bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘WEHRMACHT’

DICTATORS: A MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 20, 2023 at 12:17 am

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have rightly gotten a lot of publicity—for how much they admire each other.

On the surface, this might seem surprising.  Putin spent most of his adult life as a fervent member of the Communist Party, which swore eternal warfare against capitalism.

After joining the KGB in 1975, he served as one of its officers for 16 years, eventually rising to the level of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1991, he retired to enter politics in his native St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad).

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

This, in turn, brought him to the attention of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who groomed Putin as his successor. When Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned on December 31, 1999, Putin became Acting President.

In 2000, he was elected President in his own right, despite widespread accusations of vote-rigging. He won re-election in 2004, but could not run for a third term in 2008 because of constitutionally-mandated term limits.

So Putin ran his handpicked successor, Dimitry Medvedev, as president.  When Medvedev won, he appointed Putin as prime minister.

Of course, the man who actually called the shots in Russia was not Medvedev but Putin.

In 2012, Putin again ran for president and won.

Trump, on the other hand, is the personification of capitalistic excess. He has been an investor, real estate mogul, television personality as former host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” and alleged author.

The Trump Organization sponsored the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants.

Related image

Donald Trump

He is notorious for stamping “Trump” on everything he acquires, most notably Trump Tower, a 58-story skyscraper at 725 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

On June 16, 2015, he declared himself a candidate for the Presidency in the 2016 election. Since July, he was consistently the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

So it came as a surprise to many in the United States when, on December 17, 2015, Putin described Trump as “a bright and talented person without any doubt,” and “an outstanding and talented personality.”

He summed up Trump as “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

Trump, in turn, was quick to respond: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

Two months earlier, in October, Trump had said of Putin: “I think that I would probably get along with him very well.”

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The conservative host, Joe Scarborough, took exception to Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, he’s also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.”

SCARBOROUGH: “But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”

TRUMP: “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe. You know. there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity…”

Absolute dictators like Vladimir Putin and would-be dictators like Donald Trump often gravitate toward each other.  At least temporarily.

Adolf Hitler

On January 30, 1933, anti-Communist Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. For the next six years, the Nazi press hurled insults at its arch-enemy, the Soviet Union.

And the Soviet press hurled insults at Nazi Germany. 

Then, on August 23, 1939, Hitler’s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, signed the Treaty of Non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R).

Signing for the Soviet Union was its own foreign minister, Vyachelsav Molotov.

The reason: Hitler planned to invade Poland on September 1. He needed to neutralize the military might of the U.S.S.R.  And only Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin could do that.

Democratic nations like France, Great Britain and the United States were stunned.

But there had long been a grudging respect between the two brutal dictators.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a bloody purge throughout Germany. Privately, Stalin offered praise: “Hitler, what a great man! This is the way to deal with your political opponents.”

Joseph Stalin

Hitler was—privately—equally admiring of the series of purges Stalin inflicted on the Soviet Union. Even after he broke the non-aggression pact by invading the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941, he said:

“After the victory over Russia, it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country—with German oversight, of course.  He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”

In April, 1945, as he waited for victorious Russian armies to reach his underground bunker, Hitler confided to Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister, his major regret:

He should have brutally purged the officer corps of the Wehrmacht, as Stalin had that of the Red Army. Stalin’s purges had cleaned “deadwood” from the Russian ranks, and a purge of the German army would have done the same.

For Adolf Hitler, the lesson was clear: “Afterward, you rue the fact that you’ve been so kind.”

It’s the sort of sentiment that dictators like Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump can appreciate.

WHEN CRIMINALS SCREAM “LIBEL!”

In Business, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on November 2, 2022 at 12:14 am

On October 3, former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against CNN for defamation.

Seeking $475 million in punitive damages, he charged the network with conducting a “campaign of libel and slander” against him. 

Trump is claiming that CNN had used its influence to defeat him politically.

