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Posts Tagged ‘WORLD WAR ii’

HUMANITY AS A FORM OF HARDBALL: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 20, 2017 at 12:40 am

Once again, it falls to Niccolo Machiavelli to reveal truths long forgotten—especially by those who subscribe only to the darkest arts.

In his most important book, The Discourses, he outlines the methods by which citizens of a republic can maintain their freedom.

In Book Three, Chapter 20, he offers this example of the power of humanity to win over even the most stubborn opponents:

Niccolo Machiavelli

“Camillus 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 [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp.

“And 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 Camillus] 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 fact, 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.

“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.”

Americans put this lesson to use in 1948 in the skies over Berlin.

When Nazi Germany fell to the Allies in May, 1945, the country was divided into four zones of occupation—one for each of the occupying powers: The United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Within the fledgling administration of President Harry S. Truman, many believed that a new era of peace had dawned between America and Russia.

But then grim reality intruded.

Adolf Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.  As a result, at least 20 million Soviet men, women and children died violently.

To expel the invasion and destroy Nazi Germany, Russian armies had advanced across a series of Eastern European countries.  With the war over, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin decided to protect the Soviet Union from a future German invasion.

Joseph Stalin

His solution: Occupy Eastern Europe with Red Army units as a buffer between Germany and the Soviet Union. Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania and Yugoslavia.

Stalin had promised President Franklin Roosevelt that he would withdraw his armies from these countries once Germany was defeated.  And he would allow them to choose whatever form of government they desired.

But Stalin had no intention of living up to his promises.  And backing him up were 10 to 13 million Red Army soldiers.  The entire United States Army had been reduced to 552,000 men by February 1948.

Liberating the captive nations of Eastern Europe—as General George S. Patton wanted to do—would have plunged the United States into full-scale war against its World War II ally.

And by 1945, the Red Army was a formidable enemy: Of the 4.3 million dead and missing casualties suffered by the Wehrmacht, 85% of them occurred on the dreaded “Eastern front.”

So there was nothing the United States could do—short of all-out war—to “roll back” the “Iron Curtain” that had swept over Eastern Europe.

Image result for Images of maps of Soviet control of Eastern Europe

But Americans could—and did—draw a line in the sand.  That line became known as the policy of “containment.”

And nowhere was the collision between the U.S.A and the U.S.S.R. more likely to ignite into full-scale war than in Berlin.

Between 1945 and 1948, the Soviets increased their pressure on Western forces occupying Berlin to leave the city. The Soviets already controlled East Germany; gaining control of the Western-held part of Berlin would likely be their first step toward overwhelming the rest of Germany.

And, after Germany, probably France—and as many other European countries as possible.

During the first two years of occupation the occupying powers of France, United Kingdom, United States, and the Soviet Union were not able to successfully negotiate a possible currency reform in Germany.  Each of the Allies printed its own occupation currency.

Then, on June 20, 1948, the Bizonal Economic Council introduced the Deutsche mark to West Germany.

On June 24, 1945, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control.  This meant a cutoff of food and energy supplies to Berlin’s two and a half million residents.

The United States faced a monumental crisis:

  • Should it abandon West Berlin—and thus tempt the Soviet Union into further aggression?
  • Should it match the puny Western military forces—outnumbered 62 to 1—against the massive Soviet military presence?
  • If it chose to fight in Berlin, would this lead to nuclear war?

Fortunately for the Allies—and West Germany—a third choice was available besides war and appeasement.

It became known as the Berlin Airlift.

TWO TYRANTS, NO VICTORY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 27, 2017 at 1:50 am

By February, 1943, the tide of war had turned irrevocably for Nazi Germany.

The string of quick and easy victories that had started on September 1, 1939 was over:

  • Poland
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Holland
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Greece
  • France.

All had fallen under the heel of the Nazi jackboot. The swastika flag still flew triumphantly over the capitols of these once-free nations. 

And the word—and whim—of Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler remained law for their populations.

