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Crap, it's no longer illegal:
The Regulation impacts much more than Spirit of America. It provides a legal framework for any organization that wishes to collaborate with our troops...
Oh well, being legal takes some of the fun out of things, but I'm going to do it anyway.
(I'll bet a lot of you criminals out there didn't even know you were criminals, did you? Seriously though, read the whole thing - and be sure to check out the SoA blog reports from Afghanistan, too. As noted elsewhere here recently: if there's any hope for the future in Afghanistan it lies with the guys who are boots-on-the ground, not with the geniuses up at genius level in DC. Here's a chance to give them some support.)
"Roust! Roust! Apel!" the orders shouted by the German guards rang out through the camp again. Evening Apel (roll call) was ordered right on time as usual at 5 p.m., and we fell out to be counted just as we'd done so many times before, twice every day, day after day. But on this snowy Christmas Eve, it brought an especially powerful cauldron of emotions to us all. Over the past few weeks, through rumors and radio reports of recent overwhelming German defeats, we had gotten our hopes up very high that by now the war would have ended, and we might get back home by Christmas. An idea too wonderful to let go of, but met with a disappointment as bitter as the record cold winter snows of Christmas Eve that fell soundlessly onto the ground around us, along with our beautiful dreams of being at home.
Fresh in the minds of our guards was the terrible recent fate of all those involved in what came to be known as "The Great Escape" from this very camp only months before. Although almost all the POWs who escaped the camp were quickly captured, Hitler was outraged, and ordered the immediate execution of everyone involved: the stalag's Kommandant, the architect who designed the stalag, all its guards and every prisoner who had been recaptured. Arguing fervently against this mass extermination, many of Hitler's top officials were able to prevent some of these executions, including that of the stalag's Kommandant, who was instead arrested and imprisoned. But Hitler was unrelenting in his demand that at least fifty of the prisoners were to be shot...
That's the beginning of the latest story from my Uncle Gil, via his daughter Peggy, the rest is here, and is a must-read.
I just learned that Christmas 2010 was his last, he passed away earlier today.
While compiling this review something obvious occurred to me - another annual award-winner. So here it is:
Some might argue against this selection, others might think it's a joke. But if so, the joke's on you - with the downfall of a general and the president's big interview to their credit, combined with the news that President Obama's new "National Security Adviser" was inspired to go into politics by Hunter S. Thompson, there's no denying it - no magazine in history has done as much to shape White House national security policy as Rolling Stone has this year.
I mean, like totally.
As for all you also-rans: try harder next year!
I mean srsly, this year's choice was a no-brainer.
"A Marine with Weapons Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, sprints down the line of heavy machine guns to deliver a map," read the supplied caption, "after a firefight with Taliban insurgents, Feb. 9, at the "Fire Points" intersection, a key junction of roads linking the northern area of the insurgent stronghold of Marjeh with the rest of Helmand province. Marines of Charlie Company conducted a helicopter-borne assault earlier that morning to seize the area. (Photo by Sgt. Brian Tuthill)"
I knew this one was a keeper when I first saw it. To really appreciate this photo you might want to look at a high-res version. I couldn't find it on the DVIDS site any more, but here's one on Wikipedia. Even in that version you might not notice some of the things I see - so I've annotated below using non-technical terms. (Click for legible version).
That's a lot going on, I know. To simplify: of all those elements our Afghanistan partners are the most important. Marjah was the first test of President Obama's new Afghan surge strategy - a combined civilian/military counterinsurgency (but not a fully resourced counterinsurgency/nationbuilding) effort in the long-neglected and under-resourced real central front of the war
on terror designed to convince the Afghans we were a reliable partner before leaving and turning things over to our Afghan partners ASAP before losing the whole Democratic Party - as such the effort was dubbed Operation Mushtarak, or "together" in English.
This Afghan partner appears to be watching the Marine running with the maps. Maybe he's thinking about shouting "Hey, look out for that puddle of water, American Marine partner!!" - but doesn't speak English, so he doesn't. Or maybe not. That's one of the things about great photos - they make you imagine a story. Looking at this one last February I could imagine the story of Afghanistan for the rest of the year.
Here's another great photo that shows that even when they aren't in combat Marines are working hard, but keep their sense of humor.
That photo is actually from 2009 - but it didn't appear here until January, 2010. ManBearPig, the name they chose for their outpost, came from South Park episodes where no one would listen to Al ("global warming") Gore's warning and "terrorists attacked our imaginations - and now our imaginations are running wild!!!""
To the west of Man Bear Pig lies the town of Marjah, the hub of drug trafficking and insurgent activity throughout Helmand. At night, our Marines look at the glow of lights from Marjah and talk about the need for reinforcements to push the Taliban out... other American brigade commanders can point to Marjah-type strongholds that need to be cleared and held in their areas, too.
That picture tells a hell of a story, too.
The runners-up photos of the year are the opposite of that. They're actually words that were so vivid I could see the events described just as clear as in any photo. (For some reason, in almost every one I imagine someone with their face in their hands.)
Since these are in chronological order, they also make a nice "Afghanistan year in review"...
NBC News, Marjah, Feb 8:
"To ensure that the department is prepared should the law be changed, and working in close consultation with Admiral Mullen, I have appointed a high-level working group within the department that will immediately begin a review of the issues associated with properly implementing a repeal of the "Don't Ask Don't tell" policy. The mandate of this working group is to thoroughly, objectively, and methodically examine all aspects of this question and produce its finding and recommendation in the form of an implementation plan by the end of this calendar year."
An astute politician hears "end of this calendar year" (as opposed to simply "year" or "fiscal year") as "after the November elections," and breathes a sigh of relief. Nothing else matters.
Alfred de Montesquiou and Deb Riechmann, the Associated Press, Feb 28:
...a Taliban commander told NBC News' Richard Engel that many insurgents would wait out the offensive.
"What, they will walk down empty streets?" the militant leader asked. "They (U.S. and coalition troops) will come in and announce that they have conquered the area. We will let them come in. They are welcome.
"They will ask, 'Are there any Taliban in the area?' We will say, 'Yes, but they have left'," the Taliban leader added.
"We will not fight them face-to-face," he said. "We will shake their hands, as civilians. Then they will leave."
Marines and Afghan troops cleared the last major pocket of resistance in the former Taliban-ruled town of Marjah on Saturday...Pauline Jelinek - The Associated Press, March 5:
Joshua Partlow and Jabeen Bhatti, the Washington Post, March 6:
The so-called "civilian surge" in Afghanistan is mired in bureaucracy and may not succeed in time to help the war effort, a State Department report found.
The report released Friday said U.S. diplomats spend too much time giving war zone tours to visiting officials . They have struggled to house, feed and transport an influx of new civilians. And they can't get regular sleep because bosses at the National Security Council and others in Washington call for briefings from midnight to 4 a.m., apparently unworried about the different time zone.
Michael Hastings describes a weekend in mid-April in Rolling Stone
The newly appointed top official in Marja, Abdul Zahir Aryan... who goes by Haji Zahir, arrived at this position after a tumultuous personal history that American and Afghan officials have not publicly disclosed. During more than a decade living in Germany, Zahir, 60, served four years in prison for attempted murder after stabbing his stepson, according to U.S. officials.
Three top U.S. officials in Afghanistan and one senior administration official in Washington confirmed his German conviction, though none would speak on the record...
U.S. officials in Afghanistan said Zahir's criminal conviction did not undermine their confidence in his ability to govern.
Bob Woodward, Obama's Wars, mid-May?
"Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says with a laugh. "Who's that?"
"Biden?" suggests a top adviser. "Did you say: Bite Me?"
...McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal," says a member of the general's team. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He's a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto. But this is COIN, and you can't just have someone yanking on shit."
At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry. "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke," he groans. "I don't even want to open it."
Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers, May 24
Holbrooke had just spoken with Biden, who was pessimistic and more convinced than ever that Afghanistan was a version of Vietnam. Holbrooke, in a bleak mood himself, asked if there was an Afghan example of "clear, hold, build and transfer" actually happening.
Not yet, McChrystal said.
Was there a way to actually have a transfer? Holbrooke inquired. For example, in the three-month-old Marja operation involving 15,000 U.S., British and Afghan troops, was there a way to take out, say, one U.S. company made up of just several hundred soldiers and transfer their responsibilities to the Afghans? "It would prove the concept," Holbrooke said. "It would prove we are not trapped."
"That's a good idea," McChrystal replied. He paused, and thought hard for a long time. "No, we're not ready yet."
Michael Hastings, from Afghanistan, in Rolling Stone June 23::
After his recent visits to DC and Europe, McChrystal returned with a renewed appreciation for the political anxiety in the global capitals.
"People are asking: Are we failing?" McChrystal said in one briefing.
"This is a bleeding ulcer right now," McChrystal told a group of Afghan officials, international commanders in southern Afghanistan and civilian strategists who are leading the effort to oust the Taliban fighters from Helmand.
"You don't feel it here," he said during a 10-hour front-line strategy review, "but I'll tell you, it's a bleeding ulcer outside."
Progress in Marjah has been slow, however, in part because no one who planned the operation realized how hard it would be to convince residents that they could trust representatives of an Afghan government that had sent them corrupt police and inept leaders before they turned to the Taliban.
"Petraeus makes sense. He's considered the hero of Iraq, and he has the public's trust. He won't be caught dead calling the offensive in Marja a "bleeding ulcer," as McChrystal did. His appointment neutralizes him as a potential (though highly unlikely) political rival for 2012..."Barack Obama quoted by Jann Wenner in Rolling Stone, on events in June:
Peter Baker, the New York Times, June 28:
"I was in my office in the residence, in the Treaty Room. Joe Biden called me -- he was the first one who heard about it. I think it was Sunday night, and I had one of the staff here send me up a copy, and I read through the article...[General McChrystal] showed bad judgment. When I put somebody in charge of the lives of 100,000 young men and women in a very hazardous situation, they've got to conduct themselves at the highest standards, and he didn't meet those standards...
The fact of the matter is, when we came in, what we learned was that the neglect of Afghanistan had been more profound than we expected... What we've had to do after an extensive review that I engaged in was to say to our commanders on the ground, "You guys have to have a strategy in which we are training Afghan security forces, we're going to break the Taliban momentum, but I am going to establish a date at which we start transitioning down and we start turning these security functions over to a newly trained Afghan security force." That is what we're in the process of doing...
It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election... Everybody out there has to be thinking about what's at stake in this election and if they want to move forward over the next two years or six years or 10 years on key issues like climate change...
Bob Woodward, Obama's Wars, unspecified date:
"That's why they won't work with us," Cpl. Lisa Gardner, one of the Marines, told a reporter traveling with the unit. "They say you'll leave in 2011 and the Taliban will chop their heads off. It's so frustrating."
Later in the day, Corporal Gardner and the other Marine, Cpl. Diana Amaya, reported the villager's reaction back at the base. Lance Cpl. Caleb Quessenberry advised them on how to deal with similar comments in the future. "Roll it off as, 'That's what somebody's saying,' " he told them. "As far as we know, we're here."
A senior American intelligence official said the Taliban had effectively used the deadline to their advantage...
Unattributed, the Associated Press, July 15:
In one discussion about the tensions between Pakistan and India, Holbrooke introduced a new angle. "There's a global warming dimension of this struggle, Mr. President," he said.
There are tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops encamped on the glaciers in the Himalayas that feed the rivers into Pakistan and India, he said. "Their encampments are melting the glaciers very quickly." There's a chance that river valleys in Pakistan and perhaps even India could be flooded.
Marine Corps Public Affairs, September 11:
Officials on Wednesday confirmed that the government representative in the troubled southern district of Marjah had been replaced, barely six months after a major NATO military offensive to retake the area from the Taliban.
Provincial spokesman Daoud Ahmadi said Abdul Zahir has been replaced as district chief as part of a "reform procedure." He would not say if Zahir was removed because of continued instability in Marjah. The southern farming town -- much like the current Kandahar push -- was intended to be a showcase of good Afghan governance after combined Afghan and international forces expelled the Taliban, but authorities have struggled to consolidate their control.
November - Tom Donilon (President Obama's newly appointed National Security Adviser) biography:
The Marjah marketplace reopened in Marjah, Sept. 11, during a festival known as Mela... More than 300 people came to the reopening and ribbon-cutting ceremony...
The Mela is a slap in the face to the Taliban, because it is the Afghan government and coalition forces coming together to deliver something very tangible that the people of Marjah wanted... "It's an absolute symbol of success."
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Washington Post, December 13:
He was inspired to go into politics after reading Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail by Hunter S. Thompson in high school. He moved to Washington, D.C., for college, receiving his undergraduate degree from Catholic University in 1977.
In 1980, at the age of 24, he worked on the Democratic National Convention and helped thwart Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's (D-Mass.) last-minute bid for the presidential nomination... later, Donilon helped Carter transition back to private life after he lost the presidency to Ronald Reagan.
Four years after that, Donilon was back on the national stage as campaign coordinator for 1984 Democratic presidential candidate Walter F. Mondale.
He earned a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1985 and was a member of the school's Law Review.
In 1988, Donilon served as one of then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden's (D-Del.) closest advisers during his presidential campaign...
As Mr. Holbrooke was sedated for surgery, family members said, his final words were to his Pakistani surgeon: "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."Obama State Department Spokesman, denying Holbrooke the last word, December 14:
December - Congress repeals their Don't Ask Don't Tell policy:
I should note that a lot of media coverage this morning about the interaction between Ambassador Holbrooke and his medical team as he was preparing for surgery for Friday -- I've consulted with a number of folks who were in the room.
