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JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART ONE (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2022 at 11:55 am

This October 16 – 28 will mark 60 years since the world hovered on the brink of nuclear oblivion.

It was the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. And it was the supreme test of John F. Kennedy’s leadership as the 35th President of the United States.

He served as President for only two years, ten months and two days.

Yet today—-61 years since he took office, and 59 years since his assassination—millions of Americans still remember Kennedy with reverence, even awe. This despite decades of highly embarrassing revelations about his scandalous private life.

Some have called the Kennedy administration a golden era in American history. A time when touch football, lively White House parties, stimulus to the arts and the antics of the President’s children became national obsessions.

John F. Kennedy

Others have called the Kennedy Presidency a monument to the unchecked power of wealth and ambition. An administration staffed by young novices playing at statesmen, riddled with nepotism, and whose legacy includes the Bay of Pigs, the Vietnam war and the world’s first nuclear confrontation.

The opening days of the Kennedy Presidency raised hopes for a dramatic change in relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

But detente was not possible then. The Russians had not yet experienced their coming agricultural problems and the setback in Cuba during the Missile Crisis. And the United States had not suffered defeat in Vietnam.

Kennedy’s first brush with international Communism came on April 17, 1961, with the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. This operation had been planned and directed by the Central Intelligence Agency during the final months of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s term as President.

The U.S. Navy was to land about 1,400 Cuban exiles on the island to overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro. They were supposed to head into the mountains—as Castro himself had done against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1956—and raise the cry of revolution.

The  invasion would occur after an American air strike had knocked out the Cuban air force. But the airstrike failed and Kennedy, under the pressure of world opinion, called off a second try.

Even so, the invasion went ahead. When the invaders surged onto the beaches, they found Castro’s army waiting for them. Many of the invaders were killed on the spot. Others were captured—to be ransomed by the United States in December, 1962, in return for medical supplies.

It was a major public relations setback for the newly-installed Kennedy administration, which had raised hopes for a change in American-Soviet relations.

Kennedy, trying to abort widespread criticism, publicly took the blame for the setback: “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan….I’m the responsible officer of the Government.”

The Bay of Pigs convinced Kennedy that he had been misled by the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Out of this came his decision to rely heavily on the counsel of his brother, Robert, whom he had installed as Attorney General.

The failed Cuban invasion—unfortunately for Kennedy—convinced Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev that the President was weak.

Khrushchev told an associate that he could understand if Kennedy had not decided to invade Cuba. But once he did, Kennedy should have pressed on and wiped out Castro.

Khrushchev attributed this to Kennedy’s youth, inexperience and timidity—and believed he could bully the President.

On June 4, 1961, Kennedy met with Khrushchev in Vienna to discuss world tensions. Khrushchev threatened to go to nuclear war over the American presence in West Berlin—the dividing line between Western Europe, protected by the United States, and Eastern Europe, controlled by the Soviet Union.

Kennedy, who prized rationality, was shaken by Khrushchev’s unexpected rage. After the conference, he told an associate: “It’s going to be a cold winter.”

Meanwhile, East Berliners felt they were about to be denied access to West Berlin. A flood of 3,000 refugees daily poured into West Germany.

Khrushchev was embarrassed at this clear showing of the unpopularity of the Communist regime. In August, he ordered that a concrete wall—backed up by barbed wire, searchlights and armed guards—be erected to seal off East Berlin.

As tensions mounted and a Soviet invasion of West Berlin seemed likely, Kennedy sent additional troops to the city in a massive demonstration of American will.

Two years later, on June 26, 1963, during a 10-day tour of Europe, Kennedy visited Berlin to deliver his “I am a Berliner” speech to a frenzied crowd of thousands.

JFK addresses crowds at the Berlin Wall

“There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world,” orated Kennedy. “Let them come to Berlin.”

Standing within gunshot of the Berlin wall, he lashed out at the Soviet Union and praised the citizens of West Berlin for being “on the front lines of freedom” for more than 20 years.

