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TRUMP’S PLAN TO DEFEAT COVID-19: LIES, CHAOS AND THEFTS–PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 19, 2020 at 12:06 am

“He was President, OK? Blame him or don’t blame him, but he was President. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”
—Donald Trump, Presidential candidate, on the failure of George W. Bush to prevent 9/11

“I don’t take responsibility at all.” 
—Donald Trump, on whether he feels responsible for the lack of COVID-19 test kits

At his March 27 press briefing, President Donald Trump echoed French King Louis X1V’s infamous remark—“I am the State”: “When they’re [governors] not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. It’s not right.”

On that same day, Trump attacked Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Right-wing Fox News’ “Sean Hannity Show”: “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the Federal Government.”

On March 27, Whitmer told a Michigan radio station: “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts—they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan. It’s really concerning. I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (cropped).jpg

Gretchen Whitmer

A March 29 story in the Washington Monthly sheds light on what lay behind Whitmer’s inability to secure desperately-needed ventilators from her longtime vendors. Its headline ran: “What If Trump Decides to Save Republicans But Not Democrats?”

A sub-headline read: “He’s providing vital resources to red states and ignoring blue states.” 

Florida submitted a request to FEMA on March 11 for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields and 238,000 gloves—and received a shipment with everything three days later.

On Fox News, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, bluntly told governors: “Take the blame when you have to. When you play with your boss, sometimes it’s better when you don’t win the golf game. He’s the boss, he’s got all the resources.” 

The mentality of the Black Hand has come to the Oval Office.

Black Hand - No Racism" Art Print by AsbrinfitzTv | Redbubble

The Black Hand

Trump isn’t simply refusing to provide states with vitally-needed medical supplies—he’s illegally seizing those supplies that states have ordered.

An April 20 Forbes story offers frightening insight into the tyrannical reach of the Trump administration.  Entitled, “Maryland Gov. Hogan Takes Extraordinary Steps to Keep Feds From Confiscating COVID Tests,” the story unfolds like a spy thriller.

Governor Larry Hogan had heard reports that the federal government had confiscated crucial medical supplies from other states—like Massachusetts. 

After obtaining 500,000 test kits from South Korea, Hogan ordered them flown into Baltimore–Washington International Airport rather than the larger Dulles International Airport in Virginia. From there they were escorted under guard to a secret location and constantly protected by the National Guard.

As they were sent out for distribution across the state, the tests remained under protection by the National Guard and state police.

The precautions were absolutely necessary. Hospitals in Florida and California reported that FEMA had seized their supplies without explanation.

Massachusetts ordered three million masks that were confiscated by the Federal Government at the Port of New York. This forced the state to ask New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft to use his team plane to fly in one million N95 masks from China. 

N95 Mask - Vented

N95 mask

When Trump learned that Hogan had obtained test kits from South Korea, he said: “I don’t think he needed to go to South Korea. I think he needed to get a little knowledge.”

Hogan responded: “The president said the governors are on their own and they should really focus on getting their own tests, and that’s exactly what we did.”

The Federal Government has seized vitally-needed medical supplies in at least seven states. FEMA is not publicly reporting the thefts, despite the outlay of millions of dollars of taxpayer money. Nor has the administration explained how it decides which supplies to seize and where to reroute them.

Richardson County FEMA office open until April 26 - Falls City Journal

The Federal Government has not informed states whose supplies it seized if they will receive the materials they ordered and paid for. That has fueled concerns about whether the Trump administration is fairly distributing scarce medical supplies.

“We can’t get any answers,” said a California hospital official who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation from the White House.

Trump has said it’s the states’ responsibility to obtain critically-needed medical supplies. But when they aren’t outbid by the Federal Government, hospital systems and states find their shipments of medical supplies seized with no explanation.

Where are those supplies going?

To China?

To Trump’s private warehouses?

To Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, for sale on the black market?

No one as yet knows.

The Washington Monthly story concludes ominously: “What if the White House simply gives all the masks and ventilators to red states and counties, leaving blue ones to struggle? What mechanisms of accountability are left?

“U.S. democracy wasn’t set up to deal with a president openly behaving like a James Bond villain while being protected by a political party behaving more like a mafia than a civic institution.”     

TRUMP’S PLAN TO DEFEAT COVID-19: LIES, CHAOS AND THEFTS–PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2020 at 12:24 am

On March 9, Trish Regan, host of Trish Regan Primetime on the Fox Business Network, attacked not the virus but those who do not share her fervent embrace of Donald Trump.