“As a part of its concerted effort to tilt the political balance to the left, CNN has tried to taint the Plaintiff with a series of ever-more scandalous, false, and defamatory labels of ‘racist,’ ‘Russian lackey,’ ‘insurrectionist,’ and ultimately ‘Hitler,'” the lawsuit claims. 

The lawsuit focuses largely on CNN’s use of the term, “The Big Lie,” to describe Trump’s false claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 Presidential election.  

The phrase dates from Adolf Hitler’s use of it in his autobiography, Mein Kampf: People “more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”

Trump’s lawsuit claims “The Big Lie” has been used in referring to him more than 7,700 times on CNN since January, 2021.

In addition, the lawsuit cites instances where CNN compared Trump to Hitler. In a January, 2022 report, Fareed Zakaria provided footage of Germany’s dictator.

CNN.svg

So what are his odds of winning?  Far less than your own of finding loose change in sofa cushions.

First: Donald Trump is a public figure—arguably the most public figure in the world. Plaintiffs who are public figures or government officials must prove themselves victims of actual malice to collect damages. 

In the landmark case, New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) the Supreme Court declared that actual malice occurs when a statement is made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

This is a more stringent standard than private citizens have to meet, which is negligence. 

Second: Truth is an absolute defense against libel (unless the plaintiff is suing for invasion of privacy).  And Trump’s history as a liar, criminal and traitor has been thoroughly established.

Liar: 

  • He created the lie that Barack Obama—whose birth certificate states unequivocally that he was born in Hawaii—was not an American citizen. The reason: To de-legitimize Obama as a Presidential candidate and President.
  • Throughout 2020, he repeatedly lied about the dangers of COVID-19—attacking medical experts who urged citizens to mask up and social distance. As a result, by the time he left office, 400,000 Americans had died of COVID. 

Related image

Donald Trump

Criminal:

  • He has been forced to shut down his Trump Foundation and forced to pay more than $2 million in court-ordered damages to eight different charities for illegally misusing charitable funds at the Foundation for political purposes.
  • He was also forced to close his unaccredited Trump University for scamming its students. He had promised to teach them “the secrets of success” in the real estate industry—then delivered nothing. In 2016, a federal court approved a $25 million settlement with many of those students.

Traitor:

  • On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of his Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists who had ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The reason: To obtain “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
  • On July 27, 2016, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

These incidents were nothing less than treason—inviting a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Third—and perhaps the most important of all: In a libel suit, the plaintiff must answer—under oath—all questions put to him by the defendant’s attorneys.

Trump, better than anyone, knows the depths of his own criminality. Just as Al Capone knew his notoriety for evil would make it impossible for him to win a libel suit, so does Trump. 

On August 10, he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination nearly 450 times during a deposition at the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, in its probe into the Trump Organization’s business practices.

He would not be allowed to do so as a litigant in a libel suit.

Wooden Judge Gavel Isolated On White Background

Moreover, he has a history of threatening to file lawsuits—and then failing to do so.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, at least 12 women publicly accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior—if not assault. 

Trump’s reaction: “All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Six years later, he has not filed a single lawsuit for defamation. 

So why has he filed a defamation suit against CNN? 

Money—not by winning an impossible lawsuit, but by raising it from his gullible and Fascistic followers.

He will claim—once again—that he’s being persecuted and that “they’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you.”

And his millions of media-hating followers will gladly pony up money they will never see again.

If he loses the lawsuit—or pulls out of it—he will claim he’s the victim of “the deep-state establishment.”

And ask his followers for even more money—which they’ll cough up.

GIVING ADVICE SAFELY—THE MACHIAVELLI WAY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2022 at 12:11 am

Ask the average person, “What do you think of Niccolo Machiavelli?” and he’s likely to say: “The devil.” 

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

Niccolo Machiavelli

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy—with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another. 