But by March, 1943, all except the most fanatical Nazis could see that Germany was on a collision course with disaster.

  • Under the unshakable leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Great Britain still remained a sworn enemy of the Third Reich.
  • After six months of spectacular victories against the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht  had become hopelessly bogged down in the snow before Moscow.
  • On December 11, 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor by his ally, Japan, Hitler declared war on the United States—thus pitting the Reich against the world’s two most powerful nations: America and Russia.
  • In November, 1942, at El Alamein, the British Army halted the advance of General Erwin Rommel and his famed Afrika Korps across North Africa.
  • On February 2, 1943, General Friedrich von Paulus surrendered the remains of the once-powerful Sixth Army at Stalingrad. The Reich suffered 730,000 total casualties, including nearly 91,000 German prisoners taken prisoner. 
  • On June 6, 1944, American, British and Canadian armies overwhelmed German’s “impregnable wall of death” on the Normandy beaches. 
  • In February, 1945, following the Vistula-Oder Offensive, the Red Army temporarily halted 37 miles east of Berlin. 

So, by March, 1943, Germany desperately needed to hear some good news.  And Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was eager to supply it. 

Related image

Joseph Goebbels

He did so in one of his last public addresses, delivered to a large but carefully selected audience in Gorlitz. 

For Goebbels, the greatest challenge to the Reich lay in “the Bolshevist danger in the East.”  And, for him, the solution was clear: “Total war is the demand of the hour.” 

“Our soldiers, as soon as the great push on the Eastern Front gets under way, will ask no mercy and give no mercy.

“Already, our forces have begun softening up operations, and in the next weeks and months the big offensive will begin. They will go into battle with devotion like congregations going to a religious service.

“And when our men shoulder their weapons and climb into their tanks, there will be before their eyes the sight of their violated women and murdered children. A cry of vengeance will rise from their throats that will make the enemy tremble with fear!

“So, as the Fuhrer has overcome crises in the past, so will he triumph now.

“The other day he told me ‘I firmly believe that we shall overcome this crisis. I firmly believe that our army of millions will beat back our enemy and annihilate him. And some day our banners will be victorious. This is my life’s unshakable belief.'” 

Thunderous applause repeatedly interrupted Goebbels’ address. Yet this could not replace the enormous losses Germany had suffered since 1939. Nor could it reverse the march of the Allied armies as they closed in on the Reich from East and West. 

Now, fast-forward 74 years to November 23, 2017—Thanksgiving Day.   

Donald Trump, President of the United States, speaks by video teleconference to American forces stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Donald Trump

President George W. Bus had flown into Baghdad in 2003 to spend Thanksgiving with American forces. He flew into Iraq once again to visit troops in June, 2006. 

And President Barack Obama visited American soldiers in Iraq in 2009, in Afghanistan in 2010, 2012 and 2014. 

Trump’s “visit” was unique—in that he addressed American troops from his Mar-a-Lago Club and Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. 

The address started off predictably enough: “It’s an honor to speak with you all and to give God thanks for the blessings of freedom and for the heroes who really have this tremendous courage that you do to defend us and to defend freedom.” 

But, being Trump, he could not resist paying homage to himself: “We’re being talked about again as an armed forces. We’re really winning. We know how to win, but we have to let you win. They weren’t letting you win before; they we’re letting you play even. We’re letting you win….

“They say we’ve made more progress against ISIS than they did in years of the previous administration, and that’s because I’m letting you do your job….”

In short: All those sacrifices you made under Presidents Bush and Obama went for nothing.  

“A lot of things have happened with our country over the last very short period of time, and they’re really good — they’re really good. I especially like saying that companies are starting to come back.

“Now we’re working on tax cuts—big, fat, beautiful tax cuts. And hopefully we’ll get that and then you’re going to really see things happen.” 

Or, put another way: Be grateful they elected me—because you’re about to see the 1% richest get even richer.  Too bad you won’t be so lucky.