“This is yet another attempt to impeach the President. And sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the stock market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of the political casualties for them.”

To make certain no one in the television audience missed the point, an electronically generated caption read: “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam.”

Actually, with the virus spreading quickly throughout at least 33 states, the risk was not low to the average American. It was not the news that was fake, but the lies and ignorance Trump and Fox were spewing. 

Symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 4.0.svgSymptoms of COVID-19

Then—for the Fox Network—the unexpected happened: On March 14, Fox Business Network announced that Regan’s program would be on “hiatus” until further notice. 

The reason: Using one of the favorite words of the Right, her comments had “triggered” an avalanche of criticism. Some of this came from Coronavirus victims. Some came from those related to those victims. And some came simply from people who didn’t appreciate being so blatantly lied to.

On March 13, perhaps warned of her coming suspension, Regan took a more conciliatory tone: “Our path forward right now is together, the left and the right united to fight this crisis. We’re all in this together, and we need to stay safe.”

Trying to put the best spin on her humiliating suspension, she tweeted that same evening: “I want to let everyone know that Trish Regan Primetime is now on hiatus. FBN [Fox Business Network] has taken prudent steps to limit staffing levels and is prioritizing its coverage during market hours. I fully support this decision — we all must to do our part to keep our colleagues safe.”

Thus—at least according to Regan—her leaving the air was not an act of punishment but a “prudent step” to “limit staffing levels” at the station.

During the vital months of January and February, Republicans refused to challenge Trump’s refusal to take the virus seriously—before it gained a foothold in the United States.

The reason: They had utterly tied themselves to him since the 2018 mid-term elections, where many moderate Republicans lost their seats.

According to Toluse Olorunnipa, White House reporter for The Washington Post: “They have realized that if they’re going to keep their seats, if they’re going to be able to have any future in the party, they have to be completely tied to President Trump and really wait for his call in terms of what exactly they’re going to do.”

So much for the lies. Now for the chaos.  

Like Adolf Hitler, Trump likes to pit individuals and organizations against each other. Hitler, for example, would assign several agencies to tackle the same problem: “That way, the stronger one gets the job done,” he told his architect, Albert Speer.  

Adolf Hitler

This creates needless duplication of efforts and wasted resources. But it ensures that Trump—like Hitler—remains the final voice of authority, since so many others are competing for his favor and direction. 

This has not, however, worked out well for the 50 states that make up the United States of America.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt intervened powerfully to ensure that all Americans received the help they needed.

Trump has made it clear that each state is responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients. This has resulted in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere of cutthroat competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other. 

Image result for Public domain images of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Even worse: Trump and Republicans are using a deadly plague as a weapon against those Americans they hate.  

On March 26, during an interview on Fox News, Trump blamed the failures of his administration’s response to Coronavirus on Democratic state governors like Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jay Inslee (WA), and Gretchen Whitmer (MI).

On March 27, during his press briefing, Trump said he told Vice President Mike Pence—who’s officially in charge of the White House’s response effort—to not call Inslee and Whitmer because they weren’t “appreciative” enough of his efforts.

Trump said this even as hospitals in each of their states were being overwhelmed with Coronavirus patients:

“I tell him—I mean I’m a different type of person—I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor in Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

Trump said that when people criticized him, they were criticizing the federal government: “When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps [of Engineers], they’re not appreciative to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. It’s not right.”

Trump also attacked Whitmer on Right-wing Fox News’ “Sean Hannity Show”: “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the Federal Government.”   

TRUMP’S PLAN TO DEFEAT COVID-19: LIES, CHAOS AND THEFTS–PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2020 at 12:07 am

“O happy posterity, who will look upon our testimony as a fable. Will posterity believe that there was a time when, with no deluge from heaven, no worldwide conflagration, no wars….but almost the whole earth was depopulated? Was such a disaster ever seen, even heard of?”
—Francesco Petrach, poet and witness to The Black Death

On January 19, the first Coronavirus case appeared in the United States.  

On January 27, then-acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tried to get President Donald Trump to act. But officials told the Washington Post that Trump dismissed early briefings “because he did not believe that the virus had spread widely throughout the United States.”

Compounding that outrage: From January to early March, 2020, Trump and his allies within the Republican party and Fox News Network repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to fear. 