Florence, for all its wealth, lacked a strong army, and thus lay at the mercy of powerful enemies, such as Borgia. Machiavelli often had to use his wits to keep them at bay.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

The Discourses (Pelican Classics, Ac14): Niccolo Machiavelli, Bernard R. Crick: 9780140400144: Amazon.com: Books

Most people believe that Machiavelli advocated evil for its own sake.

Not so. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect—or perfectly good—solution to a problem. 

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern—even brutal—action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread:

“A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.”Related image

His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527). This is especially  true for politicians—and students of political science.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer—such as those in business who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action: For men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations. But the reward never equals the punishment.” 

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail to do their duty.  

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in thus, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.” 

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an adviser should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.” 

The person who asked for the advice may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the adviser.

Above all, the adviser must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many. 

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

Related image

John F. Kennedy

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the adviser gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius—and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it—” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: UNLEARNING THE LESSONS OF HISTORY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 10, 2022 at 12:10 am

Vladimir Putin believes himself to be a serious student of history. If so, he has drawn the wrong lessons from the past.

During the American Revolution (1775-1783) and the War of 1812 (1812-1815) Great Britain encouraged Indian attacks on American settlers.

One of the worst of these attacks occurred on August 30, 1813, when over 700 Creek Indians destroyed Fort Mims, near Mobile, Alabama. About 500 militiamen, settlers, slaves and Creeks loyal to the Americans were slaughtered or captured.

Massacre at Fort Mims.jpg

Fort Mims massacre

Inflaming the Indians against settlers didn’t help the British on the battlefield—in the American Revolution or the War of 1812. But it did incite long-lasting hatred by the vast majority of Americans against the British—and even greater hatred of the Indians. 

To cite one example: The Fort Mims massacre inspired General Andrew Jackson to take the field, eventually destroying the Creeks as a nation and wresting Florida from Spain for the United States.

The British lost their American colony. And the Indians were gradually driven from their dominance of the continent. 

Similarly, Vladimir Putin has turned to Chechen mercenaries for help in conquering Ukraine. They are known as “Kadyrovtsy” or “Kadyrovites” after their leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin strongman.

Human rights groups, witnesses and survivors have for decades accused them of murders, kidnappings and the torture of Kadyrov’s rivals and critics.

Just as the Indians hoped to use their alliance with the British to defeat their Anglo-American enemies, so, too, do Chechen mercenaries hope to ingratiate themselves with the Kremlin.

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

Yet that alliance has not advanced Russia’s fortunes on the battlefield, just as the British-Indian alliance did not gain victory for the British.

As Niccolo Machiavelli, writing more than 500 years ago in The Prince, warned: “[Mercenaries] have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Moreover, the atrocities committed by Indians and Chechens only inflamed their enemies to seek revenge.  

In his masterwork, The Discourses, Machiavelli offered a lesson on the power of mercy even in the midst of war. 

“Marcus Furius Camillus, a Roman general, was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it. A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city decided to ingratiate himself with Camillus by leading those children into the Roman camp. 

“Presenting them to Camillus the teacher said to him, ‘By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.’

“Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back. Then he had a rod put into the hands of each of the children and directed them to whip the teacher all the way back to the city. 

“Upon learning this, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.”

Summing up the meaning of this, Machiavelli writes: “This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.  It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.

“…History also shows us how much the people desire to find such virtues in great men, and how much they are extolled by historians and biographers of princes….Amongst these, Xenophon takes great pains to show how many victories, how much honor and fame, Cyrus gained by his humanity and affability, and by his not having exhibited a single instance of pride, cruelty or luxuriousness, nor of any of the other vices that are apt to stain the lives of men.”

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

Then there has been Putin’s use of terror-attacks on Ukrainian cities.

Using bombers and long-range artillery, Putin has tried to compensate for losses on the battlefield by terrorizing Ukrainians into surrender. 

Adolf Hitler applied the same tactic against an equally stubborn Great Britain during the Second World War. in 1940-41.

Unable to invade England because the British Navy controlled the sea, Hitler turned to terror-bombing. 

