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Posts Tagged ‘THERMOPYLAE’

“THE AFGHAN CAMPAIGN”–THEN AND NOW

In History, Military, Social commentary on August 24, 2021 at 12:14 am

In the 1981 epic medieval fantasy “Excalibur,” director John Boorman warns us through King Arthur’s court magician, Merlin: “For it is the doom of men that they forget.”

But that isn’t true for fiction and nonfiction writer Steven Pressfield, who repeatedly holds up the past as a mirror to our present. 

In his 1998 novel, Gates of Fire, he depicted the heroic last stand of “The Three Hundred Spartans” at Thermopylae.

In Tides of War (2000), he recreated the later conflict between ancient Athens and Sparta through the life of Alcibiades, the infamous Athenian statesman and general.

And in The Virtues of War (2004), he showcased the brilliant and luminous (if increasingly dark and explosive) personality of Alexander the Great, whose soaring rhetoric inspired men to hurl themselves into countless battles on his behalf.

But it is his 2006 novel, The Afghan Campaign, that today holds special relevance for Americans obsessed with the end of their 20-year war in Afghanistan.The Afghan Campaign | Steven Pressfield

The novel opens with Matthias, a young Greek seeking glory and opportunity, signing up with the army of Alexander the Great. But Alexander has conquered the Persian Empire, and with it have passed those conventional, set-piece battles where everyone can instantly tell friend from foe.

Alexander next plans to conquer India. But first he must pacify its gateway—Afghanistan. It is here, for the first time, that the Macedonians meet an enemy unlike any other.

“Here the foe does not meet us in pitched battle,” warns Alexander. “Even when we defeat him, he will no accept our dominion. He comes back again and again. He hates us with a passion whose depth is exceeded only by his patience and his capacity for suffering.”

Matthias learns this early. In his first raid on an Afghan village, he’s ordered to execute a helpless prisoner. When he refuses, he’s brutalized until he strikes out with his sword—and then botches the job.

But, soon, exposed to an unending series of atrocities—committed by himself and his comrades, as well as the enemy—he finds himself transformed.

It is not a transformation he expected—or relishes. He agonizes over the gap between the ideals he meant to embrace when he became a soldier—and the brutalities that have drained him of everything but a grim determination to survive at any cost.

Pressfield, a former Marine himself, repeatedly contrasts how noncombatants see war as a kind of “glorious” child’s-play with how those who must fight it actually experience it.

Steven Pressfield (@SPressfield) | Twitter

Steven Pressfield

He creates an extraordinary exchange between Costas, an ancient-world version of a CNN war correspondent, and Lucas, a soldier whose morality is outraged at how Costas and his ilk routinely prettify the indescribable.

The phrase Lucas hates most: “Put to death.”

“Language matters, Costas. Look at my feet. That black isn’t dirt. I can scour my flesh with lye and caustic. That man-blood never comes out.

“I hate the Afghan. He is a beast and a coward. But what I hate most is that he has dragged us down to his level.”

And we know the truth of this exchange immediately. For there are brutalities inflicted by our troops on the enemy—and atrocities inflicted by the enemy upon our soldiers—that never make the headlines, let alone the TV cameras.

We know, though we don’t wish to admit, that, decades from now, thousands of these men will carry horrific memories to their graves. These memories will remain sealed from public view, allowing their fellow but unblooded Americans to sleep peacefully, unaware of the price that others have paid on their behalf.

Like the Macedonians (who call themselves “Macks”), our own soldiers found themselves serving in an all-but-forgotten land among a populace whose values could not be more alien from our own if they came from Mars.

Instinctively, they turned to one another–not only for physical security but to preserve their last vestiges of humanity. Pressfield is never more eloquent than when he puts into the words of his war-weary veteran, Lucas, the following:

“Never tell anyone except your mates. Only you don’t need to tell them. They know. They know you. Better than a man knows his wife, better than he knows himself. They’re bound to you and you to them, like wolves in a pack. It’s not you and them. You are them. The unit is indivisible. One dies, we all die.”

Put conversely: One lives, we all live.

Pressfield has reached into the past to reveal fundamental truths about the present that most of us could probably not accept if contained in a modern-day memoir. These truths take on an immediate poignancy owing to our recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But they will remain just as relevant decades from now, when our young soldiers of today are old and retired.

The Afghan Campaign thrusts us directly into the flesh-and-blood horrors created by political rhetoric: The horrors of men traumatized by an often unseen and always menacing enemy, and the horrors they must inflict in return if they are to survive in a hostile and alien world.

THE TRUE LEGACY OF TRUMP’S IMPEACHMENT–ONE YEAR LATER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 11, 2021 at 12:08 am

On December 10, 2019, Sarah Jones, editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA, did what Senate Republicans fear to do: She openly declared Donald J. Trump to be an illegitimate President whose removal is entirely justified.

She did so in an editorial titled, “Adam Schiff Tells Trump That He Won’t Be Allowed To Cheat In 2020.”

“On Tuesday as House Democrats made the formal announcement of articles of impeachment against President Trump, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff gave a perfectly accurate rebuttal to the plea that Democrats should ‘just wait’ on impeachment, saying that those who argue ‘just wait’ are actually arguing ‘just let him cheat in one more election’ and ‘let him have foreign help just one more time,’” wrote Jones. [Italics added]

PoliticusUSA - Politicus News With Sarah Jones: Trump's Crumbling Presidency | Facebook

Sarah Jones

“This matters because after three years of pretending that Trump is the rightful president, it is finally being acknowledged that not only is he trying to cheat in 2020, but it is again, because he cheated in 2016.

