A Question of Strategy

So-the Democrats have taken the House. The Senate was always a long shot, but it still could have worked out better. 100 women elected. Several young, dynamic Democrats entered the national stage, and ensured themselves long-term relevance by dramatically exceeding expectations: finally, a Democratic bench is developing. There is good evidence that only gerrymandering kept the Democrats from absolutely swamping the House. And of course, it wouldn’t be an American election if there weren’t a bitterly contested recount underway in FL.

So, it becomes a question of what next: what should be the operational blueprint for the House Democrats? Moving forward, how do we, as Democrats, liberals, and yes, even radicals, best serve the Republic?

Example: The Democrats under Obama tried for years to get a seriously-needed infrastructure bill passed, and were thwarted at every turn: effectively, it must be added. It was part of the baldly-stated platform of Total Resistance the Republicans employed against Obama.

Now, Speaker-in-waiting Pelosi has signaled her willingness to work with Trump on an infrastructure bill. Would it help the country? Yes. Would it strengthen Trump? Also yes.

How serious of a threat is Trump to the health of the Republic?

How is the Republic best served?

Is it best served by cooperating with Trump, even though doing so strengthens him?

Does the magnitude of the threat posed by Trump constitute enough of a threat to justify refusing to cooperate with him, even though it may further delay needed legislation? Is the delay the price that has to be paid to prevent larger Trumpian destruction?

In warfare, if you give your opponent a sanctuary, a safe place wherein he can rest, recuperate, and re-arm, you cannot beat him. Likewise, if your opponent has access to a broad range of weapons, tactics, and strategies that you do not, you are most unlikely to beat him.

Currently, the Republicans have access to an entire range of weapons and tactics the Democrats cannot employ: lies, shamelessness, voter suppression, gerrymandering, massive billionaire support, and other forms of out-and-out cheating (see voting machines in GA), in addition to the Trump cult of personality. This puts the Democrats behind the eight ball before they even declare, as does Trump’s introduction of the permanent campaign, which he has used to amass a pre-election war chest of unprecedented size.

So, how is the Republic best served?

Defending Hillary…Again

Bob Cesca’s post today (see the excerpt below in italics) on Salon.com about Secretary Clinton’s email server produced a moment of déjà vu. I wrote about this same issue back in April here on Everbog: the double standard applied to Clinton versus others on the right, and yes, the left too.

The Hillary Clinton double standard in a nutshell: Why aren’t we talking about Jeb’s email scandal too?

“Does it matter that Clinton used a personal email server? Of course it does, and she ought to face scrutiny for it — only insofar as every high ranking official who uses a private email account ought to be scrutinized. So far, it’s really only Clinton who’s being hectored about using her own server. The fact that she’s running for president is a fairly decent excuse for doing so, but if that’s the case, why isn’t Jeb Bush being just as heavily flogged about it?

Back in March, The Washington Post published an article detailing how Bush used his private email account and its accompanying personal email server to send and receive what seems on the surface to be sensitive messages relating to National Guard troop deployments and post-9/11 security concerns. His email was sent and received via a private “homebrew” email server based inside his Tallahassee office. Bush “took it with him when he left office in 2007.””

Read more

My April 13 post, Defending Hillary, touched on several of the same points that Cesca’s article does. Defending Hillary highlights similar actions by Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Andrew Cuomo, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Colin Powell, and members of Congress as well as reminds readers of the 5 million missing emails during the G.W. Bush administration related to the attorneys general firing investigation.

Read more

What You Need to Know About the Clinton Email Controversy does a decent job of summarizing the details surrounding this issue.

  • This is not an investigation into Clinton but rather the security of her emails.
  • It is possible emails get classified retroactively.
  • Clinton has turned over her email server now because the FBI specifically asked for it. Previous requests have come from Republican members of Congress, not a government security agency.
  • Experts agree the worst decision was using the private server in lieu of a government one in the first place.
  • Questions will continue to dog her during the 2016 presidential campaign as more emails are scrutinized and she goes before the House Benghazi Committee in October.