There was a, you know, lengthy exchange with Ambassador Holbrooke and the medical team, probably reflecting Richard's relentless pursuit of the policy that he had -- he had helped to craft and was charged by the president and the secretary with carrying out.
At one point, the medical team said, "You've got to relax."
And Richard said, "I can't relax. I'm worried about Afghanistan and Pakistan."
And then after some additional exchanges, you know, the medical team finally -- finally said, "Well, tell you what; we'll try to fix this challenge while you're undergoing surgery."
And he said, "Yeah, see if you can take care of that, including ending the war."
But certainly it -- it says two things about Richard Holbrooke in my mind. No. 1, he always wanted to make sure he got the last word. And -- and secondly, it just showed how he was singularly focused on pursuing and advancing the -- the process and the policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to bring them to a successful conclusion.
"No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie or look over their shoulder," Mr. Obama said during a signing ceremony in a packed auditorium at the Interior Department here.Joe Biden, Meet the Press, December 19:
MR. GREGORY: After 10 years, Mr. Vice President, can't you just say straight whether we're winning or losing?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Well...
MR. GREGORY: Don't the American people deserve to know something about where we stand?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Well, no--they--I, I--the one thing I've never been accused of is not being straight. They are--we are making progress.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah...
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Are we making sufficient progress fast enough? The answer remains to be seen. Here's what we said. We said we were going to--we--after seven years of neglect of an Afghan policy when we came to office, we had to sit down. I went off to Afghanistan at the president's request, came back with a recommendation, and said we have to clarify our objectives and then decide what forces we need in order to sustain the possibility of making sure we accomplish those objectives. We've done that. We said we'd sit down in December and make--and look at it and review the progress we're making. We were honest with the American people, we're making progress in all fronts, more in some areas than in others. We are going to, come July, begin to draw down American forces and transfer responsibility to the...
Which is pretty much how last year ended, too. Imagine that.
And update: having reviewed this round-up, here's another annual award.
"Anyone who thinks U.S. soldiers sit around passing out Snickers bars all day as part of counterinsurgency operations needs to visit the Arghandab."
That's a quote from Andrew Exum, who spent some time in Afghanistan earlier this month. His is an opinion I value - here's more from his trip report:
I came away really impressed with the company commander, the ODA team leader, the platoon leaders, and the noncommissioned officers fighting in the northern ARV. Really, really sophisticated, and in high spirits as they're going about their work. ... But make no mistake: U.S. combat arms units are doing a lot of killing of the Taliban in Afghanistan and running the kind of complex, kinetic operations that would knock the socks of a JRTC O/C. So this idea that U.S. soldiers have lost their "warrior spirit" on account of counterinsurgency or have forgotten how to fight conventionally is nonsense. These men are calling for fire, coordinating assaults, and killing Taliban every day of the week under conditions worlds more demanding than anything a U.S. unit went through at the NTC or JRTC in the 1990s. Anyone who thinks U.S. soldiers sit around passing out Snickers bars all day as part of counterinsurgency operations needs to visit the Arghandab.
"Counterinsurgency, as practiced at the tactical level," he wrote at the beginning of that parargraph, "is the best I have ever seen it practiced."
Brought this to my mind, it did...
COIN is not a fluffy bunny warfare world where no one gets hurt and we all ride unicorns over rainbows. It is very much killing the enemy. Protecting the population requires it.
That wasn't a warning about approaching the task - the people doing it know all too well it is what it is. It was a caution about marketing to the folks back home. Oversell that fluffy bunny angle and you'll get what we had for much of the past year and a half, perfectly illustrated in this quote:
"You better be out there hitting four or five targets tonight," McChrystal will tell a Navy Seal he sees in the hallway at headquarters. Then he'll add, "I'm going to have to scold you in the morning for it, though."
Our hypothetical Navy Seal knows it is what it is, too. He wouldn't spend the next night crying into his hypothetical pillow. The problem with this particular marketing scheme is that the people (let's call them otherwise steadfast Obama supporters) it's designed to convince aren't buying it, never would have and never will - and they can read that quote in full and understand it completely. Meanwhile, otherwise steadfast war-on-terror supporters can fixate on the "scold" part, ignore the hitting targets bit, and express outrage over the thought that a Navy Seal was off crying in his pillow instead of bein' out killin' Muslims who is all tryin' to come over here and make us wear burkhas!!! The predictable result is a drop in public support for the effort. ("Welcome to the club," our first group might say to the second...)
But the real problem isn't that someone (someone whose work address, if not home, is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) chose the wrong marketing scheme back in 2009 (back when it mattered). The problem - and it's one of many - is that someone thought a marketing scheme was necessary - or that there's one that would "work."
How did we win this war? There are complex answers to that question, but there is also a simple one that is true and is the basis for all the complexities that spring from it: We won the war because United States Soldiers and Sailors and Airmen and Marines do not quit.
That's me writing of (and from) Iraq in November, 2007. I could have supported my point with more facts and figures than the publicly-released ones I used (which really were the important ones, however) but if I had then Bradley Manning might not be alone in his cell today. I'm not sure more facts would have helped anyway - at the time the conventional wisdom was that we'd been handed our asses, countered by arguments that we were in a long, hard slog with no light at the end of the tunnel. I understood the development of those two competing marketing campaigns then, and knew that "we've won" - that simplified, non-intellectual assessment of reality - was at odds with both of them, and true. I'd waited a long time to write that, and I'd like to write the same thing about Afghanistan some day - some day when it's true, too.
If there's any hope for that, it's at least hinted at in Exum's bottom line: "There is cause for much encouragement about the way in which this conflict is being fought at the tactical and operational levels." Those would be the levels where those same Soldiers and Sailors and Airmen and Marines I wrote about three years ago are doing their bit. Above that is a place with no room for such simple concepts; there the experts dwell.
To the first, a few of the one-star reviews from the Amazon page: "Self-absorbed perverication!" - - "mindless drival" - - "The semantics and grammar are on par with high school level writing, maybe worse" and (of course) WE LEARN MUCH FROM THIS WEALTHY AWOL TRAITOR NOT ROTTING IN JAIL INSTEAD OF ON THE BEST SELLER LIST. (All caps in original.) While others can certainly state similar cases with more eloquence and fewer spelling errors, I think those examples pretty much capture the essence of the eternal complaints against George Bush. It will take a few decades, the author himself acknowledges on page one of his text, before his or any presidency can be judged. I don't know if I'll ever be able to read critiques of his without wondering how much self-restraint the critic (or his editor) exercised to suppress the desire for allcaps, typos, and exclamation points. Judge a man based purely on those who hate him most and George Bush is among the greats.
Like those "reviewers" I haven't read the book. I've read the first few pages - where I've already seen everything more "serious" (paid, even) reviewers have referenced in their efforts, favorable or not. But one small and important thing I noticed in those early pages: my copy is an eighth printing of a volume released just over a month ago.
Not so with Hero. Released a week later than Decision Points, my off-the-shelf/gift from the kids copy is a 1st/1st. The one-star reviews are useful here, if not an indication of the quality of the book: they're due to the price of the Kindle edition. (At twenty bucks it's equal to the hardcopy - a legitimate complaint.) Worse news still for Kindle fans, the four star reviewers mostly enjoyed the book but dinged it for numerous typographical glitches in that pricey Kindle version.
I haven't read this one yet, either - but I will. It was while bringing up the Amazon page to show the daughters what books dad might want for Christmas (this one, among others) that I was reminded of that other one at all. They're both on the short list of recent books I want, but for whatever reason Hero was the one that was on my mind. While I suspect I won't be surprised, I'm curious about George Bush's view of our war. I probably own more books about Iraq than the average American (hey, it ain't braggin' if no one cares). My collection includes books written from multiple perspectives - some authored by friends, many sent by the publishers, a few I actually purchased, and all I've actually read - and regardless of what you think of the man no such collection could be complete without the contribution of the commander-in-chief. But it was Korda's (recently here and here) book that was the automatic answer to the "are there any books you want for Christmas, dad?" question and that reminded me that oh yeah, this one, too with regards to Decision Points. (More specifically my daughter pointing to it on the Amazon front page and asking "what about this one?" - but she was right. "Yes. That, too.") And Hero is the one that I know I'll learn something from.
I've got a couple copies of Seven Pillars (but not yet one of the complete 1922 text - it was on my list but not in the store), and I've seen the movie (really, no Blu-ray yet?) but I've never read a book-length biography of the man.
After unwrapping both and seeing them together I realized that I had a matched set of books - black covers, gold highlights - similarities more evident when viewing the spines. That's superficial and coincidental, but on further thought I realized what real bookends these were, an alpha and (for now, at least) omega of the history of modern Iraq - at least, Western influences in modern Iraq. (I believe beyond doubt the people who actually live there will write their own history in their own language - one I'll never be able to read.) That deeper symmetry is hardly astounding, but it wasn't inevitable either; there were other books on my list not related to Iraq, but these are the two I received.
More later, perhaps. For now I've got pages to turn.
- among the lightest snowfalls I've ever seen (in a quarter-century in the weather business all over the globe) but nonetheless, snow. "A day late..." the Mrs. points out. She's braving the crowds at the mall, but this was an event worth alerting her to via phone.
Last year Savannah experienced its first snowfall in 14 years. Fortunately, thanks to the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, I know this is because all the man-caused global warming has temporarily shifted to places on the globe where there aren't so many people to notice it (aka "That snow outside is what global warming looks like") otherwise I'd probably say something silly and unscientifical about what my freaking heating bill is going to look like this month...
Also fortunately, I think to myself as I turn on the heat, I can rest assured the Department of Homeland Security is ready for this!
Now, where's my shovel...?
Bob Hope's USO tour of Southeast Asia, 1967
(For more recent USO Christmas video, here's Robin Williams & Company from Iraq.)
I saw Bob Hope almost thirty years after those shows in the video above. I didn't see his act, I just happened to be on duty as he passed through to board a military aircraft for a flight home, perhaps the final time (of who knows how many) he traveled by military air. I wrote about that here in 2003, on the occasion of his 100th birthday. That post is reproduced below.
Here, go check this out. Have some fun, then come back here and read this...
1995, Eglin Air Force Base, NW Florida: An old old man stands assisted on "the ramp", the acres and acres of pavement where aircraft are parked and taxi; where they are when they are on the ground but not on the runway or in a hangar. An Air Force aircraft stands ready to transport this man, probably would transport him anywhere in the world if he said "go." He is not in the military; has never been. He is frail, skinny-legged to the point one wonders how he could stand. He is however, in the service, and has been for most of his life.
Bob Hope, of course. The legend. He has retired from all performances save one. He does an annual fundraiser for Bob Hope Village, the Air Force Enlisted Widows home just outside the gates of Eglin in beautiful Shalimar, Florida. Here live the widows of the men who defeated Hitler, and of some who held the 38th Parallel that stands to this day as the frontier of freedom from communist tyranny. Some served from WWII through Korea and Vietnam before retiring, to modest pensions and better times. All were heroes.
These are not spacious luxury accommodations by any means. Those who live there would not be familiar with that lifestyle. They probably moved to new "quarters" every two or three years for most of their lives, getting rid of much of their possessions each time to remain below the woefully inadequate weight limits imposed on the military. These women are used to a simple lifestyle, and that is what this place offers. But for this these surviving members of the Greatest Generation would have nothing.
Had you even heard of this place before? If a modern celebrity were to support something of this nature it would be trumpeted constantly in the press. The cameras would not stop rolling.
There were no cameras on the old man being helped into the plane. There was only local news coverage of his last ever show. Undoubtedly none was sought. He would not return again. Fitting that his last performance was so low key, and for a cause he truly believed in. Bob kept the faith with the laughing men in the old grainy film, the crowd at the USO shows. He has given back like few before and none since...
Happy birthday, Mr. Hope. And thanks for the memories.
A Mudville Christmas special rerun, this from December, 2003, our Christmas card to you.
Greyhawk wasn't always grey...
And in young Greyhawk's world nothing made Christmas a more tangible reality than the annual arrival of the Sears Christmas catalog.
Once you could flip those pages you could really start to plan your Christmas in earnest. You knew just what toys you wanted, just by looking at those flat, two- dimensional images. In your minds eye, of course, you were already playing with them.
I was never a greedy kid; I rarely wanted more then 2 or 3 toys from each page of the catalog. I'd diligently circle them, and to this day I vividly recall the 95% I never got as among the major disappointments of the first decade-and-a half of my life.
See the GI Joes? They were not really combat soldiers at that point in history, they were more "adventurers" with life-like hair and kung-fu grip.
Every day I wanted a different one. Some days I wanted all of 'em.
I got none of them.
But let me assure you I got plenty of stuff for Christmas. To this day I'm not sure how the folks could have done it.
Proof in my mind, of Santa Claus.
Haha - it's Corporal Klinger (mentally insert TV laugh track here) : "Klinger first appeared in the episode "Chief Surgeon Who?". In that episode's original script, Corporal Klinger was written as an effeminate gay man. However, the writers subsequently decided that it would be more interesting to have Klinger be heterosexual, but wear dresses in an attempt to gain a Section 8 discharge."
It was funny. And funny was one of the reasons MASH was America's #1 TV show. Every week millions tuned in, and every week there was Klinger in a new outfit. What really made the gag work was that Jamie Farr played the part without (other than the dresses) any effeminate aspect to the character whatsoever. He was just your average Joe from Toledo - trying to get out of the army, and everyone around him knew it, and no one cared.
I watched it when I was a kid. I didn't know this bit of TV trivia until today though: "Series writer Larry Gelbart stated during the M*A*S*H* 30th Anniversary Reunion special that Klinger's antics were inspired by stories of Lenny Bruce attempting to dodge his own military service by dressing himself as a WAVES member."
