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Posts Tagged ‘WORLD WAR 1’

UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY–IN GERMANY AND AMERICA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Images of Adolf Hitler outside Landsberg prison

Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the case of Paul Manafort.

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

These included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Weimar Republic in Germany faced a similar danger.

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

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

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

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

Adolf Hitler drew such a judge at his trial.

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

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

A LOST LEGACY: GOVERNMENT BY RATIONALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 18, 2019 at 12:17 am

Fifty-five 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. 

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, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

Since December 22, 2018, President Donald J. Trump shut down the Federal Government because Democrats would not agree to spending $5.6 on a symbolic “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. As a result, 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

By January 13, 2019, the shutdown had reached its 22nd day.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press. 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.

Texas Governor Rick Perry (and now Secretary of Energy) showed similar pride in not knowing 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 they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality.   

And President Donald Trump has gone even further—attacking the free press as “the enemy of America” for exposing his lies and criminality. 

His senior adviser, Kelleyanne Conway, set the tone of his administration’s approach to the truth 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.” 

“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.

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.”

And, that November, “the poorly educated” elected him President. He is their ideal of what a President should be.

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

AMERICA’S “TRUMAN SOLUTION” FOR THE MIDDLE EAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 20, 2018 at 12:04 am

The headline in the February 6, 2016 edition of The World Post read: “Geneva III: The Stillborn Conference and the Endemic Failure of the International Community.”

Then came the waterworks:

“While approaching the fifth anniversary of the Syrian civil war on March 15 — which claimed more than 300,000 lives, approximately 700,000 wounded, 4 million fled the country, and another 6 million displaced within Syria — the international community has failed to put an end to bloodshed in this war-torn country.” 

The Syrian conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is safely located in Great Britain—the total number of dead is now more than 310,000.

And who does the Observatory—and The World Post-–blame for this Islamic self-slaughter?  

The West, of course:

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.”

Got that? It’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

And why are all these murderers eagerly slaughtering one another?

Because of a Muslim religious dispute that traces back to the fourth century.  

Yes, it’s Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of Islamics, versus Shiite Muslims, who comprise a minority.

Each group considers the other takfirs—that is, “apostates.”  And, in Islam, being labeled an apostate can easily get you murdered. 

On April 23, 2016, the United Nations estimated that 400,000 Syrians had died in the war.

There is, however, an optimistic way to view this conflict:

  • Put another way: 400,000 potential or actual Islamic terrorists will never pose a threat to the United States or Western Europe.
  • The United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it. 

In fact, it’s in America’s best interests that this conflict last as long as possible and spread as widely as possible throughout the Islamic community. 

Here are four reasons why:

First: In Syria, two of America’s most deadly enemies are waging war on each other.  

Yes, it’s Hizbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).  

Hizbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.  

Flag of Hizbollah

Al Qaeda—which gave us 9/11—is comprised of Sunni Muslims. It considers Shiites as heretics and seeks their extermination. It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Suffis and other non-Sunnis. And despite the death of its creator, Osama bin Laden, in 2011, it still seeks to destroy the United States.

Flag of Al Qaeda

Second: Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.  

Among the terrorist groups it supports: Hizbollah and Hamas. For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus for Illich Ramirez Sanchez—the notorious international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal.  

Illich Ramirez Sanches “Carlos the Jackal”

Third: China and Russia are supporting the Assad dictatorship—and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.  

This reflects badly on them—not the United States. And any move by the United States to directly attack the Assad regime could ignite an all-out war with Russia and/or China.  

What happens if Russian and American forces start trading salvos? Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on America’s ally, Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?  

It was exactly that scenario—Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies—that triggered World War I. 

Fourth: While Islamic nations like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources—and incentive—to attack the United States.

Every dead Hizbollah and Al-Qaeda and ISIS member makes the United States that much safer. So does the death of every sympathizer of Hizbollah, Al-Qaeda and ISIS.  

The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them. In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.  

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Beirut, their relatives will urge Hizbollah to take brutal revenge. And Hizbollah will do so. Similarly, when Hizbollah does, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hizbollah.  

Al-Qaeda terrorists–now taking aim at Hezbollah terrorists

No American could instill such hatred in Al-Qaeda for Hizbollah—or vice versa. This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.  

In fact, this conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.  

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry S. Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis—and vice versa.”