REPUBLICANS: USING HATE TO WIN ELECTIONS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 15, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Republicans and their Rightist allies have repeatedly compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. But their propaganda campaign draws heavily on the Nazi leader’s own advice.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.

“Those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

Adolf Hitler

Consider the vocabulary Right-wingers use to describe their political adversaries:

“Liberals,” “radicals, “bankrupting,” “treason,” subversion,” “slander,” “terrorism,” “betrayal,” “catastrophe,” “shattering the American dream,” “leftists,” “Communists,” “government takeover,” “socialism,” “power grab,” “secularism,” “environmentalism.”

In recent years, the GOP has targeted gays and lesbians as America’s subversive enemies.

These attacks have come as thinly disguised as efforts to “restore religious freedom.”

In December, 2014, Republicans in the Michgan House of Representatives passed “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

The bill would allow public agencies and private businesses to refuse service to anyone under the claim that their “religious beliefs” had been affronted.

And the State government would be legally prevented from intervening if a person claimed that his/her “deeply-held religious beliefs” was the reason for acting—or not acting—in a certain way.

Thus:

  • An emergency room doctor could refuse service to a gay or lesbian needing medical care.
  • A pharmacist could refuse to fill a doctor’s prescription for birth control, or HIV medication.
  • A DMV clerk could refuse to give a driver’s license to someone who’s divorced.  
  • An employer could deny equal pay to women.

The bill seems modeled on a proposed law that the Republican House and Senate in Arizona sent to Governor Jan Brewer in 2014.

Under threat of a nationwide boycott of Arizona if the bill became law, Brewer vetoed it.

Republicans have introduced similar “right-to-discriminate” legislation in other states as well:

  • On March 26, 2015, its governor, Mike Pence, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This will allow any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.
  • In Kansas, lawmakers voted to exempt individuals from providing any service that was “contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
  • That bill passed the state’s House chamber on February 11, 2014, triggering national backlash.  It stalled in the Senate and didn’t advance beyond that body.
  • In January, 2014, South Dakota Republicans introduced a bill to let businesses refuse to serve same-sex couples on the grounds that “businesses are private and that their views on sexual orientation are protected to the same extent as the views of private citizens.”
  • The South Dakota bill—which was killed in February, 2014—would have made it illegal for a gay person to file a lawsuit charging discrimination.

Republicans claim they want to “get the government off the backs of the people.” But their fixation  on regulating the sexual lives of Americans ensures government intrusions of the most intimate kind.

Since 9/11, Republicans have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America.

Ironically, Right-wing legislators, in elevating religion above the secular law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

What will happen when some Muslims claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?

And when they claim that the “religious freedom” laws protect that right?

Republicans have defended such legislation by equating gays with child predators.

In fact, the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute states that 90% of child molesters target children in their network of family and friends, and the majority are men married to women.

Yet Republicans and their Rightist allies have refused to condemn such heterosexual—and Right-wing—child molesters as Dennis Hastert and Josh Duggar.

Josh Duggar, the “all-American” child molester

On May 21, 2015, responding to press leaks, Duggar resigned as director of the Family Research Council, a Right-wing organization dedicated to fighting sexually-oriented issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and pornography.

In 2002-3, as a 14-15 year-old, Duggar had fondled the breasts and vaginas of five underage girls—four of whom were his own sisters.

And on October 28, 2015, Hastert—Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007–pleaded guilty to structuring money transactions in a way to avoid requirements to report where the money was going.

Dennis Hastert

The reason: To conceal the truth about his past as a child molester. Hastert had abused four young boys when he was their high school wrestling coach.  One was only 14 years old.

Despite such setbacks, the politics of “smear and fear” have been good to Republicans—and their Right-wing allies.  

The Republican “base” refuses to learn that those who portray themselves as morally superior are:

  1. Hypocrites, who are in effect saying: “Do as I say, not as I do,” or
  2. Fanatics, who intend to force their version of morality on others.

So long as millions of hate-filled Right-wingers support the endless succession of “two minute hates,” Republicans will continue to target an endless series of victims.