So I clicked the Lenny Bruce link for more.
Bruce joined the United States Navy at the age of 17 in 1942, and saw active duty in Europe. In May 1945 he reported to his ship's medical officer that he was experiencing homosexual urges. This led to his Undesirable Discharge in July 1945. However, he had not admitted to or been found guilty of any breach of naval regulations and successfully applied to have his discharge changed to "Under Honorable Conditions ... by reason of unsuitability for the naval service".
Damn - judging by those dates he'd have been out (of the Navy, I mean) soon enough anyway - though he couldn't have been sure of that at the time. But you can even see the upgrade paperwork here. It's dated November, 1945 - he wasted little time making it happen. That was a smart move on his part - veteran's benefits are a very desirable thing.
I'm not sure Lenny Bruce ever took advantage of them, though. He went on to a life of fame and fortune - though perhaps notoriety is a better term - that ultimately ended with a drug overdose in 1966.
I'd have to guess he had a few happy moments in that life though. "Bruce met his future wife, Honey Harlow, a stripper from Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951. They were married that same year..." That's Lenny and Honey and their daughter Kitty in the picture to the left.
Before my time, as they say. I'm not a member of the greatest generation - I'm a guy who grew up laughing at TV shows like MASH. Then, about two years after its final episode - the most watched episode in TV history - I joined the military. (The two events are unrelated - I'm seamlessly transitioning here...) I served for just under a quarter of a century, alongside many folks who most people suspected were gay, and others who probably were but never aroused any suspicion at all. But the vast majority of people I served with were not gay, and didn't really care about who might be. (Suspecting and caring being two different things.)
In fact, throughout that quarter-century the only person I ever personally knew who was put out of the service for being gay was one who self-identified - shortly after he got an assignment (to Korea, even) he didn't really want. (Perhaps - like me joining after MASH went off the air, the two events were completely unrelated.) Maybe my experiences aren't typical - who knows? But while I know there are plenty of examples of people who were "outed" at a time they didn't choose, whenever I see statistics on the number of DADT-related discharges I always wonder about the number of authentic Bruce's in the group.
Speaking of statistics, Starbuck has some charts here on (US Army) DADT discharges over the past few years. Those are a thing of the past, of course (though nowadays if you want to get out of serving in a front-line surgical hospital you can always demand to see President Obama's birf certificate...) but his post is actually about the future - specifically, the possibility of reinstating the draft. Not likely any time soon (nor was it in 1860, 1914 or 1935...) of course (unless no heterosexuals want to join/re-up anymore because homosexuals can serve) - I agree with much of the reasoning here and here. But such talk never stops, and even in World War Two - when recruiting offices were flooded with patriotic volunteers - a draft was needed to fill the ranks. So - something to think about: now gays can serve if they choose; some day in the future they could serve if they don't choose, too.
Finally, I have to wonder - if Lenny were alive today, would he sue the government for back pay and benefits, just for laughs?
"I cannot think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain." - British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, 1936, on (what would prove in hindsight) why he didn't take actions to prevent World War Two. A low point in his career - but within months he would retire at peak popularity, leaving Neville Chamberlain, his hand-picked successor, to carry on the task.
In Mudville we observe the anniversary of VE Day this weekend - the day World War Two ended in Europe. (For those under 40: the "V" stands for victory.) It seems right to begin that with a look at how England missed her last good chance to prevent that global conflagration (that Churchill called "the unnecessary war") altogether. This post is originally from December, 2010, and there's a hard lesson to learn here: when one side wants war, what the other side wants doesn't matter. (Even, or especially if they're distracted by other more fascinating things that "arouse all civilization.") I say it's a hard lesson not because of the years of unprecedented global death and destruction that followed these events (the end of which was a rightful cause for celebration), but because so few have ever learned it - or this one: the vanquished, not the victors, decide when a war is over.
But banish those gloomy thoughts - there's celebrity scandal in the news, a story big enough in hindsight to help make war inevitable and in the moment its central character the Woman of the Year!
(Trivia: Lady Violet Bonham Carter - briefly mentioned below - is the daughter of Great War-era British Prime Minister Asquith and grandmother of actress Helena Bonham Carter, who played the Queen in the movie The King's Speech, a story peripheral to this one.)
Mrs Simpson? Who's that? Kids might ask today. "She's the American woman Madonna's making a movie about," you can reply. If they respond, "Madonna? Who's that?" just tell them to shut up and go play outside. (You're old, and you need peace and quiet.)
Then you can read about a celebrity who was bigger than Madonna, Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber, Lady GaGa and Princess Di all rolled into one. In fact, if you think I'm kidding, in 1936 she was Time's Woman of the Year. (They didn't call them "person of the year" back then, kids.)
She was selected over heavyweight contenders including British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (whose "historic triumph at home came only after he had earned from History some pretty low marks for 1936 in statesmanship abroad" - more on that shortly), U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt (a past and future winner), Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ("he carved out for himself an Empire in Africa... but Ethiopia is not a prize so rich that because he won it history must call him Caesar") and Chinese nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek (who "might well have been Man of the Year had he not, at the zenith of his prestige, been suddenly kidnapped" - an event that happened mere days before that issue of Time went to press).
Time was even less impressed by Joe Stalin, and likewise dismissed up-and-comer Adolf Hitler as an also-ran: "Dur Fuhrer has yet to grapple with an external foe, and his "victories" to date have nearly all been in Germany's backyard." Both would try harder for recognition in years to come.
Wallis Simpson triumphed over sprinter Jesse Owens (whose "Olympic record ... has been equaled only by redskinned Jim Thorpe"), author Margaret ("Gone With The Wind") Mitchell, playwright Eugene (1936 Nobel Prize in Literature - "for work done in other years") O'Neill, and (in medicine) "Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, Dr. Thomas Parran Jr., the great syphilogist who this year got syphilis on the radio for the first time."
But none of these faintly approached or in any degree diminished Mrs. Simpson as Woman of the Year, the figure for whom 1936 will be especially remembered. She was first in the news; first in the heart of Edward VIII (who during most of 1936 was first in British hearts); first in that historic British crisis--moral, emotional, political, religious--which aroused all civilization.
At least, that was the view from Time at the end of the year when it happened. We'll pause now for a deep breath, and consider this much later recounting of events via William Manchester:
It had "completely absorbed the public interest," in Boothby's opinion, because "here at last, was something that was moving and exciting without being dangerous." One could safely commit oneself; whichever way it went, the solution would not be a matter of life or death.
Perhaps it is so - and certainly the list of Time's winners for the next ten years would re-define "aroused all civilization" - Chang Kai-Shek (who - temporarily - recovered from his kidnapping), Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin (twice), Churchill, Roosevelt, Marshall, Eisenhower, Truman, and James F. Byrnes (America's "First Secretary of State to face the cold war"). In that light, maybe Wallis Simpson was a welcome distraction in a year of relative innocence (not counting wars in far-off China and Spain - the latter one wherein "no masterful Man of the Year had emerged" by the end of 1936) before a darker sort of insanity gripped the entire world. And Time didn't make her the "Woman of the Year" - a global public did that by acclaim - they in turn merely acknowledged her as such. But frivolous though the choice may seem now, for reasons unknown to most of that public a case can be made that had she not been so prominent in that year the decade that followed might have seen an entirely different list.
"Oh you ain't seen nothin' yet," we might caution him from the future. Though he had a generally accurate vision of that future even then, Winston Churchill was not yet the Prime Minister - on that day he was a stodgy old British statesman, speaking not of Wallis Simpson but instead delivering another of his many warnings regarding Adolf Hitler. True, he was one who'd fought as a youth in the previous century's colonial wars, then risen to power and influence in time for the World War that nearly destroyed Europe in the early 20th. That conflict (then not yet known as merely World War One), was also commonly referred to as the war to end all wars, and - as blindingly obvious as it seemed to those who liked to imagine themselves as living in a post-war decade like the 1930s - Mr Churchill (who'd fallen from grace over other issues anyhow) never seemed to fully understand that. Out of step with members of his own party who formed the government, he'd been arguing for some time that England should respond to Germany's rediscovered belligerence before it reached the point where response could only mean war.
An obvious relic of a bygone age, he was mostly ignored. After all, much of what that Hitler fellow said he wanted sounded reasonable - and certainly the Treaty of Versailles was not. And say, wasn't Churchill one of those who'd argued for an arms race with Germany before the World War? And after all, wasn't that, to be fair to the vanquished, at least part of the cause of that conflagration? Indeed - pacifism was the order of the day, and the way of the future. And if appeasement (a new term, soon to be very much en vogue) was a possible way to ensure continued peace then it certainly couldn't hurt to give it a try.
Through the early 1930s few (a few fellow conservatives - though most chose not to rock the party boat on its steady course through seemingly tranquil seas) shared Churchill's sense of urgency. But that changed slightly in the middle of the decade. In March, 1936 Hitler ordered his army into the Rhineland, the German territory bordering France - a region "demilitarized" as part of the treaty that ended the World War. "First, we swear to yield to no force whatever in the restoration of the honor of our people," Der Fuhrer pledged (to cheers) in a speech to the Reichstag announcing his move - though his words were intended for a much broader audience. "Secondly," he continued, "we pledge that now, more than ever, we shall strive for an understanding between European peoples, especially for one with our Western neighbor nations." For emphasis he added, "We have no territorial demands to make in Europe!...Germany will never break the peace."
He desperately needed to sound convincing. Surprisingly, the German generals who'd planned and led the campaign expected an altogether different result than that they achieved, and his confidence was only slightly higher than theirs:
The cheering [in the Reichstag] went on and on, but the diplomats, who had to inform their government, and the foreign correspondents, who had to tell the world, slipped out. Shirer was among them. He observed a few generals making their way out toward the Tiergarten. Their smiles seemed forced. Then he encountered Blomberg and was shocked at his appearance: "His face was white, his cheeks twitching." In his diary Shirer wrote: "You could not help detecting a nervousness."
War Minister Blomberg, General Fritsch, General Beck, and a handful of other senior members of the army hierarchy were now convinced that Nazi Germany would collapse within a week or less. Blomberg bore the immediate responsibility; hence his pallor and his nervous tic. In deciding to invade the buffer zone Hitler had acted in defiance of their advice. The generals knew that the occupation... was a gigantic scam. ...France could retake the Rhineland in a matter of hours. Outnumbering the half-trained, inadequately-equipped Wehrmacht conscripts ten to one, the French infantrymen would be supported by tanks and the finest artillery in the world. Blomberg had agreed to assume command only after receiving written assurance from the Führer that he could take "any military countermeasures" he felt appropriate. If he so much as glimpsed a single French bayonet, he intended to beat "a hasty retreat" back across the Rhine.
And that, in the opinion of the ...[German] senior military authorities ... would be the end of Adolf Hitler...
It is impossible to overestimate the strength of the belief within Germany's officer corps that France's advantage was overwhelming. Ten years later General Alfred Jodl, who became Hitler's chief of staff, would testify to it before the Nuremberg tribunal.... "Considering the situation we were in," - they knew Gamelin had his thirteen French divisions near the frontier - "the French covering army could have blown us to pieces." Afterward Hitler himself acknowledged it... "The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-wracking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw in shame and disgrace, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance."
(See passages in Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Manchester's cited source, here)
Hitler needn't have worried - the response from the West would be nothing, really. France looked to England and England looked right back - both overlooked the rumblings on their doorsteps. (For a quick glance at contemporary French politics, look here.) But those few British politicians who chose to remember Hitler's pledge on reinstating military conscription the year before ("he appeared before the Reichstag in Berlin and delivered a conciliatory speech. "Germany wants peace...None of us means to threaten anybody," Hitler declared. He then announced a thirteen-point peace program containing all kinds of promises such as: Germany will respect all other provisions of the Treaty of Versailles including the demilitarization of the Rhineland...") began paying a bit more attention to what Mr Churchill had to say. Still, his fellow conservatives might have convinced themselves, that Hitler chap is looking eastward, not usward...
...and soon enough they could further reassure themselves on his designs, as he began active support of those fighting the communists in the Spanish Civil War.
On 27 July 1936, Adolf Hitler sent the Nationalists 26 German fighter aircraft. He also sent 30 Junkers 52s from Berlin and Stuttgart to Morocco. Over the next couple of weeks the aircraft transported over 15,000 troops to Spain. In September 1936, Lieutenant Colonel Walther Warlimont of the German General Staff arrived as the German commander and military adviser to General Francisco Franco. The following month Warlimont suggested that a German Condor Legion should be formed to fight in the Spanish Civil War...
That war was far from over in 1936 - and if, as Time said, no masterful Man of the Year had emerged from it by year's end, in hindsight they were mistaken to note of Hitler that (presumably in reference to the Rhineland) "his "victories" to date have nearly all been in Germany's backyard." In response to his actions all Europe had revealed itself as ready for his grasp.
Though events in Spain - not surprisingly - led more than a few British leftists to question their own long-cherished (and oft-stated - certainly since the days of Britain's armed opposition to the Bolsheviks in Russia) beliefs in pacifism. (Though some of them no doubt believed that everything was working out just as Mr Wells had said it would.) Most had supported or encouraged the official non-response to Hitler's (westward) employment of forces to the Rhineland, likewise few would be comfortable embracing British rearmament - but his actions in Spain a few months later roused them to the danger he represented. Many from all over the world would answer the call to join the International Brigades and fight the fascists, others in Britain would notice that - loathsome as he might otherwise seem to them - that Churchill fellow (who himself would soon acknowledge that if forced to chose between communism and Nazism he'd prefer the former) had a few points worthy of a hearing if you thought about it. (After all, he had some experience in such matters, too... and he was quite a good speaker, at that.)