Related image

Donald Trump

Barnstorming the country in a series of hate-filled political rallies, Trump told his supporters:

  • January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”
  • February 2: “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China. It’s going to be fine.”
  • February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”
  • February 25: “CDC & my administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”
  • February 25: “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away. They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”
  • February 26: “The 15 cases within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” 
  • February 26: “We’re going very substantially down, not up.”
  • February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” 
  • February 28: “We’re ordering a lot of supplies. We’re ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn’t be ordering unless it was something like this. But we’re ordering a lot of different elements of medical.”
  • February 28: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the Coronavirus….We did one of the great jobs….One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia’….They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax….It’s all turning, they lost….And this is their new hoax.”
  • March 4: “If we have thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work—some of them go to work, but they get better.” 
  • March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country of keeping it down. A tremendous job of keeping it down.”
  • March 6: “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. And the tests are beautiful.” 
  • March 6: “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for President.”
  • March 8: “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on Coronavirus.”
  • March 9: “The Fake News Media and their new partner, the Democratic Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power to inflame the Coronavirus situation.”
  • March 10: “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

Acting as Trump’s propaganda arm has been Fox News Network.  

FOX News logo vector

As late as March 9, Trish Regan, host of Trish Regan Primetime on the Fox Business Network, attacked not the virus but those who do not share her fervent embrace of Donald Trump.

“We’ve reached a tipping point,” said Regan. “The hate is boiling. Many in the liberal media are using Coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the President, despite the virus originating halfway around the world.

“This is yet another attempt to impeach the President. And sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the stock market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of the political casualties for them.

“This is impeachment all over again. And like with the Mueller investigation, like with Ukraine-gate, they don’t care who they hurt. Whether it be their need to create mass hysteria to encourage a market sell-off unlike anything we’ve seen recently, or whether it be to create mass hysteria to stop our economy dead in its tracks, don’t kid yourself. They told us how much they crave a recession as a way to get rid of Donald Trump.”

Trish Regan

To make certain no one in the television audience missed the point, an electronically generated caption read: “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam.”

On the same day that Regan accused Trump’s critics of being haters, Trump himself was directing hate through his weapon of choice: Twitter: 

“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, The risk is low to the average American.” 

Actually, with the virus spreading quickly throughout at least 33 states, the risk was not low to the average American. It was not the news that was fake—but the lies and ignorance that Trump and Fox were spewing. 

TRUMP’S PLAN TO DEFEAT COVID-19: LIES, CHAOS AND THEFTS–PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2020 at 12:12 am

COVID-19 has so far infected 1.42 million Americans and killed  84,763 others.

And President Donald Trump’s “strategy” for fighting it  has boiled down to three tactics: Lies, chaos and thefts.

Upon taking office in 2017, Trump gutted the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In 2014, following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, President Barack Obama had created the White House Pandemic Office, run by the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).

Heading it was Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer. Under President George W. Bush, he had successfully fought malaria overseas. His topflight team of infectious disease and public health experts was creating a national bio-defense strategy. Their goal: Coordinate agencies to make the United States more resilient to the threat of epidemics and biological warfare.

Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, who headed the unit, was reassigned.

Neither the NSC nor the DHS epidemic team has been replaced.

The global health section of the CDC was decimated, and had to reduce the number of countries it was monitoring from 49 to 10.   

So why did Trump gut these organizations?

Pathologically jealous of President Barack Obama, Trump—a lifelong racist—has tried to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. 

Obam has message for pokemon nerds - YouTube

Barack Obama

Worsening the situation even more: In 2017—the year Trump assumed office—nearly 700 positions remained vacant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because Trump imposed a hiring freeze. This affected programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control and chronic disease prevention.

Making the situation worse: The CDC’s director, Tom Friedman, stepped down in January, 2017, and it wasn’t until July that the agency got another one: Brenda Fitzgerald. But she served only until January, 2018. She was succeeded—two months later—by Robert Ray Redfield, Jr. He has been the director since then.

The post of director of the CDC is considered one of the most crucial public health positions in the government. The CDC is charged with tracking and preventing infectious disease outbreaks  in the United States and worldwide.

CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia

Nor was that all. In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the Centers for Disease Control, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.

In April, 2018, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team.

It’s popular to assume that Trump did all of this out of mere ignorance—and there’s plenty of proof of his ignorance in many areas (such as attributing windmills to causing cancer). But far more is at work here.

The vast majority of those who voted for Trump believe that the Federal Government is evil and its agencies that regulate business should be eliminated.

An example of this constituency is Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, which opposes all tax increases and has forced most Republicans to publicly pledge they will as well, under any circumstances.

His most famous quote: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” 

Under Trump, the epidemic-fighting arm of the Federal Government has become so shrunk that America itself may be the one to drown—in an epidemic of Coronavirus. 

The virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019.  Its first reported victim became ill on December 1.

By December 31, the outbreak was traced to a novel strain of Coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

On February 29, the first American died of Coronavirus. 

According to the March 21 edition of Rolling Stone magazine: “The United States intelligence community has been warning the president since January and February about the dire consequences that would occur when coronavirus reached America, but the president seemed determined to play down the threat, leaving the country largely unaware and unprepared.”

An anonymous Intelligence official cited by the Washington Post said: “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were—they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it. The system was blinking red.”

Trump first learned of the virus on January 3, 2020. This did not prevent him from playing golf on January 4, 5, 18 and 19.

On January 19, the first Coronavirus case appeared in the United States.

On January 27, then-acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tried to get the President to act. But, according to officials who spoke with the Washington Post, Trump was “dismissive” of early briefings “because he did not believe that the virus had spread widely throughout the United States.”

Trump fired Mulvaney one month later. 

Then, for Trump, it was back to the golf course—on February 1, 2 and 15. 

TWO DICTATORS–STALIN AND TRUMP–AND TWO CRISES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 26, 2020 at 12:27 am

Two dictators. Two crises.

Next up: Donald Trump.   

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin received multiple warnings that his supposed ally, Nazi Germany, would soon invade Russia. He ignored all of them. And when the invasion came—on June 22, 1941—the result was the loss of 26 million men, women and children and four years of devastation. 

President Donald Trump similarly received warnings that Coronavirus was now a major world threat—and would likely hit the United States. Like Stalin, he ignored those warnings—with similarly disastrous consequences for the United States.

The virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019.  Its first reported victim became ill on December 1.

By December 31, the outbreak was traced to a novel strain of Coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

According to the March 21 edition of Rolling Stone magazine: “The United States intelligence community has been warning the president since January and February about the dire consequences that would occur when coronavirus reached America, but the president seemed determined to play down the threat, leaving the country largely unaware and unprepared.”

An anonymous Intelligence official cited by the Washington Post said: “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were—they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it. The system was blinking red.”

Trump first learned of the virus on January 3, 2020. This did not prevent him from playing golf on January 4, 5, 18 and 19.

On January 19, the first Coronavirus case appeared in the United States.

On January 27, then-acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tried to get the President to act. But, according to officials who spoke with the Post, Trump was “dismissive” of early briefings “because he did not believe that the virus had spread widely throughout the United States.”

Trump fired Mulvaney one month later.

Then, for Trump, it was back to the golf course—on February 1, 2, 15. 

Image result for Trump Corona Timeline

Refusing to take action against the emerging Coronavirus threat, Trump repeatedly made statements that minimized it. 

January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

January 30: “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment –five—and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us .…that I can assure you.”

February 10: “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do—you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat—as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though. We have 12 cases—11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.” 

February 28: “[Democrats] tried the impeachment hoax…They lost…. And this is their new hoax.”

A major reason for the spectacular early victories of the German army in Russia was that, from 1936 to 1938, Stalin had gutted his own military by a series of systematic purges. Thus, there were few experienced, competent officers—from army corps commanders to four-star generals—to mount a strategic defense. 

Similarly, upon taking office, Trump had gutted the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Pathologically jealous of President Barack Obama, Trump has tried to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the Centers for Disease Control, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services.

In April, 2018, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team.

On February 29, the first American died of Coronavirus. 

Trump continued to be unconcerned about the growing threat.

On March 7, reporters asked him if he was concerned that Coronavirus had arrived in Washington, D.C. He replied:  “No, I’m not concerned at all. No, we’ve done a great job with it.”

And in a March 9 tweet, Trump wrote: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”  

Perhaps most dangerously of all, Trump has from the outset blatantly contradicted health officials—even when standing next to them at press conferences.

On March 21, Trump insisted he had a “very good” feeling about using a malaria drug to combat the virus. It fell to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to set the record straight: “No.”

As of March 26, the United States had 68,489 Coronavirus cases—with 1,032 deaths.

TWO DICTATORS–STALIN AND TRUMP–AND TWO CRISES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

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

Two dictators. Two crises.

First up: Joseph Stalin.

“I know what Hitler’s up to. He thinks he’s outsmarted me. But in actuality, it is I who have outsmarted him.” 

So spoke Joseph Stalin, absolute dictator of the Soviet Union, to his future successor, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1939.

Less than two years later, on June 22, 1941, three million German soldiers poured across the western border of the Soviet Union.

On August 23, 1939, Stalin had signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact with German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. The reason: Each dictator got what he wanted—for the moment. Hitler was planning to invade Poland in a matter of days—and he wanted to avoid a war with the Soviet Union. And Stalin got what he wanted: The eastern half of Poland.

Joseph Stalin

The agreement stunned the world. Since 1919, Nazis and Communists had fought bitter battles against each other in the streets of Germany during the Weimar Republic.

When this was replaced in 1933 by the Third Reich, German Communists were rounded up and imprisoned, if not murdered, by Hitler’s ruthless secret police, the Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squads”).

For the moment, however, all of that was conveniently forgotten.

But Hitler hadn’t forgotten his life’s ambition to conquer the Soviet Union and utterly destroy “the scourge of Jewish-Marxism.”

Stalin received numerous warnings from the United States and Great Britain about the coming invasion. But he dismissed them as efforts by the West to trick him into violating the pact and turning Nazi Germany into his mortal enemy. 

When informed of the attack, Stalin at first believed it was being made by rogue German forces. He refused to order an immediate counterattack. Upon being convinced that the Wehrmacht intended to wage all-out war, he went into a funk in his dacha and shut himself off from everyone. To his closest associates he wailed: “Lenin left us a great inheritance and we, his heirs, have fucked it all up!”

Meanwhile, the Red Air Force was destroyed on the ground by the awesome Luftwaffe. And the Wehrmacht was advancing at a rate of 25 miles a day.

German soldiers marching through Russia

On July 3, after 10 days of brooding (and probably drinking heavily) in his dacha, Stalin finally took to the airways. He didn’t speak live; Radio Moscow played a recording of his voice across the Soviet Union.

Never a spellbinding orator, Stalin spoke in slow and faltering tones. Nevertheless, his opening words were startling: “Comrades! Citizens! Brothers and sisters! Men of our army and navy! I am addressing you, my friends!”

Stalin had never addressed an audience this way, and he never would again. Born Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili, he had given himself the name of “Stalin”—“Man of Steel.” And he had lived up to it, sending tens of thousands to the Soviet penal system known as the Gulag while ordering the executions of tens of thousands of others.

He said the “peace loving” Soviet Union had been attacked by “fiends and cannibals.” He claimed the non-aggression pact with Germany had given the army much-needed time to rearm and reorganize its forces. He claimed the Germans wanted to restore the rule of the landlords and re-establish Tsarism.

He repeatedly spoke of the treachery of the enemy—and of the need for constant vigilance against traitors: “We must wage a ruthless fight against all disorganizers of the rear, deserters, panic-mongers and rumor-mongers.”

This was accompanied by orders unprecedented in any other army: Those taken prisoner by the Germans were to be considered traitors—and shot or imprisoned. Those suspected of wounding themselves to avoid combat were also subject to summary execution. So were soldiers who had been legitimately wounded in battle but were suspected of inflicting those injuries.

The first two years of the war—1941 to 1943—proved disastrous for the Soviet Union.

During the first six months—June to December, 1941—German armies lured huge Soviet forces into gigantic “cauldron battles,” surrounding and exterminating them. An estimated 5.7 million prisoners of war (POWs) fell into German hands. Of these, at least 3.5 million died in custody.

But then the infamous Russian cold and snows of winter halted  the Wehrmacht before Moscow. In the summer of 1942 German forces once again mounted a ferocious offensive, driving all the way to the Volga—and Stalingrad.

But they became bogged down in bitter house-to-house fighting. With the arrival of winter, Soviet forces surrounded the Wehrmacht’s powerful Sixth Army. The besiegers became the besieged. On February 2, 1943, Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus surrendered what remained of his army. The battle cost Germany 500,000 men, including 91,000 taken prisoner. 

As the Red Army finally began to go over on the offensive, Stalin relaxed the iron controls that had long stifled creativity on the part of his commandeers. 

The infamous political commissars were removed from control over Russian generals. Gold braid and fancy uniforms were manufactured and rushed to the front as morale boosters.

At last, Stalin realized there was no way to win a life-and-death struggle than to give his soldiers the flexibility they needed.

The war would last another two years—costing the Soviet Union at least 26 million citizens—before it ended with the Red flag flying over Berlin.

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