The good news: As blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and others become a significant political force, Republicans will stop attacking them and court them for votes.

The bad news: Republicans will move on to find other still-helpless scapegoats for America’s troubles.

REPUBLICANS: USING HATE TO WIN ELECTIONS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on November 14, 2017 at 12:12 am

In 1953, Red-baiting Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy finally overstepped himself.

He attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfired, exposing McCarthy as the bullying demagogue he was. A Senate committee voted to condemn his behavior, charging that he had “acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Although McCarthy remained in the Senate another two and a half years, his political influence had ended.

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992.

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

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

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

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

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

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

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

George H.W. Bush

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

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

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

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

Right-wingers had to settle for attacking their opponents as “liberals” and “soft on crime.”

When riots flared in 1992 after the acquittal of LAPD officers who had savagely beaten Rodney King, President George H.W. Bush blamed the carnage on the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s.

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

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

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Exit The Red Bogeyman.  Enter The Maniacal Muslim.

Consider:

  • Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-Minn.): On July 13, 2012, she sent letters to the Inspectors General of the Departments of Defense; State; Justice; and Homeland Security, demanding a “a multi-department investigation into potential Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into the United States Government.”
  • Rick Santorum:  On supporting the racial profiling of Muslims: “Obviously, Muslims would be someone you look at, absolutely.”
  • Mitt Romney: “Based on the numbers of American Muslims in our population, I cannot see that a Cabinet position [for a Muslim] would be justified.”

The 2008 election of Barack Obama pushed the Republican “treason chorus” to new heights of infamy.

Barack Obama

Almost immediately after Obama took office, he came under attack by an industry of right-wing book authors such as Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. 

The following titles vividly reveal the hates, fears and ambitions of their authors–and audience:

  • Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda by Sean Hannity
  • How Barack Obama is Bankrupting the U.S. Economy by Stephen Moore
  • The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists by Aaron Klein
  • The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency by Ken Blackwell
  • Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies by Michelle Malkin
  • Why Obama’s Government Takeover of Health Care Will Be a Disaster by David Gratzer
  • Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policicies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America by Christopher C. Horner
  • America’s March to Socialism: Why We’re One Step Closer to Giant Missile Parades by Glenn Beck
  • The War On Success: How the Obama Agenda Is Shattering the American Dream by Tommy Newberry
  • Liberalism is a Mental Disorder: Savage Solutions by Michael Savage
  • Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism by Ann Coulter

Yet despite Right-wingers’ slanderous and fear-mongering claims, the United States actually prospered during the Obama years.   

  • Thanks to government loans from President Obama, American capitalism was saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration. 
  • Employment went up.  CEOs did extremely well.
  • In contrast to the corruption that had plagued the administration of Ronald Reagan—whom Republicans idolize—no such scandals haunted the Obama Presidency. 
  • There had been no major-scale terrorist attacks on American soil–as had occurred on 9/11 under President George W. Bush. 
  • Millions of Americans who had been unable to obtain healthcare did so under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. 
  • Obama actually stood up to Russian President Vladimir Putin—as opposed to his successor, Donald Trump, who constantly praised him.

TYRANTS AND EMPATHY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

On October 4, four American Special Forces soldiers were ambushed and slain on the border of Niger and Mali. Their killers were members of an ISIS-affiliated guerrilla group.

The next day, President Donald Trump attacked one of his favorite targets—the free press—as “fake news.”

Over the weekend of October 7-8, Trump went golfing. Then he took to Twitter and let his venom flow.  His victims included:

  • The National Football League;
  • Puerto Rico;
  • North Korea;
  • Bob Corker, Republican United States Senator from Tennessee and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

For 12 days after the tragedy, Trump said nothing.

Then, during an October 16 press conference in the White House Rose Garden, a reporter asked him about his silence.

So Trump claimed—falsely—that earlier Presidents—including Barack Obama—had  never or rarely called or written family members of soldiers who died on duty.