Read more

Clinton’s opponents will continue to milk this issue for all it’s worth. She would do the same to her opponents, to be fair. To the extent it hurts her campaign is yet to be determined, and there is a long road ahead to Election Day 2016. Admittedly, Hillary Clinton can be her own worst enemy, but I refuse to pillory her for doing what others have done too. As stated in my April post, and it is worth reiterating, policies need to be implemented requiring legislators at every level of government to adhere to transparency and accountability guidelines and that all communication of government business be conducted on a government server, period.

Remembering Hiroshima

(Disclaimer: this post solely represents the opinion of the author.)

On August 6, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, the climax of the gruesome struggle in the Pacific between the US and Japan. Approximately 90,000 people were killed immediately, and another 50,000 died within two years. Added to that was the toll paid by the survivors, and their descendents: radiation sickness, cancer, leukemia, mutation, genetic damage, and birth defects decades later add an incalculable amount of human suffering to the toll. Three days later, this Boschian tragedy was re-enacted, at Nagasaki.

It’s almost cliche, now, to dutifully go through the debate: the Japanese started the war, Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Manila, execution of prisoners, refused to surrender. The Bomb not only saved a million(?) Americans, but actually saved Japanese lives as well, by obviating the need for an invasion of Japan.

And so forth. For every one, there is a riposte, every charge, a justification. These justifications-and that’s what they are-are necessary, because they help obscure what the nuclear attack on Hiroshima was:

A massacre. A slaughter of the innocents. I don’t know what else you can call hitting an undefended city, containing few if any targets of military value, with a nuclear weapon.

You can call it justifiable if you want-I’ve given you the basic outline of the usual main points. Many do. But remember what you are doing: you are justifying the massacre of civilians, on a previously-unimagined scale. If massacres are justifiable, then where does it stop? It doesn’t, until it reaches its logical conclusion: justifiable genocide, as promoted in the Times of Israel last year.

Hitler and Stalin both thought massacres were justifiable, as seen in places like Babi Yar, Katyn Forest, the gulag archipelago, and the German concentration and extermination camp system. “Bomber” Harris was a big fan, as seen at Cologne, Hamburg, Dresden, and a hundred other incinerated cities. So was Curtis LeMay, whose firebombing campaign against Japan-hitting a major Japanese city every other day-made Harris look like a bush-leaguer. And of course, the Japanese officers who ordered the rape of Nanking, created IJA Unit 731, and killed hundreds of thousands in China, Korea, the Philippines, and Okinawa thought they were justified too. And Truman, who promised Japan “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on the Earth”, went to his grave justifying his decision.

Nobody escapes the truth. Either these acts are universally wrong, or they are not. And if the massacre on a vast scale is justified, then why not genocide? After a while, they start to become indistinguishable from one another. If it is morally acceptable to nuke a city, then what is forbidden? And why? Is there still something worse, where we can draw a line and say “We won’t do that”?

So, amidst the jingoistic chest-pounding and nationalistic roars on one side, and the solemn memorial of the dead divorced from the acts of the leadership who brought this horror upon them on the other, remember Hiroshima, sacrificed on the altar of the justifiable massacre as an offering to the gods of vengeance. A vast, boiling, multi-colored monument to the failure of human beings to rise above their base, brutal, bloodthirsty programming. Remember the dead, the hibakusha, and the downwinders. And remember, even after all this time-it could still be you, your kids, your family.

We are all downwinders now.

Ferguson, Pt. II

See also, “Ferguson, Pt. I.”

More links of interest and diversity concerning the shooting of Michael Brown, 11 days ago.

  • Reparations for Ferguson: Total police control over black bodies has echoes in American history. 
  • Amnesty International sends team within US for first time 
  • This Doesn’t Make Any Sense
  • Gov. Jay Nixon’s Executive Order
  • “…Those who are determined to hate every African-American murdered by police (or anyone, for that matter) have managed to form an opinion that a simple theft is worthy of a death sentence if one’s skin is not light enough.
  • 90 year old Holocaust Survivor Arrested for Protesting
  • Getty Photographer Arrested
  • How the rest of the world sees Ferguson
  • US cannot lecture others on human rights, Amnesty says, as Egypt appeals for ‘restraint’
  • In “Google” English: (from a moderate German paper) 
    “Farewell to the dream of a post-racist society
    The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson testified deep-seated racism in the United States. The position of African Americans has changed since Martin Luther King hardly improved. OF SEBASTIAN MOLL , NEW YORK
    15 August 2014 08:27 Uhr
    LZ Granderson felt painfully in the sixties set back when he saw the pictures from the small town of Ferguson in the State of Missouri at the beginning of the week. “Let go of police in full riot gear, the dogs on black demonstrators – which reminds all too much of Alabama in 1965”
    The African-American commentator for CNN was not the only one in the United States, had to think during the events of the last days of the hardest times of the struggle for civil rights for black Americans almost 50 years ago. After the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a police bullet last Sunday makes in American sentiment is growing wide, that has changed in the situation of blacks in the country since the days of Martin Luther King fundamentally nothing: “It is for us never give justice “, Mychal Denzel Smith wrote in his blog for the political weekly The Nation . “The death of Michael Brown shows us once again that we are simply not allowed in this country.”
    Officially, the cause of Brown’s death is not yet clear. The police officers involved claim that a gun had gone off accidentally during a scuffle with the officers Brown. Dorian Johnson, the friend and companion Browns that night, but has a dramatically different version of events. According to Johnson, the police had the two black young men who were on the way home, harassed for no reason. As an officer then tried to pull Brown in the police car, this broke free and began to run away. Then opened the policeman, whose identity is not yet revealed, the fire. As Brown was hit by the fatal shooting, he had already stretched according to Johnson’s arms in the air to surrender.
    Video: USA – Hundreds protest after the killing of a black youth
    Hundreds have protested in St. Louis, after the police had killed an unarmed black youth. Security forces fired tear gas and smoke bombs at the demonstrators. Video Comment
    The demonstrations in Ferguson and throughout the United States, where breaks in the streets of many cities of the anger over the incident train, obviously tend to believe Johnson’s version. And for good reason: Only the events of the past week show a deep-rooted institutional racism of American law enforcement.
    Series of racist attacks by the police
    So died on July 17 in the New York City borough of Staten Iceland, the 43-year-old Eric Garner, while police officers wrestled him down on the street. On the video recording of a witness is clear to see that Garner had not attacked the officers and that he also did not sit down to defense when he was attacked.
    A few days later was shot in Dayton, Ohio, the 22-year-old John Crawford of policemen. Crawford was just going to pick out a toy gun for his son in a Walmart. And last Tuesday, two days after the death of Michael Brown, the 25-year-old, mentally handicapped Ezell Ford was shot dead by police in Los Angeles. According to eyewitnesses, Ford was attacked without warning, thrown to the ground and shot in the back. A reasonable suspicion against him there was not, except that he lived in a “problem area”.
    Page 2/2: Significantly more African Americans in prison
    The series of incidents, however, is only the culmination of a known issue. Civil rights have long been then that the American legal, regulatory and penal system suffers from a deep-seated racism. “I’m tired of every time to be afraid of being shot or arrested if I walk by a police officer,” LZ Granderson wrote in his commentary.
    The fear is well founded. So the new New York Mayor Bill de Blasio joined to the beginning of the year with the promises that ignominious stop-and-frisk strategy to end the NYPD. Under “Stop and Frisk” were allowed officials hailed on the street at random and without reason to suspect persons, browse and take into custody. From the vexatious practice, however, 80 percent of Latinos and African Americans were affected. Black and Latino neighborhoods felt terrorized.
    Institutional racism as a “caste system”
    The Inhaftierungszahlen for black Americans speak for systematic racism of American institutions. So 60 percent of American prison inmates are black, even though they make up only 30 percent of the population. Therefore, the sociologist Michelle Alexander speaks of a “caste system”, by the particular black males are permanently excluded from participation in American society.
    At the level of law that the picture is just as bleak. Thus, two years before the acquittal of the security guard George Zimmerman, who shot and killed an unarmed youth Trayvon Martin, ensured considerable anger among African Americans and citizens of real learning. Therefore, many were surprised, was condemned as last week in Detroit Theodor wafer for murder. Wafer had the black youth Renisha McBride shot that was kicked after a car accident on his door and asked for help. “That was after all, a little balm to our soul”, Denzel Smith wrote in the nation .
    USA torn apart because of racial problems
    The anger over the ongoing, deep-seated racism in the United States, which makes currently in the protests across the country after the Michael Brown incident wide, yet is large. Louder and louder the voices who believe in the United States will never change anything for African Americans are. So writes the black essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates that “America rests on a foundation of white supremacy”. American society is written deeply and irrevocably racist loud intellectuals like Coates and Alexander. Because neither the civil rights legislation of the sixties nor the election of Obama had really changed anything. “You get the knife sticking 20 inches deep in our shoulder, one centimeter pulled out,” said Coates.
    In Ferguson and elsewhere in the country, meanwhile, is trying with difficulty to prevent that the protests degenerate into open street battles the police. These had to be used on Tuesday and Wednesday tear gas and armored vehicles, demonstrators were taken away by the dozens. The United States is once again deeply torn because of race problems, and after six years of a black president. The dream of a post-racial society to flare up briefly after the election of Obama, seems more caught up than ever.”

     “Yo, check the diagonal
    Three brothers gone
    Come on
    Doesn’t that make it three in a row?
    Anger is a gift…
    Brotha, did ya forget ya name?
    Did ya lose it on the wall
    Playin’ tic-tac-toe?
    Yo, check the diagonal
    Three million gone
    Come on
    Cause they’re counting backwards to zero.”

The Covert Action Virus

Twenty or so years ago, I had a conversation with a soil scientist of my acquaintance, who had recently returned from an extended trip through Central America. He had been teaching alternative farming techniques to peasant farmers being squeezed into less and less available land, as part of a private aid group. It sounded to me like an ideal gig for the Peace Corps, so I was surprised when he answered: “Uh-uh. No way. If you’re in Central America with the Peace Corps, everyone just assumes you’re CIA. Nobody will talk to you, and you can’t get anything done.”
I was taken aback, given that, as the Peace Corps itself says:

Persons who have been employed by an intelligence agency, or otherwise have been associated with intelligence activities, are ineligible to serve as volunteers. This exclusionary policy is one aspect of the broader, long-standing policy of maintaining an absolute separation between Peace Corps and intelligence activities conducted by the U.S. government. This absolute separation is necessary to protect volunteers’ safety and to maintain the trust and confidence of the people in the countries in which volunteers serve.

The inverse, however, is also true. Because of this exclusionary policy, the Peace Corps would in fact make an excellent cover for an agent. This goes to the very nature of the deception that is the core of what intelligence agents do: it does not matter what lie is believed, as long as a lie is believed. As long as the target believes something that is not true, he/she can be manipulated. Which means that everything is a potential cover story, a legend, and a potential target for infiltration and exploitation. Every bureau, every commercial outlet, every information source is a potential target. Every cell of the body politic is susceptible to this, either proactively or by being compromised; a virus of deceit, secrecy, and covert action.

The problems with this are obvious, and became apparent to me again this morning, when I opened Firedoglake and saw USAID Fake HIV Center in Cuba Undermines Global Health Efforts. I followed the links; the gist, as reported by the AP, is that “Over at least two years, the U.S. Agency for International Development — best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid — sent nearly a dozen neophytes from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru to gin up opposition in Cuba.” These untrained agents, supplied with encrypted flash drives, and codes for communications, “posed as tourists, visited college campuses, and used…[a]n HIV-prevention workshop one called “the perfect excuse” to recruit political activists.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the operation was set up by the same contractor that dreamed up the failed “Cuban Twitter” project.

This program is being defended by the Obama Administration: according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, the program “enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention.” Note the moment of honesty: the secondary benefit of the HIV awareness program was HIV awareness. The first was covert action.

This type of covert action is not rare, as Peter at FDL goes on to elaborate; nor is it just medical aid being used as cover. The fake NGO that was used to decapitate a FARC unit in Columbia is missing, but he includes the fake hepatitis vaccine program in Pakistan that helped identify Usama bin Laden-since then, the Pakistani Taliban has outlawed polio vaccination and killed 60 vaccination workers, allowing polio to make a robust comeback. Another one Peter could have pointed to was the role of the NED-the National Endowment for Democracy-in Ukraine, where it has spent tens of millions of dollars on a wide variety of programs. As  One of the founders of the NED-“whose purpose is to support foreign organizations sympathetic to US foreign policy goals” explained it in 1991“A lot of what we do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA.” And so it is: whether it be Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Albania, Iran, Cuba, Mongolia, or Venezuela, the NED is there. No wonder Putin was pissed about US operations in Ukraine. Every dollar spent there was intended to lessen Russian influence. Every single aspect of the “civil society” NED is supporting there can be considered a covert operation targeted on Russian interests.

And that’s the real issue-the meta-issue. The effect of using everything as a cover for covert operations is the certain destruction of the ability of people to have faith in institutions that, in a democracy, require faith to operate (rampant conspiracy theory-the guaranteed response to pervasive secrecy-has the same effect). You can have democracy-or you can have deceit and covert action. You can have citizen participation-or you can have counterintelligence programs designed to “expose disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize…” You can have journalism-or you can have Operation MOCKINGBIRD, in which the CIA compromised dozens of journalists and fed them CIA propaganda. You can have community policing-or you can have Phoenix Program-style counterinsurgency as law enforcement, in which pervasive surveillance, secret and unconstitutional police methods, and Special Operations teams combine to “neutralize threats.” Radley Balko reports an average of fifty thousand SWAT raids annually in the US…we have come a hell of a long way from “to serve and protect.”

And that’s the point-when everything is a covert action bureau, or cover, that is all it is. It cannot be an institution that operates by deceit and covert violence, AND be a democratically-controlled institution responsive to citizens’ needs. You can have democracy, and freedom, and all the messy processes that democratic institutions require to operate; or you can have the expediency, secrecy, deception, and violence of government-by-secret-police-agency. When your service providers collect and sell your information; when your cell phone is tracked by retailers in the mall; when your movements are tracked via car tracking, facial recognition programs, and ubiquitous cameras; and when your police subvert oversight by deceiving responsible authority, your institutions have become spy agencies, whose tools are secrecy and deception: anathema to self-government in a free society. A paradigm of covert action, or a representative democracy. You cannot have both.

You cannot have both, and there will be no progress until this question is answered, definitively. Subverting change in defense of the status quo, after all, is what intelligence agencies do. Our government is infected with a virus, that has seemingly moved into every cell; healing America will require, first, a robust immune response from a citizenry that will not be able to suspend the necessary weight of disbelief much longer, and second, an intense vaccination course to keep the patient from  relapsing.

 

The Great Crusade: Remembering D-Day

(Updated for 2014)

The date was June 6, 1944. The biggest invasion fleet ever assembled was about to depart their ports in Britain, on the way to their landing areas, the beaches of Normandy, France. It was the launch of the “Great Crusade”-Operation OVERLORD, the 1944 seaborne invasion of France by the combined forces of the US, Britain, Free France, Belgium, and Poland, and the beginning of the liberation of Western Europe, occupied by the Nazis since the lightning victory of 1940. Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower nervously fingered the note in his pocket: the note in which he defended his troops and accepted full responsibility for the failure of the invasion. There was reason to worry: while success may seem inevitable in hindsight, poor weather had already delayed the invasion by a day, the degree of success in Allied deception operations was unknown, and the Germans in the West had had four years to prepare their defenses AND were being commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the famed “Desert Fox” who had taught the Allies such painful lessons in mobile warfare in North Africa in 1942. A thousand troops had been killed just practicing for the invasion, when the landing craft were surprised by German E-boats. The rough seas were destined to sink many of the ‘swimming’ tanks, and the minefield-clearing flail tanks developed by the British were not included in the American order of battle. It was a gigantic gamble, with the highest possible stakes. Long demanded by Stalin and obsessed over by Hitler, this invasion was considered the decisive engagement of the war by Rommel’s superior, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. While this is debatable, its role as a decisive engagement is beyond question.

As the defining event of the Twentieth Century, the Second World War and the experiences of those who fought it, both individuals and nations, became central to the identity of the participants: Britain had Dunkirk, the Blitz, and El Alamein, the US had Pearl Harbor and D-Day (and the A-bomb), and the Soviet Union had Stalingrad, Kursk, and Berlin. The character and behavior of every major participant was informed by the experience. The State of Israel was formed as a result, and both Germany and Japan underwent major cultural shifts, both in dealing with defeat and in confronting the reality of their conduct of the war. For better or worse, the world would never be the same.

The narrative of D-Day is also an essential building block of the discourse of heroic Americans storming ashore into the teeth of German fire to liberate helpless Europe groaning under a Nazi boot, and the root of a million resentful “we saved your ass from speaking German” reminders from Americans insulted by European perceptions of them as arrogant, uncivilized rubes. In reality, given the speed of the Soviet advance from the East, the likelihood is that the US, rather than saving anyone from speaking German, instead actually saved a whole lot of people from speaking Russian. The Soviet Army had crushed the bulk of German mobile forces in the East at Kursk in July 1943, and the Soviet march towards Berlin that then began had stopped only to occasionally resupply and reorganize, and to crush fanatical German resistance. The German response was to transfer the vast majority of its remaining forces to meet the onrushing Russians, and this reduction of available German forces was an important factor in the success of the D-Day invasion. And success was essential: had OVERLORD failed, it would not have been possible to try again until the next year. The alternatives, such as the Red Army standing watch on the Atlantic Wall in France, the invasion of a France held by Stalin instead of Hitler, or the use of atomic weapons against Germany, the Soviet Union, or both, are nearly unimaginable. In short, for millions, the stakes could not have been higher.

The OVERLORD invasion also heralded the true opening of the long-delayed “second front” in Europe; while forces of the Western Allies had been engaged in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, and the combined air forces of RAF Bomber Command and the US Eighth Air Force had been bombing Germany since 1942, these actions represented piecemeal commitments to the war against Hitler, and constituted no direct threat to Hitler’s position in Europe. The delay in opening this front had fueled Stalin’s belief that the Western Allies were dragging their feet in order to force the Soviets to bear the brunt of the fighting and the lion’s share of the losses. This belief was reinforced by British attempts to conduct peripheral operations more designed to assure the solidity of the British Empire after the war, especially in the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and India. After the Tehran Conference, when Stalin made this belief plain and mentioned the possibility of a Soviet-German truce, the plans for OVERLORD were set for May, 1944.  The D-Day invasion is often mischaracterized as “the biggest/greatest invasion of all time,” and other such hyperole. The biggest invasion of all time was Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, and the biggest coordinated military operation ever was Operation Bagration, the 1944 Soviet offensive in the East that followed closely after D-Day in the West.  OVERLORD was, however, the largest amphibious invasion ever, one of the most complex operations ever, and the apex of the amphibious invasion as military operational art, rivaled only by Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Inchon.

There were two possible landing grounds:  Pas de Calais, directly across the English Channel from  Dover, and Normandy. Choosing Normandy over the more advantageous Pas de Calais created several important effects: dissension in the German chain of command, and the biggest deception operation of the war. Rommel, as the German ground commander, anticipated the Allied landings at Normandy, but his superior Rundstedt was convinced the stroke would fall at Calais. This was particularly important because it was the deciding factor in where to place two German Panzer (tank) divisions being held as strategic reserve. The disagreement eventually reached Hitler, who made a frustrated parent’s decision: neither would get the Panzers, which would be held in yet another place, and released only upon Hitler’s direct order. The consequences were catastrophic: Hitler was sleeping when the call to release the panzers first came in, and his staff declined to wake him and ask; and, in any case, the Panzers would have been unable to reach either, due to Allied air superiority.

The Allies had gone to a great deal of trouble to encourage Rundstedt’s belief: during the build-up, General George S. Patton, who had been recalled and disciplined after slapping a shellshocked soldier in a hospital, was put in charge of a mythical US invasion army mustering opposite Pas de Calais. Thousands of inflatable decoy tanks, trucks, and artillery pieces were built and deployed in pre-invasion configuration, and the air was filled with fake radio traffic. Rundstedt bought it. Had Rommel prevailed, the consequences at Omaha Beach in particular, where the US was very nearly driven back into the sea with heavy losses anyway, may have been catastrophic.

The five invasion beaches were Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold, and Juno. The  landings at Utah and Sword went fairly smoothly with light casualties, while the landings at Gold and Juno took heavy casualties, and the US landing at Omaha, though successful, was a bloodbath. Ineffective naval gunfire and aerial bombing had left many of the well-prepared and dug-in German troops intact and ready on the cliffs overlooking the landing beach. The resulting carnage nearly repulsed the American landings, and victory was in grave doubt, until a Ranger unit managed to scale the cliffs and eliminate the German positions there. The survival of the American beachhead was assured, and could finally begin moving off the beach; two months later, after finally breaking out of the bocage country around Normandy, the end was assured, with only the timing and final Soviet position remaining in question. As Rundstedt said, “the war ended in September.” That may have indeed been the case for any realistic possibility of a German victory in the West, the Battle of the Bulge notwithstanding, although millions of German civilians were still to face the wrath of a Soviet Army for whom the war wasn’t nearly over yet. D-Day is the iconic American experience of World War II. To have simply survived such an event is an act of heroism, as anything less than individual heroism in the aggregate would have been insufficient to the moment. The affirmation that may be taken from that, however, is tempered by the certainty that many, every bit as heroic, motivated, and determined, still found their deaths on the beaches of Normandy. Heroism was necessary, but it was not in and of itself sufficient: one’s position in a landing craft when the grenade went off was utterly beyond one’s control. This, then, shows the expression of necessary faith that is part  of every military operation, that confirms itself in the survivors while betraying the dead,  and leaves all to ponder the meaning of the sacrifice. The examples are all there. Faith. Heroism. Boldness. Honor. Confidence. Responsibility. Competence. Resiliency. Fortune. Imperfection. Humanity…. No wonder D-Day is such a defining moment in 20th century American identity-it should be.  Remember–D-Day, June 6, 1944. Happy D-Day, America!

I’m Not Saying I Agree…But I Understand

Chris Rock once did a stand-up routine where he talked about the OJ Simpson case, and his theme was, “I’m not saying it’s right-but I understand.” This is kind of how I feel about Ukraine: I’m not defending Putin, and I’m not saying taking the Crimea in violation of treaty was right-but I DO understand. Here’s why:

I had forgotten about Zbigniew Brzezsinski’s famous quote: “without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.” This kind of fanatical bipolar myopia isn’t really funny anymore, given that the Cold War ended a generation ago, but it seems to be the core of much US thinking toward the current crisis in Ukraine, much to the detriment of our understanding why Russia is doing what it is doing. With communism defeated, there was  little ideological reason to continue fighting, beyond the entrenched corporate interests of  surviving Cold War -era institutions and the knee-jerk opposition of the Grand Chessboard-type thinking that thought it was a good idea to, say, march NATO up to Russia’s border. The idea that Russia, and any Russian leader, has a legitimate interest in Ukraine complicates this simplistic Good Guy/Bad Guy  narrative, so attempts to undermine Russian influence in Ukraine are left out of the mainstream conversation, as are the activities of Western intelligence agencies in fanning the unrest, and the uncomfortable presence of a significant fraction of neo-Nazis in Ukrainian resistance.

This reactionary impulse may have something to do with US motivation in aiding the anti-Russian Ukrainians, and maybe some of the Ukrainians are simply US aid sponges,  but there is a long history of antipathy between Ukraine and Russia, even before Stalin starved somewhere around 3.5 million Ukrainians to death in the Thirties. This was repaid, of course, by many Ukrainians welcoming the Nazi invaders of 1941. After the war, a Ukrainian independence movement largely controlled by unreconstructed fascists fought on, until finally crushed by the Soviets.

Fast forward. During de-Stalinization, Crimea is transferred to Ukraine from Russia, though the Russian Black Sea Fleet is headquartered there.

Fast forward. When the USSR collapses, Ukraine has the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal on its territory. In return for giving them up, Russia signs a treaty guaranteeing Ukraine’s territorial integrity; this is the one broken-maybe-by Russia’s incursion into the Crimea. We’ll return to that momentarily. Also, US Secretary of State James Baker promises Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO will refrain from moving East if the USSR stands down. After the USSR dissolves, NATO, of course, immediately adds most the old Warsaw Pact nations of Eastern Europe to NATO, which is why it so infuriated the Russians when Ukrainian President Yushchenko started talking about Ukraine, on Russia’s border, joining NATO, and expelling the Black Sea fleet from Crimea.

So, when Putin outbid the EU for favorable trade terms with Ukraine, he was operating within the accepted rules of the game. Meanwhile, the US is funding the Ukrainian resistance, and is wiretappedamong other things, picking the next leader of the resistance. Then, after Yanukovich’s “turn” toward Russia backfired, and the demonstrations got out of hand-the Russians brokered a deal to end the protests, and Yanukovich agreed to step down and transfer power to the Parliament.

That should have been the end of it; instead, the Ukrainian resistance reneges on the deal, essentially staging a coup d’tat even though they had already won. Furthermore, to complete the circle, there is a significant, visible presence of Ukrainian neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian nationalist movement.

And that’s why Putin is pissed. In his mind, he was playing a clean game, while Russia was being undercut by a covert op; he brokered a deal in good faith, only to see the Ukrainians immediately renege; and finally, the symbols of the hated fascists who killed at least 30 million Russians in the defining event of Soviet history are being prominently displayed, on Russia’s border.

There is simply no way in hell that any Russian leader is going to allow a hostile government with operational ties to Western intelligence to thrive in Ukraine-period. Especially one that reneges on its agreements, and is working hand in glove with both the US and NATO, who have lied to Russia at every step. Especially one that insists on rubbing its identification with the Nazis in Russia’s face. And, since temporal distance seems to have fogged people’s memories, Russia is a major strategic nuclear power and need have no fear of a conventional military threat, since attacking Russia is a prescription for national suicide.

Also, Russia is allowed to keep 25,000 troops in Crimea, although they are supposed to stay in their restricted area. That’s the treaty violation. There are no dragnets, roundups, or mass executions underway. Putin is walking a fine line here, asserting Russian hegemony in Ukraine without taking the irrevocable plunge of massive bloodletting. So far, he can still back out, and there are some signals that he may be looking for a way out. If he is, we should let him, since the alternative is for Russia to go all the way forward, and just take Ukraine, install the government it wants, and then withdraw to avoid a bloody counterinsurgency campaign. The closest analog in recent US history is probably the invasion of Panama in 1988.

So, I’m not saying it’s right, or saying I approve-but I understand.