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HOW ONE MAN’S ADVENT–OR ABSENCE–CAN MAKE HISTORY: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2020 at 1:19 am

On July 20, 1944, members of the Wehrmacht high command failed to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase.

Adolf Hitler

Mass arrests quickly followed. 

Among the first victims discovered and executed was the conspiracy’s leader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Standing before a makeshift firing squad at midnight, he cried: “Long live our sacred Germany!”

At least 7,000 persons were arrested by the Gestapo. According to records of the Fuehrer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 were executed.

Had the conspiracy succeeded, history would have turned out differently:

  • If Germany had surrendered in July or August, 1944, World War II would have ended eight to nine months earlier.
  • The Russians—who didn’t reach Germany until April, 1945—could not have occupied the Eastern part of the country.
  • This would have prevented many of the future conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union over access to West Berlin and/or West Germany.
  • Untold numbers of Holocaust victims would have survived because the extermination camps would have been shut down.

Thus, history can be altered by the appearance—or disappearance—of a single individual.

Which brings us back to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

Since becoming President on January 20, 2017, Trump has attacked or undermined one public or private institution after another, including:

  • The Justice Department: Repeatedly attacked his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from the FBI’s investigating ties between the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. In 2018, Trump fired him.
  • Ordered 46 Obama-era prosecutors to resign and fired the Inspectors General of five cabinet departments.
  • Appointed William Barr as Attorney General in 2019 to protect him against investigations of his rampant criminality—both before and after he became President. 
  • The CIA: Refused to accept its findings—and those of the FBI and National Security Agency—that Russian Intelligence agents had intervened in the 2016 election to ensure his victory. Repeatedly defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s denials of this. 
  • The FBI:  Fired FBI Director James B. Comey for refusing to serve as Trump’s private secret police chief.
  • Repeatedly violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by using his position as President to further enrich himself.
  • The military: Threatened to order the U.S. Armed Forces to violate the rights of Americans protesting police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. 
  • The press: Tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”  (“Enemy of the people” was a favorite charge made by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.)
  • The judiciary: Repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first Muslim travel ban.

On February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Donald Trump on two impeachment articles:

  • Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by smearing former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible Democratic rival; and
  • Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.

With Republicans solidly backing Trump, that left only two other institutions capable of ending his reign of criminality and treason: The military and the Intelligence community. 

Both have access to vast amounts of secret—and highly embarrassing—-information. And both are expert in leaking choice bits of this to favored members of the media.  

If the military refused to carry out Trump’s orders, that would prove a genuine Constitutional crisis. But there would be a historical precedent for this.

In 1974, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger feared that a Watergate-embattled President Richard M. Nixon might order the military to prevent his removal by impeachment. Schlesinger ordered all Armed Services branches to not accept any order from the White House unless countersigned by Schlesinger himself.

As for the CIA: This agency has been overthrowing heads of state for decades. 

In 1953, its coup removed Mohammad Mosaddegh, the prime minister of Iran. In 1954, another coup did the same for Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz.

In 1970, Chile’s president, Salvador Allende, fell victim to a CIA-instigated plot.

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Millions of Americans believe the CIA engineered the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. James W. Douglass’ 2008 book, JFK and the Unspeakable, charges that the CIA murdered Kennedy because he wanted to end the Cold War after the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

* * * * *

Had Senate Republicans chosen patriotism over partisanship and convicted President Donald J. Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors—or had the military and/or the Intelligence community forced him out of office—history would have turned out differently:

  • Trump’s vicious attacks on the press, judiciary and Intelligence community would have ended immediately.
  • His efforts to subvert the Justice Department and Armed Services would have stopped.
  • He would have faced vigorous prosecution for his litany of crimes—before and during his Presidency.
  • Vladimir Putin would have lost his strongest ally in the United States. 
  • Vice President Mike Pence would have become President—but, burdened by his reputation as Trump’s #1 sycophant, might have been unable to win election in November, 2020; and
  • Tarnished by their subservience to a discredited Trump, Republicans would have almost certainly lost the White House and the Senate.

HOW ONE MAN’S ADVENT–OR ABSENCE–CAN MAKE HISTORY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 26, 2020 at 1:23 pm

On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

He had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).

While serving in Tunisa, he was seriously wounded on April 7, 1943, when Allied fighters strafed his vehicle. He lost his left eye, right hand and two fingers of his left hand after surgery.  

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

For most of these officers, the motive was craven: The “happy time’ of German victories was over. Germany was losing the war it had launched on the world in 1939–and now they feared the worst. 