“All free men, wherever they may live,” said Kennedy, “are citizens of Berlin.  And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich ben ein Berliner.’”

BAD ALLIES = BAD OUTCOMES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2022 at 12:12 am

For those born after 1975, America’s departure from Afghanistan marks the first humiliating retreat from a valuable ally.

But this is wrong.

In April, 1975, the South Vietnamese Army suddenly crumbled under an all-out offensive by North Vietnamese regular army units.

The United States—which had been been supplying military assistance to Vietnam since the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower—suddenly saw its worst nightmare come to life.

It had poured more than $120 billion into the conflict in Vietnam from 1965-73. At least 58,000  United States soldiers had died there. Another 304,000 had been wounded.

Map showing the partition of French Indochina following the 1954 Geneva Conference

Vietnam during the Vietnam war

User:SnowFire, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

The last American troops had left Vietnam on March 29, 1973. President Richard Nixon claimed that he had achieved “peace with honor.” The South Vietnamese Army was supposedly now trained by Americans to defend the “country” from attack by North Vietnam. 

Then came December 13, 1974—the start of the North’s all-out offensive.

The result: South Vietnamese forces melted away.

This was hardly surprising to American veterans of the war. Among them a favorite joke had been: “There’s a new batch of South Vietnamese rifles for sale. Never fired, and only dropped once.”

By April 30, 1975, Saigon, the capitol of South Vietnam, fell to the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong.

Fall of Saigon

At home, watching TV, Americans felt shame as Army helicopters hurriedly lifted off the roof of the United States embassy. Numerous South Vietnamese desperately tried to climb aboard—only to have their hands stomped on by Americans equally desperate to get out before North Vietnamese forces reached them.

Now, 46 years later, Americans were seeing Air Force planes taking off from Kabul Airport, with hordes of Afghans desperate to leave the country, racing after them.

Said President Joseph Biden: “Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in U.S. history.” 

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joseph Biden

Just as the South Vietnamese Army had chosen flight instead of fight, so, too, did the Afghan Army—in just 10 days.

“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” said Biden. “And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.

“When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces.

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Donald Trump

“Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict.

“I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”

Republicans have since tried hard to blame the resulting chaos on Biden. But in doing so they deliberately ignore the role played by his predecessor, Donald Trump, in facilitating that rout.

As Biden noted, Trump had invited the Taliban to Camp David to discuss the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.  Making this offer thoroughly disgraceful were two factors:

First: The date for this conference was on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of those attacks, was then living in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.

It was the refusal of the Taliban to turn him over to American justice that led directly to the American invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001.

Second: Pointedly uninvited to this conference were any members of the Afghan government, which—officially—the United States regarded as a valuable ally. 

There is a brutal lesson here that Americans have long refused to learn: Bad allies make for bad outcomes. Those who refuse to defend themselves cannot be bribed or forced to do so by others. 

Contrast the “I have to catch a plane” cowardice of Afghan soldiers with the courage of Ukrainian soldiers—and civilians—fiercely defending their country from Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked Russian invasion. 

During the assault by Russian troops on the capital of Kiev, the Biden administration urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to evacuate to a safer location and offered to help him do so. Zelensky refused, saying: “The fight is here [in Kiev]; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

Until Presidents and Congressional leaders learn to distinguish worthwhile allies from worthless ones, Americans will continue to waste lives and treasure on the latter.

JFK’S LOST LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2022 at 12:14 am

Fifty-eight years ago, on November 22, 1963, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been said that JFK left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmospheric testing—and poisoning—by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon—in 1969—Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. From 1965 to 1973, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was a fourth legacy—and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011, the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press-–and not for altruistic reasons. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.” Thus he excused his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.

An August 20, 2019 story in Forbes noted that a Pew Research survey, conducted in July, had found that “the percentage of Republicans attributing a positive effect to higher education has steadily eroded from 58% (2010), 53% (2012), 54% (2015), 43% (2016), and 36% (2017).