Into this mix came news from observers in Germany that, far from playing catch up, the German Luftwaffe already exceeded the air forces of Britain and France combined. The grim lesson of Guernica wasn't taught till the next year, but still an odd sort of coalition began to form in Britain, as Churchill would recall in his memoirs:
At this time there was a great drawing together of men and women of all parties in England who saw the perils of the future, and were resolute upon practical measures to secure our safety and the cause of freedom, equally menaced by both the totalitarian impulsions and our Government's complacency. Our plan was the rapid large-scale rearmament of Britain, combined with the complete acceptance and employment of the authority of the League of Nations. I called this policy "Arms and the Covenant". Mr Baldwin's performance in the House of Commons was viewed among us all with disdain. The culmination of this campaign was to be a meeting at the Albert Hall. Here on December 3 we gathered many of the leading men in all the parties-strong Tories of the Right Wing earnestly convinced of the national peril; the leaders of the League of Nations Peace Ballot; the representatives of many trade unions, including in the chair my old opponent of the General Strike, Sir Walter Citrine; the Liberal Party and its leader, sir Archibald Sinclair. We had a feeling that we were upon the threshold of not only gaining respect for our views, but of making them dominant.
"Mr Baldwin's performance in the House of Commons" was a reference to his response to Churchill's own 12 November speech, in which he'd lambasted Baldwin's Government for too-long ignoring the growing threat posed by Hitler and the Nazis. Baldwin's response was, in fact, a guilty plea - with the explanation that his actions (or lack thereof) were in the best interest of his political party, and that as far as warning the nation that they must rearm: "I cannot think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain." Churchill described that confession as "an incident without parallel in our Parliamentary history" - whether or not that's a fair or an accurate assessment, even from distant America Time's editors (above) could conclude Baldwin "had earned from History some pretty low marks for 1936 in statesmanship abroad" - so certainly Churchill's description of where the political winds were blowing sounds fair enough today.
In reviewing the period, biographer William Manchester gave the nascent rise of "Churchill's" group of rebels even more attention than his subject did in his own work.
Despairing of Parliament, and hoping to form a nucleus of support beyond its walls, Winston had begun turning to tiny organizations which were struggling to waken the nation to its peril. In June 1935, at the request of Lady Bonham Carter, he had addressed one such group, Focus, at a Victoria Hotel luncheon. Clearly Focus was not the germ cell for a mass movement. Indeed, all present agreed that it should have neither rules nor members, and only sixteen people were present anyway. Nevertheless, the meeting was important, for they were all eminent and came from varied backgrounds and political convictions - Conservatives, Liberals, Labourites, aristocrats, and a representative of the working class. Winston became the group's natural leader. As his stock rose in the aftermath of Baldwin's mortification, he became increasingly active in the World Anti-Nazi Council, whose chairman was Sir Walter Citrine, general secretary of Britain's powerful Trade Union Congress. Here, for the first time, Churchill found common cause with socialists. He urged them to spread the word that Englishmen of all classes, from "the humblest workman" to "the most bellicose colonel" must form ranks against the growing danger. To this sympathetic audience Churchill declared that the government must adopt the policy of uniting all countries from the Baltic to the Aegean, including the Soviet Union, in an agreement to "stand by any victim of unprovoked aggression," with each nation pledging "a quota of armed force."
He was speaking daily now and writing for newspapers each evening... though in the government, as Martin Gilbert writes, "there was increasing Cabinet resentment at what was considered interference by him and... his constant appeals to Ministers and civil servants for greater vigilance."
At its second meeting the Anti-Nazi Council established yet another movement, the Defence of Freedom and Peace. Churchill thought he had a better name for it: Arms and the Covenant, representing a policy of rearmament and collective security under the League of Nations Covenant. Citrine and other Labourites shied away from that. They were embarrassed; the parliamentary socialists, led by Atlee, still backed the League but not rearmament. Nevertheless, they agreed that Churchill should deliver the chief address at the movement's first great rally at the Albert Hall on December 3, 1936. He wanted broad support, and he was getting it. To Austen Chamberlain he wrote of the "robust spirit" among Labour's leaders, adding, "I have been surprised to find the resolution and clarity of thought which have prevailed among them, and the profound sense of approaching danger from the growing German power."
The great rally exceeded all expectations. Winston later recalled: "We had the feeling that we were on the threshold of not only gaining respect for our views but also making them dominant" ... With similar rallies scheduled throughout the country during the following week, the movement could hardly be ignored by the government. Arms and the Covenant - the press had adopted Winston's more striking phrase - seemed on the verge of making history.
If all that seems dramatic or important or grand to you, than perhaps you've already forgotten how this little blog post began. As for smaller details, what they called the group never mattered - it was doomed to failure, and mere days from it. The big story of the year was something else entirely - though most folks living in England had only heard whispered rumors of it (if that) just then. Not so the rest of the world (and Stanley Baldwin, for that matter) - as the BBC recently explained:
Today's British media prides itself on its determined independence and dogged scrutiny of those who wield power in our name.
But in the months running up to Edward VIII's abdication in December 1936, the media hid the true extent of what was going on, an episode that those newspapers which still exist would rather forget.
During the summer of 1936, the King made little secret of his relationship with Mrs Simpson, their meetings being reported in the American and European press. But at home it was a non-story as newspaper editors chose to ignore the scandal.
Oddly enough (given that wording), even in 1936 the days when a King of England wielded power at all were a thing of the past - though beyond any doubt the days of British royals making powerful news stories are far from over even today. The biggest such story of all time was set to explode in England not long after Churchill's attack and Baldwin's confession on that almost-fateful November 12. Though perhaps previously content to merely "have a relationship" with the soon-to-be Woman of the Year, "The following Monday, 16 November, the King invited the British prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, to Buckingham Palace and informed him that he intended to marry Mrs Simpson..."
Decorum would forbid it, but had he any foresight whatsoever the Prime Minister should have kissed him upon hearing that news. Fortune briefly smiled on Stanley Baldwin (as it would for a bit longer on Adolf Hitler, too). King Edward was the butterfly who flapped his wings - and soon history would turn in an altogether different direction than what many hoped or expected. Soon enough arms would mean everything, covenants near nothing - in the long years ahead the defence of freedom would become a constant and bloody reality - sans capitalization; peace would be just a dear memory and fond dream.
(Part two to follow.)
The Mudville Christmas re-runs continue - today's is a chapter from "The Mudville '09 Christmas Spectacular" a story I'd actually begun on this very date in 2007 - but having arrived home from Iraq for the holidays then my idea that I'd have spare time to tell about it proved flawed. Oddly enough, had I written this then it wouldn't have included the surprise ending, so perhaps things turned out for the best. Likewise, it wouldn't have included the video you'll find below - which for some reason turned out to be one of the most viewed I'd done that year - even though it only existed for a few days... (and if you enjoy this USO show, check out a more recent - and more rockin' - one here.)
(Continuing the Mudville '09 Christmas Spectacular begun here.)
Okay, I missed the USO show in '04 - so did you, probably. But now through the magic of the internet we can watch it together. It's been a while since Bob Hope's Christmas shows with the troops were on TV every year, if you remember those you might find that USO shows have changed just a little since then. Now you're just a click away from enjoying comedy clips from Robin Williams and (Vietnam veteran) Blake Clark, along with attempts at comedy from a guy who gave it up shortly after (for a U.S. Senate seat). And more: appearances by special guest stars John Elway, Leeann Tweeden, Traylor Howard and a veritable plethora of others - from locations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout Southwest Asia, 2004- 2006.
Oh - and lots of cheerleaders, too.
And the story still isn't over; the surprise ending awaits.
But first - bonus video:
Original post: 2009-12-24 14:28:41All done!
Time magazine on Joe Stalin, their Man of the Year for 1939:
The signing in Moscow's Kremlin on the night of August 23-24 of the Nazi-Communist "Non-Aggression" Pact was a diplomatic demarche literally world-shattering.The actual signers were German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet Premier-Foreign Commissar Molotov, but Comrade Stalin was there in person to give it his smiling benediction, and no one doubted that it was primarily his doing. By it Germany broke through British-French "encirclement," freed herself from the necessity of fighting on two fronts at the same time. Without the Russian pact, German generals would certainly have been loath to go into military action. With it, World War II began.
But if, in the jungle that is Europe today, the Man of 1939 gained large slices of territory out of his big deal, he also paid a big price for it. By the one stroke of sanctioning a Nazi war and by the later strokes of becoming a partner of Adolf Hitler in aggression, Joseph Stalin threw out of the window Soviet Russia's meticulously fostered reputation of a peace- loving, treaty-abiding nation. By the ruthless attack on Finland, he not only sacrificed the good will of thousands of people the world over sympathetic to the ideals of Socialism, he matched himself with Adolf Hitler as the world's most hated man.
Also noted: "a famine which cost not less than 3,000,000 lives in 1932. It was a Stalin-made famine." Additionally, "wrecks and industrial accidents became prodigious. Soviet officials laid it to sabotage. More likely they were due more to too rapid industrialization." Along with that, "Millions in penal colonies... forced into slave labor" and "Moreover, Russian officialdom began to experience a terror which continues to this day..."
Those had, of course, already been accomplished three years earlier, when Time had quickly dismissed him as even worthy of serious consideration for the honor: "In 1936 the other Asiatic dictator, Joseph Stalin, gave to the union of Soviet Socialist Republics "the world's most democratic constitution"--except that it is the very reverse of that, a windy mockery which leaves the Stalin Dictatorship unimpaired." Wallis Simpson was honored by Time that year, but with his 1939 partnership with Hitler launching World War Two, Stalin really blew the competition away.
Time magazine on Joe Stalin, their Man of the Year for 1942:
The year 1942 was a year of blood and strength. The man whose name means steel in Russian, whose few words of English include the American expression "tough guy" was the man of 1942."The trek of world dignitaries to Moscow in 1942," they explained, "brought Stalin out of his inscrutable shell, revealed a pleasant host..." In short, the man of steel was just previously misunderstood. Presumably, had anyone taken the trouble to actually go to Russia before that just-completed year of blood and strength they too might have seen The Truth...
Within Russia's immense disorderliness, Stalin faced the fundamental problems of providing enough food for the people and improving their lot, through 20th-Century industrial methods. He collectivized the farms and he built Russia into one of the four great industrial powers on earth. How well he succeeded was evident in Russia's world-surprising strength in World War II. Stalin's methods were tough, but they paid off.
The U.S., of all nations, should have been the first to understand Russia. Ignorance of Russia and suspicion of Stalin were two things that prevented it... As Allies fighting the common enemy, the Russians have fought the best fight so far...
"I agree that the best thing about this is that it passed legislatively, with bipartisan support." Me, too. I strongly suspect that the Republicans waiting in the wings to participate in the next Congress would concur - though not out loud. (And I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed early last year that the military was instructed to provide a DADT report to Congress immediately after the November elections...)
As for ROTC on campus, at best it might be ignored by "the young lord who but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier..." or those "who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are."
Old sentiments, those. When the subject is raised today I get a vision of young John Kerry, the earnest and stalwart Yale man who went off (in fine John Kennedy - or was it Winston Churchill? - tradition) to serve his nation in Lyndon Johnson's war in Vietnam, then came home to hurl his medals over the (Richard Nixon) White House fence.
Footnote: While others could move on to the appalling lack of natural fibers in uniforms, it occurs to me that those who would join up "if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are" could soon include opponents of gays in the military, too. Life's funny like that.
Fun for the whole family: Pop the popcorn, gather grandma and the kids around the computer, and enjoy this X-rated feature together. (Be sure to use the full screen option - there's no reason to squint...)
If your older kids ask why it was ever rated X, you can have them read this and this - then discuss why many of the same points were still true ten years later, when the USSR was no longer an ally at war.
But old or young, everyone should enjoy this film.
"He said, 'We are always reviewing the position.' Everything, he assured us is entirely fluid. I am sure that that is true. Anyone can see what the position is. The Government simply cannot make up their minds, or they cannot get the Prime Minister to make up his mind. So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.
The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.
World War Two was still two years away - and Churchill one of the few who saw it coming. He was chastising Britain's ruling class (to which he belonged - but officially then only as a Member of Parliament) for their failures in responding to Germany's re-arming campaign of the 1930s - something that was evident (to him, at least) "From the year 1932, certainly from the beginning of 1933, when Herr Hitler came into power." Nothing like that confronts us today - but the quoted portions seem applicable to just about any situation, thus worth knowing.
The specific target of much of Churchill's wrath was Stanley Baldwin, then Prime Minister. Less well known (but as broadly applicable and equally worth knowing) is the response he stood and delivered immediately following Churchill's memorable address. "I want to speak to the House with the utmost frankness," he began - and nothing that followed gives reason to doubt it. "My position as the leader of a great party was not altogether a comfortable one...
Supposing I had gone to the country and said that Germany was rearming,and that we must rearm, does anybody think that this pacific democracy would have rallied to the cry at that moment? I cannot think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain.
"That a Prime Minister should avow that he had not done his duty in regard to national safety because he was afraid of losing an election was an incident without parallel in our Parliamentary history," Churchill wrote in his memoirs. In America today we use the term national security - but that's not the only reason his response seems quaint and outdated to us now.
It was one of those moments upon which history often turns - but in this case it didn't. Something much bigger ("the unexpected," in Churchill's words) was about to happen. We can only speculate what might have been had Britain stood up to Hitler in 1936; in the real world, a butterfly was about to flap its wings.
In that, too, is a broader lesson...
Another Christmas re-run - though this one's from August, 2004 (Double the nostalgia!) and it's been back in the vault ever since. The real fun's in the comments section, as more than a few visitors found the story of Kerry's magic Cambodian Christmas hat inspiring...