But it was his call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, that ignited a firestorm.

According to Florida Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson, Trump’s condolence call was brutally insensitive.  Wilson was riding in a limousine with Johnson and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

“He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway,” Wilson quoted Trump as telling the grieving widow.

Cowanda Jones-Johnson, a family member who raised Johnson, told CNN that Wilson’s account of the call was “very accurate.”

Veterans such as Arizona United States Senator John McCain have expressed their outrage at Trump’s callousness. But this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.

On January 21, Donald Trump—on his first full day as President—visited CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Officially, he was there to pay tribute to the men and women who dedicate their lives to discovering when and where America’s enemies are planning to strike.  And to countering those threats.

Image result for Images of CIA seal

And now Trump was appearing before what, to CIA employees, was the agency’s most sacred site: The star-studded memorial wall honoring the 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty.

So Trump spent much of his time talking about himself.

Among the worst examples:  

  • Somebody said, are you young?  I said, I think I’m young.  You know, I was stopping—when we were in the final months of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young….
  • And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? I’ve been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field….
  • And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech…..
  • So a reporter for Time magazine—and I have been on their cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.  

File:Inauguration crowd size comparison between Trump 2017 and Obama 2009.jpg

Crowds at Trump and Obama Inaugurals

In February, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al-Qaeda stronghold.

The assault resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.

Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said:

“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

* * * * *

Seventy-four years before Donald Trump took office as President of the United States, Adolf Hitler suffered a blow from which he never recovered: The surrender of his once-powerful Sixth Army at Stalingrad.

For five months, 330,000 of the German army’s finest troops had fought to capture that city on the Volga River. Then they had been surrounded by even larger Russian armies and became the besieged. 

Finally, on February 2, 1943, their commanding general, Friedrich Paulus, surrendered.

Adolf Hitler flew into a rage.

  • Not at the loss of 150,000 Germans who had been killed.
  • Not at the agonies of the tens of thousands of others wounded.
  • Not at the suffering of the 91,000 men taken prisoner.

No, what infuriated Hitler was the refusal of General Friedrich Paulus to commit suicide rather than surrender.

Knowing that no German field marshal had ever allowed himself to be taken prisoner, Hitler had, by wireless, promoted Paulus—shortly before he chose to do so.

“When the nerves break down, there is nothing left but to admit that one can’t handle the situation and to shoot oneself,” screamed Hitler.

“This hurts me so much because the heroism of so many soldiers is nullified by one single characterless weakling.”

In April, 1945, with Russian troops about to capture Berlin, Hitler, 50 feet below ground in a fortified bunker, blamed his defeat on the Germans who had given him their unconditional loyalty for 12 years. 

For egomaniacal tyrants, blame always falls on others.

OUR MOST-LOVED–AND MOST-HATED–PRESIDENTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2017 at 12:06 am

Why are some Presidents remembered with affection, while others are detested—or forgotten altogether?

Generally, Presidents who are warmly remembered are seen as making positive contributions to the lives of their fellow Americans and being “people-oriented.”

Among these:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy

Among the reasons they are held in such high regard:

  • Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and restored the Union. Although he ruthlessly prosecuted the Civil War, his humanity remains engraved in stories such as his pardoning a soldier condemned to be shot for cowardice: “If Almighty God gives a man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help their running away with him?”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

  • Theodore Roosevelt championed an era of reform, such as creating the Food and Drug Administration and five National Parks. Popularly known as “Teddy,” he even had a toy bear—the teddy bear—named after him.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully led America through the Great Depression and World War II. He was the first President to insist that government existed to directly better the lives of its citizens: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR 1944 Color Portrait.tif

Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • John F. Kennedy supported civil rights and called for an end to the Cold War. He challenged Americans to “ask what you can do for your country” and made government service respectable, even chic. His youth, charisma, intelligence and handsomeness led millions to mourn for “what might have been” had he lived to win a second term.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy.png

John F. Kennedy

Presidents who remain unpopular among Americans are seen as unlikable and responsible (directly or not) for mass suffering.