“Among Republicans, 59% now say higher education has a negative effect on the U.S., compared to just 18% of Democrats.” 

When Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke announced his candidacy for President in 2020, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade attacked him for having a “huge library.” 

“As if it’s a big plus that he reads books,” scoffed Kilmeade.

In March, 2020, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump infamously chortled after winning the Nevada Republican primary: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

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Donald Trump

And, that November, “the poorly educated” elected him President.

As President, he attacked the free press as “the enemy of America” for exposing his lies and criminality. He scorned legitimate mainstream news media while seeking guidance from ego-stroking Right-wing shills at Fox News—who often proved as ignorant as he was.

His senior adviser, Kelleyanne Conway, set the tone of his administration right at the outset. Asked why then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer had lied about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration, Conway replied: 

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving—Sean Spicer, our press secretary—gave alternative facts.” 

Kellyanne Conway official portrait.jpg

Kelleyanne Conway

“Alternative facts aren’t facts, they are falsehoods,” Chuck Todd, the moderator on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” properly responded.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of more than a rational and optimistic human being.

It marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nor did the failure of air power end there.

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

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

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

Soldier using flamethrower

This situation proved true throughout the rest of the war.

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

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

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

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

American bomber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except that it wasn’t.

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

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

Vladimir Putin 17-11-2021 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE NEWS MEDIA: CHOOSING GLITZ OVER SUBSTANCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 14, 2022 at 12:10 am

For men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel.  Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are….”

So wrote Niccolo Machiavelli in his famous book, The Prince, on how to attain political power.

And his advice applies directly to the reception given the July 24, 2019 appearance of former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller before the House Judiciary Committee. 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

There he testified that Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States:

  • Sought Russian interference during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Benefited from that intervention.
  • Concealed his close personal economic ties to Vladimir Putin by lying to the public about his hidden attempts to secure a construction project in Moscow.
  • Lied to the special prosecutor.
  • Directed subordinates to falsify records.
  • Tried to exert “undue influence” on law enforcement in order to protect himself and his allies.

A July 26, 2019 article in The Atlantic—entitled “The Press Has Adopted Trump’s Reality-Show Standards”—sums up the general reaction of the nation’s press to these bombshell revelations:

“In any other administration, in any other time, a special prosecutor, former FBI director, and decorated Marine testifying that the president of the United States was an unprosecuted felon who encouraged and then benefited from an attack on American democracy in pursuit of personal and political gain would bring the country to a grinding halt.

“But the American political press found Mueller insufficiently dazzling.” 

Among those media:

  • The New York Times: “Mueller’s Performance Was a Departure From His Much-Fabled Stamina.”
  • The Washington Post: “On Mueller’s Final Day on the National Stage, a Halting, Faltering Performance.” And another reporter dubbed him a “weary old man.”
  • The Hill: “Muller’s ‘Blockbuster’ Appearance Turned into ‘Bomb’ of Performance.”
  • Politico: “Bob Mueller Is Struggling.”
  • Right-wing media openly questioned Mueller’s health. These same media never mention that Trump is grotesquely overweight, never walks when he can ride, and eats a diet high in fats and calories.

In short: The nation’s most influential news media—on which citizens depend for their understanding of national and international personalities and events—has adopted the standards of teenagers.

News Media

Summer is when American teenagers lose themselves in movies featuring superheroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man.

Americans like their heroes young and powerful—preferably invincible. They want their heroes to be handsome and their villains to be ugly. They want to see lots of explosions and collapsing buildings.

And if a superhero can deliver a zinger of a line while throwing a KO punch, so much the better.

Lacking a sense of history—or concern for it—most Americans remain ignorant of the men, women and events that have shaped the era in which they live. 

Most of those who watched Robert Mueller testify before Congress knew nothing of the sacrifices he had made for his country: 

  • As a Marine Vietnam veteran decorated for heroism (1968-1971);
  • As a United States Attorney (1986-1987 and 1998-2001);
  • As a United States Assistant Attorney General (1990-1993 and 2001); and
  • As director of the FBI (2001-2013).