The fog was thick as pea soup as we made our way across the border, but it muffled the sounds of the boat as we entered Cambodia. That was good, because our business there was anything but good.
"I wish you'd take that damn blindfold off." I whispered to the skipper.
"I learned to sail this way, hombre." He replied. His parrot sat silently on his shoulder. The bird spoke three languages but was not using any of them now.
"That bird makes me nervous," I told him. "If he spouts off in any of those three languages I'll..."
"Four languages." He said, still wearing the blindfold, piloting the river on pure instinct, nerves of steel. "English, French, Italian, and 'bird' - you probably forgot bird." He cut the engine, pulled the blindfold off. "He's disciplined. He wont squawk. And this is as far as we go. I'm not risking my crew. Or my bird."
"Fair enough, far enough." I said, slipping over the side. Kurtz didn't know it but his time was running short.
"Hey..." the skip whispered as I came up for air, "you forgot your hat."
"Keep it." I said, and pushed for shore.
The Mudville Gazette is pleased to announce the First Annual John Kerry Fan Fiction Contest. Entries may be submitted in comments, via e-mail (greyhawk - at - mudvillegazette.com) or as entries on your own blog - I'll link from here. Have at it. Have fun.
Speaking of fun, in reality, back during Christmas '68 I was almost seven, and mom and dad gave me my first shotgun. To this day it's seared in my memory - crawling on my belly through the rice paddies in the Cambodian fever swamp, hunting the elusive Khmer deer...
Update: Jeff Goldstein, poet.
And the guy that came in from the Cold (Fury, that is)...
And still more poetry via Balloon Juice.
Update 2: Martin Larsen contributes this inspirational artwork (above) to the cause.
The horrah... the hamstah...
Paul Noonan, here and now.
Blackfive isn't lonely.
And Michele stayed up waaaay past her bedtime for this one.
(Original post: 2004-08-11 20:20:26)All done!
A very American thing to say. This next bit, not so much.
As to the unquestionably repressive nature of the regime, Mrs Eardley-Wheatsheaf thought that visitors from more civilized countries ought to keep their heads and to see things in proportion. It was true, as she explained at many subsequent lectures, pursing her lips tightly, perhaps a little venomously, that Soviet officials sometimes disappeared (she accentuated the word "disappeared" to give it its full significance); and naturally she deplored such goings-on, just as she deplored the press censorship and the suppression of all opposition opinion. A the same time she had to admit that, given the peculiar conditions prevailing in Russia, administrative disappearances carried with them certain advantages which she for one was not going to overlook.Muggeridge's book was "fiction" - based on his experiences in the Soviet Union under Stalin's rule. The "Mrs Eardley-Wheatsheaf" character was inspired by his aunt (by marriage) - the prominent British "socialist" Beatrice Webb.
Winter in Moscow
Another niece, Katherine Dobbs, married the journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, whose experience reporting from the Soviet Union subsequently made him highly critical of the Webbs' optimistic portrayal of Stalin's rule. Their books, Soviet Communism: A new civilization? (1935) and The Truth About Soviet Russia (1942) have been widely denounced for adopting an uncritical view of Stalin's conduct during periods that witnessed a brutal process of agricultural collectivization as well as extensive purges and the creation of the gulag system.
The Webb's were gifted with that combination of wealth, influence and self-righteous ignorance that can only thrive in a society as advanced (and powerful) as England of the late 19th/early 20th Century - requirements certainly met and exceeded by the United States today.
They may be a conveniently forgotten embarrassment to the left now, but in their lifetimes the Webb's influence on British (which then meant global) politics can't be underestimated. That contribution - denounced now or not - belongs to history, meaning it's the road that brought us to where we are today. (They weren't alone - in America, Walter "you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs" Duranty's praise of the Soviet system as NY Times Moscow chief earned him a Pulitzer Prize.)
As for Muggeridge...
Initially attracted by Communism, Muggeridge and his wife, Kitty, traveled to Moscow in 1932, where he was to be a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian... Increasingly disillusioned by communism, Muggeridge decided to investigate reports of the famine in Ukraine, traveling there and to the Caucasus without the permission of the Soviet authorities.
Only occasionally reprinted, copies of Winter in Moscow are somewhat valuable today.
From a later interview with Muggeridge:
What sort of response did you encounter when you came back from the Soviet Union and published your findings, particularly from people close to you, like the Webbs?
The Webbs were furious about it. Mrs. Webb in her diary puts in a sentence which gives the whole show away. She says, "Malcolm has come back with stories about a terrible famine in the USSR. I have been to see Mr. Maisky (the Soviet ambassador in Britain) about it, and I realize that he's got it absolutely wrong." Who would suppose that Mr. Maisky would say, "No, no, of course he's right"?
You published Winter in Moscow when you got back from the Soviet Union, and you were attacked in the press for your views.
Very strongly. And I couldn't get a job.
Why was that? Because people found your reports hard to believe?
No, the press was not overtly pro-Soviet, but it was, as it is now, essentially sympathetic with that side and distrustful of any serious attack on it.
How do you explain this sympathy?
It's something I've written and thought about a great deal, and I think that the liberal mind is attracted by this sort of regime. My wife's aunt was Beatrice Webb, and she and Sidney Webb wrote the classic pro-Soviet book, Soviet Communism: A New Civilization. And so one saw close at hand the degree to which they all knew about the regime, knew all about the Cheka (the secret police) and everything, but they liked it.
I think that those people believe in power. It was put to me very succinctly when we were taken down to Kharkiv for the opening of the Dnieper dam. There was an American colonel who was running it, building the dam in effect. "How do you like it here?" I asked him, thinking that I'd get a wonderful blast of him saying how he absolutely hated it. "I think it's wonderful," he said. "You never get any labor trouble."
This will be one of the great puzzles of posterity in looking back on this age, to understand why the liberal mind, the Manchester Guardian mind, the New Republic mind, should feel such enormous sympathy with this authoritarian regime.
You are implying that the liberal intelligentsia did not simply overlook the regime's brutality, but actually admired and liked it.
Yes, I'm saying that, although they wouldn't have admitted it, perhaps not even to themselves. I remember Mrs. Webb, who after all was a very cultivated upper-class liberal-minded person, an early member of the Fabian Society and so on, saying to me, "Yes, it's true, people disappear in Russia." She said it with such great satisfaction that I couldn't help thinking that there were a lot of people in England whose disappearance she would have liked to organize.
No, it's an everlasting mystery to me how one after the other, the intelligentsia of the Western world, the Americans, the Germans, even the French, fell for this thing to such an extraordinary degree.
Ultimately the Webbs and their annoying nephew would all do their bit for England during the war (quotes might be appropriate around "for England" in the Webbs' example...). Muggeridge served as an intelligence officer in the army. Meanwhile, though many socialists wised up to the USSR (especially after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) the Webbs remained steadfast, and following Stalin's abrupt change in status from Nazi ally to enemy they assured fellow Britons that in Joe Stalin they had a true friend. "The USSR is the most inclusive and equalized democracy in the world," Beatrice wrote in 1942 (in the aforementioned The Truth About Soviet Russia), adding that far from being a dictator, Stalin had nothing like "the autocratic power" of Franklin Roosevelt, "who not only selects his Cabinet, subject merely to approval by a simple majority of the Senate, but is also Commander-in-Chief of the American armed forces."
"Finally," she asked...
"...is it right to suggest that Soviet Communism is a new civilization which will, in spite of the crudities and cruelties inherent in violent revolution and fear of foreign aggression, result in maximizing the wealth of the nation and distributing it among all the inhabitants on the principle of from each man according to his faculty and to each man according to his need?"
There can be no doubt what she meant by "crudities and cruelties inherent in violent revolution" - but her answer was still a most enthusiastic yes.
We are fortunate to live in a more modern, enlightened era, where of course we all know Stalin was horrible, but....
As someone who works in academia, I run into my fair share of Marxists. While I disagree with their politics, many of them are decent non-evil people most certainly deserving of respect. There is, to my mind, a big difference between communism and Nazism: it is possible to be a communist with the "good will," i.e. to sincerely wish the best most prosperous future for everyone...
Footnote: "...the opening of the Dnieper dam. There was an American colonel who was running it..." Hugh Lincoln Cooper, biography, obituary in Time, July, 1937. I can find no evidence Cooper was interested in "power" other than the hydroelectric variety. It's possible Muggeridge was trying to be too witty here. (Though the implication that his project was accomplished with slave labor is obvious. See also windmill, and windmill references here. Of related interest to the broader topic of this post , Orwell's original introduction to Animal Farm here.)
Wikipedia entry on the Dnieper dam: "American specialists under the direction of Col H. Cooper took part in the construction. The first five giant power generators were manufactured by General Electric... During World War II, the strategically important dam and plant, then known as the Dniprostoj Hydro Power Plant, was dynamited by retreating Soviet troops in 1941, and then again by the retreating German troops in 1943."
Truman might have chuckled at that.
A great Christmas gift for the year that saw the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain: The Few, by Alex Kershaw - now a $6.22 hardcover bargain at Amazon.
By the summer of 1940 Hitler was triumphant and planning an invasion of England.
But the United States was still a neutral country and, as Winston Churchill later observed, "the British people held the fort alone."
A few Americans, however, did not remain neutral. They joined Britain's Royal Air Force to fight Hitler's air aces and help save Britain in its darkest hour.
The Few is the never-before-told story of these thrill-seeking Americans who defied their country's neutrality laws to fly side-by-side with England's finest pilots. They flew the lethal and elegant Spitfire, and became "knights of the air."
With minimal training and plenty of guts they dueled the skilled pilots of Germany's Luftwaffe in the blue skies over England. They shot down several of Germany's fearsome aces, and were feted as national heroes in Britain.
By October 1940, they had helped England win the greatest air battle in the history of aviation.
At war's end, just one of the "Few" would be alive...
(Other recent Battle of Britain books include A Summer Bright and Terrible, by David Fisher, and With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain - by Michael Korda, who was also seen recently here.)
...the Air Force maintains that blogs are not legitimate media outlets and so shouldn't be available to Airmen at work.
As a result the Air Force Network Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. - the so-called "Cyber Command" - has slapped a ban on all sites with "blog" in their URLs...
"Basically," said Maj. Henry Schott of the command's plans and requirements section, "if it's a place like The New York Times, an established, reputable media outlet, then it's fairly cut and dry that that's a good source, an authorized source."
The Air Force is barring its personnel from using work computers to view the Web sites of The New York Times and more than 25 other news organizations and blogs that have posted secret cables obtained by WikiLeaks, Air Force officials said Tuesday.
Maybe the Times has changed (or is it the times have changed?) but I'll stick with my 2008 response.
Flexibility is the key to airpower. Some might argue that if flexibility is defined as "the distance one can ram one head up one's own ass" the US can be assured of maintaining global air superiority for years to come.All done!
(A Mudville Christmas re-run from December, 2009...)
Earlier today, I ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.
Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.
Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.
- President Bill Clinton announcing a new bombing campaign in Iraq, December, 1998.
Ghosts of Christmas Past: Obama Ordered U.S. Military Strike on Yemen Terrorists.
One of the targeted sites was a suspected al Qaeda training camp north of the capitol, Sanaa, and the second target was a location where officials said "an imminent attack against a U.S. asset was being planned."
"The Obama Administration has dusted off a Clinton-era strategy of dealing with terrorists," says Jonn Lilyea.
And a damned effective strategy it was. At least, if your goal is domestic popularity. Osama bin Laden used America's long-distance war to great effect as an al Qaeda recruiting tool (and swore that paybacks would come), but President Clinton's popularity on the home front - having plunged during his early months in office - soared higher with each missile that fell on Baghdad (or Sudan, or a remote campsite in Afghanistan.)
And all that peaked eleven years ago today, as we approached the end of the eighth year of our shooting war with Iraq. While the president's stated purpose for the four-day assault was to eliminate the imminent danger posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, many would question the timing of the attack (in which "more cruise missiles were fired on Iraq ...than during the entire Gulf War in 1991"). The official name for this particular headline-making effort was Operation DESERT FOX, for military members involved it will always be known as Operation DENY CHRISTMAS.
And now, a blast from the past...
December 8, 1998: Chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler reports that Iraq is still impeding inspections. Cooperation ends between Iraq and inspectors when the country demands the lifting of the U.N. oil embargo. UNSCOM and the IAEA pull their staffs out of Iraq in anticipation of a US-led air raid on Iraqi military targets.December 9, 1998: The Special Commission submits its second weekly report to the Security Council describing monitoring activities and the difficulties encountered in the course of those activities, including blockage at a site.
December 11, 1998: The House Judiciary Committee approves three articles of impeachment on a 21-16 party line vote, passing them to the full House of Representatives. The three articles accuse Clinton of lying to a grand jury, committing perjury by denying he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, and obstructing justice. Clinton declares himself "profoundly sorry" and willing to accept censure.
December 12, 1998: The committee approves a fourth article of impeachment on a party-line vote, accusing Clinton of abusing power in a direct parallel to Watergate-era language.
December 15, 1998: UNSCOM reports to the Security-General concerning UNSCOM's activities and the status of Iraq's cooperation with the Commission in the period since 14 November 1998. The Executive Chairman concludes that Iraq did not provide the full cooperation it had promised on 14 November 1998 (S/1998/1172). The report details a repeated pattern of obstructing weapons inspections by not allowing access to records and inspections sites, and by moving equipment records and equipment from one to site to another.
December 15, 1998: With military action looming, France suspends participation in Operation Southern Watch.