This was especially true now that the numerically superior forces of the Soviet Union had gone onto the offensive.

For Stauffenberg, there was another reason: His disgust at the horrors he had seen committed by his fellow Wehrmacht soldiers upon defenseless POW’s and civilians in Russia.

Thus, Stauffenberg—more than many Germans–knew firsthand the vengeance his country could expect if the “Thousand-Year Reich” fell.

Something must be done, he believed, to prove to the world that not all Germans—even members of the Wehrmacht—were criminals.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces—well before the much-feared Russians gained a toehold in Germany.

Stauffenberg didn’t want to arrest Hitler; he wanted to kill him. A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But Hitler was a closely-guarded target. He was surrounded by fanatical bodyguards who were expert marksmen. He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel. 

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

But his single greatest protection–he claimed—was an instinct for danger. He would suddenly change his schedule—to drop in where he was least expected. Or suddenly depart an event where he was expected to stay a long time.

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life. He was expected to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “old Fighters” of his brown-shirted storm troopers. 

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

Since then, a series of other assassination attempts had been made against Hitler. All of them involved time-bombs. And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode. In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off. He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it went off.

So now it was the turn of von Stauffenberg. He would carry his bomb—hidden in a briefcase—into a “Hitler conference” packed with military officers.

But Stauffenberg didn’t intend to be a suicide bomber. He meant to direct the government that would replace that of the Nazis.

His bomb—also rigged with a time-fuse—would be left in the conference room while he found an excuse to leave. After the explosion, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news.

Then, the coup—“Operation Valkyrie”—would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government. The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender. Provided, of course, that the vengeance-seeking Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians. Many had died in combat. Others had been murdered as captives. Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the notorious Russian winter.

So the Germans—both Nazi and anti-Nazi—knew what they could expect if soldiers of the Soviet Union reached German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia.  Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it—appropriately enough—“Wolf’s Lair.” 

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session. He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler—who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table. Then he excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

After Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, standing next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs. So he moved it—to the other side of the heavy oaken support, partially shielding Hitler from the blast.. 

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted. 

Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.  

Hitler not only survived, but the plotters failed to seize the key broadcast facilities of the Reich.  

This allowed Hitler to make a late-night speech to the nation, revealing the failed plot and assuring Germans that he was alive. And he swore to flush out the “traitorous swine” who had tried to kill him.

He soon proved as bad as his word.

HOW ONE MAN’S ADVENT–OR ABSENCE–CAN MAKE HISTORY: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 25, 2020 at 12:23 am

“When Fascism comes to America, it will be called anti-Fascism.”
–Huey Long, Louisiana Governor/Senator

In the Twilight Zone episode, “No Time Like the Past,” Paul Driscoll (Dana Andrews), a scientist in early 1960s America, uses a time machine to visit Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II. 

He’s rented a motel room overlooking the balcony from where the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler will soon make a speech. And he’s eager to watch that speech—through the lens of a telescopic-sighted rifle.  

Just as he’s about to pull the trigger, there’s a knock at his door–by the maid. Driscoll hustles her out as soon as possible, then once again picks up his rifle. He—and viewers—can once again see Hitler through the cross-hairs of his weapon.  

Paul Driscoll prepares to shoot Adolf Hitler

But instead of the anticipated shot, there’s another knock at his door—his time by the black-uniformed secret police, the SS. Driscoll knows the game is up, and disappears into the present just as the thugs break down his door.  

And the audience is left to ponder how different the world would have been if Driscoll—or someone in Nazi Germany—had succeeded in assassinating the man whose wars would wipe out the lives of 50 million men, women and children around the globe.  

One 2016 Republican candidate for President dared to invoke the menace of Nazi Germany in warning of the dangers of a Donald Trump Presidency. And to argue that Americans could prevent that past from returning.  

In November, 2015, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, was peddling a message of creating jobs, balancing the Federal budget and disdain for Washington, D.C.  

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John Kasich

But he remained far behind in the polls, dropping 50% in support in just one month—from September to October. Meanwhile, Trump, the New York billionaire developer, was being backed by 25% of Republican primary voters.  

So, with nothing to lose, Kasich decided to take off the gloves. He invoked the “N” word for Republicans: Nazi.  

He authorized the creation of a TV ad that opened with ominous music—and the face of a snarling Donald Trump.

“I would like anyone who is listening to consider some thoughts that I’ve paraphrased from the words of German pastor Martin Niemoeller.” 

The voice belonged to Tom Moe, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force–and a former Vietnam prisoner-of-war.

“You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government, because you’re not one,” continued Moe. 

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one. 

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Donald Trump

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s OK to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one. 

“And you might not care of Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one.

“But think about this: 

“If he keeps going, and he actually becomes President, he might just get around to you. And you’d better hope that there’s someone left to help you.”  

Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who had commanded a U-boat during World War 1. He became a bitter public foe of Adolf Hitler.

A staunch anti-Communist, he had initially supported the Nazis as Germany’s only hope of salvation against the Soviet Union.

But when the Nazis made the church subordinate to State authority, Niemoeller created the Pastors’ Emergency League to defend religious freedom. 

For his opposition to the Third Reich,  Niemoeller spent seven years in concentration camps.

With the collapse of the Reich in 1945, he was freed—and elected President of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau in 1947. During the 1960s, he was a president of the World Council of Churches.

He is best remembered for his powerful condemnation of the failure of Germans to protest the increasing oppression of the Nazis:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists, but I was not a Socialist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out.

And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Neither “Adolf Hitler” nor “Nazi Party” was mentioned during the one-minute Kassich video. But a furious Trump threatened to sue Kasich if he could find find anything “not truthful” within the ad.

Apparently he couldn’t find anything “not truthful,” because he never sued.

So threatened the man who had called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim and an illegal alien.

The Kasich ad was the darkest attack made against Trump by any candidate—Republican or Democrat. And it raises a disturbing question:

If Donald Trump proved to be America’s Adolf Hitler, would there be an American Claus von Stauffenberg? 

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg was the German army officer who, on July 20, 1944, tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler. 

TRUMP: “MY CRIMES ARE NOW YOUR CRIMES”—AGAIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 3, 2020 at 12:06 am

On October 4, 1943, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler addressed SS officers stationed in Posen, Poland, about the ongoing campaign to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

He gave a similar speech two days later to an audience of Reichsleiters (national leaders) and Gauleiters (governors), as well as other government representatives. 

Himmler intended to alert Reich officials of the extermination campaign the Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squads”)—otherwise known as the SS—and Wehrmacht (German army) had been waging since June, 1941.

The purpose: To make his listeners accessories to his monumental crimes—and to warn them there was no turning back.

Heinrich Himmler 

Either Nazi Germany won the war that its Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, had unintentionally unleashed on September 1, 1939—or its topmost officials would themselves face extinction as war criminals.

Said Himmler:

“I want to also mention a very difficult subject before you, with complete candor. It should be discussed amongst us, yet nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public. I am talking about the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. 

“It is one of those things that is easily said: ‘The Jewish people is being exterminated.’…Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when 500 are there or when there are 1000. And to have seen this through and—with the exception of human weakness—to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned…. 

“But altogether we can say: We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have suffered no defect within us, in our soul, in our character.” 

Fast forward 76 years—to January, 2020. 

On December 18, 2019, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump:

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible 2020 Democratic rival; and

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

Donald Trump

Trump’s defense in the House had consisted of:

  1. Refusing to testify himself;
  2. Refusing to produce witnesses on his behalf;
  3. Refusing to turn over requested documents;
  4. Claiming that Democrats were preventing him from testifying or producing witnesses;
  5. Ordering administration officials to not testify before the six House impeachment committees investigating his behavior.

Those government employees who testified did so voluntarily—and at risk of retaliation. Among these were:

  1. Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor;
  2. Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing Ukraine-related U.S. policy;
  3. Former White House official Fiona Hill; and
  4. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

They offered damning testimony against Trump. 

When the trial began in the United States Senate on January 16, 2020, Trump’s legal team:

  1. Did not call any witnesses;
  2. Did not deny that Trump had sought to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into interfering with the 2020 election;
  3. Attacked Joseph and Hunter Biden as if they were on trial;
  4. Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul submitted a written question to presiding Chief Justice John Roberts that included the name of the alleged whistleblower to Trump’s coercion. Roberts refused to read it aloud;
  5. Paul raced outside the Senate and gave a press conference, where he named the alleged whistleblower—whose identity is protected by law.

Rand Paul, official portrait, 112th Congress alternate.jpg

Rand Paul

Perhaps even more frightening: One of Trump’s attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, offered Trump—and all future Presidents–a blanket of immunity worthy of a king: 

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment. Every public official that I know believes that his election is of the public interest.” 

Responding to that argument, House Manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) said: “It’s been a remarkable evolution of the presidential defense. It began with, ‘none of that stuff happened here.’ It began with ‘nothing to see here.’ It migrated to, ‘OK, they did seek investigations of the president’s political rival.’ And then it became OK.” 

Meanwhile, the Senate majority of 53 Republicans vigorously supported Trump’s demand that no witnesses to his crimes be allowed to testify.

Among these: Former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

On December 29, 2019, The New York Times broke a sensational story:

In a forthcoming book, Bolton had written that Trump had told him, in August 2019, that he wanted to continue freezing aid to Ukraine until its officials began investigating the Bidens.

Despite—or because of—this bombshell report, Senate Republicans absolutely refused to admit the testimony of witnesses. 

By following the same strategy as Heinrich Himmler, Trump has entangled Republicans in his own crimes.

His infamy is now theirs.

History has brutally condemned those Germans who, knowing the full extent of Adolf Hitler’s crimes, nevertheless signed on to perpetuate and conceal them. 

History will render the same damning verdict against Senate Republicans who have provided similar cover for Donald Trump.

THE TRUTH ABOUT LIARS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on July 5, 2019 at 12:05 am

Ernest Hemingway was right: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.” 

Thus:

  • “The Holocaust never happened.” 
  • “The Sandy Hook massacre never happened.” 
  • “The MAGAbomber is a Democrat who’s mailing letter-bombs to make Republicans look bad.” 

These are among the lies regularly hurled by “lunatic fringe” Right-wingers—and, more importantly, “mainstream” Republicans.

Many liberals—such as those who regularly take to Facebook—believe Right-wingers simply lack correct information.

According to this viewpoint: If only Right-wingers knew the truth about such matters as:

  • The millions slaughtered during the Holocaust;
  • The horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School; and
  • The pro-Trump motives of the MAGAbomber

they would be telling the truth.

There are two motives behind such blatant lying—and mere ignorance is not one of them. 

Motive #1: Right-wingers don’t want to admit the truth about events most people instinctively believe are evil.

Right-wingers intuitively know that shoving huge numbers of naked men, women and children into gas chambers is the arch-example of evil. And so is spraying scores of bullets into scores of helpless men, women and children in churches, nightclubs and schools.

They know they can’t convince decent people that such atrocities are really acts of humanity. So it’s easier (for them) to simply deny that they actually happened.

The tobacco industry paved the way for such arguments. 

The Tobacco Institute—a trade association created in 1958 to pose as a “smoking research” center—cast doubt on scientific studies linking smoking with lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease.

Tobacco Institute ad

Its premise: “We really don’t know if smoking causes cancer. We need more studies to make certain.”

And, for the Tobacco Institute, there could never be enough studies to prove that smoking was a thoroughly deadly habit—that reaped billions of dollars every year for the tobacco industry.

Motive #2: Right-wingers claim Right-wing atrocities didn’t happen to put the victims of such atrocities on the defensive.

This, too, was a major aim of the tobacco industry. By constantly demanding “Prove to us that smoking is deadly” and then arrogantly dismissing all evidence put forward, tobacco executives put the onus on their opponents.

Thus, after the MAGAbomber was arrested and his van was found plastered with pro-Trump stickers, Right-wingers reflexively seized on a series of lies to “cleanse” themselves.

Lies such as: 

  • “He’s a liberal put up to it by other liberals.”
  • “The bombs were fake, to stir up sympathy for liberals before the November elections.”  

Consider:

  • Right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh: “Would it make a lot of sense for a Democrat operative or Democrat-inculcated lunatic to do it? Because things are not working out the way they thought.”
  • Right-wing propagandist Dinesh D’Souza: “I hear the FBI squeezed lemon juice on the suspicious packages and a very faint lettering revealed a single word: DEMOCRATS.”

Totally ignored was the truth that Cesar Sayoc had mailed pipe-bombs to 10 prominent Democrats—including two former Presidents and a former First Lady. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray—a Trump appointee after the firing of James Comey in May, 2017—publicly stated that the bombs were real: “Though we’re still analyzing these devices in our laboratory, these were not hoax devices.”

Chris Wray official photo.jpg

Christopher Wray

So how did Right-wingers react to Wray’s no-nonsense rebuttal of Right-wing conspiracy lies?

With more lies.

They attacked the FBI as part of the “deep state” determined to thwart and, if possible, impeach Donald Trump.

According to one Rightist theory: The FBI made the bombs and sent them out to implicate some poor Trump supporter—if not the President himself.

Fortunately, there is at least a partial solution to such lies: Lawsuits based on the truth.

On August 1, 2018, families of four students and two educators who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre filed a defamation lawsuit against Right-wing broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones,

Jones hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas. He had claimed the mass shooting was fake.  

Twenty children and six adults were killed in the December 14, 2012, attack by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. 

On his program in January, 2015, he said: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”

Alex Jones Portrait (cropped).jpg

Alex Jones

Michael Zimmermann [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Jones has also accused the U.S. government of faking the 1969 moon landing footage and planning the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 attacks.

According to the complaint: 

“The Jones defendants concoct elaborate and false paranoia-tinged conspiracy theories because it moves product and they make money. Not because they truly believe what they are saying, but rather because it increases profits.” 

Thus, a reasonable person would understand that Jones meant the massacre was staged and the deaths were fabricated.

So how did Jones respond to the lawsuit?  

With more lies.

“This is all out of context….And it’s not even what I said or my intent,” he said. “I’m not going to get into the real defects of this, I’m going to wait until it’s thrown out with prejudice.”

UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY–IN GERMANY AND AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 12, 2019 at 12:13 am

On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Serving time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Hitler used his time in prison to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—including the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of the Soviet Union.

Image result for Images of Adolf Hitler outside Landsberg prison

Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Never again would he resort to armed force. He would win office by election—or intrigue.

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.”

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Thus, it isn’t just what happens that can influence the course of history. Often, it’s what doesn’t happen that has at least as great a result. 

Consider the case of Paul Manafort.

Manafort faced 18 counts brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian subversion of the 2016 election.

These included:

  • Filing false income tax statements.
  • Failing to file foreign bank account reports to disclose his control over his overseas accounts.
  • Bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy—by lying about Manafort’s income, debt and the nature of his real estate properties.

Mueller believed that Manafort could provide an insider’s account of the infamous June, 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Among the attendees: Manafort, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner—along with Russian nationals offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

While Manafort managed Trump’s Presidential campaign—from March to September, 2016:

  • In July, the GOP gutted an amendment to its platform that advocated sending arms to Ukraine to defend against Russian aggression.
  • Later that month, WikiLeaks began dumping emails that Russia had stolen from the Democratic National Committee.
  • Manafort also received emails from Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, offering to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Manafort refused to cooperate with Mueller, then said he would. Then he lied to the FBI. Then Mueller dumped him as a witness.

Mueller asked Federal Judge T.S. Ellis to sentence Manafort from 20 to 24 years in prison and pay a fine between $50,000 and $24 million.

Instead, the Alexandria, Virginia-based judge sentenced Manafort to only 47 months in prison—one month less than four years.

Throughout the trial, Ellis had made no secret of his sympathy for Manafort:

  • Berating prosecutors for moving too slowly through their case.
  • Attacking one prosecutor for not looking at Ellis while the judge was talking.
  • Limiting the evidence the prosecutors could present.
  • Accusing one government lawyer of crying.

During the preliminary hearing, Ellis gave away the game: “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever.”

Thus, a former key supporter of a Right-wing President found himself saved by an equally Right-wing supporter of the same President.

The Weimar Republic in Germany faced a similar danger.

Defeat in World War I in 1918 led to the Kaiser’s abdication, a republic and a new constitution. 

Many Germans hated the Weimar Republic for signing the armistice in November, 1918. They resented the government for signing the Versallies Treaty, which imposed harsh conditions on Germany, although the Republic had been forced to by the Allies.

Right-wing terrorists assassinated 356 government politicians in the early years of the Republic. Among these were Walter Rathenau, the Jewish foreign minister, and Matthias Erzberger who had been finance minister.

Right-wing judges in their trials, many of whom preferred the Kaiser’s government, consistently gave these terrorists light sentences, or let them go free.

Adolf Hitler drew such a judge at his trial.

By March 7, 2019, the United States Senate had confirmed 89 Right-wing, Trump-nominated judges, including two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, 34 judges for the United States Courts of Appeals and 53 judges for the United States District Courts. 

What boded ill for the Weimar Republic bodes ill for the American Republic.

LIES TOLD BY BULLIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 15, 2018 at 12:03 am

Ernest Hemingway was right: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.” 

Thus:

  • “The Holocaust never happened.” 
  • “The Sandy Hook massacre never happened.” 
  • “The MAGAbomber is a Democrat who’s mailing letter-bombs to make Republicans look bad.” 

These are among the lies regularly hurled by “lunatic fringe” Right-wingers—and, more importantly, “mainstream” Republicans.

Many liberals—such as those who regularly take to Facebook—believe Right-wingers simply lack correct information.

According to this viewpoint: If only Right-wingers knew the truth about such matters as:

  • The millions slaughtered during the Holocaust;
  • The horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School; and
  • The pro-Trump motives of the MAGAbomber

they would be telling the truth.