Retiring from the FBI in 2013 at age 69, Mueller’s 27-year career as a dedicated law enforcer seemed at last to be over.

Then President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for daring to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign.

And, once again, on May 17, 2017, Mueller accepted his country’s call to serve as Special Counsel to investigate those links.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

Since then, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News had relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.

Never knowing when he might be fired by Trump, Mueller quietly and methodically pursued his investigation.

As a result, Mueller:

  • Indicted three companies and 34 individuals.
  • Obtained eight guilty pleas to felonies or convictions—including five Trump associates and campaign officials.
  • Unveiled the Russians’ determination to elect Trump over Hillary Clinton.
  • Discovered that Trump associates knew about Russian outreach efforts during the campaign. 

Since the onset of Mueller’s investigation, Trump and his Republican lackeys in the House and Senate ruthlessly tried to smear his name and undermine his findings.

So on July 24, 2019,, a Democratic Congress summoned Mueller to testify publicly about the conclusions he had reached. He was forced to:

  • Testify for seven hours before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.
  • Endure powerful, hot klieg lights needed by television cameras.
  • Patiently take questions that were often self-serving 
  • Respectfully answer questions meant to attack his personal and professional integrity.
  • Simplify complex legal scenarios for men and women who have the attention span of a gnat. 

Although Mueller was joined by former deputy special counsel Aaron Zebley, Zebley was forbidden to give testimony. He could only serve as Mueller’s counsel, giving quiet advice.

So the entire seven hours of public testimony fell on the shoulders of a 74-year-old man. No wonder he appeared tired by the end of the day.

A news media that prizes glitz over substance has abdicated the role intended for it by the Founding Fathers: To act as a watchdog over the nation’s leaders. 

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 26, 2021 at 12:14 am

Having made threats of violence an integral part of his successful 2016 campaign for President, Donald Trump continued to make violence a hallmark of his Presidency.

Throughout his run for President, Trump’s followers chanted, “Lock her up!” at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Yet Clinton has never been tried for a crime, let alone convicted of one.

As President, Trump still encouraged his followers to shout this chant.

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

And on August 15, 2017, Trump retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

President retweeted image of Trump train running over CNN reporter ...

Summing up Trump’s legacy of hatred, longtime Republican Presidential adviser David Gergen said: 

“Trump unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country from the day he declared he was running for president, and they’ve been snarling and barking at each other ever since. It’s just inevitable there are going to be acts of violence that grow out of that.”

Gergen said this on October 24, 2018—the day that pipe bombs were mailed to:

  • Former President Barack Obama
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Former First Lady and United States Senator Hillary Clinton
  • Former Attorney General Eric Holder
  • Congresswoman Maxine Waters
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Actor Robert De Niro
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan

Trump had brutally and repeatedly attacked all of these intended victims. And the man who sent the bombs—Cesar Sayoc Jr. of Aventura, Florida—had plastered his van with stickers supporting Trump.

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Donald Trump

On October 8, 2020, 13 Right-wingers were arrested and charged in a terrorism plot to kidnap Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The terrorists intended to overthrow several state governments that they “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Trump had repeatedly attacked Whitmer for issuing a March 23 stay-at-home order to stem the COVID-19 pandemic in that state.

After losing the 2020 Presidential election, Trump ordered his campaign to file at least 63 lawsuits contesting Joseph Biden’s victory. Upon losing all of these, Trump turned to violence as his last-ditch remedy to stay in office.

On January 6, he incited thousands of his supporters to storm the United States Capitol Building where members of the Senate were counting the electoral votes cast in the election.

The Stormtrumpers’ goal: Stop the ballot counting—and thus maintain Trump in office.

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police.

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents, metal poles and lead pipes.
  • At least 140 police officers suffered injuries, including concussions, broken ribs, smashed spinal discs, a lost eye.
  • Many lawmakers’ offices were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.
  • Lawmakers huddled under desks and behind locked doors, expecting to die any minute.
  • More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. 

These are some of the high-profile figures who were seen storming the US Capitol

  Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

And Republicans?

Even after being forced to flee for their lives or barricade themselves in House or Senate rooms, Republicans refused to condemn Trump. On January 11, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection against the United States government. 

Senate Democrats wanted to try Trump while he was still in office. But then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused. On February 13, after a five-day trial, Republicans acquitted Trump by a vote of 57-43, failing 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict.

Since then, Republicans such as Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have recast the attempted coup as a non-violent—even patriotic—event.

“Outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law-abiding U.S. citizens, especially Trump voters,” Gosar said, condemning the Justice Department’s Investigation of Capitol attackers. 

And Greene claims: “January 6 was just a riot at the Capitol and if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.”

A party—Republican—that has made such a heavy, long-running—and successful—investment in violence is not going to voluntarily turn pacifist. 

And a party—Democratic—that has generally behaved like cowards and appeasers toward its sworn enemies isn’t going to survive, let alone preserve democracy.

In May, 1967, Israel faced a similar deadly threat.

On May 22, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced that the Straits of Tiran would be closed to all Israeli shipping. And Nasser mobilized the Egyptian military along the border with Israel. 

On May 30, Jordan and Egypt signed a defence pact. The next day, the Iraqi army began deploying troops and armored units in Jordan. They were reinforced by an Egyptian contingent.

Israel was being surrounded—and its sworn enemies were about to attack.

“We are being bullied,” said longtime Israeli soldier Moshe Dayan. “And the only way to handle a bully is to punch him in the face.” 

On June 5, Israel struck first, defeating its enemies and securing huge tracts of territory as a defensive barrier.

Democrats have yet to learn Dayan’s lesson. They—and the country—may not turn out to be as fortunate as Israel.

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 25, 2021 at 12:05 am

With the rise of Donald Trump to Republican standard-bearer in 2015, threats of violence entered the rhetoric—and tactics—of the Republican party. 

On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot:

“I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”

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Donald Trump

Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable.

Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”

And Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich chinned in. “Leaders don’t imply violence,” Kasich told “Face the Nation” on March 20. “When he says that there could be riots, that’s inappropriate. I think you understand that, okay? Secondly, while we have our differences and disagreements, we’re Americans. Americans don’t say, ‘Let’s take to the streets and have violence.'”

But threatening his Republican and Democratic opponents with violence played a major role in Donald Trump’s campaign for President.

No other candidate—Republican or Democrat—had ever made such repeated and brutal use of threats of physical assault in pursuing the Presidency.

  • Philip Klein, the managing editor of the Washington Examiner,  wrote on the eve of the Republican National Convention in July: “Political commentators now routinely talk about the riots that would break out in Cleveland if Trump were denied the nomination, about how his supporters have guns and all hell could break loose, that they would burn everything to the ground. It works to Trump’s advantage to not try too hard to dispel these notions.
  • On August 9,  Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
  • “Don’t treat this as a political misstep,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who has called for stiffer gun laws, wrote on Twitter. “It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.”
  • “Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him,” said Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA). 

Threats of this type continued to be made by Trump supporters right up to the day of the election.

  • On July 29, Roger Stone, a notorious Right-wing political consultant acting as a Trump strategist, told Breitbart News: “The first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about [voter fraud] constantly. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”
  • At a town hall meeting where Trump’s Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared, a woman named Rhonda said: For me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself am ready for a revolution.”
  • In Cincinnati, a Trump supporter threatened to forcibly remove Clinton from the White House if she won the race: “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,”
  • Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee: “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take….I would do whatever I can for my country.”