December 16, 1998: The United States and Great Britain begin a four-day air campaign against targets in Iraq, Operation Desert Fox. The stated mission: "to strike military and security targets in Iraq that contribute to Iraq's ability to produce, store, maintain and deliver weapons of mass destruction." UNSCOM withdraws its staff from Iraq.
December 16, 1998: CNN reports responses from key congressional leaders:
"I cannot support this military action in the Persian Gulf at this time," [Senate Majority Leader Trent] Lott [(R-Ms)] said in a statement. "Both the timing and the policy are subject to question."
"The suspicion some people have about the president's motives in this attack is itself a powerful argument for impeachment," [House Majority Leader Dick] Armey [(R-Tx)] said in a statement. "After months of lies, the president has given millions of people around the world reason to doubt that he has sent Americans into battle for the right reasons."
Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-New Jersey) called the GOP reaction "as close to a betrayal of the interests of the United States as I've ever witnessed in the United States Congress. It's unforgivable and reprehensible."
"This is a time for our country to be united, even though we're divided on other matters," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota).
He and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Missouri) issued a joint statement defending the timing, saying "any delay would have given (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein time to reconstitute his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and undermine international support for our efforts."
Rep. Porter Goss, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he was unaware that U.S. airstrikes were planned against Iraq until he saw them under way on CNN.
Goss (R-Florida) expressed anger that he was never notified by the White House that a strike was imminent and that no members of the House Intelligence Committee were brought into the loop.
"To be cut out at the eleventh hour is annoying, and it's certainly not helpful," Goss said.
He called the fact he was not contacted "a bad mistake of judgment or an oversight by the White House. ... Today the White House should be looking for friends. It's not a good idea to ambush people."
"It's certainly rather suspicious timing," said Rep. Tillie Fowler (R-Florida). "I think the president is shameless in what he would do to stay in office."
Armey and Fowler had supported the president in his February decision to allow time for a UN solution to work, Lott was reportedly opposed.
Also quoted was Representative Gerald Solomon of New York, a Marine Corps veteran:
Rep. Gerald Solomon (R-New York) issued a statement with the headline: "Bombs Away -- Save Impeachment for Another Day?"
"It is obvious that they're (the Clinton White House) doing everything they can to postpone the vote on this impeachment in order to try to get whatever kind of leverage they can, and the American people ought to be as outraged as I am about it," Solomon said in an interview with CNN.
Asked if he was accusing Clinton of playing with American lives for political expediency, Solomon said, "Whether he knows it or not, that's exactly what he's doing. When you put our troops in the air or on the ground, you are risking their lives. This president ought to know better. I don't know if he does or not, because he's so unpredictable."
Solomon complained that key congressmen had not been told of the military strike. He said Clinton should have briefed more members of Congress and delayed the attack until early next week.
"It would still be spontaneous," Solomon said. "He could still launch the attack, but it would not have been political the way it is today."
Upon hearing Solomon's remarks, Democratic Rep. Sam Gejdenson of Connecticut went before CNN's cameras to rip into Solomon for his accusation.
"Gerry Solomon's spent a career here making outrageous statements, but as an ex-Marine, he ought to know better," Gejdenson said. "That was an outrageous, outrageous statement."
Gejdenson said the nation cannot tie a president's hands based on developments on Capitol Hill.
"Think of the message," Gejdenson said. "If we tell every country out there that might want to do harm to America's interests that every time there's a political squabble in Washington, the presidency has to be frozen, that's outrageous."
Some Republicans also were supportive of Clinton's actions. Outgoing House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) said the strikes were an example of "the U.S. leading the world by exercising its military power in an appropriate way."
"As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.
"The responsibility of the United States in this conflict is to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, to minimize the danger to our troops and to diminish the suffering of the Iraqi people. The citizens of Iraq have suffered the most for Saddam Hussein's activities; sadly, those same citizens now stand to suffer more. I have supported efforts to ease the humanitarian situation in Iraq and my thoughts and prayers are with the innocent Iraqi civilians, as well as with the families of U.S. troops participating in the current action.
"I believe in negotiated solutions to international conflict. This is, unfortunately, not going to be the case in this situation where Saddam Hussein has been a repeat offender, ignoring the international community's requirement that he come clean with his weapons program."
- Representative Nancy Pelosi (D, CA)
December 17, 1998:The Congressional impeachment vote is postponed until the conclusion of US military action against Iraq.
December 19, 1998: Operation Desert Fox concludes. "On Wednesday when U.S. and British forces launched strikes against Iraq, I stated that we were pursuing clear military goals. And as President Clinton has announced, we've achieved those goals. We've degraded Saddam Hussein's ability to deliver chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. We've diminished his ability to wage war against his neighbors. Our forces attacked about 100 targets over four nights, following a plan that was developed and had been developed and refined over the past year. We concentrated on military targets and we worked very hard to keep civilian casualties as low as possible. Our goal was to weaken Iraq's military power, not to hurt Iraq's people.
"As the President's principal military advisor, I am confident that the carefully planned and superbly executed combat operations of the past four days have degraded Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs, his ability to deliver weapons and his ability to militarily threaten the security of this strategically important Persian Gulf region. Gen. Zinni made the same assessment."
Following the statements above, the Secretary responded to questions from the media:
Q: Do you plan to try to convince the U.N. to send the UNSCOM inspectors back in or is that now a dead issue after the air strikes?
A: It's not at all a dead issue. As a matter or fact, Saddam Hussein will have the burden of demonstrating in some affirmative fashion that he is prepared to allow the inspectors to come back in to be effective. We are not going to simply go through the motions once again where he is able to obstruct their ability to carry out their mission. And so, he must demonstrate a willingness to allow the inspectors to come back and to complete their job. And barring that, we intend to maintain the containment policy which continues to keep the sanctions in place. We'll continue our military as we have been, in place and ready to take action, if it becomes necessary.
Q: If the UNSCOM inspectors are not allowed back in, will there be further air strikes?
A: We are prepared to carry out such air strikes, but we intend to maintain the containment policy and also to make sure that he doesn't threaten the region again. So we'll have our own intelligence observations and make the kind of determination that would lead us to the obvious conclusions.
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Henry H. Shelton, U.S. Army, brief reporters in the Pentagon on the strikes in Iraq during Operation Desert Fox on Dec. 18, 1998. (DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel.)
Q: You use the [word] diminish to describe --
Q: "Diminish" to describe the damage done to the conventional capability. What is diminish in your words versus destroy, eliminate?
A: It's less than what he had before and we think significantly less than what was available before in terms of his capacity to move against his neighbors. We've looked at his Republican Elite Guard, so to speak. We have damaged in substantial fashion, their facilities, some of their housing. We have destroyed his missile production capability, at least, in the factory that we targeted. So there is a significant degradation in our judgment of that.
UN weapons inspectors would not return to Iraq until late November 2002.
"Now that Operation DESERT FOX is over, we will carefully evaluate the forces we need to keep in place in the region to keep an eye on Saddam. Make no mistake about it, we will maintain a significant capability there to defend our national interests and the security of the region as we have for many years." - General Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
:...more cruise missiles were fired on Iraq in Desert Fox than during the entire Gulf War in 1991...
Funeral services have been held for 68 people who Iraqi officials say were killed in the raids. But Iraq's Ambassador to the UN, Nizar Hamdoon, said: "I'm told that the casualties are in the thousands in terms of numbers of people who were killed or wounded."
But because the Iraqi authorities control journalists' access to damage sites, confirmation of this has been impossible. The UK Ministry of Defence said it was not certain that the full facts about Iraqi casualties would ever be known.
The Iraqi authorities say the air strikes deliberately targeted civilian facilities including hospitals, colleges, residential areas of Baghdad and food storage areas.
Several weeks after the strikes, the UN children's fund, Unicef, made a first preliminary assessment of damage to civilian facilities. They said a warehouse containing rice was destroyed in Tikrit in northern Iraq, ten schools in the southern port city of Basra were damaged, and an agricultural college in Kirkuk in northern Iraq received a direct hit.
They said that in Baghdad medical and maternity centres, a water supply system and parts of the health and social affairs ministries were damaged.
December 19, 1998: President Clinton is impeached as the Republican controlled House approves two of the four proposed articles of impeachment by narrow partisan majorities: 228-206 and 221-212. Mr Clinton is sent for trial in the Senate.
December 21, 1998: In the wake of his impeachment, President Clinton's approval level with the voters leaps 10 points to a personal all-time high of 73 per cent in a Gallup poll. Sixty-eight per cent believe the Senate should not convict Mr Clinton in the pending impeachment trial, while support for resignation falls to 30 per cent. Other polls confirm the trend. CNN's top news stories of the year will list the attack on Iraq as #9, and the impeachment scandal at #1.
December 28, 1998: DoD press release: At approximately 1:30 p.m., Iraqi time, coalition aircraft were attacked by Iraqi surface-to-air missiles fired from sites in northern Iraq. The Iraqis fired three SAMs at Northern Watch aircraft; all missed. Although initial reports claimed that the planes retaliated by launching three HARMs, in fact three F-15Es each dropped two GBU-12 500-pound precision guided munitions (PGMs). Two of the F-15Es hit the SA-3 target site tracking radar and optical guidance unit. The other F-15E had one bomb hit the SA-3 missile site command and control van, and the other hitting the target site tracking radar and optical guidance unit. The other F-15E in the four-ship formation did not drop bombs because he did not have positive target identification. Video footage from U.S. aircraft responding in self-defense to Iraqi aggression on Dec. 28 show that coalition forces attacked the launch sites only after being fired upon. Video of the Iraqi missile firings clearly shows time of their fire prior to any release of coalition ordnance. The SA-3 site used both radar and optics when firing their offensive missiles.
December 30, 1998: An SA-6 site near Talil fires 6-8 missiles at Southern Watch aircraft. F-16s retaliate by dropping six GBU-12 laser-guided bombs on the site. They also launch two HARMs "as a preemptive measure" to deter Iraqi radar operators.
Excerpts above from "A Brief History of a Long War (Iraq, 1990-2003) / 1998". More here.
(Originally posted 2009-12-19 15:44:47)
In one discussion about the tensions between Pakistan and India, Holbrooke introduced a new angle. "There's a global warming dimension of this struggle, Mr. President," he said.
His words baffled many in the room.
There are tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops encamped on the glaciers in the Himalayas that feed the rivers into Pakistan and India, he said. "Their encampments are melting the glaciers very quickly." There's a chance that river valleys in Pakistan and perhaps even India could be flooded.
- Bob Woodward, Obama's Wars
Was he kidding? "He was not," Woodward reports, further explaining that Holbrooke was "trying as hard as he could to say something distinctive that would impress the president."
As absurd as it seems, while it wasn't a bulls-eye he was at least on target. The President outlined his priorities for the nation in a recent Rolling Stone interview: "It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election," he told Jann Wenner (who described him as speaking "with intensity and passion, repeatedly stabbing the air with his finger"). "Everybody out there has to be thinking about what's at stake in this election and if they want to move forward over the next two years or six years or 10 years on key issues like climate change..." Global warming is an outdated term - banished as surely as global war on terror from the White House stylebook. While perhaps not considered as "out of it" as then-National Security Adviser Jim Jones, Richard Holbrooke never really fit in with the kewlest of the kewl kidz in the Obama administration.
But that election belongs to the past now, too - as does (sadly) Obama's first envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Richard Holbrooke dies: Veteran U.S. diplomat brokered Dayton peace accords," reads the headline over Rajiv Chandrasekaran's well-crafted memorial to the man in Woodward's own Washington Post.
Mr. Holbrooke's most significant achievement occurred in 1995, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton, Ohio, when he forged a deal among bitter rivals to end three years of bloody sectarian war in the former Yugoslavia that killed an estimated 100,000 people.
The talks, which lasted 20 days, would not have taken place had he not spent three months shuttling among the principal Serbian, Croatian and Muslim leaders to cajole, arm-twist and threaten, while also employing the bone-jarring power of U.S.-led NATO airstrikes.
Perhaps that's a fitting epitaph for a man who died of a broken heart. It's certainly a testament to the persuasiveness of strategic bombing on modern nation-states lacking desirable natural resources and the ability to strike back. (Albeit a reminder that also raises the troubling questions where can you bomb stone age people back to, and why?)
That's a point with some bearing on his more recent challenges:
As Mr. Holbrooke was sedated for surgery, family members said, his final words were to his Pakistani surgeon: "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."That task will also prove to be beyond the skills of that unfortunate surgeon, who's hardly unique in that regard.
Although the consequences of his forceful personality were laid bare in his efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan, leading to tense disagreements with leaders of those nations and fellow U.S. officials, Mr. Holbrooke never stopped trying to address the insurgencies that threaten both countries.
Fine phrasing for a requiem. Perhaps - given the circumstances - few could have done the job better. While others in the current administration could certainly claim to be Holbrooke's equals, when it came to Afghanistan few exceeded his ability to identify problems and recognize the difficulty of solving them. Maybe his death will spare him any additional tarnish from the eternal phase two of such operations: the assigning of the blame - but given the history (and eye towards the future) of the individuals comprising this particular "team of rivals" it's wise to acknowledge the likelihood of the opposite effect.
An example of never stopped trying, from Woodward:
Holbrooke had just spoken with Biden, who was pessimistic and more convinced than ever that Afghanistan was a version of Vietnam. Holbrooke, in a bleak mood himself, asked if there was an Afghan example of "clear, hold, build and transfer" actually happening.
Not yet, McChrystal said.
Was there a way to actually have a transfer? Holbrooke inquired. For example, in the three-month-old Marja operation involving 15,000 U.S., British and Afghan troops, was there a way to take out, say, one U.S. company made up of just several hundred soldiers and transfer their responsibilities to the Afghans? "It would prove the concept," Holbrooke said. "It would prove we are not trapped."