He believed he could terrorize Britons into demanding that their government yield to German surrender demands.

From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England—and especially London—to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.

The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940

During 267 days—almost 37 weeks—between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed. About 139,000 others were wounded.

But the terror-bombing only inflamed Britons to fight Germany even more stubbornly.

Vladimir Putin has learned nothing from these historical lessons.

He has employed mercenaries and terror-bombing against patriotic Ukrainians—who continue to sweep Russian forces from their country.

If he employs even “small” tactical weapons, he risks triggering a fullscale NATO response—thus destroying the Russian empire he hopes to re-create.

Finally: Even if he conquers Ukraine, he will inherit a hate-filled population thirsting for revenge at every opportunity. 

TWO DICTATORS, TWO CRISES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 6, 2022 at 12:29 am

In the United States, World War II—at least, that part of the war fought in Europe—used to be celebrated in movies and TV shows like “Combat!” and “The Rat Patrol.” Today, it’s largely forgotten, except by veterans groups and the conflict’s rapidly aging veterans.

But in the Soviet Union, “the Great Patriotic War” against Nazi Germany is still celebrated as the triumph of Soviet strength and determination against horrific odds and losses.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is unlikely to be remembered so fondly. 

On April 28, 2006, Putin publicly stated that the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.

“As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.”

Putin was sounding a warning: He saw himself as Russia’s savior who would restore its lost empire.

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

Vladimir Putin

His invasion of Ukraine—officially called a “special military operation”—was intended as an important step toward that restoration. 

Begun on February 24, the invasion targeted the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in an attempt to overthrow the democratic government of President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Ukrainian troops were outgunned and outnumbered. As in the case of the Soviet Union in 1941, Western military analystss expected the attack to quickly succeed. The Biden administration offered to evacuate Zelensky to safety.

Zelensky refused: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

But after weeks of combat, Russian forces retreated, stymied by ferocious Ukrainian resistance. 

In July, the last city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk fell to Russia after weeks of artillery bombardment and street fighting. But the Russians made little progress as they tried to conquer the remainder of Donbas.

In late August, after weeks of buildup, Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in the southern region of Kherson. Ukraine deployed newly arrived missile systems supplied by the United States and other Western countries to destroy Russian ammunition dumps and a Russian air base in Crimea.

By September, Ukrainian forces launched a rapid offensive, recapturing much of the northeastern Kharkiv region, including the city of Izium. Previously, the Russians had been using this as a key logistics hub.

Volodymyr Zelensky Official portrait.jpg

Volodymyr Zelensky

On September 21, with Russian forces bogged down or retreating, Vladimir Putin announced the partial mobilization of 300,000 military reservists. All male citizens below 60 are now eligible to be drafted.

There are exceptions: Employees in IT and telecommunications, finance, “systemically-important” mass media outlets and interdependent suppliers, including registered media and broadcasters.

Still, the announcement set off a massive exodus of at least 194,000 Russian men (and their wives or girlfriends) to such neighboring countries as Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. 

During World War II, this would have been unthinkable: Whether driven by patriotism or a desire for vengeance on their German tormentors, Russians at all levels threw themselves into the conflict. 

On the same day Putin announced the mobilization, he threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend not simply Russia but the Ukrainian territory his forces had captured:

“Our country possesses various means of destruction. When the territorial integrity of our nation is threatened, we, of course, will use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.” 

To underscore his threat, he added: “Those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”

Ukrainian Forces Make Some Gains in North, South > U.S. Department of Defense > Defense Department News

Putin’s threats have heightened world tensions and triggered speculation as to whether he would use nukes—against Ukraine or NATO countries, including the United States.

Volodymyr Zelensky thinks Putin is not bluffing.

President Joe Biden initially assured Americans there was no cause for concern. But since then the United States has stated that it has warned Putin that any use of nuclear weapons would trigger a catastrophic (non-specific) response against Russia. 