There are two motives behind such blatant lying—and mere ignorance is not one of them. 

Motive #1: Right-wingers don’t want to admit the truth about events most people instinctively believe are evil.

Right-wingers intuitively know that shoving huge numbers of naked men, women and children into gas chambers is the arch-example of evil. And so is spraying scores of bullets into scores of helpless men, women and children in churches, nightclubs and schools.

They know they can’t convince decent people that such atrocities are really acts of humanity. So it’s easier (for them) to simply deny that they actually happened.

The tobacco industry paved the way for such arguments. 

The Tobacco Institute—a trade association created in 1958 to pose as a “smoking research” center—cast doubt on scientific studies linking smoking with lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease.

Tobacco Institute ad

Its premise: “We really don’t know if smoking causes cancer. We need more studies to make certain.”

And, for the Tobacco Institute, there could never be enough studies to prove that smoking was a thoroughly deadly habit—that reaped billions of dollars every year for the tobacco industry.

Motive #2: Right-wingers claim Right-wing atrocities didn’t happen to put the victims of such atrocities on the defensive.

This, too, was a major aim of the tobacco industry. By constantly demanding “Prove to us that smoking is deadly” and then arrogantly dismissing all evidence put forward, tobacco executives put the onus on their opponents.

Thus, after the MAGAbomber was arrested and his van was found plastered with pro-Trump stickers, Right-wingers reflexively seized on a series of lies to “cleanse” themselves.

Lies such as: 

  • “He’s a liberal put up to it by other liberals.”
  • “The bombs were fake, to stir up sympathy for liberals before the November elections.”  

Consider:

  • Right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh: “Would it make a lot of sense for a Democrat operative or Democrat-inculcated lunatic to do it? Because things are not working out the way they thought.”
  • Right-wing propagandist Dinesh D’Souza: “I hear the FBI squeezed lemon juice on the suspicious packages and a very faint lettering revealed a single word: DEMOCRATS.”

Totally ignored was the truth that Cesar Sayoc had mailed pipe-bombs to 10 prominent Democrats—including two former Presidents and a former First Lady. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray—a Trump appointee after the firing of James Comey in May, 2017—publicly stated that the bombs were real: “Though we’re still analyzing these devices in our laboratory, these were not hoax devices.”

Chris Wray official photo.jpg

Christopher Wray

So how did Right-wingers react to Wray’s no-nonsense rebuttal of Right-wing conspiracy lies?

With more lies.

They attacked the FBI as part of the “deep state” determined to thwart and, if possible, impeach Donald Trump.

According to one Rightist theory: The FBI made the bombs and sent them out to implicate some poor Trump supporter—if not the President himself.

Fortunately, there is at least a partial solution to such lies: Lawsuits based on the truth.

On August 1, 2018, families of four students and two educators who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre filed a defamation lawsuit against Right-wing broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones,

Jones hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas. He had claimed the mass shooting was fake.  

Twenty children and six adults were killed in the December 14, 2012, attack by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. 

On his program in January, 2015, he said: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”

Alex Jones Portrait (cropped).jpg

Alex Jones

Michael Zimmermann [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Jones has also accused the U.S. government of faking the 1969 moon landing footage and planning the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 attacks.

According to the complaint: 

“The Jones defendants concoct elaborate and false paranoia-tinged conspiracy theories because it moves product and they make money. Not because they truly believe what they are saying, but rather because it increases profits.” 

Thus, a reasonable person would understand that Jones meant the massacre was staged and the deaths were fabricated.

So how did Jones respond to the lawsuit?  

With more lies.

“This is all out of context….And it’s not even what I said or my intent,” he said. “I’m not going to get into the real defects of this, I’m going to wait until it’s thrown out with prejudice.”

IF TRUMP IS OUR HITLER, WHO WILL BE OUR STAUFFENBERG?: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 3, 2017 at 12:49 am

On July 20, 1944, a one-eyed, one-armed man tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941). And he had been seriously wounded in its service.

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces–well before the much-feared Russians gained a foothold in Germany.

But Stauffenberg wanted him dead: A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But–how to do it?

Hitler was a closely-guarded target. He was surrounded by fanatical bodyguards who were expert marksmen. He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel.

Adolf Hitler

But his single greatest protection–he claimed–was an instinct for danger. He would often suddenly change his schedule–to drop in  where he was least expected. Or to suddenly depart an event where he was scheduled to stay a long time.