"That's a good idea," McChrystal replied. He paused, and thought hard for a long time...
...and then said "no." Those who believe in building for results will always butt heads with those who appreciate the importance of fabrication for show. Not long after that conversation McChrystal was out by presidential decree, now Holbrooke's voice will also be unheard during the December review. (Though perhaps Obama's Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, like Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan, had something prepared in advance. "Let's start building the scheduled strategic review," Woodward reports Lute told his team last May. "There's no reason to work the weekends in November... I can tell you what the outcome's going to look like.")
But to others the future seems less certain, and grim - so let's turn to the past, and happier times. The first example, from Chandrasekaran:
Soon after Hillary Clinton was elected to the Senate in 2000, Mr. Holbrooke became her self-appointed senior foreign policy adviser and, in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, he cast his lot with Clinton, hoping to become her secretary of state. When she lost the nomination, he sought to ingratiate himself with Obama's camp. But when Clinton got the job he wanted, she turned to him to help resolve one of Obama's most intractable problems.The next, from Woodward:
Shortly after being appointed special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Holbrooke phoned Husain Haqqani, a casual acquaintance and the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. since since 2008. He invited him to lunch and was prepared to negotiate on the restaurant.
"I believe you are very media-savvy," Holbrooke said. "You and I should have lunch somewhere public so it gets reported in the newspaper, if you don't mind."
"I don't mind," Haqqani said.
What about the Hay-Adams Hotel across from the White House?
The northern view from the Hay-Adams Hotel second-floor dining room looks across Lafayette Square to the White House gates. In a touch of discretion, the elegant tables are spaced so that eavesdropping is nearly impossible. The Hay-Adams, as advertised, is a place to be seen, not heard...
The lunch ended after two hours. Holbrooke's strength, Haqqani realized, was his fierce and desperate desire to succeed. It wasn't clear to Haqqani who his primary contact would be on U.S. foreign policy toward Pakistan.
Yet Holbrooke had failed in one of his first missions - to get his tête-à-tête with Haqqani into the media. No journalists, bloggers or gossips reported on their lunch. Apparently, no one had noticed.
Perhaps it's late, but the least I can do is put that account into a blog post now. Likewise, this simple request seems easy enough to respect:
It wasn't until well into the Obama presidency that Holbrooke learned definitively how much the president didn't care for him. When the president had announced Holbrooke's appointment a couple of days into the administration, the two had a private moment.
"Mr. President, I want to ask you one favor," Holbrooke had said, expressing gratitude for the highly visible assignment. 'Would you do me the great favor of calling me Richard, for my wife's sake?" It was her preference. She disliked the name "Dick," which the president had been using.
At the ceremony, Obama referred to Holbrooke as "Richard." But later, the president told others that he found the request highly unusual and even strange.
"Holbrooke was horrified," Woodward recounts, "when he learned that his request - which he had repeated to no one - had been circulated by the president."
Still, compared to the man's last request, that seems simple enough to grant.
Hey - it's that time of year when the networks roll out the old Christmas specials. Here at Mudville we think that's a fine idea, so we do it, too. This one's from December, 2004 - a Christmas poem I wrote after reading an email I got during my first deployment in Iraq. (It's actually an expansion of the two-word response it deserved - but hey, it was Christmas and I was being extra nice!)
I considered updating this a few times over the years to reflect more current events - but I realize now that the issue I'm chastised for ignoring (how Donald Rumsfeld signed letters of condolence!!1!!!!11!) - trivial then to those of us who were there - is yet another "most importentest issue in the world this week!!1!1!!" that's now completely and utterly forgotten - so the point I was making should be even more obvious today. But it's not... and sadly, I can find examples from this year. (Beyond that, I never made any of the comments this individual references - and I don't recall any commenter here saying 'that soldier should be punished'. I've looked, but can't find 'em - see here, here, here and here.)
While interviewing fellow milblog veterans for the milblog project this year I discovered (no surprise) that civilians writing to tell us how to better support the troops is a common experience. So there is one thing I would change about this post in hindsight - I'd move the apostrophe in the title over to the other side of the s.
And now, without further ado, back to December, 2004...
From the email:
It is with some regret that I have to inform you I will no longer regularly visit your site. I find it increasingly difficult to read given the growing focus on pure political issues rather than military issues. Your contributors are entitled to their opinions, but the political comments have recently taken on a screechy tone that leave me cold. For instance, I don't see any mention of Rumsfeld using the auto-pen to sign condolence letters, but I do see comments that the soldier who had the audacity to question Rumsfeld regarding the lack of HUMVEE armor should be punished by his commanding officers for speaking his mind.
I guess I wonder whether the purpose of the blog is to preach to the choir or to educate. Either is of course well within your rights, and I would like to compliment you for the time and effort needed to keep the site running. However, whereas I used to learn a great deal about the opposing side of issues, I now feel like you are in the same echo chamber as LGF . My respectful suggestion is to return to your focus on the soldiers and not indulge in name-calling with respect to those who exercise their Constitutional freedoms.
Thank you for your service and have a merry Xmas.
("Ahem", ... cracks knuckles... begins typing...)
Merry Christmas dear friend, I'm inspired, you know,
But the Mrs should get all the thanks
It's her time and effort that makes this site go,
While I'm here dodging helos and tanks
So few minutes to spare out of each busy day,
but so many things cry for attention
there's no time for issues that seem far away,
so most of them get not a mention
While sometimes in our vehicles politicians ride,
'round V-beds and mortars detected
I still think we GIs can help them decide,
how much armor could keep us protected
And reporters with pens that kill us the same,
as things in Iraq or a 'Stan
and enemies here with unpronounceable names,
will get a few words when I can
But there's nothing here now and few posts I recall,
unrelated to things military
That's what MilBlogs are about, after all;
it's sad that you find us so scary
So unless Christmas day Rummy unwraps a pen,
that brings life to the dead with a scribble
I'll not consider the issue again
- I've no doubt there are those who will quibble
I've used this phrase lately, about serious things,
like life-and-death issues and war
If your focus is trivial then here's what it brings:
you'll sit with the grownups no more
But we care much for those at the kiddy table too,
for without us just where would they be?
To be gracious, if wrong, I'll admit to what's true;
There are some things I sometimes don't see
Maybe this is the burning issue today,
and your main complaint this good season
Then the world is a fine place indeed I must say,
and perhaps I'm a small part of the reason
Best wishes to you in this Season of Joy,
from here at the wall that stands firm
between you and a pen-free existence, my friend,
nothing less than a year with no greater concerns
(Original post: 2004-12-22 16:44:21)
"America First had managed to secure the attention of several senators, including Senator Gerald Nye, one of the more powerful and intractable proponents of isolationism. These efforts were supported very effectively by the German ambassador in Washington, who tactfully suggested that the American movie industry had been infiltrated by Jewish money and British agents and was being turned in to a propaganda instrument designed to drag innocent Americans into the war... [Senator Nye] made it clear that the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations would take a very close look at the work of "British agents" in the movie business. The major movie studios instantly replied that they were innocent, but even the most timid of the studio heads were unable to point to any pro-German movies to prove the neutrality of their position, and since most of them were Democrats and Jewish, they expected the Senate hearings to be something on the order of a lynching. Happily for them, That Hamilton Woman diverted Senator Nye from his wholesale attack on the industry to a more concentrated effort against a single motion picture. Alex, to his great discomfort, became aware that he was about to be made the scapegoat for Hollywood...
"He had been subpoenaed to appear before the committee on December 12, 1941..."
Another example of how Pearl Harbor changed America - the story behind "Churchill's favorite film," and an intriguing tale of the many secrets of pre-war Hollywood...
Postscript: Senator Nye (a "progressive" New Deal-supporting Republican) failed to win reelection in 1944. One of his sons served in the Navy during World War Two; two younger sons served during Vietnam.
Postscript two: That Hamilton Woman was overlooked by the Academy for Oscar nominations in 1941. (Though Gary Cooper's Sergeant York was not - likewise Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent and Chaplin's The Great Dictator were both recognized the year before. However, Churchill's Island, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, won the first-ever Oscar for Best Documentary at the 1941 awards ceremony held in February, 1942.) The next year, William Wyler's Mrs Miniver would dominate the awards, winning six. (See also here and here.) Production on Mrs Miniver started in November, 1941, just a few weeks after Nye's hearings began.
The U.S. Congress responded swiftly.
Announcement was made early in the day that the President would send a message to Congress. This was soon after Hans Thomsen, German charge d'affaires, delivered the Nazi dictator's declaration of war to the State Department at 8:15 A. M. and after the Italian declaration was delivered to George Wadsworth, American charge d'affaires in Rome.
[Visitors in Congress] saw the Senate vote the resolution for war against Germany in five minutes after the start of the President's message, time taken up largely with recording the vote. The House, with a larger roll-call, took twelve minutes to record its unanimous vote. Both houses acted in more leisurely fashion with regard to Italy. The Senate took another thirteen minutes, and the House completed action in another twenty minutes.
The signing ceremony was equally simple and rapid.
The declarations against Germany and Italy pledged all the resources of United States, manpower, material and production "to bring the conflict to a successful termination." After signing that against Germany at 3:05 P. M., and that against Italy at 3:06 P. M., before the same group of congressional leaders who on Monday saw him sign the declaration against Japan, President Roosevelt remarked:
"I've always heard things came in threes. Here they are."
Senator Glass of Virginia, who was Secretary of the Treasury in the last World War, told Mr. Roosevelt that "some men in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wanted to soften the resolutions so as not to hurt the feelings of civilians in the Axis countries.
"I said, 'Hell, we not only want to hurt their feelings but we want to kill them,'" the Virginian remarked.
Eleven months later, US forces would enter the war.
The Committee itself had been created by two Yale students. (One, Robert Douglas Stuart Jr., a 24 year old Princeton graduate, and son of the senior vice president of the Quaker Oats Company, was a law student sympathetic with New Deal reforms. The other was Kingman Brewster.) America First therefore appeared neither particularly conservative, nor pro-German. It was not surprising that Thomas and Villard soon joined the executive board.
However, most AFC supporters were neither liberal, nor Socialist. Many simply wanted to stay out of the war. Since many also came from the Midwest, an area never as sensitive to European problems as the east coast, isolationist arguments was soon buttressed by more traditional prejudices against eastern industrial and banking interests. (Almost two-thirds of the Committee's 850,000 registered supporters would eventually come from the Midwest, mostly from a radius of three hundred miles around Chicago.) Many AFC supporters were certain industry and the banks wanted war for their own profit. Many other supporters were Republicans who flocked to the AFC for partisan political reasons. Still others were covertly pro-German. Some were German-Americans whose sentimental attachments had not been diminished by the crimes of the Nazi regime. Others, whether of German origin or not, were attracted to Hitler's racism and anti-Semitism.
Among early supporters (for reasons other than the last given), future U.S. Presidents John Kennedy ("what you're doing is vital" he wrote on a note sent with his $100 donation) and Gerald Ford. (An assistant football coach at Yale, he resigned from the group over concerns "that the athletic association might frown on his activities and that his job could be in jeopardy.")
The group dissolved immediately after Pearl Harbor, but serves as a reminder that the pre-war American public mood was as complex as at any other time in history. In addition to those more active isolationists...
Opinion in the United States was overwhelmingly in favor of staying out of the war. At the same time, an October  Fortune magazine poll showed 85% of Americans hoped Britain and France would win.
Assumptions about the course of the war changed in the spring of 1940. The sudden collapse of France, arguably the greatest surprise of the European conflict, left England to face Germany alone. An even larger number of Americans as a result came to believe Hitler would eventually attack them They were more anxious than ever to make sure Britain would not lose, and wanted to supply the munitions necessary to preserve the last important democracy in Europe. Pro-British organization like Friends of Democracy, founded in 1937, and the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, created in May of 1940, enjoyed increased support. A more stridently interventionist group, the Fight For Freedom Committee, followed in April of 1941. Still, as late as November of 1941 only one American in four favored an immediate declaration of war.
All in all an interesting read - and a reminder of the impact of Pearl Harbor on Americans. Certainly that previously mentioned mood became significantly less complicated, to say the least. (Churchill recalls his first words to Roosevelt following Pearl Harbor: "This certainly simplifies things.") Among those who served from the earliest days of the war, future Presidents John Kennedy and Gerald Ford.
(One of many other interesting articles and presentations to be found online at The New York Military Affairs Symposium. Well worth a leisurely visit.)
An early Christmas gift (from the publisher): Going Home To Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969
"Going Home to Glory is a loving yet insightful examination of Eisenhower's later life by a first-hand witness: David Eisenhower, whose previous book about his grandfather, Eisenhower at War: 1943-1945 was a finalist for the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in history."
David spent countless hours working on his grandfather's farm, traveling with him to foreign lands and, above all, simply sharing quality one-on-one time with the former president. Accordingly, no other historian has been so uniquely positioned to observe first-hand the retirement years of a towering figure in world and American history--and, as Going Home to Glory demonstrates, Eisenhower remained active in party politics, counseled presidents and other world leaders and, in private conversation, felt free to comment on important issues and individuals.
In times of crisis, we observe first-hand Eisenhower's advice to Kennedy and Johnson and his own evolving opinions on the great issues of the 1960s, including:
- The Cuban Missile Crisis: He assures JFK that the Russians are "opportunists" who will not use a U.S. blockade of Cuba as an excuse to close off West Berlin;
- Race riots: Eisenhower advocates the use of federal troops in the most violence-torn cities because "I believe in a restrained use of force, but I believe in its use when it can be demonstrated that employing it would produce results;"
- The Vietnam conflict: He believes LBJ should unleash the full might of the military--"Once a decision is made to commit American prestige, all else must take a second seat to winning."
And, always, the author deftly captures the convoluted, often difficult relationship between Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, his former vice-president, and, eventually, his grandson's father-in-law. David Eisenhower is aided in describing the tension and yet genuine respect between the two men by his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, who shares excerpts from personal diaries, kept in 1968-69.
Most intriguing to me, that Vietnam reference. Will most definitely have to read that...
...for the veteran* in your life? Here's a great idea.
* "Veteran," in this case, includes those still on active duty, who'd probably appreciate one of those items, too.
At Small Wars Journal: A Tribute to Captain Travis Patriquin.
Among those who were there, his infamous PowerPoint slides were viral via email during the surge (at least, I got them as part of a lengthy forward chain), generally sent with an introductory comment like "funny but true" or "this is exactly right." I don't know how many of the folks who saw those or forwarded them at the time realized the author had given his life for that cause.
A long-delayed coda to the story of THE most popular, widely read soldier/writer from Iraq during the surge.
Two tours in Iraq, and now studying nursing with plans to become a physician's assistant - praiseworthy, sez I.
Here's a story of someone who wasn't taken in by a "support the troops" scam.
'Tis the season for fund raising, and there are many worthy causes to chose from - but every dollar to the con men is one they're denied. (Or more, as the suspicious-minded who lack the time to verify or eliminate their own concerns can justifiably and politely decline entreaties to their good will.)
A Mudville Christmas special from 2008 - which is really less about Bing Crosby (with a special guest appearance by Ronald Reagan) and more about Christmas in Korea during the war. I recommend the full screen option for the video, the pics are high-def.
I suppose this could be considered a forerunner to the Marines' 12 Days of Christmas video [2009 update - that video has been removed from the web. Booo to whatever Grinch stole that bit of Christmas.] Of course, their grandfathers in Korea didn't have YouTube - didn't have television even.
The following video is compiled from excerpts of Bing Crosby's 1951 Christmas Special. That was a radio program - not television (and yeah, it's before my time, even). "Back in those days," (grandpa Simpson voice) "we watched television with our ears, and we called it ray-dee-ooh..."
The centerpiece of the show - a Christmas poem written by a Lt Col serving somewhere in Korea. While this is an edited down version of the broadcast, that reading was immediately followed by the song - just as included here.
Of course, what wasn't included were the pictures - I got to pick those out, including the Chesterfield ads. (Mild - with no unpleasant aftertaste!)
Yep - times have changed.
You can find the full broadcast archived here. (With lot's more music, witty banter, and Chesterfield plugs.)
And you'll find many of the Korean War combat photos I used in this project here.
(And click the computer monitor icon at the bottom of the video player if you prefer a readable, full screen view.)
(That's not a spelling error in the title - that's how some remember it...)
Chuckle if you wish, but the key word is foreign. American wars are another thing entirely.
Jump forward a decade from the days of that campaign promise. Were you a shopper on that day, the cover of the February 27, 1950 issue of Life magazine might have caught your eye. If you weren't already a subscriber and had the 20 cents to spare (just two thin dimes, bearing - since 1946 - an image of former President Roosevelt) you might even have purchased it.
Thumbing through it later you'd find something for everyone. Attention, ladies: the little red dress may prove the 50's first fashion classic. Couldn't care less? Well, for those more interested in fancy gadgets, a brief piece on the color television controversy:
Next week Washington's federal Communications Commission will resume the stormy hearings which it began last fall and will decide whether color TV is ripe for the U.S. public. As a traffic cop, assigning "channels" for nation-wide civilian and military radio communications, the FCC has to set engineering standards for all television including color. Until these related problems of channeling and engineering can be licked, the FCC has declared a freeze on TV and is withholding permits on new stations.
"Upon the FCC hearings depends not only the immediate future of color TV," the reader was cautioned, "but the progress of television itself." There were three competing technologies for delivering color TV into American homes, and the government had to pick a winner. It was eventually all sorted out - and twenty years later (at about the same time Life magazine sales began their death plunge) color sets were becoming common household fixtures. (While none were color, in 1950 there were six million televisions in the United States!)
Between the ads promoting consumption of various alcoholic beverages you'd also find a brief article - complete with diagrams - explaining the results of an atomic bomb attack on a U.S. city. (Short version: Bad.) Longer, more in-depth features explained the development of that world-ending weapon, examined the threat the Reds posed to American security, and speculated on how big and well-equipped our post-war military (North Korea's surprise invasion of South Korea was still a couple of months away...) should be.
Along with all that, an exclusive pre-publication excerpt from volume three of Winston Churchill's World War Two memoirs...
...opening with events of December 7, 1941, the day that - for Americans - the foreign war became foreign no more. That Sunday evening, in one of those coincidences that fuels the conspiracy theorist's fires, Mr. Churchill was at Chequers - the official country residence of British Prime Ministers - enjoying the company of Averell Harriman, at that time President Roosevelt's special envoy to Europe, and U.S. Ambassador to Britain John Gilbert Winant (who had replaced Joe Kennedy in that position when the father of the American political dynasty found himself - in the company of many notable British politicians - on the wrong side of history in the earlier days of the war).
"It was Sunday evening, December 7, 1941." Churchill recalled...
Winant and Averell Harriman were alone with me at the table at Chequers. I turned on my small wireless set shortly after the nine o'clock news had started. There were a number of items about the fighting on the Russian front and on the British front in Libya, at the end of which some few words were spoken regarding an attack by the Japanese on American shipping at Hawaii, and also Japanese attacks on British vessels in the Dutch East Indies. There followed a statement that after the news Mr. Somebody would make a commentary, and that the Brains Trust programme would then begin, or something like this. I did not personally sustain any direct impression, but Averell said there was something about the Japanese attacking the Americans, and, in spite of being tired and resting, we all sat up. By now the butler, Sawyers, who had heard what had passed, came into the room, saying, "It's quite true. We heard it ourselves outside. The Japanese have attacked the Americans." There was silence. I got up from the table and walked through the hall to the office, which was always at work. I asked for a call to the President. The Ambassador followed me out, and imagining I was about to take some irrevocable step, said, "Don't you think you'd better get confirmation first?"
In two or three minutes Mr. Roosevelt came through. "Mr. President, what's this about Japan?" "It's quite true," he replied. "They have attacked us at Pearl Harbour. We are all in the same boat now." I put Winant on the line and some interchanges took place, the Ambassador at first saying, "Good," "Good" - and then, apparently graver, "Ah!" I got on again and said, "This certainly simplifies things. God be with you," or words to that effect. We then went back into the hall and tried to adjust our thoughts to the supreme world event which had occurred, which was of so startling a nature as to make even those who were near the centre gasp. My two American friends took the shock with admirable fortitude. In fact, one might almost have thought they had been delivered from a long pain.
Of course, most who read that issue of Life when it was new had their own personal recollections of that day. You can read the entire copy of that issue of Life here, free of charge. (Pat yourself twice on the back if you saved your two shiny new dimes back then - they are now worth almost 13 times their face value to collectors.)
Not long after that December Sunday Mr. Churchill was off to America, where - on the day after Christmas, 1941 - he explained to Congress that now we are masters of our fate. Had there been television at the time, the viewer might have tuned in to something like this:
Here's a stocking stuffer you'll want to enjoy before Christmas comes: In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Eve Story.
Days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt met at the White House. It was Christmas Eve, 1941. As war raged throughout the world, the two leaders delivered a powerful message that still resonates today. Bestselling author and historian David McCullough relates a compelling story about the spirit of Christmas and the power of light in difficult, dangerous times.
The book includes a DVD of McCullough's (John Adams, 1776) presentation of the story at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's 2009 Christmas concert. It's "partly an account of the 1941 Christmas Eve addresses to the nation by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill from the White House; partly a short history of two songs ("Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas"); and partly a photo album of Americans at Christmastime during World War II." Readers' reviews at Amazon are compelling; there are more than a few folks on my Christmas list who'd appreciate this.
October, 1944 - an American airman, shot down over France, then captured by the Nazis:
As I stood there, hands in the air while being searched, neither man noticed the .45 in my hand. Satisfied that I was unarmed, my would-be victim waved me toward the road ahead and the two men got behind me to follow me into the small village. I put my weapon back into my jacket undetected, and started walking into town with my escorts following, just as dawn was breaking.
A good lesson there for those whose job is to search others for weapons (TSA agents, for example): don't forget their hands.
...the door swung open and, as if stepping out of some movie scene, in walked one of the most impressive military officers I have ever seen, the iconic blonde, blue-eyed Luftwaffe major, immaculately dressed in that magnificent German officer's uniform. Ya gotta give the Germans credit for that one: great-looking uniforms.
"Where is your weapon, Lieutenant?" He asked. The answer - along with the rest of the story - here.
(But if you haven't read the first part of this true-life adventure yet, it's here.)
...maybe it's you.
November 29: WikiLeaks Using Amazon Servers After Attack
December 1: WikiLeaks website kicked off Amazon's servers
December 1: How Lieberman Got Amazon To Drop Wikileaks
(Senator Lieberman statement here)
Here's a short version of the third - the Senator's office asked Amazon if the first was true - and if so were there plans to boot them out. "Yes" and "done" were the replies.
Which seems a smart move on Amazon's part in the strictly business sense. Supporters of "transparency" may be outraged, but it's likely that they are far too few in number to support Amazon's continued existence should that percentage of the population opposed to (if not downright outraged over) WikiLeak's behavior choose to do their purchasing locally. That this comes at the height of the Christmas shopping season magnifies the potential impact. Attempts to paint this as government interference or a first amendment issue will appeal to those same "advocates of transparency," but Amazon's decision is one that makes complete sense in a free market. Joe Lieberman once again makes a convenient boogieman for a certain segment of society in this case, but authentic advocates of real freedom will have a hard time reconciling advocacy for WikiLeaks with condemnation of Amazon.
But there are a couple of other points worth noting - things that (should) make you go hmmmm... The first from the TPM link above:
The [Amazon hosting] service, we should note, is self-serve; as with services like YouTube, the company does not screen or pre-approve the content posted on its servers.
Countered by a second thought from Hot Air:
According to the AP, server space can be rented from the company on a "self-serve basis," suggesting that Amazon might not have realized until today just who their new client was. I find that hard to believe given the amount of traffic that must have been flooding in, but then I also find it hard to believe that Amazon wouldn't have dumped them instantly had they known lest a U.S. boycott cripple their Christmas sales season. (Media reports about the Amazon/WikiLeaks were available as early as Monday afternoon.)
That last reference is to the November 29th Wall Street Journal story at the top of the timeline that opened this post.
Now let's yank the rug out from under the entire story above - and reveal the earlier dates in the timeline:
And November 28: WikiLeaks 'cablegate' hosted on Amazon EC2 US servers
Oh snap, as the kids say these days. And as the blogger notes in his second post: "The [October 22] story got picked up by The Register, The Telegraph and then spread to various other places." The Register report (headlined "Wikileaks taunts Pentagon with server mirrors in USA: Iraq War Logs hosted by...Amazon") is dated October 25th - as is the Telegraph's ("Amazon hosting WikiLeaks Warlogs information"). [Correction appended: Telegraph story is dated Oct 26, initial version dated both Oct 26.]
That blows more than a few holes in this claim from the AP's December 1st story (the second in the timeline above):
WikiLeaks released a trove of sensitive diplomatic documents on Sunday. Just before the release, its website came under an Internet-based attack that made it unavailable for hours at a time.
WikiLeaks reacted by moving the website from computers in Sweden to those of Amazon Web Services.
But they hadn't just moved in, they'd been there since October - at least. And according to the October Telegraph story, Amazon was notified at that time, but "did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication." The Register adds that "We've also contacted Amazon, and it has yet to respond. Nor has the US Department of Defense, which condemned the release of the Iraq War Logs."
In the interim, WikiLeaks dumped their State Department documents. While that might explain the greater attention paid to the Amazon angle now, it's also something anyone following the story - and concerned about the fallout - should have known was coming for a long time:
But apparently Manning also leaked "260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that Manning described as exposing "almost criminal political back dealings."" I'm not sure if he understands the difference between "criminal" (example: 'leaking classified' - which is) and "stuff I don't like" - or "embarrassing," but I'm fairly certain most DoS folks do..."Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public," Manning wrote.
That last quote is from a June 6th Wired Magazine article revealing Bradley Manning as the source of all the headline-making WikiLeaks document dumps (going back to the now-nearly forgotten "collateral murder" video) of the past year. The State Department documents are also noted in his charge sheet - dated 29 May, but available on the bradleymanning.org web site, and in (redacted) pdf form at multiple other locations since July.
You don't need to be a "computer hacker" to follow along with this story - to stay ahead of it, even. All that's needed is an internet connection and the slightest interest in what's going on. It's safe to assume that the US government - and Amazon - have at least one of the above.
- or reading the writing on the wall.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Van Steenwyk (Iraq '03-'04) as part of the milblog project yesterday. Prior to our conversation I'd re-read most of his blog posts from during his deployment. Though not the focus of the project, this example from January, 2004 really grabbed my attention:
The don't ask, don't tell policy will very likely be repealed or substantially liberalized within the next decade, or as soon as a Democrat enjoys a second term with a Democratic majority in both houses of congress. Perhaps even sooner...
That gives us, as leaders, perhaps 8 to 10 years to change the climate in the military.
That was seven years ago - this is today. I'd score that forecast as pretty damn good. And Jason's concern over the reaction of "the dumbest 5% of losers in the unit" (for that read the whole thing) was valid then, and remains so today. (For an infinite number of issues - DADT being but one.)
(Also interesting to think of this report from 2000 as "pre-Bush-era" sentiment, compared to the more recent results.)