“For three years this nation has endured the abuses of this pretender and his entire party of lock step enablers, save for Rep. Amash of Michigan.

“For three long years those who suggested Trump was not a legitimate president were shamed and silenced, even after the Mueller report made it clear that the Trump campaign sought illegal help and took illegal help from Russia in the 2016 election….

“A cheating cheater.

“A loser.

“A man who can’t win an election and did not win an election of the people fairly.

“Donald Trump can’t win an election without cheating. He knows that, and that’s why it upsets him so much to be called out for his illegal actions.

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Donald Trump

Trump is used to getting away with his criminal entitlements, but today, even if just for a moment before Republicans in the Senate betray their country again by letting Trump off as he attacks the United States, justice has been spoken and served.”  [Italics added]

In September, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee began investigating Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine to smear a 2020 political rival for the White House—former Vice President Joseph Biden.

And every day of its hearings, Republicans loudly and brutally defended that extortion.

  • They didn’t offer any evidence that Trump didn’t try to extort an ally.
  • They simply attacked the witnesses who dared to come forward and testify to their own knowledge of it.
  • They attacked Schiff, who heads that committee, demanding self-righteously that he resign.

And they continued to do so throughout the Senate “trial”—where they banned witnesses from testifying about Trump’s impeachable behavior.

On February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Donald Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. 

On January 2, 2021, Trump once again proved he couldn’t win without cheating: He called the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The reason: To pressure him to “find” enough votes to overturn former Vice President Joe Biden’s win in the state’s presidential election.

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said. “Because we won the state.”

Actually, he didn’t.

He even threatened Raffensperger with criminal prosecuted if he did not change the vote count in Trump’s favor: “That’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen.”

But there is a way to put the impeachment effort into historical perspective.

In 1960, David Hackworth was a young Army captain stationed in West Germany. The end of World War II had revealed the horror of Nazi death camps and the extermination of millions. To everyone, that is, but the Germans.

David Hackworth.JPG

David Hackworth

Dale Cruse. (Flickr profile.) / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

One winter’s day, Hackworth took his wife, Patty, to Dachau, the infamous concentration camp. In his 1989 memoir, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, he describes that experience:

“The horror of Hitler’s vision was alive and well in this grim death camp: the barracks, the ovens, the electrified barbed wire fences, remained intact. A mound here held the bones of 10,000 Jews; one over there held the bones of 12,000 more.

“The place was a monument to the darkest side of man, and yet—despite the smoke and ash that rained down on their homes from camp incinerators, despite the sickly smell of burning flesh and hair….the villagers claimed they hadn’t known. I couldn’t square it….”

Nor could Hackworth accept that “not one of the laughing, backslapping, congenial comrades I met…had fought the Americans in the West. All assured me they’d been on the Eastern Front, fighting ‘the real enemy,’ the Russians….

“In 15 years the Germans had come a long way in their rewrite of history. But at least there’s Dachau, I thought to myself, to remind them of the truth.”

So, too, will the impeachment of Donald Trump stand as a monument to the sheer evil and infamy of himself and the Republican party.

And it will remind future generations that there were decent Americans who dared to confront that evil in a stand as hopeless and glorious as that at Thermopylae and the Alamo.

THE ALAMO: TRAGEDY AND GLORY: PART THREE (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 6, 2020 at 12:16 am

On the night before the final Mexican assault, one man escaped the Alamo to testify to the defenders’ courage. Or so goes the most famous story of the 13-day siege.

He was Louis Rose, a veteran of the Napoleonic wars and the dreadful 1812 retreat from Moscow. Unwilling to die in a hopeless battle, he slipped over a wall and sneaked through Mexican siege lines.

At Grimes County, he found shelter at the homestead of Abraham and Mary Ann Zuber. Their son, William, later claimed that his parents told him of Rose’s visit–and his story of Travis’ “line in the sand” speech.

In 1873, he published the tale in the Texas Almanac.

But many historians believe it is a fabrication. The story comes to us third-hand—from Rose to the Zubers to their son. And it was published 37 years after the Alamo fell.  

Even if Travis didn’t draw a line in the sand, every member of the garrison, by remaining to stay, had crossed over his own line.

After a 12-day siege, Santa Anna decided to overwhelm the Alamo.

Some of his officers objected. They wanted to wait for bigger siege cannon to arrive—to knock down the Alamo’s three-feet-thick adobe walls. Without shelter, the defenders would be forced to surrender.

But Santa Anna insisted on an all-out assault: “Without blood and tears, there is no glory.”

The first assault came at about 5 a.m. on Sunday, March 6, 1836.

The fort’s riflemen—aided by 14 cannons–repulsed it. And the second assault as well.

But the third assault proved unstoppable. The Alamo covered three acres, and held at most 250 defenders—against 2,000 Mexican soldiers.

When the Mexicans reached the fort, they mounted scaling ladders and poured over the walls.

Travis was among the first defenders to fall—shot through the forehead after firing a shotgun into the Mexican soldiery below.

Death of William Barrett Travis (waving sword)

Mexicans broke into the room where the ailing James Bowie lay.

In Three Roads to the Alamo, historian William C. Davis writes that Bowie may have been unconscious or delirious. Mistaking him for a coward, the soldiers bayoneted him and blew out his brains.