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

Sixteen years earlier on that day, in 1923, Hitler had led them in a disastrous attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government. Police had put down the effort, killing and wounding about a score of storm troopers in the process.

Hitler himself had later been arrested, tried and convicted for treason–and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.

But instead of proving to be the end of Nazism, the “Beer Hall Putsch” turned Hitler into a national celebrity. And it launched his career as a legitimate, ultimately successful politician.

So Hitler was expected to speak to his longtime supporters for a long time that evening. Instead, he suddenly cut short his speech and left the beer hall.

Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar–before which Hitler had been speaking.

Since then, a series of other assassination attempts had been made against Hitler. All of them involved time-bombs. And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode. In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off.  He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it went off.

So now it was the turn of von Stauffenberg. He would carry his bomb–hidden in a briefcase–into a “Hitler conference” packed with military officers.

But Stauffenberg didn’t intend to be a suicide bomber. He meant to direct the government that would replace that of the Nazis.

His bomb–also rigged with a time-fuse–would be left in the conference room while he found an excuse to leave. After the explosion, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news.

Then, the coup–“Operation Valkyrie”–would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government. The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender. Provided, of course, that the Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians. Many had died in combat. Others had been murdered as captives. Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the notorious Russian winter.

So the Germans–both Nazi and anti-Nazi–knew what they could expect if soldiers of the Soviet Union reached German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia. Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it–appropriately enough–“Wolf’s Lair.”

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session. He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler–who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table.

Then Stauffenberg excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted.

But the Third Reich didn’t come to an end–because, as if miraculously, Hitler had survived.

Hitler shows off the site of the explosion

What had happened?

First, the conference location had been changed–from a wooden building to a concrete one.  The concrete absorbed much of the blast.

Second, owing to the summer’s heat, Hitler had ordered all the windows–about ten–opened to let in a breeze.  This allowed much of the force of the blast to be dispersed.

Third, and perhaps most important: Stauffenberg had carefully placed his briefcase near Hitler, who was standing next to a heavy oaken support of the conference table.

But after Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, who stood next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs. So he moved it–to the other side of the heavy oaken support.

When the bomb exploded, Hitler was partially shielded from its full blast. Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.

IF TRUMP IS OUR HITLER, WHO WILL BE OUR STAUFFENBERG?: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 2, 2015 at 12:17 am

On July 20, 1944, members of the Wehrmacht high command failed to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase.

But two setbacks prevented the conspirators from succeeding.

First, Hitler survived the bomb blast.

Second, the plotters failed to seize the key broadcast facilities of the Reich.

This allowed Hitler to make a late-night speech to the nation, revealing the failed plot and assuring Germans that he was alive. And he swore to flush out the “traitorous swine” who had tried to kill him.

Adolf Hitler

Mass arrests quickly followed.  Among the first victims discovered and executed was the conspiracy’s leader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.  Standing before a makeshift firing squad at midnight, he cried: “Long live our sacred Germany!”

At least 7,000 persons were arrested by the Gestapo. According to records of the Fuehrer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 were executed.

Had the conspiracy succeeded, history would have turned out differently:

  • If Germany had surrendered in July or August, 1944, World War II would have ended eight to nine months earlier.
  • The Russians–who didn’t reach Germany until April, 1945–could not have occupied the Eastern part of the country.
  • This would have prevented many of the future conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union over access to West Berlin and/or West Germany.
  • Untold numbers of Holocaust victims would have survived because the extermination camps would have been shut down.

Thus, history can be altered by the appearance or disappearance of a single individual.

Which brings us back to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

Since declaring his candidacy for the Presidency on June 16, Trump has been the first choice among the Republican base.

At first, he was dismissed as a bad joke–by Republican Presidential candidates as well as Democrats.

Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times.

Yet from the outset Trump dominated the field–and a series of Republican debates. The other Republican candidates watched him with envy–and desperately tried to steal some of his limelight.

Making made one inflammatory statement after another, he offended one group of potential voters after another.  Among those groups:

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delighted his white, under-educated followers. But they alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.