That should be America’s position whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

FRENCH DRIZZLE WASHES OUT TRUMP’S PATRIOTISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 13, 2018 at 12:23 am

Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II epic, opens with a scene of an American flag snapping in the wind.

Except that the brilliant colors of Old Glory have been washed out, leaving only black-and-white stripes and black stars.

And then the movie opens—not during World war II but the present day.  

Did Spielberg know something that his audience could only sense? Such as that the United States, for all its military power, has become a pale shadow of its former glory?

May 30, 1945, marked the first Memorial Day after World War II ended in Europe. On that day, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, near the town of Nettuno, held about 20,000 graves.  

Most were soldiers who died in Sicily, at Salerno, or at Anzio. One of the speakers at the ceremony was Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., the U.S. Fifth Army Commander. 

Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Unlike many other generals, Truscott had shared in the dangers of combat, pouring over maps on the hood of his jeep with company commanders as bullets or shells whizzed about him.  

When it came his turn to speak, Truscott moved to the podium. Then he turned his back on the assembled visitors—which included several Congressmen.

The audience he now faced were the graves of his fellow soldiers.

Among those who heard Truscott’s speech was Bill Mauldin, the famous cartoonist for the Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes. Mauldin had created Willie and Joe, the unshaved, slovenly-looking “dogfaces” who came to symbolize the GI.

Bill Mauldin and “Willie and Joe,” the characters he made famous

It’s from Mauldin that we have the fullest account of Truscott’s speech that day.  

“He apologized to the dead men for their presence there. He said that everybody tells leaders that it is not their fault that men get killed in war, but that every leader knows in his heart that this is not altogether true.

“He said he hoped anybody here through any mistake of his would forgive him, but he realized that he was asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances….  

“Truscott said he would not speak of the ‘glorious’ dead because he didn’t see much glory in getting killed in your teens or early twenties.

“He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out. He said he thought it was the least he could do.”

Then Truscott walked away, without acknowledging his audience of celebrities.  

Fast forward 73 years later—to November 10, 2018. 

President Donald J.Trump flies to Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI—November 11, 1918. 

Upon arriving, he tweets: “I am in Paris getting ready to celebrate the end of World War One. Is there anything better to celebrate than the end of a war, in particular that one, which was one of the bloodiest and worst of all time?” 

A scheduled event of his trip is a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, 50 miles outside Paris.  

Nearly 2,300 war dead are buried there. And many of them perished in the same area during the summer of 1918. 

Trump is scheduled to take his Marine 1 helicopter to the memorial site.

But, suddenly, he refuses to go.

The White House claims it’s “due to scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather.” 

The real reason: The appearance of gray skies and drizzle. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron don’t allow rain to intimidate them.

Trump’s critics are quick to respond. 

“They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate Donald Trump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen,” says Nicholas Soames, Winston  Churchill’s grandson and a member of the British Parliament. 

And David Frun, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, tweets: 

“It’s incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary – and then remain in his hotel room watching TV rather than pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago tomorrow.” 

Despite the rain, an American delegation led by Chief of Staff General John Kelly and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford still attend the event. 

This marks only the latest in a series of embarrassing outrages committed by President Donald J. Trump, who has:

  • Claimed that “bone spurs” made it impossible for him to serve his country during the Vietnam war.
  • Equated his reckless sex life during the 1970s with the risks American soldiers faced in Vietnam. 
  • Relentlessly defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against all criticism, even as he’s slandered literally hundreds of his fellow citizens on Twitter.   
  • Rejected the findings by the FBI and CIA that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help him win the White House.
  • “Joked” that it would be “great” if the United States had a “President-for-Life”—like China.

Small wonder then, that, for many people, Old Glory has taken on a darker, washed-out appearance—in real-life as in film.

MAJOR DUNDEE: A LESSON FOR OUR TIME

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 2, 2018 at 12:06 am

Major Dundee is a 1965 Sam Peckinpah Western focusing on a Union cavalry officer (Charlton Heston) who leads a motley troop of soldiers into Mexico to rescue three children kidnapped by Apaches.

Along the way they liberate Mexican villagers and clash with French lancers trying to establish Mexico as a French colony under would-be emperor Archduke Maximilian 1.

The Wild Bunch is universally recognized as Peckinpah’s greatest achievement. It has certainly had a far greater impact on audiences and critics than Major Dundee. According to Heston, this was really the movie Peckinpah wanted to make while making Dundee, but he couldn’t quite get his mind around it.

As a result, Dundee’s virtues have been tragically overlooked. It has a larger cast of major characters than Bunch, and these are men an audience can truly like and identify with:

  • The charm of Benjamin Tyreen (Richard Harris), a Confederate lieutenant forced into Union service;
  • The steady courage of Sergeant Gomez;
  • The quiet dignity of Aesop (Brock Peters), a black soldier;
  • The quest for maturity in young, untried bugler Tim Ryan (Michael Anderson, Jr.);
  • The on-the-job training experience of impetuous Lt. Graham (Jim Hutton); and
  • The stoic endurance of Indian scout Sam Potts (James Coburn).

These men are charged with a dangerous and dirty mission, and do it as well as they can, but you wouldn’t fear inviting them to meet your family.

,Major Dundee

Major Dundee (Charlton Heston)

That was definitely not the case with The Wild Bunch, four hardened killers prepared to rip off anyone, anytime, and leave a trail of bodies in their wake. The only place where you would have felt safe seeing them, in real-life, was behind prison bars.

The Wild Bunch

Dundee is an odyssey movie, in the same vein as Saving Private Ryan. Both films start with a battle, followed by the disappearance of characters who need to be searched for and brought back to safety.

Just as Dundee assembles a small force to go into Mexico, so, too, does Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) do the same, with his hunting ground being France.

Dundee’s men retrieve the kidnapped children and survive a near-fatal battle with Indians. Miller’s men twice clash with the Germans before finding their quarry, James Ryan.

Before Dundee can return to the United States, he must face and defeat a corps of French soldiers. Before Miller can haul Ryan back to safety, he must repulse a German assault.

Both groups of soldiers—Dundee’s and Miller’s—are transformed by their experiences in ways neither group could possibly articulate. (Miller, being a highly literate schoolteacher, would surely do a better job of this than the tight-jawed Dundee.)

Dundee’s soldiers return to a United States that’s just ended its Civil War with a Union victory—and the death of slavery. Miller’s soldiers return to a nation that is now a global superpower.

Of course, Ryan was fortunate in having Steven Spielberg as its director.  With his clout, there was no question that Ryan would emerge as the film he wanted.

Peckinpah lacked such clout. And he fought with everyone, including the producer, Jerry Bressler, who ultimately held the power to destroy his film. This guaranteed that his movie would emerge far differently than he had envisioned.

Sam Peckinpah.jpg

Sam Peckinpah

In 2005, an extended version of Dundee was released, featuring 12 minutes of restored footage. (Much of the original footage was lost after severe cuts to the movie.)

In this new version, we fully see how unsympathetic a character the martinet Dundee really is. Owing to Heston’s career of playing heroes—such as Moses and El Cid—it’s easy to overlook Dundee’s arrogance and lethal fanaticism and automatically view him as a hero.

If he is indeed that, he is a hero with serious flaws.

And his self-imposed mission poses questions for us today:

  • Where is the line between professional duty and personal fanaticism?
  • How do we balance the success of a mission against its potential costs—especially if they prove appalling?
  • At what point—if any—does personal conscience override professional obligations?

Whether intentionally or not, in Major Dundee, Peckinpah laid out a microcosm of the American history that would immediately follow the Civil War.

Former Confederates and Unionists would forego their regional animosities and fight against a recognized mutual enemy—the Indians. This would prove a dirty and drawn-out war, stripped of the glory and (later) treasured memories of the Civil War.

Just as Dundee’s final battle with French lancers ended with an American victory won at great cost, so, too, would America’s forays into the Spanish-American War and World Wars 1 and 11 prove the same.

Ben Tyreen’s commentary on the barbarism of French troops (“Never underestimate the value of a European education”) would be echoed by twentieth-century Americans uncovering the horrors of Dachau and Buchenwald.

And America would learn to project its formidable military power at great cost. Toward the end of the movie, Teresa Santiago (Senta Berger), the ex-patriot Austrian widow, would ask Dundee: “But who do you answer to?

It is a question that still vividly expresses the view of the international community as this superpower colossus hurtles from one often-disastrous conflict to the next.

AMERICA: TIME TO AVOID WORLD WAR III IN SYRIA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 9, 2018 at 12:03 am

On April 8, President Donald Trump attacked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Twitter for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria. 

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad.

“Big price…….to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”

In fact, there are ten excellent reasons for withdrawing American soldiers from their current war on ISIS forces in Syria.  

1.  It’s been less than seven years since the United States disengaged from its disastrous war in Iraq.  On December 18, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–killed 4,487 service members and wounded another 32,226. 

2. The United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan. Although the American military role formally ended in December, 2014, airstrikes against Taliban positions continue and U.S. troops remain in combat positions.

3.  Intervening in Syria could produce unintended consequences for American forces—and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism. American bombs or missiles could detonate stockpiles of Syrian chemical weapons—and kill hundreds or thousands of Syrians.

U.S. warship firing Tomahawk Cruise missile

Islamics will see the United States waging a war against Islam, and not simply another Islamic dictator.

4.  Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism. Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez—the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

5.  There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support—only murderers who have long served a tyrant or now wish to support the next tyrant. With no history of democratic government, Syrians aren’t thirsting for one now.

6. The United States didn’t create the dictatorial regime of “President” Bashir al-Assad.

Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it since 2011.

7.  The United States doesn’t know what it wants to do in Syria, other than “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.”

But President Trump hasn’t stated what his “state policy” is toward Syria. 

8. The Assad regime is backed by—among others—the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group—Al Qaeda. 

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. Besides plotting 9/11, It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.

Examples of these sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

When your enemies are intent on killing each other, it’s best to stand aside and let them do it.

9.  The United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia.

The Russians have shipped bombers, tanks and artillery units to Syria, in addition to hundreds of Russian troops. This is an all-out effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to bolster President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime—and show that Russia is once again a “major player.”

What happens if American and Russian tanks and/or artillery units start trading salvos? Or if Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario—Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies—that triggered World War l.

But unlike the Great Powers of 1914, today’s Great Powers have nuclear arsenals.

10.  While Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

Every dead supporter of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda—or ISIS—makes the United States that much safer.

The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them. In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Damascus, their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge. And Hezbollah will do so.

Similarly, when Hezbollah destroys a mosque, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.

No American could instill such hatred in Al-Qaeda for Hezbollah—or vice versa. This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.

This conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

JFK’S GREATEST LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 22, 2017 at 12:03 am

Fifty-four 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 atmosphereic 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 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 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, politicians from both parties 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.

Texas Governor Rick Perry (and now Secretary of Energy) showed similar pride in not knowing 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 they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality.   

And President Donald Trump has gone even further—attacking the free press as “the enemy of America” for exposing his lies and criminality. 

His senior adviser, Kelleyanne Conway, set the tone of his administration’s approach to the truth 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.” 

“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.

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.”

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

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

CHEERING ON OUR ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2017 at 12:10 am

Contrary to the propaganda of Republican militarists and Democratic do-gooders, Americans should be thrilled at the mutual destruction of their most dedicated enemies. Such as is now taking place in Syria.

And yet, faced with an unprecedented threat to their security, many Western leaders refuse to publicly acknowledge this fundamental truth. 

One man who predicted the ongoing Islamic-vs.-West conflicts with stunning clarity was Samuel P. Huntington. 

A political scientist, Huntington taught government at Harvard University (1950-1959, then at Columbia University (1959-1962). He returned to Harvard in 1963, and remained there until his death in 2008. 

The author of nine books, in 1996 he published his most influential one: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order

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Its thesis was that, in the post-Cold War world, people’s cultural and religious identities would be the primary sources of conflict.

Huntington warned that the West’s future conflicts with Islamic nations would be rooted in the Islamic religion: 

The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.” 

Among his assertions:

  • Western nations should distance themselves from Islamic ones. The more both civilizations interact, the greater tensions between them will be.
  • Relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have been marked by Islamic antagonism and violence.
  • A fundamental clash of civilizations between Islam and the West is inevitable.
  • Even if Arab dictatorships fall, the new regimes won’t modernize along Western lines.
  • When the Muslim world conflicts with other civilizations, tensions and wars result.
  • Their primary attachment is to their religion, not to their nation-state.
  • Islamic civilization do not share the general ideals of the Western world–such as individualism and democracy.