Among these:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard M. Nixon

Among the reasons they are held in such low regard:

  • Herbert Hoover is still blamed for the 1929 Great Depression. He didn’t create it, but his conservative, “small-government” philosophy led him to refuse to aid its victims. An engineer by profession, he saw the Depression as a machine that needed repair, not as a catastrophe for human beings. This lack of “emotional intelligence” cost him heavily with voters.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson is still blamed as the President “who got us into Vietnam.” John F. Kennedy had laid the groundwork by placing 16,000 American troops there by the time he died in 1963. But it was Johnson who greatly expanded the war in 1965 and kept it going—with hugely expanding casualties—for the next three years. Unlike Kennedy, whom he followed, he looked and sounded terrible on TV. Voters compared LBJ’s Texas drawl and false piety with JFK’s wit and good looks—and found him wanting.

37 Lyndon Johnson 3x4.jpg

Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Richard M. Nixon will be remembered foremost as the President who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment and removal from office. Like Herbert Hoover, he was not a “people person” and seemed remote to even his closest associates. Although he took office on a pledge to “bring us together” and end the Vietnam war, he attacked war protesters as traitors and kept the war going another four years. His paranoid fears of losing the 1972 election led to his creating an illegal “Plumbers” unit which bugged the Democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel. And his attempted cover-up of their illegal actions led to his being forced to resign from office in disgrace.

Richard M. Nixon, ca. 1935 - 1982 - NARA - 530679.jpg

Richard M. Nixon

Which brings us to the question: How is Donald J. Trump likely to be remembered?

Historian Joachim C. Fest offers an unintended answer to this question in his 1973 bestselling biography Hitler:

“The phenomenon of the great man is primarily aesthetic, very rarely moral in nature; and even if we were prepared to make allowances in the latter realm, in the former we could not.

“An ancient tenet of aesthetics holds that one who for all his remarkable traits is a repulsive human being, is unfit to be a hero.”

Among the reasons for Hitler’s being “a repulsive human being,” Fest cites the Fuhrer’s

  • “intolerance and vindictiveness”;
  • “lack of generosity”; and
  • “banal and naked materialism–power was the only motive he would recognize.”

Fest then quotes German chancellor Otto von Bismark on what constitutes greatness: “Impressiveness in this world is always akin to the fallen angel who is beautiful but without peace, great in his plans and efforts, but without success, proud but sad.”

And Fest concludes: “If this is true greatness, Hitler’s distance from it is immeasurable.”

What Fest writes about Adolf Hitler applies just as brutally to President Trump.

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Donald Trump

Intolerant and vindictive. Lacking generosity. Nakedly materialistic.  

He has:

  • Boasted about the politicians he’s bought and the women he’s bedded—and forced himself on.
  • Threatened his Democratic opponent—Hillary Clinton—with prosecution if he were elected.
  • Slandered entire segments of Americans—blacks, Hispanics, women, journalists, Asians, the disabled, the Gold Star parents of a fallen soldier.
  • Slandered President Barack Obama for five years as a non-citizen, finally admitting the truth only to win black votes.
  • Attacked the FBI and CIA for accurately reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure Trump’s victory. 

At this stage, it’s hard to imagine Trump joining that select number of Presidents Americans remember with awe and reverence.

TRUMP: SPITTING ON THE GRAVES AT ARLINGTON

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 21, 2017 at 12:08 am

The ancient historian, Plutarch, warned: “And the most glorious episodes do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.

Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles.”

On August 15, President Donald Trump gave just such an example.

He did so by equating Nazis, Ku Klux Klamsmen and other white supremacists with those who protested against them in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend of August 12-13.

Donald Trump

“I think there is blame on both sides,” said Trump in an impromptu press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower, in Manhattan, New York.

“I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people [news media] watched it. And you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I’ll say it right now.

“You had a group on the other side [those opposing the white supremacists] that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent….