Seen against the backdrop of Russia’s titanic victory in “the Great Patriotic War,” Putin’s repeated threats to use nuclear weapons actually underscore Russia’s weakness, not its strength.

Consider:

  • “The Great Patriotic War” lasted almost four years—from June 22, 1941, to May 7, 1945.
  • Russia’s opponent, Nazi Germany, was the most-feared military power in Europe. 
  • The war cost the Soviet Union at least 26 million lives before ending with the Red flag flying over Berlin.
  • Almost the entire western half of the Soviet Union was devastated—first as the Germans overran territory from the Polish border to the gates of Moscow, and then again as the Soviets slowly pushed them back to Germany itself.
  • For Russians, this was truly a “people’s war,” won through massive sacrifice and heroism—and without the use of nuclear weapons, which did not then exist.

Seventy-seven years after the end of World War II:

  • Against the smaller and initially ill-equipped Ukrainian army, Russia has enjoyed a huge advantage in manpower and material. 
  • Yet so low is Russian morale that Putin has been forced to offer huge bribes to foreign mercenaries and even convicted criminals to refill his dispirited legions. 
  • Ukrainians, fueled by patriotism and a desire for vengeance, are fighting—and winning—their own version of “the Great Patriotic War.” 

TWO DICTATORS, TWO CRISES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 5, 2022 at 12:21 am

On June 22, 1941, with 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned. The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

On August 23, 1939, Stalin had signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact with German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler.

The reason: Each dictator got what he wanted—for the moment. Hitler was planning to invade Poland in a matter of days—and he wanted to avoid a war with the Soviet Union.

And Stalin got what he wanted: The eastern half of Poland.

Joseph Stalin

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

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

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

And, surprising as it might seem, each dictator harbored a secret respect for the other.

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Adolf Hitler

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

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

When informed of the attack, Stalin at first believed it was being made by rogue German forces. He refused to order an immediate counterattack.

Upon being convinced that the Wehrmacht intended to wage all-out war, he went into a funk in his dacha and shut himself off from everyone. To his closest associates he wailed: “Lenin left us a great inheritance and we, his heirs, have fucked it all up!”

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

German soldiers marching through Russia

On July 3, after 10 days of brooding (and probably drinking heavily) in his dacha, Stalin finally took to the airways across the Soviet Union.

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

Stalin had never addressed an audience this way, and he never would again.

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

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

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

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

But then the infamous Russian cold and snows of winter halted the Wehrmacht before Moscow.

In the summer of 1942 German forces once again mounted a ferocious offensive, driving all the way to the Volga—and Stalingrad.

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

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

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

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

Almost the entire western half of the Soviet Union was devastated—first as the Germans overran territory from the Polish border to the gates of Moscow, and then again as the Soviets slowly pushed them back to Germany itself.

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on August 19, 2022 at 12:10 am

Sometimes your worst enemies aid you in ways you could never help yourself.

From July 10 to October 31, 1940, hundreds of badly-outnumbered pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) fought off relentless attacks by Germany’s feared Luftwaffe—since known as the Battle of Britain.

But Adolf Hitler wasn’t prepared to give up. He believed he could so terrorize Britons that they would insist that their government submit to German surrender demands.

From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England—and especially London—to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.

The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940

More than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities.  

During 267 days—almost 37 weeks—between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed. About 139,000 others were wounded.

Clearly, what Great Britain desperately needed most was a miracle.

Exactly that happened on June 22, 1941.

With 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

World War II – Operation Barbarossa – Army Tanks

German tanks invading Russia

Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned. The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

Now they were locked in a fight to the death.

People in England were suddenly hopeful. Britain now had an ally whose resources might tip the balance against Hitler—as they did.

Fast forward to 2020. 