Despite such realities, both Democratic and Republican politicians insist on constantly intervening in Middle East conflicts–such as the one in Syria. 

In Part One of this series, five reasons were given for why the United States should not intervene in the Syrian conflict. Here are the remaining five. 

Sixth, intervening in Syria could lead to Syrian attacks against Israel.  

An accidental or deliberate American military strike on Syrian government forces could lead the country’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to attack Israel–perhaps even with chemical weapons.  

If that happened, the Islamic world would rally to Syria against the United States, Israel’s chief ally.  

Seventh, committing American ground forces to Syria or just continuing to bomb targets there could lead to Islamic terrorism against the United States–at home or abroad.

Terrorists have already targeted Russia–which, on September 30, 2015, began bombing airstrikes on forces trying to overthrow Assad.

On October 31, Airbus A321, a Russian airliner, broke up in mid-air, then crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. In Egypt, a militant group affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed it had brought down the plane “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land.”  

D-AIAF (19552328044).jpg

Airbus A321

The same fate could well befall American civilians and/or soldiers.

Eighth, China and Russia are supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.  

This reflects badly on them–not the United States. And any move by the United States to directly attack the Assad regime could ignite an all-out war with Russia and/or China.  

What happens if a case of “friendly fire” leads Russian and American forces to start trading salvos? Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on America’s ally, Israel, in return for some perceived American slight of Russia’s ally, Syria?  

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War I.  

Ninth, the United States cannot defeat ISIS in Syria through air power alone–thus making commitment of ground troops inevitable.

President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIS in September, 2014. The United States Air Force has since dropped thousands of bombs on ISIS convoys. This has not destroyed ISIS.

And its failure to do so has only led to demands by hawkish Republicans and Democrats for “boots on the ground.”  

Tenth–and most importantly: While Islamic nations like Syria, Iraq and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to attack the United States.

Every dead Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda and ISIS member makes the United States that much safer. So does the death of every sympathizer of Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and ISIS.  

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Beirut, their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge. And Hezbollah will do so.

Al Qaeda terrorists–taking aim at Hezbollah terrorists

Similarly, when Hezbollah does, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.  

If the West is lucky, this conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry S. Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis–and vice versa.”

That should be America’s position whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.  

CHEERING ON OUR ENEMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2017 at 2:15 am

“Yesterday’s chemical attack, a chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies, their deaths were an affront to humanity.”

So spoke President Donald J. Trump at an April 5 press conference in the White House Rose Garden.  

He was referring to an April 4 chemical weapons attack in northwestern Syria that had killed scores of civilians. 

The bombing was carried out by the Syrian Air Force in an effort to put down a six-year civil war. 

The Syrian conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad. Since then, the fighting has reportedly taken the lives of 470,000 men, women and children. 

Bashar al-Assad in Russia (2015-10-21) 08.jpg

Bashar al-Assad

Yet, despite Trump’s rhetoric, there is an optimistic way to view this incident–and the Syrian conflict generally: As a win for the United States.  

Consider:

  • As many as 470,000 actual or potential enemies of Western civilization–and especially the United States–have chosen to slaughter one another.
  • Additional thousands are certain to follow their example.
  • The United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it.
  • And Russia–which openly supports the brutal Assad dictatorship–daily earns the hatred of the Islamic world.

Yet, Left-wing do-gooders and Right-wing militarists demand that the United States thrust itself into a conflict that doesn’t threaten America in any way. 

In fact, it’s in America’s best interests that this conflict last as long as possible and spread as widely as possible throughout the Islamic community. 

Here’s why: 

First, in Syria, two of America’s most deadly enemies are waging war on each other.

Yes, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).  Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans. 

Flag of Hezbollah

Al Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. It is intolerant of Shiites and has instigated violence against them. It denounces them as takfirs–“apostates”–and thus worthy of extermination.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

Al Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shiites, Suffis and other non-Sunnis. Examples of sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

On one side of this conflict is the Ba’ath regime of Bashar al-Assad, whose allies include Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and elements of the Iraqi government.  

On the other side are a host of Syrians and thousands of foreign Sunni fighters, some of whom are affiliated with Al-Qaeda.  

Second, the United States has been at war in the Middle East for 15 years–since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

In October, 2001, America first committed its forces to Afghanistan, in pursuit of Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind. Failing to find him, its forces nevertheless stayed on in that country, hoping–and failing–to bring civilization to its barbaric population.