“Well, I do think there’s blame. Yes, I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. And you [news media] don’t have doubt about it either.”

Apparently, some of Trump’s fellow Republicans do doubt there was blame on both sides.

“There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry. The President of the United States should say so,” tweeted Arizona Senator John McCain.

“Through his statements yesterday,” said South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, “President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer. I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.”

Heather Heyer was the 32-year-old paralegal who was killed on August 13 when a car plowed into a crowd protesting a white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Nineteen others were injured in the incident.

“Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain,” Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio tweeted.

And Arizona’s other Senator, Jeff Flake, tweeted: “We can’t accept excuses for white supremacy & acts of domestic terrorism. We must condemn. Period.”

Ohio Governor John Kasich, who had opposed Trump as a Presidential candidate in 2016, said on NBC’s “Today Show”:

“This is terrible. The President of the United States needs to condemn these kinds of hate groups. The President has to totally condemn this. It’s not about winning an argument.”

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John Kasich

During the Presidential primaries, Kasich had run an ad comparing Trump to Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler:

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one.

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s OK to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one.

“And you might not care if Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one.

“But think about this:

“If he keeps going, and he actually becomes President, he might just get around to you. And you’d better hope that there’s someone left to help you.”

That point was forcibly driven home on the night of August 11.

That was when hundreds of torch-bearing Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and other white supremacists marched on the University of Virginia campus.

Their faces twisted with hatred, they repeatedly shouted:

“You will not replace us!”

“Jews will not replace us!”

“Blood and soil!”

“Whose streets?  Our streets!”

For the vast majority of Americans, such scenes had existed only in newsreel footage of torch-bearing columns of Nazi stormtroopers flooding the streets of Hitler’s Germany.

The fall of Nazi Germany came 72 years ago—on May 7, 1945.  Today, veterans of World War II are rapidly dying off.

But their sons and daughters are still alive to pass on, secondhand, the necessary for standing up to such barbarism.

And so can films like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List.”

At the end of “Saving Private Ryan,” a dying Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) tells Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) whose life he has saved: “Earn this.”

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A dying Captain Miller tells Ryan: “Earn this.”

Returning to Miller’s burial site in France decades later, an elderly Ryan speaks reverently to the white cross over Miller’s grave:

“Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.”

Those are sentiments wasted on those who mounted the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

And they are equally wasted on a President who condemns those who stand up to Fascism.

PROPPING UP THE FUHRER–AT ALL COSTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 10, 2017 at 12:05 am

“The White House is Propping Up Depressed Trump With Two Folders of Propaganda A Day.”

So read an August 8 headline on the PoliticusUSA website.

The story to which it was attached opened:

“Donald Trump receives two folders of screen grabs, transcripts, and pictures of himself looking strong each day as the White House using the communications office to compile propaganda that makes Trump feel better.”

It then quoted Vice News as stating:

Twice a day since the beginning of the Trump administration, a special folder is prepared for the president. The first document is prepared around 9:30 a.m. and the follow-up, around 4:30 p.m.

“Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Press Secretary Sean Spicer both wanted the privilege of delivering the 20-to-25-page packet to President Trump personally, White House sources say.

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Donald Trump

“These sensitive papers, described to VICE News by three current and former White House officials, don’t contain top-secret intelligence or updates on legislative initiatives.

“Instead, the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.”

And how reliable a news source is PoliticusUSA?

According to Media Bias / Fact Check, which bills itself as “The Most Comprehensive Media Bias Resource”:

“PoliticusUsa is a left wing biased news and opinion website. PoliticusUsa typically sources to credible media sources such as Reuters and are factual in reporting as we were unable to find any instances of failed fact checks.

“Though headlines tend to be somewhat sensational, the content of articles is evidence based with occasional use of loaded words that convey emotion. In short, PoliticusUsa is left biased through story choices and wording, but factual in reporting. (5/15/2016)”

Trump unhesitatingly takes credit for the achievements of others. In an August 9th tweet, he implied that, during his seven-month administration, he had greatly strengthened America’s nuclear arsenal:

“My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….”

In fact, President Barack Obama was responsible for much of the improvements to the arsenal.  The Defense Department and Energy Department spent billions of dollars on refurbishing the arsenal and bringing aging nuclear weapons up to modern capabilities.

Barack Obama

While Trump never blushes to take the credit, he quickly shifts blame to others when an enterprise goes wrong.

In February, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al-Qaeda stronghold. The assault resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.

Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said: “This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do.

“They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

But Trump is hardly unique among world leaders to listen only to “happy news.”

As his armies were forced to retreat on all fronts, Adolf Hitler increasingly demanded that his ministers refrain from “defeatist talk.”

Hoping for victory—and stating that it was inevitable—became the key to saving one’s job—if not life—in the steadily-declining Third Reich.

Adolf Hitler

This was best illustrated in his treatment of Albert Speer.  Hitler had often proclaimed him “my genius architect” before appointing him Minister of Armaments in 1942. As Speer revved up the production of military hardware, Hitler continued to hail his “genius.”

But as Allied bombing raids increasingly devastated Germany’s industrial plants, armaments production began to fall. This forced Speer to tell his Fuhrer the unpalatable truth: Germany was losing its capacity to wage war.

Hitler didn’t want to hear it, turning instead to those who fed him a diet of “happy news.”  When Speer’s deputy, Karl Otto Saur, told Hitler, “By Christmas, we’ll have air superiority!” Hitler was ecstatic.

At a meeting with his generals, the Fuhrer announced: “We have the good fortune to have a genius in our armaments ministry.  I mean Saur.”

The promised air superiority never materialized.

As even Hitler came to realize that the end was near, he turned his anger on the Germany he had so often claimed to love.

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish….This nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.”

He ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Fortunately for Germany, Speer dared to sabotage the “Nero Order,” thus ensuring  a future for those who survived the war.

But Hitler’s demands for only “happy news” did not save him—or his regime.

Feeding himself a diet of “happy news” detached from reality will not save Donald Trump.  Nor will it save those Americans who insist on believing it.

THREE HEROES, TWO VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 6, 2017 at 12:02 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

Three heroes, two villains.

Two of the heroes are Russian; the third is an American.

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

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

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a leading 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.

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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 20 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.

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, 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 considered a Russian hero and military genius.

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 (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him. 

A FAST-FADING GLORY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 30, 2017 at 12:23 am

Donald Trump repeatedly boasted that, if elected President, he would “make America great again.”  

He would do well to re-watch Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II epic.

This 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 had 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 unshaven, 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.

“It was the most moving gesture I ever saw,” wrote Mauldin.  

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

Fast forward 61 years later–to March 24, 2004. 

At a White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.  

One year earlier, he had ordered the invasion of Iraq, claiming that its dictator, Saddam Hussein, possessed WMDs he intended to use against the United States.  

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were simply the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.  

“Those Weapons of Mass Destruction have gotta be here somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners of the Oval Office.  

“Nope–no weapons over there! Maybe there’s under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.  

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–the elite of America’s media and political classes–laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.  

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had lost comrades or suffered horrific wounds to protect America from a threat that had never existed.  

Then fast forward another 11 years–to February 27, 2015.  

The Republican party’s leading Presidential contenders for 2016 gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.  

Although each candidate tried to stake his own claim to the Oval Office, all of them agreed on two points:

First, President Barack Obama had been dangerously timid in his conduct of foreign policy; and

Second, they would pursue aggressive military action in the Middle East. 

Neither Bush nor Walker had seen fit to enter the ranks of the military he wished to plunge into further combat. And Donald Trump, who would win the Republican nomination and the Presidency, was a five-time draft dodger while the Vietnam war raged.

Bush, Walker and Trump are typical of those who make up the United States Congress:

Of those members elected to the House and Senate in November, 2016, only 102–less than 19%–have served in the U.S. military.

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

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