After Donald Trump became President of the United States in 2017, he seemed invincible: Over the next three years, he:

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Publicly sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against American Intelligence agencies (FBI, CIA, National Security Agency) which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted  the 2016 Presidential election,
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion. 
  • Gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Allowed predatory corporations to subvert Federal regulatory protections for consumers and the environment.
  • Shut down the Federal Government for more than a month on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.
  • Attempted to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: Threatening to withhold military aid unless Zelensky agreed to slander Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic Presidential candidate Joseph Biden.
  • Threatened members of Congress with treason charges for daring to challenge him.
  • After being acquitted of impeachable offenses by the Senate, Trump fired the Inspectors General (IG) of five cabinet departments in six weeks. 

Related image

Donald Trump

And through all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

Democrats seemed unable to cope with Trump’s legislative agenda and his personal attacks on Twitter and in press conferences.

Even when the press unearthed his latest corruptions, the public didn’t care.

Then, in January, 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic struck the United States.

On February 29, the first American died from the disease.

Donald Trump’s first reaction was to minimize the threat: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”

Then he turned to outright lying: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the Coronavirus….They tried the impeachment hoax….It’s all turning, they lost….And this is their new hoax.”

When many of the nation’s mayors and governors urged citizens to wear face masks and socially distance themselves from others, Trump urged his supporters to defy both. And they did as he ordered—marching down streets shoulder-to-shoulder, most of them not wearing masks, and with many of them carrying automatic rifles.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

In March, when much of the country’s businesses shut down, Trump demanded their immediate reopening—although there was no vaccine nor even adequate testing and contact-tracing facilities. This would allow him to claim he had “restored” the American economy.

Many states—especially in the South and Midwest—reopened prematurely. As a result, by his last day in office—January 20, 2021—American COVID-19 deaths numbered 400,000.

Then Trump demanded that Americans put their children at risk by sending them back to school in the fall—so their parents could return to work. Then he could claim he’d “saved” the American economy—and be re-elected.

Meanwhile, countless Stormtrumpers in Texas, Florida and other Red states had died because they refused to wear masks and/or social distance. His most high profile supporter to die: Herman Cain, the 2012 Republican Presidential candidate.

Significantly, Cain died one month after attending Trump’s Tulsa rally on June 20. 

Thus, Trump, through his arrogance and ignorance, had inflicted far greater casualties on his core supporters and poll numbers than the Democrats ever could—or would.

His lies had been exposed. His followers were succumbing to a disease he called a Democratic hoax. He had nothing to offer as a cure for the economy—or the pandemic. And his polls were tanking.

Seventy-nine years earlier, events turned around for England when all seemed lost. The same proved true for former Vice President Joe Biden on November 3.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 21, 2022 at 12:10 am

Next hero: Marie Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine (2016 – 2019). She had joined the Foreign Service in 1986, and served as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (2005 – 2008) and Armenia (2008 – 2011).

In May 2019, on President Donald Trump’s orders, the State Department recalled Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine. She had earned respect from the national security community for her efforts to encourage Ukraine to tackle corruption.

But she had been criticized by Right-wing media outlets—notably Fox News Network-–and by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Marie L. Yovanovitch.jpg

Marie Yovanovitch

CNN reported that Yovanovitch stopped Giuliani from interviewing witnesses in his search for politically damaging information against former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son, Hunter, had had business dealings in Ukraine.

On October 11, 2019, she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). She did so in defiance of orders by the White House and State Department to not attend.

“She was a hero even before she hit the hearing room,” wrote Charles Pierce for Esquire magazine.

“She told them to stuff their directives, she would answer a congressional subpoena like a citizen is supposed to do. And she didn’t sneak in through the basement. She walked into the Capitol through the front doors, and she didn’t do so to fck around.”

Testifying for nearly 10 hours, Yovanovitch said that Trump had removed her from her post owing to “unfounded and false claims” and “a concerted campaign against me.”

She believed that associates of Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani, might have thought “that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”

And she warned that the State Department was being “attacked and hollowed out from within. State Department leadership, with Congress, needs to take action now to defend this great institution, and its thousands of loyal and effective employees.”

Another victim on Trump’s hate-list was Chis Krebs.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda had played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote. But he got enough help from Russian President Vladimir Putin to triumph in the Electoral College.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

And point man for this was Chris Krebs.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, Krebs had received a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1999, and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law in 2007.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs had served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and later worked in the private sector as Director for Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft.

Now he was director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. Among his duties:

  • Sharing Intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election went very smoothly. 

As a result of the vast increase in election security, Trump not only failed to win the popular vote again but couldn’t get the help he expected from Putin. 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

The reason: Krebs had not only countered Russian propaganda lies—he had dared to counter Trump’s as well. For example: He rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud: There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

In a November 17 story on the CNN website, CNN reporters Kaitlan Collins and Paul LeBlanc bluntly concluded:

“[Krebs’] dismissal underscores the lengths Trump is willing to go to punish those who don’t adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

“Since CNN and other outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has refused to accept the results, instead pushing baseless conspiracies that his second term is being stolen.”

Yet, by depriving Trump of Russian help, Krebs ensured a victory for democracy.

On January 6, the House and Senate counted the Electoral Votes—and pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the face of Trump terror.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 20, 2022 at 12:10 am

Next up: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich (September 25, 1906 – August 9, 1975)

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) also became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

Image result for images of Dmitri Shostakovich

Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person….

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Meanwhile, Stalin has been universally condemned as one of history’s greatest tyrants.

Third hero—Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Graduating from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1992, he received his Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 2007.

From 2017 to 2018 he commanded the USS Blue Ridge. In November, 2019, he was given command of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

On March 24, 2020, reports circulated that three members of the crew had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day the number of stricken sailors increased to eight. A few days later, it was “dozens.” The sailors reportedly became ill at sea, two weeks after a port call at Danang, Vietnam.

The initial cases were airlifted to a military hospital. The Roosevelt was ordered to Guam. After the ship docked on March 27, 2020, all 5,000 aboard were ordered to be tested for the virus. But only about 100 stricken sailors were allowed to leave the ship. The rest remained on board.

On March 30, Crozier emailed a four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore. Given the crowded sleeping quarters and narrow passageways of the vessel, Crozier wrote that it was impossible to follow social distancing and quarantine procedures: 

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors….

“This is a necessary risk. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

Brett E. Crozier (2).jpg

Brett Crozier

Crozier sent his letter via a non-secure, unclassified email to 20 to 30 recipients, as well as the captain’s immediate chain of command. He reportedly believed that his immediate supervisor would not allow him to send it.

And his superior later confirmed that he would not have allowed Crozier to send it.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated. A skeleton crew of 400 remained aboard to maintain the nuclear reactor, the fire-fighting equipment, and the ship’s galley. 

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

By that time, about 114 crew members—out of a total of around 4,000—reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.  

As Crozier disembarked, sailors loudly saluted him with a standing ovation: “Cap-tain Cro-zier!”   

Modly claimed that Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily. It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”

Actually, the Trump administration had frittered away January and February, with President Donald Trump giving multiple—and misleading—press conferences. In these, he played down the dangers of COVID-19, saying that “we’re on top of it”—even as the virus spread across the country. 

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” continued Modly. [Italics added] 

This was the United States Navy under Donald Trump—who threw “betrayal” and “treason” at anyone who dared reveal the truth about institutional crimes and failures.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 19, 2022 at 12:17 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Four heroes, three villains.

Two of the heroes are Russians; three are Americans.

The villains: One Russian (actually, Georgian); two American.

First up—in order of disappearance: Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (pronounced too-ka-chev-sky).

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a major Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

Tukhachevsky.png

Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning—and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin—the son of a Georgian cobbler—resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family. A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do—frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 26 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, 1937, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again—rightly—considered a Russian hero and military genius. And Stalin is universally—and rightly—seen as a blood-stained tyrant.

Image result for Images of Statues to Mikhail Tukhachevsky

Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD secret police sent to arrest him. 

%d bloggers like this: