDING and COMPASSION in each pile you leave.. and it will grow into a big skunky cannabis tree. Crap away Mikey.. Crap Away…”

No doubt many Indiana legislators are furious that their effort to attack gays may have brought legal marijuana to their highly conservative state. But worse may be to come.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America. And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

Ironically, this may not be so far removed from the goals of the Republican party as many think. Both the party and adherents of Sharia agree:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

What will happen when some Muslims in Indiana claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?

And when they claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects that right?

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy nightmare.

%d bloggers like this: