Do We Deserve To Win?
Air Vice Marshal Arthur "Bomber" Harris.
RAF Bomber Command.
One the best resources available to a blogger is your readers. They are the worlds best editors and fact checkers. They are also one other thing, they are a great source for inspiration for ideas.
One reader left a comment the other day that has been rattling around in my head. In essence, the reader was saying that: "Unless we remain true to our ideas, we don't deserve to win"
There's a part of what the reader was saying that I understand, and at a basic level I agree with. But theres a deeper truth that I think they might be missing.
We are not in an idealogical cultural competition with the Jihadis, we are in a fight for our lives.
We start off each and every war by saying that we won't become like "them", but to survive, you often do what you have to do in order that you survive.
At the beginning of WWII, RAF Bomber Command would only allow bombing of German cities with propaganda notes, by 1942 the concept of "total war" had been adapted by the allied powers. By 1945, we had gone to the process of accepting as normal the the firebombing of civilian populations of Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin, Tokyo and the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
1939 - We drop paper.
1944 - We drop incendiaries from "1000 plane" raids that last three days.
1945 - We drop Atomic bombs.
Did the methods we engaged in to expedite the war "spoil" the victory? No. An enemy civilian population that engaged in and abetted the open genocide of 6 million of their former schoolmates and next door neighbors, as well as gave material support to an Army that engaged the "scorched earth" polices across the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe can hardly expect to be afforded the kind of protection given to true non-combatants. In the modern world, the designation of "civilian" does not hold the same weight as it did in the middle ages. In the modern world, you are either a combatant or a target, it would seem that a civilian today is simply someone who just didn't "get the memo".
Did we "deserve" to win World War II because we managed to remain idealogically pure? No. Quite frankly, we didn't remain idealogically "pure", but I'm damn glad we won all the same. I do not- for one second - think that in the area of atrocities that we were the equals of the fascists, but that is not to say that we executed the war in a completely clean civilized fashion, thereby "holding true to our ideas" . We didn't target civilians if we could aviod it and there are many cases where our servicemens lives were lost in the attempt to remain within the parameters of civilized war. American Daylight Bombing Strategy had a terrible cost for American Air Corps personnel, yet it continued throught the war. The strategy was used because "targeted/strategic" bombing was acceptible to American Military command and civilian authorities, while the "area bombing" of our allies in the UK was not. However, in events like the Dresden bombing, a combination of US and UK aircraft and aircrews were used to do the job over a three day period. To cling to belief that we were clean and they were not, overlooks the basic facts of the execution of the war, that both allies engaged in activities that they felt stood the best chance to win the war, and took whatever steps they felt necessary to complete the task,even if the other allies considered them reprehensible. In those days, they both recognized what we cannot yet see, that is, the consequences of losing were understood and made very real by their enemies daily actions.
To put it more simply, We "deserved" to win only because we were able through force of action to compel our enemies to capitulate by being willing to whatever was necessary to get an "Unconditional Surrender". There is only one end to any war, and that is when your enemy is compelled to stop fighting and calls out to say " no more", everything else that may be offered by your enemies is just an "armistice" or a polite version of slow rearming which will eventually lead to a more bloody rematch between the aggrieved still warring parties.
What were the Fascists willing to do to win? Everything they could get away with and more. To expect an enemy to fight within written parameters of a legal agreement is the first admission that you haven't really accepted the reality of war. If warring parties could agree to comply to written conditions in the first place, war would have likely not have happened. Parties are in the condition of war because they are no longer able to work within the confines of the process of law. The lesson of history is absolutely clear, War is truly hell on earth and should not entered into lightly. Getting into a war is always easier than getting out, for getting out means that someone has to lose.
There is probably only one greater shame than entering into war, and that is failing to prosecute the war to its full conclusion, thus ensuring that the war goes on for another generation. It's bad enough when war visits one generation, but its inexcuseable to allow the bloodletting to go on to the next generation simply because of ones personal desire to satisfy the need for closure. I always felt the best reason that was ever expressed for a war was used often by soldiers of WWII, when asked why they were fighting, they would simply say " I'm fighting, so my kids wont have to come back and finish the job".
In our war with the Jihadis, it is not clear whether we are willing to do all it will take to win. Our culture and civilization is still not collectively sure that we are actually "at war", and cannot decide if they should take the Jihadi threat as serious as some of us feel it is. Many people in the world believe the greatest threat to the world is in fact, the United States, rather than those who's openly stated goal is the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate unto the world. A world where men like myself and you too , dear reader, will be killed outright and all women will be reduced to a status lower than that of "favored farm animal". Our future under their "Islamic Caliphate" is that of enslavement or death, nothing more, nothing less. If you think I'm overstating it, try convincing the members of the Beslan PTA that I'm just "over the top". For those of you who still feel that your leftist progressive sentiments will save you under their mercy, try to remember that while you consider yourselves separate from people like me, the only difference they will make between us is the order in which we are marched into an open trench to be shot in the back of the head. Jihadis don't look at us as "Democrats" and "Republicans", we are all blasphemous infidels. We are all Americans. We all wear the "yellow star of David".
Any strategy to fight the Jihadis that says "we will fight this far and no further" is a strategy that will surely result in our losing this war. The consequences of the Western World losing this war is beyond the comprehension of people living in the modern age. We must understand the horror that the war has forced us to embrace, we must be capable of not just withstanding the terror acts made against us but we must also be capable of administering a credible, horrific response that will eventually lead to the breaking of their will.
Falluja Delenda Est...
Let it also be clear, that our enemies are not supermen, they are mortal men, as are we, and they too have a spirit and a will that can be broken by our actions. It will take time and it will take effort, but it can be done. That is, as long as we are willing to do it.
Arthur Harris said this about his predicament:
"The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a dozen other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind."
Since 9/11, I've often thought about that last phrase. The words are "old testament" and are not the kind of words that are thrown around lightly by real adults. "Bomber" Harris did not fight this far no further, he clearly established that it was his enemies that set the terms of war, not he. He simply responded in kind.
I've had the feeling lately that Vladimir Putin knows the Russian translation of the phrase and is about to start using it. I hope we are prepared for what I think he is likely to do.
I Will Never Forget, though sometimes wish I could.
I Will Never Forgive, although I know I should.
I fear we've let them down, and yet, I hope we haven't.
I hope we've all learned the lesson,
still I know the class has only begun.
An accounting has come due at the feast we have been given.
I know the bill has been prepared, for the liberty we have taken.
And while each may argue the cost of our freedoms;
All now know the high price that's been paid.
I Will Never Forget.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Ghosts of Thermopylae
It’s been said by many people that the terrorists of today are fighting a different kind of war.
This war is the same kind of war that’s been fought for 10,000 years. All military action, no matter the tools, techniques or players is designed to do one thing:
“ Make your enemy lose the will to resist”
Sometimes, you can do this by just showing up offshore with a Naval Task Force. Sometimes, it takes years of horrible fighting in near hand to hand conditions to get the other side to stop resisting. But no matter if it’s a long artillery barrage, naval blockade or medieval castle siege, the goal is the same, get the other side to give up and submit to negotiations.
For 10,000 years, all human warfare can be gauged by one simple metric. You are winning when the other side breaks ranks and runs. Therefore, all political action in concert with military action is designed support that one thing, “breaking the will”.
So, let’s take a look at the battlefield today. Some direct combatants, some indirect combatants, but make no mistake, the target they are aiming at is the same. Terrorists aren’t attacking factories or armies or navies at sea. They aren’t putting cities at siege or capturing ships in harbor.
They are attacking our spirits; they are attacking our will to resist.
Today we passed one of those asinine 'green eyeshades' metrics. U.S. death toll at 1,000 as forces battle al-Sadr
Let's be clear about this. Iraq is a battle, It's the world that is at war. When we have battlefields in this war as diverse as Bali, Morocco, Beslan, Madrid and yes, Manhattan it should be clear to all that there is no safe haven, no border, no ocean that we can hide behind for safety. There is no mountain range or river behind which we can hide, no philosophy we can adapt to make ourselves less a target.
I want every one who reads this to understand what I am about to say and let there be no mistake about what I am saying and that I'm not at all happy when I say it, but it needs to be said:
We will lose 100,000 soldiers,sailors and airmen before this war is over, maybe more.
This isn't a war in Iraq, it's a battle. It's a battle in which the enemy can't afford to lose and we can't afford to retreat. To allow the blasphemy of Democracy and the doctrine of human liberty into the domain of Islam belies the failures of their tyrannical leaders. Democracy is like a stake through the heart of the Jihadist tyrannies that have already destroyed the once proud and prosperous peoples of the middle east. These forces are now on their way to destroy the other 3/5ths of the earth if we let them win by giving into their will, by letting them break our spirits.
Iraq is just one battle, there will be many many others. Some of the battles in this war will be fought here at home and yes, many more of our "civilians " will die in this war. Our civilians, both left and right, democrats and republicans will die, not because killing them is militarily effective for the Jihadis, but simply because by killing us, the jihadis feel they can break our will to resist.
And that is what this whole thing comes down to. Will we, as free people, who want nothing more to live our lives and to be left alone, resist the forces of Jihadism?
But "What if"?
What if we retreat in this war, then what? Will the weak countries of the world continue to fight while America signs a separate peace with the mullahs? Shall we expect that Europe, already prostrate before the powers of tyranny, to fight on without us when they can't defend themselves even today? Can we expect the new children of Democracy, of which Russia is but one member, to fight on for liberty if we were to crawl back into our coccoon of consumer safety?
How shall we best lead the world?
I beleive the idea of "civilians" died in Guernica, Hamburg, London, Nanking, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was brought home again to me when our people died in downtown Manhattan. We are all targets, we are all combatants and the fastest way to get this war over with the least amount of death is to get busy fighting it. The more we wince, the more we shirk from the job at hand the more they rub their hands together and say to each other:
"one more day my fellow jihadi brothers, and their lines will surely break".
We determine the length of this war by the depth of our determination that it must be fought. If we decide to shirk, the war will grow longer and more deadly. If we fight with diligence and with force, it will end quicker and with less bloodshed for all.
Just as we recognize the "round number" metric of today at 1000 soldiers lost, we must also recognize that many, many more of us will not live to see the day when the whole world lives in freedom, but we must all dedicate ourselves to the cause that says that even for our enemies, it is a world that must be.
For without liberty and freedom, there will be no world at all.
The words echo up from our past:
Steel yourselves my friends. Stand up, grab your shields and swords and be prepared to meet the growing enemy, for tommorow we will all surely dine in Hades.
Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
SEPTEMBER 1, 1939
SEPTEMBER 1, 1939
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.
Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
And the international wrong.
Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.
From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame."
On September 1st 1939:
Hitler orders the extermination of those deemed by the state to be 'mentally ill" and orders the Nazi Armies to invade Poland. 17 Days later in concert with their German Allies, Russia invades Poland from the east and occupies the countries of Latvia, Lithuiania and Estonia according to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Treaty.
World War II has begun. 52 Million people will die as a direct result of the war. A war that by the time it was over, taught humanity about the inhumanity of concentration camps, work camps, "arbeit macht frei",conscription, flamethrowers, napalm, firebombing, carpet bombing, scorched earth, ethnic cleansing and the atomic bomb.
On September 1st 2004, Polish soldiers serve side by side with Americans and British soldiers in defense of liberty in Iraq while German,French and Russian governments protest their actions. I hope to God the Poles have forgiven us for our leaving them behind the Iron Curtain and I thank them all for the courage to stand up to tyranny. They are an example to all of us. The Germans, French and Russians serve as an example of how short some peoples memories really are and how spoiled some cultures have become.
W.H. Auden's poem "September 1st, 1939," fits the world stage today as the United States stands in rigid defiance to tyranny and yet many around the world wish for and live in desire for an increasingly pathological isolation as solution to our situation. It appears to W.H. Auden in 1939 as though we are prepared to take an incredible gamble for no good reason, and where would we be if he were correct?
Auden's poem, with all its incredulity, bitterness, dread and humanity-lacerating guilt, resonates with uncanny power. It is music for the coming shadows. It was written in New York City, the old city of Ralph Kramden, Damon Runyon, "Dave the Dude", Jack Dempseys "joint" and a colorful Mayor, an Italian fellow named "Fiorello", who knew how to run a city.
The poem wasn't written yesterday, but it might have been.
This is a day of shame for all Democracies. This day should serve as a warning to all future generations. Today is a warning to all free men and lovers of liberty that there is a cost to neglecting your obligations to civilization and that cost can be seen reflected in the eyes of every Polish citizen. Warsaw was not a just a victorious battlefield for the Nazis, but it was also the first of many graveyards for pacifist "good intentions".
Update: You can have Mike Moore, you can have Jimmy Carter. I will stand with this man. I am ashamed that we did not stand with him. No country can ask more of its men than what he sacrificed for freedom and no one could have been treated worse for his sacrifice.
Be Like The Mahatma!
As I said before, I get lots of letters. Most are good, some are open discussions on difficult topics, some are bald-faced death threats. You deal with it, comforted by the fact that most leftists are terrible marksman, dont own guns anyway and every outlet of air from their mouths is a sheep like bleat admitting their general cowardace as a human being. As I said to "da goddess", I've faced death before, I used to own a 1974 Pinto.
There is one constant "stream of consciousness", that is often repeated in emails from people who consider themselves "pacifists", that I should reject violence, and follow the lessons of the "Mahatma".
This is interesting to me for many reasons, first the assumption is that I must be a "bloodthirsty warmonger" if I believe, as I do, that though war is always regrettable, it is often the only civilized answer to the question of genocide and enslavement. Second, that the "Mahatma" is an exemplar in the way to live ones life.
Through the power of the internet, I bring you the following:
"In his early days Gandhi served as a stretcher-bearer on the British side in the Boer War, and he was prepared to do the same again in the war of 1914-18."
This - I didn't know.
"Even after he had completely abjured violence he was honest enough to see that in war it is usually necessary to take sides. He did not indeed, since his whole political life centered round a struggle for national independence, he could not - take the sterile and dishonest line of pretending that in every war both sides are exactly the same and it makes no difference who wins. Nor did he, like most Western pacifists, specialize in avoiding awkward questions. In relation to the late war, one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: "What about the Jews? Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?" I must say that I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question, though I have heard plenty of evasions, usually of the "you're another" type. But it so happens that Gandhi was asked a somewhat similar question in 1938 and that his answer is on record in Mr. Louis Fischer's Gandhi and Stalin. According to Mr. Fischer, Gandhi's view was that the German Jews ought to commit collective suicide, which "would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler's violence." After the war he justified himself the Jews had been killed anyway, and might as well have died significantly"
Well Golly! - You never hear that little tidbit do you? How does that translate into the pacifist view on Iraq? "Gosh, they were going to die anyway, so why should we go in and try to save them..."
"When, in 1942, he urged non-violent resistance against a Japanese invasion, he was ready to admit that it might cost several million deaths."
Million here, million there, who's gonna know one way or the other.....
and the "grand finale":
"It is difficult to see how Gandhi's methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary."
Free press, right of assembly, make a note of that. When we get rid of Ashcroft and Bushitler we might want to get some of that.
"Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practice civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukraine famine, it would make no difference."
For you kids out there, substitute "Iran" for "Russia".
"But let it be granted that non-violent resistance can be effective against one's own government, or against an occupying power: even so, how does one put it into practice internationally? Gandhi's various conflicting statements on the late war seem to show that he felt the difficulty of this. Applied to foreign politics, pacifism either stops being pacifist or becomes appeasement."
If Orwell was alive today, He'd be on my Blogroll. I'd "Tip his jar" big-time after a statement like that!
"Moreover the assumption, which served Gandhi so well in dealing with individuals, that all human beings are more or less approachable and will respond to a generous gesture, needs to be seriously questioned."
"It is not necessarily true, for example, when you are dealing with lunatics. Then the question becomes: Who is sane? Was Hitler sane? And is it not possible for one whole culture to be insane by the standards of another? And, so far as one can gauge the feelings of whole nations, is there any apparent connection between a generous deed and a friendly response? Is gratitude a factor in international politics?"
Oh monseuir Orwell, you are so simplesse...
As is often said, Read The Whole Thing
The way you look tonight
Three years ago, a summer was passing and grade school was starting across America. School lunchboxes were packed, books stacked and kids marched off to do the drudgery that we require of all our younger minds. While we dashed the young ones off to their lives, we went to work and went on about ours. We were concerned with power, electric power and would there be enough to run our air conditioning. We were concerned with computer jobs, would there be enough as many of our friends, who left the normal corporate world for the dotcom world were coming back like defeated British paratroopers at Arnhem, tired and beaten, but not defeated. We were concerned with our declining stock portfolios and what our friends would think of us for buying pets.com at 60.00 a share.
A new President was in Washington and Republicans were still basking in the fact that for the first time in memory, it was Republicans who had protested in the election, the shouts of "get out of Cheney's house" still ringing in their ears as they felt for the first time that they had not been victims of a Democrat political machine who controlled events because they controlled the mob. Now it seemed, the Republicans were also capable of street theatre and their own mob action.
In our modern age of the internet and the dissemination of image based information, we often forget about what a photograph means to us in a tactile sense. A photograph is a paper based chemical reaction to light that captures in two dimensions what the lens sees. A photograph is in a way a chemical memory of a time and space that has since passed and can never be recaptured. Light from the Sun on a particular orbit of the earth bounces off buildings and trees and is gathered by a small glass lens and concentrated onto a piece of paper coated with a silver compound that reacts to the light to capture the image. It is a miracle when you think about it.
The camera goes 'click', and another piece of time/space is captured. It is no wonder that many primitive societies consider photography to be the "stealing of a soul", in many ways that is what is going on. The soul of a moment in time is gathered and stored on a piece of paper.
Much more than just light is captured in a photograph, Our minds react to the picture and we are brought back to the time that the picture was generated. We are reminded of where we were and sometimes who we were when the picture was made. Photographs are often composed of scenes that are important to us at the time for seemingly trivial lighthearted reasons. Sometimes those pictures contain information which at the time they are made make no sense to us, but years later, Time and space have moved to provide a context that didn't exist when the picture was originally made.
Yesterday, a slice of time/space re-appeared into my life.
Its a summer vacation picture. it is of an older woman,My mother-in-law, wearing a Statue of Liberty foam-crown, so commonly found on the heads of tourists in the New York City area. She is standing on the front of a tourist boat in New York Harbor. She's smiling for the camera and all the folks at home in a grin that could easily contain a regulation football and leave space on each side of her face. She his happy, Her arms outstretched in front of the New York Skyline, Her right arm overhead of Ellis Island.
She's on vacation with her daughter. They have flown clear across country to visit New York City.
In the background, prominent in the scene, are "David" and "Nelson". "David" and "Nelson" are not relatives hogging the picture, "David" and "Nelson" are the names of the two WTC towers.
In every visit I ever made to Manhattan and the New York and New Jersey Area, "David" and "Nelson" stood there marking the daily passing of the Sun. If you were in Long Island traveling towards Manhattan you knew you were getting close when you could see the tops of the towers in lower Manhattan above the tree line. If you were in New Jersey, you could look across and see the brothers and know that the rotation of the earth ran through those axles that came up out of the ground in Manhattan, you could see it there, right across the water.
Three years ago, the world changed and I didn't even know it. It was mostly over by the time I became aware of it here on the West coast. Much like the way the lives of parents are destroyed without their knowing it in the hours before they find out that their children were killed overnight in a car accident, our lives were changed forever hours before I knew it had even occurred.
I turned on the TV the way I used to do every morning and I saw the axles of the earth crash to the ground. We wondered if we should send the kids to school, We wondered if the attacks would continue, if these attacks were just the start of something bigger. I found myself confronting a fear that I hadn't had in the years since the end of the cold war that 'today could be the last day of life on earth'. I watched in awe as aircraft around the country stopped flying. The sky was silent and for the first time in my life even in my fathers life, no aircraft were in the skies anywhere. As a pilot, being told there are no aircraft flying was the equivalent of a priest being told that there are no more churches.
Well, there was one aircraft. Out on the horizon that night you could see the navigation lights of an F-15 fighter aircraft in a wide orbit over the city, looking for an enemy that thankfully didn't reappear. I always wondered what was that pilots name and what was in his mind those nights. He was a man who like the rest of us worried for his family and hoped for the future, only he sat in the front of a weapon ready to do his duty, even though he was not in foreign skies against an enemy pilot, but here at home and his likely target would be a civilian airliner being used as a weapon against his family and his homeland.
The day went from bad to worse as the impact began to sink in as to what it all meant. " We are at war" is what I said when I saw that it wasn't a tragic airliner accident, the moment when the second tower was hit was as powerful to me as the words "The Japs Have Attacked Pearl Harbor" was to my fathers generation.
That night, I, like thousands of other Americans went to the Red Cross blood center to help in the smallest way I could with helping in dealing with the carnage. It was filled beyond capacity, parents brought their children for whom there were no babysitters planned for and they all calmly sat on the curb outside the building waiting their turn to help their fellow countrymen. For a large crowd, it was very quiet and orderly. It's amazing how emergencies turn what would ordinarily been a crowd of misbehaving kids and rattled parents into calm collected citizens, all more aware of their neighbors needs than their own desires. We all wanted to be somewhere else, we all wanted our pre-breakfast lives back.
That night I witnessed a bit of magic. The moment of magic was captured when a woman, who had clearly been a singer in her younger days began to sing " The way you look tonight". It wasn't obtrusive, it wasn't joy filled piano bar belting that was going on. This was something else.
She could see what I saw, the recognition of so many willing to give, and help at a time of need. I started the day wondering where my socks were and at the end of the day I had found my heart, thanks to a woman who's name I'll never know, and a moment in time that was not on anyone's agenda as much as 12 hours before. In the parking lot of the Red Cross stood a woman singing a song to an audience of Americans, doing all that they could with what little they had.
What was she wearing?
She was wearing a Statue-of-Liberty foam-crown.
I wasn't aware of the picture of my mother-in-law in front of the New York skyline in a Statue-of-Liberty foam-crown until yesterday. The slice in time/space from whence the picture was taken, a simple vacation trip taken before mass murder was committed in the same place as this photograph of a womans of joy and innocence, did not have the significance to me then that it now does.
Two seemingly unrelated events brought together by a simple piece of tourist kitsch.
Three years later, "David" and "Nelson" are gone, and so is my mother-in-law, of a disease she must have had but didnt know about at the time the picture was taken. She is happy, arms outstreched like Barbra Striesand in "Funny Girl" - she has 2 years to live, the buildings behind her and three thousand lives, only 14 months...
Somewhere in a drawer at the home of a woman who was once a singer, sits a small piece of tourist kitch, a green crown made of foam, to make the wearer look like the Statue of Liberty that she once bought on her trip to New York, unaware of how it and a photograph taken by the daughter of another woman visting New York before September 11th 2001 tied together time and space in the parking lot of the Red Cross on that warm summer night in September.
It's three years later and I still miss them. That song still goes through my mind everytime I think of how the world has changed.
A Little Trip In Mr. Peabody's "Wayback" Machine
Take a step with me into the "wayback machine". Forget what you know about history and observe history in the past and how it effects you in the present.
We set the dial on the "wayback" machine to 1939.
Jan. 4 - In his annual message to Congress, the President calls for "all methods short of war" to defend the nation.
Jan. 23 - A Douglas DB-7 bomber crashes in California - A French national who was acting as the aircraft test pilot was at the controls is injured in the crash. The press discovers the administrations plans to sell advanced U.S. aircraft to England and France,which would be a violation of the current neutrality acts. The President responds to the negative press editorials and critiques that the U.S. frontier was "on the Rhine" and not here behind the Atlantic.
March 15 - Germany occupies Czechoslovakia in violation of the Munich agreement. A year earlier, Pime Minister if Great Britain is championed as a "man of peace" for going to Munich to seek peace with the German chancellor. His adversary, Winston Churchill is derided publically in the press and by members of government as being a "warmonger" for his abrasive speeches and in advocating the need to prepare for war.
March 17 - The President announces that he wants a revision of the Neutrality law to aid the democracies.
April 12- Charles Lindberg returns to United States after spending 4 years in Europe. At one point Lindberg considers moving to Berlin. Lindberg often speaks publically against U.S. intervention in war in Europe and has becoming a rallying force behind those increasingly known as the "isolationists". They are largely anti-semetic and sympathetic to Nazi Germany and to world fascism. Those forming the growing isolationist movement have among their members, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Press editorials applaud the effort of Lindberg to keep the country in peace by becoming an advocate for isolationism. In the previous year, Lindbergh has accepted the German Eagle from Hermann Goering, the Nazis' second in command. While some question Lindbergs patriotism, many people till admire Lindberg for his heroism.
May 1 - Cash-and-carry neutrality law has now expired, yet 72% approve discretionary embargo of aggressors.
June 29 - House approves the Vorys amendment to keep mandatory arms embargo but allow export of"implements of war" . Only 51% of the public approve, public opinion mixed and vacillating. The press editorials take on an increasingly sharp tone against his administration.
July 10 - Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes 12-11 to postpone neutrality revision, putting a stop to the presidents plans to increase shipments to european democracies.
August 1st. Minister Ribbentrop of Germany has begun meeting with Minister Molotov of Soviet Russia. It is believed by the Presidents intelligence service ( less than 25 people) that the intent of the visits is to sign a non-agression treaty. The presidents diplomatic officers in europe assure him that this cannot be true as Germany and Russia are diametrically opposed politically.
The gauges of the "wayback" machine stop. You read the dashboard dial. Today is August 2nd.
You are in Washington D.C.
You see the president of the United States of America. He is crippled with the effects of polio, a disease which in you time, no longer exists. In 1939, polio is a constant threat to the lives of children throught the world.
The country is in the midst of the worst economic depression in its history. While the presidents party is predominates in congress and in most statehouses, he faces a hostile press who is made up almost entirely of the opposition party.
The President rolls into his white house office to begin his day of work. In the mail, his secretary has brought to his attention a letter from the person thought by many as the smartest man in the world, Albert Einstein.
It is a letter detailing the facts of recent research into the new science of nuclear power. It is also a warning.
The warning is that the power that is possible to be generated from atomic power makes the possibility of a bomb of extraordinary strength a very likely possibility.
The warning is also that it appears that the Nazi regime of Germany is also working in atomic power. They have begun to lock up the key natural resources that can serve as stock for atomic power, such as uranium. czechlosovakia, recently overrun by germany is one of the worlds key sources of uranium.
Germany is also the worlds leader in advanced sciences. While his country is struggling in the depression, Germany is an economic powerhouse. While the president has managed to get many of the brightest minds of europe to re-settle in the United States, there are many, many more still in Germany and Europe.
He sits silently and stares at the letter, and thinks to himself....
The Nazis....... With access to the core power of the sun itself
He picks up the phone, he calls his chief of staff and ask him to assemble his cabinet for a meeting.
At the meeting, he reveal the contents of the letter. These men, all leaders of industry, the top of the very top of the leading classes of American society, sit ashen faced as the cold realization of what might happen when the Nazis accomplish the task of capturing the very power of the Sun.
Hitler has the means to accomplish this task.
Hilter has the motive to accomplish this task.
Hitler has the opportunity to accomplish this task.
By The presidents own estimation and that of all of the members of his staff and research teams, who have all concluded that it is inevitable that the Nazis under the madman Hitler, will create an atomic bomb.
And when they create it, they will most certainly use it.
He resolves to begin a crash program to catch up with the Nazis as fast as possible. His ecomonists tell him that it is hard to estimate the cost of a project like this, but as it turns out over the length of the war, he spends 5% of the countries GDP on this one project. It is estimated that the project takes enough resources and manpower that it has the effect of extending the war in europe by as much as 14 months.
And everyday he goes to bed hoping against hope that America accomplishes its goal before Germany does.
He dies in April 1945, America still well short of its goal of creating atomic weapons before Nazi Germany.
However, Nazi Germany is defeated in May 1945. After the defeat, a large international team of intelligence officers begins to scour the german countryside in search of atomic research and materials and personnel.
The new president is a former Senator from Missouri. While in the Senate, he investigated war profiteering. In one investigation, he discovered obscene amounts of money being spent on something called "Manhattan". At the time, He was asked by the President himself to "please not look into it any further".
Now that he is President, he is given a briefing to hear what "Manhattan" really is.
The concept of the weapon is staggering, the project to develop it is even more so. Event now in May 1945, its still unknown if it will all work, even though 20 Billion dollars have been spent on it. Entire towns have been created to house the amount of workers necessary to create the technology, and yet, not one bomb has been created, and whats worse, no one on the development staff can be exactly sure what the effect will be when the bomb is used. Dr. Oppenheimer estimates that the bomb will generate 5 kilotons of explosive force, while others guess that the weapon will possibly ignite the entire earth's atmosphere.
After 60 days of intense research by the intelligence services in newly occupied Germany, they have come to a rather stunning conclusion:
At no time were there any atomic weapons programs in Germany. Germany has done little research at all in the subject. While ballistic missles have been found that were theoretically capable of carrying an atomic weapon, while a submarine bound for Japan was found with a large amounf of uranium oxide on board, no actual atomic fissile material ever seems to have been created in Germany. To some it even appears that the lead Atomic scientist in Nazi Germany was quietly,secretly misleading the Nazis in their research.
The country has spent billions of dollars and diverted thousands of manhours in the effort to create something that turns out not to have been needed at all. The smartest man in the world has given his predecessor honest advice and he acted on it in good faith, it appears that it was actually completely and totally false.
Many things are found in Germany and Poland, Czeclosovakia, Hungary and Italy, the horrors of the Nazi regime are beyond unbelievable, beyond human comprehension, so much so that the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces orders an all out effort to document fully the deprivation of the Nazis. So appalled is General Eisenhower that is is quoted as saying " I am ashamed that my name is Eisenhower", in reflection of his families German heritage.
Yet, no "weapons of mass distruction" are ever found in Germany. Upon seeing the death and distruction and raw unhumanity of the Nazi regime, one could argue, that the true "WMD" was the Hitler regime itself.
The President is not the slightest bit upset that the Germans did not actually build a bomb, he like the rest of the world of 1945, is actually relieved. No recriminations have been brought against the President by the oppostion party of the press. The world knows and understands the simple fact that a genocidal madman has been removed from power and the forces of fascism who just a short time before were the leading political power in the world, has been destroyed.
You then return to the present in the "wayback" machine. You turn on the television to see James Carville and Michael Moore scream and rant about President Bush not finding any "weapons of mass distruction" and you just shake your head and laugh at the raw ignorance of these petty little men.
You sit and reflect on the world you saw in your trip and the world today. 21 days after your arrival in the "wayback" machine, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, two of the most diametrically opposed political powers will sign a non-agression treaty. This treaty partitions Poland into two sections, Russia is also given the countries of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania in return for not opposing Nazi Germany.
The Ribbentop/Molotov Treaty makes WWII possible, Only one army in europe is big enough, powerful enough and in opposition to Nazism enough to hold off Hitler. Instead of stopping Hitler, Stalin joins him in his desire to expand.
In 30 days after your arrival, On September 1st, The Nazis invade from the west into Poland, the Soviets invade Poland from the east on the 17th. Mutual assistance treaties signed by the UK and France for Poland are invoked, although both countries are totally unprepared to assist Poland, as the invasion is complete in 27 days. They are however, in a "state of war". Less than a full generation after millions of men were killed in WWI, a new war in Europe is underway.
France now has the biggest and most modern Army of the free democracies. In 1940, it falls to the Nazis in 32 days. By the time America enters the war, the United Kingdom will have faced defeat against the Germans in France and Norway, with a stalemate in the Battle of Britain. The only winning battle by the allied forces in Africa is offset by the stunning losses soon to come in Asia.
World War Two, as it is later called, goes on to kill an estimated 52 million people world-wide. While the worlds Democracies where being threatened abroad, while our former allies in WWI were being bombed in their homes, America sits out the first two years of the war as it battles with the forces of isolationism at home. Celebrities and heros and noted statesmen abound in the isolationist movement, while getting a good deal of positive support from the press.
What did you learn from your visit to the past?
Even the worlds smartest people can make mistakes. BIG Mistakes.
Doing nothing in the face of an obvious threat only increases the theat.
Maintaining a democracy is hard. Just being a Democracy is no guarantee of success against tyranny.
Treaties with madman are not just a "waste of time", they can actually help get you killed.
Human Beings are capable of enormous evil.
Allies arent all they are cracked up to be.
The only time you can be absolutely sure your enemies have a WMD, is when its used against you.
We could have lost WWII, if the people in America hadn't first been convinced of the necessity to fight it.
Until the Japanese attacked, it wasnt entirely clear that they would be convinced to fight.
The job of President is not a place for men of nuance.
UPDATE: "Big Stephen Green- The blogging machine" has a parallel post up at Vodkapundit