But some accounts claim that Bowie died fighting—shooting two Mexicans with pistols, then plunging his famous knife into a third before being bayoneted. Nearly every Alamo movie depicts Bowie’s death this way.


James Bowie’s death

As the Mexicans poured into the fort, at least 60 Texans tried to escape over the walls into the surrounding prairie. But they were quickly dispatched by lance-bearing Mexican cavalry.

The death of David Crockett remains highly controversial.

Baby boomers usually opt for the Walt Disney version: Davy swinging “Old Betsy” as Mexicans surround him. Almost every Alamo movie depicts him fighting to the death.

Image result for fall of the alamo

David Crockett’s Death

But Mexican Lieutenant Colonel Jose Enrique de la Pena claimed Crockett was one of seven Texans who surrendered or were captured and brought before Santa Anna after the battle. Santa Anna ordered their immediate execution, and they were hacked to death with sabers.

Only the 2004 remake of The Alamo has dared to depict this version. Although this version is now accepted by most historians, some still believe the de la Pena diary from which it comes is a forgery.

An hour after the battle erupted, it was over.

That afternoon, Santa Anna ordered the bodies of the slain defenders stacked and burned in three pyres.

Contrary to popular belief, some of the garrison survived:

  • Joe, a black slave who had belonged to William B. Travis, the Alamo’s commander;
  • Susanah Dickinson, the wife of a lieutenant killed in the Alamo, and her baby, Angelina;
  • Several Mexican women and their children.

Also contrary to legend, the bravery of the Alamo defenders did not buy time for Texas to raise an army against Santa Anna. This didn’t happen until after the battle.

But their sacrifice proved crucial in securing Texas’ independence:

  • The Alamo’s destruction warned those Texans who had not supported the revolution that they had no choice: They must win, die or flee their homes to the safety of the United States.
  • It stirred increasing numbers of Americans to enter Texas and enlist in Sam Houston’s growing army.
  • Santa Anna’s army was greatly weakened, losing 600 killed and wounded—a casualty rate of 33%.
  • The nearly two-week siege bought time for the Texas convention to meet at Washington-on-the-Brazos and declare independence from Mexico.

On April 21, 1836, Santa Anna made a crucial mistake: During his army’s afternoon siesta, he failed to post sentries around his camp.

That afternoon, Sam Houston’s 900-man army struck the 1,400-man Mexican force at San Jacinto. In 18 minutes, the Texans—shouting “Remember the Alamo!”—killed about 700 Mexican soldiers and wounded 200 others.

The next day, a Texas patrol captured Santa Anna–wearing the uniform of a Mexican private. Resisting angry demands to hang the Mexican dictator, Houston forced Santa Anna to surrender control of Texas in return for his life.

The victory at San Jacinto won the independence of Texas. But the 13-day siege and fall of the Alamo remains the most famous and celebrated part of that conflict.

In 480 B.C., 300 Spartans won immortality at Thermopylae, a narrow mountain pass in ancient Greece, by briefly holding back an invading Persian army of thousands.

Although they died to the last man, their sacrifice inspired the rest of Greece to defeat its invaders. 

Like Thermopylae, the battle of the Alamo proved both a defeat—and a victory.

THE ALAMO: TRAGEDY AND GLORY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2020 at 12:26 am

Friday, March 6, 2020, marks the 184h anniversary of the most famous event in Texas history: The fall of the Alamo, a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio.  

After a 12-day siege, 180 to 250 Texans were overwhelmed by 2,000 Mexican soldiers. 

Mexican troops advancing on the Alamo

Americans “remember the Alamo”–but usually for the wrong reasons.

Some historians believe the battle should have never been fought.

The Alamo was not Thermopylae—a narrow mountain pass blocking the Persian march into ancient Greece.  Santa Anna could have simply bypassed it.

In fact, several of Santa Anna’s generals urged the Mexican dictator to do just that—leave a small guard to hold down the fort’s defenders and wipe out the undefended, widely-separated Texas settlements.

But pride held Santa Anna fast to the Alamo. His brother-in-law, General Perfecto de Cos, had been forced to surrender the old mission to revolting Texans in December, 1835. 

Santa Anna meant to redeem the fort—and his family honor—by force.

In virtually every Alamo movie, its two co-commanders, James Bowie and William Barret Travis, are portrayed as on the verge of all-out war—with each other.

In John Wayne’s heavily fictionalized 1960 film, The Alamo, Bowie and Travis agree to fight a duel as soon as they’ve whipped the Mexicans besieging them.

James Bowie

William B. Travis

In fact, the frictions between the two lasted only a short while. Just before the siege, some of Bowie’s volunteers—a far larger group than Travis’ regulars—got drunk. 

Travis ordered them jailed—and Bowie ordered his men to release them. Bowie then went on a roaring drunk. The next day, a sober Bowie apologized to Travis and agreed they should share command. 

This proved a wise decision, for just as the siege started, Bowie was felled by worsening illness—typhoid-pneumonia or tuberculosis.

In almost every Alamo movie, Bowie repeatedly leaves the fort to ambush unsuspecting Mexicans.

In reality, he stayed bed-ridden and lay close to death throughout the 13-day siege.

The Texans intended to make a suicidal stand.

False.

From the first day of the siege-–February 23, almost to the last, March 6, 1836—messengers rode out of the Alamo seeking help. The defenders believed that if they could cram enough men into the three-acre former mission, they could hold Santa Anna at bay.

No reinforcements reached the Alamo.

False. On March 1, 32 men from Gonzalez—the only ones to answer Travis’ call—sneaked through the Mexican lines to enter the Alamo.

Meanwhile, the largest Texan force lay at Fort Deviance in Goliad, 85 miles away. This consisted of 500 men commanded by James Walker Fannin, a West Point dropout.  

Fannin was better-suited for the role of Hamlet than military commander.

Upon receiving a plea of help from Travis, he set out in a halfhearted attempt to reach the mission. But when a supply wagon broke down, he returned to Fort Defiance and sat out the rest of the siege.  

When the Mexican army approached Fort Defiance, Fannin and 400 of his men panicked and fled into the desert. They were surrounded, forced to surrender, and massacred on March 27

The Alamo garrison was fully prepared to confront the Mexican army.

False.  When the Mexicans suddenly arrived in San Antonio on the morning of February 23, 1836, they caught the Texans completely by surprise.

The previous night, they had been celebrating the birthday of George Washington. The Texans rushed headlong into the Alamo, hauling all the supplies they could hastily scrounge.

Santa Anna sent a courier under a flag of truce to the Alamo, demanding unconditional surrender. In effect, the Texans were being given the choice of later execution.

Travis replied with a shot from the fort’s biggest cannon, the 18-pounder (so named for the weight of its cannonball).

Santa Anna ordered the hoisting of a blood-red flag and the opening of an artillery salvo. The siege of the Alamo was on.

San Houston, who was elected general of the non-existent army of Texas, desperately tried to relieve the siege.

False. 

At Washington-on-the-Brazos, 169 miles east of San Antonio, Texan delegates assembled to form a new government. When news reached the delegates that Travis desperately needed reinforcements, many of them wanted to rush to his defense.  

But Houston and others declared they must first declare Texas’ independence. On March 2, 1836, they did just that. Houston spent a good deal of the time drunk.

Sam Houston

Did Travis draw a line?

Easily the most famous Alamo story is that of “the line in the sand.”

On the night of March 5—just prior to the final assault—there was a lull in the near-constant Mexican bombardment. Travis assembled his men and gave them a choice:

They could try to surrender and hope that Santa Anna would be merciful. They could try to escape. Or they could stay and fight.  

With his sword, Travis drew a line in the dirt and invited those who would stay to cross over to him.  

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The entire garrison did—except for two men.  

One of these was bed-ridden James Bowie. He asked that his sick-bed be carried over to Travis. The other was a veteran of the Napoleonic wars–Louis Rose.

THE ALAMO: TRAGEDY AND GLORY: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 4, 2020 at 12:22 am

On March 2, 1836–184 years ago this year—Texas formally declared its independence from Mexico, of which it was then a province.-

Sixty-one delegates took part in the convention held at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

Their signed statement proclaimed that the Mexican government had “ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived.” 

Meanwhile, 169 miles away, the siege of the Alamo–a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio–had entered its ninth day. The Alamo.

The mission that became a fortress. The fortress that has since become a shrine. 

By Daniel Schwen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Alamo Chapel 

The combatants: 180 to 250 Texans (or “Texians,” as many of them preferred to be called) vs. 2,000 Mexican soldiers. 

On the Texan side three names predominate: David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis. “The Holy Trinity,” as some historians ironically refer to them. 

Crockett, at 49, was the most famous man in the Alamo. He had been a bear hunter, Indian fighter and Congressman. Rare among the men of his time, he sympathized with the Indian tribes he had helped subdue in the War of 1812.

David Crockett

He believed Congress should honor the treaties made with the former hostiles and opposed President Andrew Jackson’s effort to move the tribes further West.Largely because of this, his constituents turned him out of office in November, 1835. He told them they could go to hell; he would go to Texas.

James Bowie, at 40, had been a slave trader with pirate Jean Lafitte and a land swindler. But his claim to fame lay in his skill as a knife-fighter.

James Bowie

This grew out of his participating in an 1827 duel on a sandbar in Natchez, Mississippi. Bowie was acting as a second to one of the duelists who had arranged the event.

After the two duelists exchanged pistol shots without injury, they called it a draw. But those who had come as their seconds had scores to settle among themselves–and decided to do so. A bloody melee erupted.

Bowie was shot in the hip and then impaled on a sword cane wielded by Major Norris Wright, a longtime enemy. Drawing a large butcher knife he wore at his belt, he gutted Wright, who died instantly.

The brawl became famous as the Sandbar Fight, and cemented Bowie’s reputation across the South as a deadly knife fighter.

William Barret Travis had been an attorney and militia member. Burdened by debts and pursued by creditors, he fled Alabama in 1831 to start over in Texas. Behind him he left a wife, son, and unborn daughter.

William Barret Travis

From the first, Travis burned to free Texas from Mexico and see it become a part of the United States.

In January, 1836, he was sent by the American provisional governor of Texas to San Antonio, to fortify the Alamo. He arrived there with a small party of regular soldiers and the title of lieutenant colonel in the state militia.

On the Mexican side, only one name matters: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, president (i.e., absolute dictator) of Mexico. After backing first one general and would-be “president” after another, Santa Anna maneuvered himself into the office in 1833.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Texas was then legally a part of Mexico. Stephen F. Austin, “the father of Texas,” had received a grant from Spain—which ruled Mexico until 1821–to bring in 300 American families to settle there.

The Spaniards wanted to establish a buffer between themselves and warring Indian tribes like the Comanches. This immigration continued after Mexico threw off Spanish rule and obtained its independence.

But as Americans kept flooding into Texas, the character of its population changed, alarming its Mexican rulers.

The new arrivals did not see themselves as Mexican citizens but as transplanted Americans. They were largely Protestant, as opposed to the Catholic Mexicans. And many of them not only owned slaves but demanded the expansion of slavery—a practice illegal under Mexican law.

In October, 1835, fighting erupted between American settlers and Mexican soldiers.

In November, Mexican forces took shelter in the Alamo, which had been built in 1718 as a mission to convert Indians to Christianity. Since then it had been used as a fort—by Spanish and then Mexican troops.

Texans lay siege to the Alamo from October 16 to December 10, 1835. With his men exhausted, and facing certain defeat, General Perfecto de Cos, Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, surrendered. He gave his word to leave Texas and never take up arms again against its settlers.

Most Texans rejoiced. They believed they had won their “war” against Mexico. But others knew better.

One was Bowie. Another was Sam Houston, a former Indian fighter, Congressman and protégé of Andrew Jackson.

Still another was Santa Anna, who styled himself “The Napoleon of the West.”  In January, 1836, he set out from Mexico City at the head of an army totaling about 7,000.

He planned the 18th century version of a blitzkrieg, intending to arrive in Texas and take its “rebellious foreigners” by surprise.

His forced march proved costly in lives, but met his objective. He arrived in San Antonio with several hundred soldiers on February 23, 1836.

The siege of the Alamo—the most famous event in Texas history—was about to begin.

THE TRUE LEGACY OF TRUMP’S IMPEACHMENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 5, 2020 at 12:13 am

On December 10, 2019, Sarah Jones, editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA, did what Senate Republicans fear to do: She openly declared Donald J. Trump to be an illegitimate President whose removal is entirely justified.

She did so in an editorial titled, “Adam Schiff Tells Trump That He Won’t Be Allowed To Cheat In 2020.”

“On Tuesday as House Democrats made the formal announcement of articles of impeachment against President Trump, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff gave a perfectly accurate rebuttal to the plea that Democrats should ‘just wait’ on impeachment, saying that those who argue ‘just wait’ are actually arguing ‘just let him cheat in one more election’ and ‘let him have foreign help just one more time,’” wrote Jones. [Italics added]

To underscore her point, Jones concluded: “Trump’s cheating is finally being acknowledged and punished.

“This matters because after three years of pretending that Trump is the rightful president, it is finally being acknowledged that not only is he trying to cheat in 2020, but it is again, because he cheated in 2016.

“For three years this nation has endured the abuses of this pretender and his entire party of lock step enablers, save for Rep. Amash of Michigan.

“For three long years those who suggested Trump was not a legitimate president were shamed and silenced, even after the Mueller report made it clear that the Trump campaign sought illegal help and took illegal help from Russia in the 2016 election.

“Now that Trump is again seeking foreign help to undermine our elections and in so doing, attacking our national security and core values — and only due to the bravery of whistleblowers got caught red-handed — the entitled, privileged, faux-wealthy con artist poorly playing president has finally been called what he is: A cheat.

“A cheating cheater.

“A loser.

“A man who can’t win an election and did not win an election of the people fairly.

“Donald Trump can’t win an election without cheating. He knows that, and that’s why it upsets him so much to be called out for his illegal actions.

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Donald Trump

Trump is used to getting away with his criminal entitlements, but today, even if just for a moment before Republicans in the Senate betray their country again by letting Trump off as he attacks the United States, justice has been spoken and served.”  [Italics added]

Before Republicans in the Senate betray their country again by letting Trump off….

Jones clearly has no patience for those who insist on playing a game of “Let’s Pretend.” As in: “Let’s pretend that Republicans care more about the Constitution and the security of the nation than about attaining dictatorial power.”

In September, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee began investigating Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine to smear a 2020 political rival for the White House—former Vice President Joseph Biden.

And every day of its hearings, Republicans loudly and brutally defended that extortion.

  • They didn’t offer any evidence that Trump didn’t try to extort an ally.
  • They simply attacked the witnesses who dared to come forward and testify to their own knowledge of it.
  • They attacked Schiff, who heads that committee, demanding self-righteously that he resign.

And they continued to do so throughout the Senate “trial”—where they banned witnesses from testifying about Trump’s impeachable behavior.

It’s a certainty that the Republican-dominated Senate (53 to 47 Democrats) will once again serve as Trump’s “party of lock step enablers.”

But there is a way to put the impeachment effort into historical perspective.

In 1960, David Hackworth was a young Army captain stationed in West Germany. The end of World War II had revealed the horror of Nazi death camps and the extermination of millions. To everyone, that is, but the Germans.

David Hackworth.JPG

David Hackworth

Dale Cruse. (Flickr profile.) / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

One winter’s day, Hackworth took his wife, Patty, to Dachau, the infamous concentration camp. In his 1989 memoir, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, he describes that experience:

“The horror of Hitler’s vision was alive and well in this grim death camp: the barracks, the ovens, the electrified barbed wire fences, remained intact. A mound here held the bones of 10,000 Jews; one over there held the bones of 12,000 more.

“The place was a monument to the darkest side of man, and yet—despite the smoke and ash that rained down on their homes from camp incinerators, despite the sickly smell of burning flesh and hair….the villagers claimed they hadn’t known. I couldn’t square it….”

Nor could Hackworth accept that “not one of the laughing, backslapping, congenial comrades I met…had fought the Americans in the West. All assured me they’d been on the Eastern Front, fighting ‘the real enemy,’ the Russians….

“In 15 years the Germans had come a long way in their rewrite of history. But at least there’s Dachau, I thought to myself, to remind them of the truth.”

So, too, will the impeachment of Donald Trump stand as a monument to the sheer evil and infamy of himself and the Republican party.

And it will remind future generations that there were decent Americans who dared to confront that evil in a stand as hopeless and glorious as that at Thermopylae and the Alamo.

WHEN THE PRESIDENT IS ILLEGITIMATE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 17, 2019 at 12:04 am

The Emperor-President has no clothes.

On December 10, 2019, Sarah Jones, editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA, stripped him bare.

She did what the vast majority of American political columnists have feared to do: She openly declared Donald J. Trump to be an illegitimate President.

She did so in an editorial titled, “Adam Schiff Tells Trump That He Won’t Be Allowed To Cheat In 2020.”

“On Tuesday as House Democrats made the formal announcement of articles of impeachment against President Trump, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff gave a perfectly accurate rebuttal to the plea that Democrats should ‘just wait’ on impeachment, saying that those who argue ‘just wait’ are actually arguing ‘just let him cheat in one more election’ and ‘let him have foreign help just one more time,’” wrote Jones. [Italics added]

To underscore her point, Jones concluded: “Trump’s cheating is finally being acknowledged and punished.

“This matters because after three years of pretending that Trump is the rightful president, it is finally being acknowledged that not only is he trying to cheat in 2020, but it is again, because he cheated in 2016.

“For three years this nation has endured the abuses of this pretender and his entire party of lock step enablers, save for Rep. Amash of Michigan.

“For three long years those who suggested Trump was not a legitimate president were shamed and silenced, even after the Mueller report made it clear that the Trump campaign sought illegal help and took illegal help from Russia in the 2016 election.

“Now that Trump is again seeking foreign help to undermine our elections and in so doing, attacking our national security and core values — and only due to the bravery of whistleblowers got caught red-handed — the entitled, privileged, faux-wealthy con artist poorly playing president has finally been called what he is: A cheat.

“A cheating cheater.

“A loser.

“A man who can’t win an election and did not win an election of the people fairly.

“Donald Trump can’t win an election without cheating. He knows that, and that’s why it upsets him so much to be called out for his illegal actions.

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Donald Trump

Trump is used to getting away with his criminal entitlements, but today, even if just for a moment before Republicans in the Senate betray their country again by letting Trump off as he attacks the United States, justice has been spoken and served.”  [Italics added]

Before Republicans in the Senate betray their country again by letting Trump off….

Jones clearly has no patience for those who insist on playing a game of “Let’s Pretend.” As in: “Let’s pretend that Republicans care more about the Constitution and the security of the nation than about attaining dictatorial power.”

Since September, the House Intelligence Committee has investigated Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine to smear a 2020 political rival for the White House—former Vice President Joe Biden.

And every day of its hearings, Republicans have loudly and brutally defended that extortion.

They haven’t offered any evidence that Trump didn’t try to extort an ally. They simply attacked the witnesses who dared to come forward and testify to their own knowledge of it. They attacked Schiff, who heads that committee, demanding self-righteously that he resign.

There is absolutely no reason to doubt that the Republican-dominated Senate (53 to 47 Democrats) will once again serve as Trump’s “party of lock step enablers.”

But there is a way to put the impeachment effort into historical perspective.

In 1960, David Hackworth was a young Army captain stationed in West Germany. The end of World War II had revealed the horror of Nazi death camps and the extermination of millions. To everyone, that is, but the Germans.

David H. Hackworth (Author of About Face)

David Hackworth

One winter’s day, Hackworth took his wife, Patty, to Dachau, the infamous concentration camp. In his 1989 memoir, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, he describes the experience:

“The horror of Hitler’s vision was alive and well in this grim death camp: the barracks, the ovens, the electrified barbed wire fences, remained intact. A mound here held the bones of 10,000 Jews; one over there held the bones of 12,000 more.

“The place was a monument to the darkest side of man, and yet—despite the smoke and ash that rained down on their homes from camp incinerators, despite the sickly smell of burning flesh and hair….the villagers claimed they hadn’t known. I couldn’t square it….”

Nor could Hackworth accept that “not one of the laughing, backslapping, congenial comrades I met…had fought the Americans in the West. All assured me they’d been on the Eastern Front, fighting ‘the real enemy,’ the Russians….

“In 15 years the Germans had come a long way in their rewrite of history. But at least there’s Dachau, I thought to myself, to remind them of the truth.

So, too, will the coming impeachment of Donald Trump stand as a monument to the sheer evil and infamy of himself and his party. And it will remind future generations of a time when decent Americans dared to confront that evil in a stand as hopeless and glorious as that at Thermopylae and the Alamo.

WHEN THE PRESIDENT IS ILLEGITIMATE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 16, 2019 at 1:20 am

Some say why don’t you just wait? Why don’t you just wait until you get the witnesses that the White House refuses to produce?”  

The speaker was Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. And it was on a day he—and the nation—would never forget: December 10, 2019. 

Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives had just voted to send two Articles of Impeachment to the Judiciary Committee. Their purpose: To remove Donald J. Trump from office as the 45th President of the United States.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler read the charges:

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

“Donald J. Trump has abused the powers of the Presidency, in that: Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States presidential election.

“Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.”

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

Donald J. Trump has directed the unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives pursuant to its ‘sole Power of Impeachment.'”

But it was House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff who put the reason for impeachment in stark, easily understandable perspective:

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

“Why not just wait until you get the documents that the White House refuses to turn over, and people should understand what that argument really means.

“It has taken us eight months to get a lower court ruling that Don McGahn has no right to defy Congress. If it takes another eight months to get a second court or Supreme Court decision, that is not the end of the process.

“It comes back to us, and we ask questions because he no longer has immunity and he claims something else that his answers are privileged and we have to go to court for another eight or 16 months.

“The argument why don’t you just wait amounts to this: Why don’t you just let him [Trump] cheat in one more election? Why not late him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time? That is what that argument amounts to.”

Schiff was alluding to Trump’s infamous efforts during the 2016 Presidential campaign to enlist Russian aid against his rival, Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. 

Among those efforts: 

Example 1: On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of his Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The participants included:

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort; 
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of “having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.”

The purpose of that meeting: To gain access to any “dirt” Russian Intelligence could supply on Clinton. 

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Donald Trump

Example 2: On July 22, 2016, during his campaign for President, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

Example 3: Throughout 2016, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) found numerous ties between officials of the Trump Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.  

On October 7, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement blaming the Russian government for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. Its motive: “To interfere with the US election process.” 

Two days later, Trump publicly stated: “But I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are—Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia.”

Example 4: On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House.

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Trump, however, steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”

A NIGHTMARISH VISION OF “THE AMERICAN DREAM”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 19, 2016 at 12:05 am

On August 17, 2015, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump outlined his strategy for defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He would order American forces to take over the oil fields that ISIS has seized in Iraq.

Trump outlined his plans for future military operations against ISIS on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd.

“Now we’re there, and you have ISIS….And ISIS is taking over a lot of the oil in certain areas of Iraq.

“And I said, you take away their wealth. You go and knock the hell out of the oil. Take back the oil. We take over the oil, which we should have done in the first place” during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

After taking over the Iraqi oil fields, said Trump, “we’re going to have so much money.

“And what I would do with the money that we make, which would be tremendous, I would take care of the soldiers that were killed, the families of the soldiers that were killed, the soldiers, the wounded warriors that are–see, I love them.”

Actually, Trump’s idea forms the plot of The Profession, a 2011 novel by bestselling author Steven Pressfield.

The Profession

Pressfield made his literary reputation with a series of classic novels about ancient Greece.

In Gates of Fire (1998) he explored the rigors and heroism of Spartan society–and the famous last stand of its 300 picked warriors at Thermopylae.

In The Virtues of War (2004) he entered the mind of Alexander the Great, whose armies swept across the known world, destroying all who dared oppose them.

Steven Pressfield Focused Interview

 Steven Pressfield

But in The Profession, Pressfield created a plausible world set into the future of 2032. The book’s own dust jacket offers the best summary of its plot-line:

“The third Iran-Iraq war is over. The 11/11 dirty bomb attack on the port of Long Beach, California is receding into memory. Saudi Arabia has recently quelled a coup. Russians and Turks are clashing in the Caspian Basin….

“Everywhere military force is for hire. Oil companies, multi-national corporations and banks employ powerful, cutting-edge mercenary armies to control global chaos and protect their riches.

“Even nation states enlist mercenary forces to suppress internal insurrections, hunt terrorists, and do the black bag jobs necessary to maintain the new New World Order.

“Force Insertion is the world’s merc monopoly. Its leader is the disgraced former United States Marine General James Salter, stripped of his command by the president for nuclear saber-rattling with the Chinese and banished to the Far East.’

Salter appears as a hybrid of World War II General Douglas MacArthur and Iraqi War General Stanley McCrystal. 

Douglas MacArthur (left), Stanley McCrystal (right)

Like MacArthur, Salter has butted heads with his President–and paid dearly for it. Now his ambition is no less than to become President himself–by popular acclaim. And like McCrystal, he is a pure warrior who leads from the front and is revered by his men.

Salter seizes Saudi Arabian oil fields, then offers them as a gift to America. By doing so, he makes himself the most popular man in the country–and a guaranteed occupant of the White House.

And in 2032 the United States is a far different nation from the one its Founding Fathers created in 1776.

“The United States is an empire…but the American people lack the imperial temperament. We’re not legionaries, we’re mechanics. In the end the American Dream boils down to what? ‘I’m getting mine and the hell with you.’”

Americans, asserts Salter, have come to like mercenaries: “They’ve had enough of sacrificing their sons and daughters in the name of some illusory world order. They want someone else’s sons and daughters to bear the burden….

“They want their problems to go away. They want me to to make them go away.”

And so Salter will “accept whatever crown, of paper or gold, that my country wants to press upon me.”

Returning to the United States, he is acclaimed as a hero–and the next President.

He is under no delusion that his country is on a downward spiral toward oblivion: “Any time that you have the rise of mercenaries…society has entered a twilight era, a time past the zenith of its arc.”

Nor does he believe that his Presidency will arrest that decline: “But maybe in the short run, it’s better that my hand be on the wheel…rather than some other self-aggrandizing sonofabitch whose motives might not be as well intentioned….” 

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

 Niccolo Machiavelli

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Centuries ago, Niccolo Machiavelli issued a warning against relying on men whose first love is their own enrichment.

Steven Pressfield, in a work of fiction, has given us a nightmarish vision of a not-so-distant America where “Name your price” has become the byward for an age.

Both warnings are well worth heeding.

VICTORY IN DEFEAT–THE ALAMO: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on March 6, 2016 at 12:01 am

On the night before the final Mexican assault, one man escaped the Alamo to testify to the defenders’ courage. Or so goes the most famous story of the 13-day siege.

He was Louis Rose, a veteran of the Napoleonic wars and the dreadful 1812 retreat from Moscow. Unwilling to die in a hopeless battle, he slipped over a wall and sneaked through Mexican siege lines.

At Grimes County, he found shelter at the homestead of Abraham and Mary Ann Zuber. Their son, William, later claimed that his parents told him of Rose’s visit–and his story of Travis’ “line in the sand” speech.

In 1873, he published the tale in the Texas Almanac.

But many historians believe it is a fabrication. The story comes to us third-hand–from Rose to the Zubers to their son. And it was published 37 years after the Alamo fell.  

Even if Travis didn’t draw a line in the sand, every member of the garrison, by remaining to stay, had crossed over his own line.

After a 12-day siege, Santa Anna decided to overwhelm the Alamo.

Some of his officers objected. They wanted to wait for bigger siege cannon to arrive–to knock down the Alamo’s three-feet-thick adobe walls. Without shelter, the defenders would be forced to surrender.

But Santa Anna insisted on an all-out assault: “Without blood and tears, there is no glory.”

The first assault came at about 5 a.m. on Sunday, March 6, 1836.

The fort’s riflemen–aided by 14 cannons–repulsed it. And the second assault as well.

But the third assault proved unstoppable. The Alamo covered three acres, and held at most 250 defenders–against 2,000 Mexican soldiers.

When the Mexicans reached the fort, they mounted scaling ladders and poured over the walls.

Travis was one of the first defenders to fall–shot through the forehead after firing a shotgun into the Mexican soldiery below.

Death of William Barrett Travis (waving sword)

Mexicans broke into the room where the ailing James Bowie lay.

In Three Roads to the Alamo, historian William C. Davis writes that Bowie may have been unconscious or delirious. Mistaking him for a coward, the soldiers bayoneted him and blew out his brains.

But some accounts claim that Bowie died fighting–shooting two Mexicans with pistols, then plunging his famous knife into a third before being bayoneted. Nearly every Alamo movie depicts Bowie’s death this way.


James Bowie’s death

As the Mexicans poured into the fort, at least 60 Texans tried to escape over the walls into the surrounding prairie. But they were quickly dispatched by lance-bearing Mexican cavalry.

The death of David Crockett remains highly controversial.

Baby boomers usually opt for the Walt Disney version: Davy swinging “Old Betsy” as Mexicans surround him. Almost every Alamo movie depicts him fighting to the death.

"The Fall of the Alamo" by Robert Jenkins, 1903. Davy Crockett (with upraised rifle) fights off Mexican forces who breached the walls of the mission on March 6, 1836.

David Crockett’s Death

But Mexican Lieutenant Colonel Jose Enrique de la Pena claimed Crockett was one of seven Texans who surrendered or were captured and brought before Santa Anna after the battle. Santa Anna ordered their immediate execution, and they were hacked to death with sabers.

Only the 2004 remake of The Alamo has dared to depict this version. Although this version is now accepted by most historians, some still believe the de la Pena diary from which it comes is a forgery.

An hour after the battle erupted, it was over.

That afternoon, Santa Anna ordered the bodies of the slain defenders stacked and burned in three pyres.

Contrary to popular belief, some of the garrison survived:

  • Joe, a black slave who had belonged to William B. Travis, the Alamo’s commander;
  • Susanah Dickinson, the wife of a lieutenant killed in the Alamo, and her baby, Angelina;
  • Several Mexican women and their children.

Also contrary to legend, the bravery of the Alamo defenders did not buy time for Texas to raise an army against Santa Anna. This didn’t happen until after the battle.

But their sacrifice proved crucial in securing Texas’ independence:

  • The Alamo’s destruction warned those Texans who had not supported the revolution that they had no choice: They must win, die or flee their homes to the safety of the United States.
  • It stirred increasing numbers of Americans to enter Texas and enlist in Sam Houston’s growing army.
  • Santa Anna’s army was greatly weakened, losing 600 killed and wounded–a casualty rate of 33%.
  • The nearly two-week siege bought time for the Texas convention to meet at Washington-on-the-Brazos and declare independence from Mexico.

On April 21, 1836, Santa Anna made a crucial mistake: During his army’s afternoon siesta, he failed to post sentries around his camp.

That afternoon, Sam Houston’s 900-man army struck the 1,400-man Mexican force at San Jacinto. In 18 minutes, the Texans–shouting “Remember the Alamo!”–killed about 700 Mexican soldiers and wounded 200 others.

The next day, a Texas patrol captured Santa Anna–wearing the uniform of a Mexican private. Resisting angry demands to hang the Mexican dictator, Houston forced Santa Anna to surrender control of Texas in return for his life.

The victory at San Jacinto won the independence of Texas. But the 13-day siege and fall of the Alamo remains the most famous and celebrated part of that conflict.

In 480 B.C., 300 Spartans won immortality at Thermopylae, a narrow mountain pass in ancient Greece, by briefly holding back an invading Persian army of thousands.

Although they died to the last man, their sacrifice inspired the rest of Greece to defeat its invaders. 

Like Thermopylae, the battle of the Alamo proved both a defeat–and a victory.

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