While some of those offended are unlikely to respond with violence, others have powerful motives–and means–for doing so. Among those groups–and the insults Trump has leveled at them:

  • Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He’s also promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
  • Illegal aliens: Trump has threatened to forcibly deport millions of mostly Mexican and Central American residents.
  • Blacks: At a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama, he was interrupted by black activist Mercutio Southall, who repeatedly shouted: “Black lives matter!” Trump ordered his removal, and several of his supporters beat and kicked Southall. Later, Trump said: “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
  • Trump retweeted an image of a masked, dark-skinned man with a handgun and a series of alleged crime statistics, including: “Blacks killed by whites – 2%”; “Whites killed by blacks – 81%.”  The image cites the “Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco”–an agency that doesn’t exist.
  • Muslims: Trump has boasted he would revive waterboarding of terrorist suspects. He would require Muslims to register with the Federal Government. And he would close “some mosques” if he felt they were being used by Islamic terrorists.
  • Islamic terrorists: Trump has bragged that he would “bomb the hell” out of oilfields controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): “I would absolutely cut off their source of wealth, which is the oil.”
  • Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman:  Referring to the Mexican drug lord in a tweet, Trump wrote: “Trump…would kick his ass!” Trump hurriedly called the FBI after he received a death threat from a Twitter account associated with Guzman.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, warned against hurling threats and insults: “For neither the one nor the other…diminishes the strength of the enemy.

Niccolo Machiavelli

“[Threats make] him more cautious, and [insults increase] his hatred of you, and [make] him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

But Trump revels in insulting anyone who dares to challenge him.

In 1935, Louisiana U.S. Senator Huey Long intended to occupy the White House in 1936 and unseat then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  His “Share Our Wealth” program was hugely popular among millions in Depression-era America.

On September 8, 1935, he was shot and fatally wounded by Carl Austin Weiss, an idealistic young doctor.

His motive: Long had gerrymandered Weiss’ father-in-law, a district judge, out of his district and spread vicious rumors about his ancestry.

Writing about Long’s assassination, historian William Manchester noted: “Huey Long was one of the very few men of whom it can be said that, had he lived, American history would have been dramatically different.”

If the same fate removes Donald Trump from the 2016 Presidential race, future historians may write the same about him.

IF TRUMP IS OUR HITLER, WHO WILL BE OUR STAUFFENBERG?: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 1, 2015 at 12:01 am

On July 20, 1944, a one-eyed, one-armed man tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).  And he had been seriously wounded in its service.

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces–well before the much-feared Russians gained a foothold in Germany.

But Stauffenberg wanted him dead: A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But–how to do it?

Hitler was a closely-guarded target. He was surrounded by fanatical bodyguards who were expert marksmen. He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel.

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

But his single greatest protection–he claimed–was an instinct for danger.  He would often suddenly change his schedule–to drop in  where he was least expected.  Or to suddenly depart an event where he was scheduled to stay a long time.

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

Sixteen years earlier on that day, in 1923, Hitler had led them in a disastrous attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government.  Police had put down the effort, killing and wounding about a score of storm troopers in the process.

Hitler himself had later been arrested, tried and convicted for treason–and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.

But instead of proving to be the end of Nazism, the “Beer Hall Putsch” turned Hitler into a national celebrity.  And it launched his career as a legitimate, ultimately successful politician.

So Hitler was expected to speak to his longtime supporters for a long time that evening. Instead, he suddenly cut short his speech and left the beer hall.

Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar–before which Hitler had been speaking.

Since then, a series of other assassination attempts had been made against Hitler.  All of them involved time-bombs. And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode.  In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off.  He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it went off.

So now it was the turn of von Stauffenberg.  He would carry his bomb–hidden in a briefcase–into a “Hitler conference” packed with military officers.

But Stauffenberg didn’t intend to be a suicide bomber. He meant to direct the government that would replace that of the Nazis.

His bomb–also rigged with a time-fuse–would be left in the conference room while he found an excuse to leave. After the explosion, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news.

Then, the coup–“Operation Valkyrie”–would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government. The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender. Provided, of course, that the Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians. Many had died in combat. Others had been murdered as captives. Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the notorious Russian winter.

So the Germans–both Nazi and anti-Nazi–knew what they could expect if soldiers of the Soviet Union reached German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia.  Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it–appropriately enough–“Wolf’s Lair.”

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session.  He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler–who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table.

Then Stauffenberg excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted.

But the Third Reich didn’t come to an end–because, as if miraculously, Hitler had survived.

Hitler shows off the site of the explosion

What had happened?

First, the conference location had been changed–from a wooden building to a concrete one.  The concrete absorbed much of the blast.

Second, owing to the summer’s heat, Hitler had ordered all the windows–about ten–opened to let in a breeze.  This allowed much of the force of the blast to be dispersed.

Third, and perhaps most important: Stauffenberg had carefully placed his briefcase near Hitler, who was standing next to a heavy oaken support of the conference table.

But after Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, who stood next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs.  So he moved it–to the other side of the heavy oaken support.

When the bomb exploded, Hitler was partially shielded from its full blast.  Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.

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