Then, in March, 2003, President George W. Bush invaded Iraq to settle a personal score with its dictator, Saddam Hussein.

After Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, launched the 1991 Gulf War, Hussein had had the bad grace to not topple from power. When the elder Bush lost a second term as President to Bill Clinton in 1992, his son blamed Hussein.  

By contrast: America entered World War 1 in 1917–and wrapped up its fighting in Europe in 1918.  Similarly, the United States first committed forces in World War II in 1942–and saw an end to that conflict in 1945.  

Even the Vietnam war–far more divisive for Americans than either World War 1 or II–ended after eight years of fighting (1965-1973.

Third, the United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan.

America originally intended to withdraw all but a small embassy-based force of 1,000 troops by the end of 2016.  

But as the Taliban re-emerged as a threat, President Barack Obama announced he would maintain 9,800 troops there for most of 2016. Those troops are still stationed there–some of them advising local Afghan troops, others locked in deadly combat with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.   

American soldiers in Afghanistan

Fourth, since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports: Hezbollah and Hamas. For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus for Illich Ramirez Sanchez–the notorious international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal. 

Fifth, the United States had no part in creating or supporting the decades-long dictatorship of the Assad regime–which has long been hostile to America.

After a long series of political maneuverings, Hafez al-Assad seized power in 1970 and was proclaimed “president” next year. With aid from the Soviet Union, he built up the Syrian army. Using arrest, torture and execution, he ruled Syria as a dictator until he died in 2000.  

His son, Bashar, then took command of Syria. Like his father, he has supported Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups. And, like his father, he continues to receive financial and military support from the successor to the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation.

Thus, America has no moral obligation of any kind to Syria–or Syrians. 

AMERICA: TIME TO EXIT THE SYRIAN QUAGMIRE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2016 at 12:02 am

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton disagree on everything–except that the United States should intervene to stop Syrians from slaughtering one another.  

In fact, there are ten excellent reasons for withdrawing American soldiers from their current war on ISIS forces in Syria.  

1.  It’s been only five years since the United States disengaged from its disastrous war in Iraq.  On December 15, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–killed 4,487 service members and wounded another 32,226. 

2. The United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan. Although the American military role formally ended in December, 2014, airstrikes against Taliban positions continue and U.S. troops remain in combat positions.

U.S. Special Operations troops, serving as advisors and trainers of struggling Afghan government forces, still unleash military operations against the Taliban.

3.  Intervening in Syria could produce unintended consequences for American forces-and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism. American bombs or missiles could land on one or more sites containing stockpiles of chemical weapons. Imagine the international outrage that will result if the release of those weapons kills hundreds or thousands of Syrians.

U.S. warship firing Tomahawk Cruise missile

Within the Islamic world, the United States will once again be seen as waging a war against Islam, and not simply another Islamic dictator.

4.  Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism. Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

5.  There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support–only murderers who have long served a tyrant or now wish to support the next tyrant. With no history of democratic government, Syrians aren’t thirsting for one now.

6. The United States had no part in creating the dictatorial regime of “President” Bashir al-Assad.

Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it since 2011.

7.  The United States doesn’t know what it wants to do in Syria, other than “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.”

But President Barack Obama hasn’t stated what his “state policy” is toward Syria. He’s said he’s “not after regime-change.” If true, that would leave Assad in power–and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

8. The Assad regime is backed by–among others–the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda. 

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. Besides plotting 9/11, It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.

Examples of these sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

When your enemies are intent on killing each other, it’s best to stand aside and let them do it.

9.  The United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia.

The Russians have shipped bombers, tanks and artillery units to Syria, in addition to hundreds of Russian troops. This is an all-out effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to bolster President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime–and show that Russia is once again a “major player.”

What happens if American and Russian tanks and/or artillery units start trading salvos? Or if Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War l.

But there’s a difference between 1914 and 2015: Today’s Great Powers have nuclear arsenals.

10.  While Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

Every dead supporter of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda–or ISIS–makes the United States that much safer.

The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them. In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Damascus, their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge.  And Hezbollah will do so.

Similarly, when Hezbollah destroys a mosque, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.

No American could instill such hatred in Al-Qaeda for Hezbollah–or vice versa. This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.

This conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

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