Even Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP, expressed fear of what might happen if Trump lost the election:

Related image

Fergus Cullen

“That’s really scary,” Cullen said, recounting the violence at Trump rallies around the country leading up to the Republican National Convention. “In this country, we’ve always had recriminations after one side loses. But we haven’t had riots. We haven’t had mobs that act out with violence against supporters of the other side.

“There’s no telling what his supporters would be willing to do at the slightest encouragement from their candidate,” he said.

Trump even began encouraging his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be “election observers” to stop “Crooked Hillary from rigging this election.” He urged them to act as poll watchers in “other” [non-white] communities to ensure that things are “on the up and up.”

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for…well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.” 

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 24, 2021 at 12:17 am

Republicans in past decades tried—and often won—elections on the basis of ideology and/or appeals to racism. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, the “enemy” was blacks. The key to winning votes of racist whites without appearing racist lay in what Republicans called “the Southern Strategy”—stoking whites’ fears of blacks.

It was this that won Richard Nixon the Presidency in 1968 and 1972 and the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In a now-infamous 1981 interview, Right-wing political consultant Lee Atwater explained how this worked.   

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires.

“So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract.

“Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.…

“’We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’

“So anyway you look at it, race is coming on the back burner.” 

Lee Atwater 1989.jpg

Lee Atwater 

Since the end of World War II, Republicans regularly hurled the charge of “treason” against anyone who dared to run against them for office or think other than Republican-approved thoughts.

Republicans had been locked out of the White House from 1933 to 1952, during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.

Determined to regain the Presidency by any means, they found that attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence—by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him.

Joseph McCarthy

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech. 

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—a “Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992.

After holding the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, they lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turned once more to those who preyed upon their fears and hates.

They elected Richard Nixon, who promised to end the Vietnam war and crack down on “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators.

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

After Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, Republicans held the White House until 1992.

During the 1970s and 1980s, they continued to accuse their opponents of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

Even as late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow.

Thus, the Republican charged that he might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchurian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas—one of America’s poorest states—and then President.

What made this charge all the more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991.

Republicans continued to accuse their opponents of being “Communists” and “traitors.” But these charges no longer carried the weight they had while the Soviet Union existed.

Then, on September 11, 2001, Republicans—-and their right-wing supporters—at last found a suitable replacement for the Red Menace.

Two highjacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center in New York and one struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Exit The Red Bogeyman.  Enter The Maniacal Muslim.

For several years, fears of Islamic terror carried Republicans to electoral victory—most importantly in 2004, when George W. Bush won re-election as President.

But after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, Americans lost interest in The Maniacal Muslim as a surefire election tactic.

With the rise of Donald Trump to Republican standard-bearer in 2015, threats of violence entered the rhetoric—and tactics—of the Republican party.

For example:

  • On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.'”

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 23, 2021 at 12:27 am

It was a moment both poignant and prophetic: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) responding to a brutal virtual attack on her by a fellow member of Congress.

Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) had tweeted a doctored anime video depicting him killing Ocasio-Cortez and then turning his sword towards President Joseph Biden.

Paul Gosar official portrait September 2016.jpg

Paul Gosar

As a result, the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives was now meeting to decide if he should be censured over that video.

“What is so hard, what is so hard about saying this is wrong?” asked Ocasio-Cortez. “This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar. This is about what we are willing to accept. If you believe that this behavior should not be accepted, then vote yes. It’s really that simple.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Official Portrait.jpg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

And the Republican response was equally telling: Of the 213 Republicans serving in the House, only two—Liz Cheney (Wyoming) and Adam Kinzinger (Illinois)—dared to support censure of Gosar. 

A censure resolution is the most severe form of punishment in the House, and stripping a member of committee assignments removes a powerful platform to influence legislation and give voice to constituent priorities.

The resolution approved by the House removed Gosar from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which Ocasio-Cortez also serves on, and the Natural Resources Committee.

“We cannot have a member joking about murdering each other or threatening the President of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech.

“Disguising death threats as a video doesn’t make it less real. It’s a sad day for the House of Representatives, but a necessary day.”

Official photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019.jpg

Nancy Pelosi

Before the vote which censured him, Gosar said: “I have said decisively there is no threat in the cartoon other than the threat that immigration poses to our country. And no threat was intended by my staff or me.

“I voluntarily took the cartoon down not because it was itself a threat, but because some thought it was. Out of compassion for those who generally felt offense, I self-censored.”

Yet only minutes after the House voted to censure him, Gosar retweeted the video. He also retweeted Right-wing podcaster Elijah Schaffer’s tweet of the video: “Really well done. We love @DrPaulGosar, don’t we folks?”

This marriage of violence with Right-wing ideology is not new.

Rolling Stone magazine writer Jeb Lund noted in a June 19, 2015 editorial: “The Republican Party has weaponized its supporters, made violence a virtue and, with almost every pronouncement for 50 years, given them an enemy politicized, racialized and indivisible.

“Movement conservatives have fetishized a tendentious and ahistorical reading of the Second Amendment to the point that the Constitution itself somehow paradoxically ‘legitimizes’ an armed insurrection against the government created by it. “

“This is no longer an argument about whether one party’s beliefs are beneficial or harmful, but an attitude that labels leftism so antithetical to the American idea that empowering it on any level is an act of usurpation.”

Increasingly, Republicans have repeatedly aimed violent—-and violence-arousing—-rhetoric at their Democratic opponents. This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Republicans like Paul Gosar fully understand the constituency they are trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs—and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either.

If a “nutcases” assaults a Democratic politician and misses, then the Republican establishment claims to be shocked—-shocked!—that such a thing could have happened.

And if the attempt proves successful, then Republicans weep crocodile tears for public consumption.

The difference is that, in this case, they rejoice in knowing that Democratic ranks have been thinned and their opponents are even more on the defensive, for fear of the same happening to them.

Consider the following:

  • Florida GOP Congressional candidate Allen West, referring to his Democratic opponent, Representative Ron Klein, told Tea Party activists: “You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That’s the only way that you’re going to win. That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.”
  • Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MINN.) said she wanted her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.
  • Former Governor (R-Alaska) Sarah Palin told her supporters: “Get in their face and argue with them.  No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!”
  • Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”
  • Senator Phil Gramm (R-TEX.) “We’re going to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.”

Republicans in past decades tried—and often won—elections on the basis of ideology and/or appeals to racism. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, the “enemy” was blacks. The key to winning votes of racist whites without appearing racist lay in what Republicans called “the Southern Strategy”—stoking white fears of blacks.

It was this that won Richard Nixon the Presidency in 1968 and 1972 and the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In a now-infamous 1981 interview, Right-wing political consultant Lee Atwater explained how this worked.   

WHAT AMERICA LOST WITH JFK 58 YEARS AGO

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 22, 2021 at 12:07 am

Fifty-eight years ago this coming November 22, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

For most Americans, 1963 was over—and their lives would never be the same.

It has been said that JFK left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmospheric testing—and poisoning—by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon—in 1969—Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • By the time JFK died, 16,000 Americans were serving in Vietnam, with more than 70 casualties.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. From 1965 to 1972, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was a fourth legacy—and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy asked his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means hopeless:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011, the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, couldn’t reach agreement.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press—but not for altruistic reasons. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

  • Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader”—thus excusing his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry (and Secretary of Energy under Donald Trump) didn’t know there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court: “Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you—I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah—-
  • “Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”
  • In short, it’s the media’s fault if your answer reveals your ignorance, stupidity and/or criminality.
  • Sarah Palin rewrote history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”: “He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.” 
  • In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything. Instead, he was warning his fellow  Americans about an impending British attack—as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake—that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.  As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

Donald Trump has publicly celebrated ignorance. After winning the Nevada Republican primary in 2016, he declared: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

Similarly, 58% of Republicans and Right-wingers believe that higher education has a negative effect on the country.

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders. And in seeking a reasoning and educated future for their children.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

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