Archive for June, 2017

Chill, People!

Friday, June 30th, 2017

July 20 was and may still be a day of observance among some Europeans. It’s the date in 1944 when a group of German officers, including Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, made an attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler, their national leader and supreme commander. They planted a bomb under the table he was to sit at. It went off, but Hitler managed to escape with minor injuries. I recall an issue of the European edition of the US armed forces daily “Stars and Stripes” marking the 25th anniversary of that event and featuring photos of the bomb damage and a recounting of the assassination attempt and its aftermath. 

People have speculated on what might have happened if the July 20 plot had succeeded. The war that had ravaged Europe over the course of five years might have ended abruptly instead of raging on for eight more months. The policy that prohibits the murder of political leaders might beneficially have been relaxed for that particular assassination. The question thus arises whether there might be other occasions on which that policy should be relaxed. Of course, all discussion of that question is forbidden.

We tend to chill discussion of certain issues under certain circumstances. One particularly chilling circumstance is the commission of acts of inhumanity by our own government. As in the case of the Nazi regime that governed Germany during the war, our leaders use armed force to advance political and commercial ends. They do this without the formal approval of the people, evading the responsibilities imposed by our constitution. The destruction and bloodshed they inflict thus amounts to mayhem and murder. We might expect rational people under those circumstances to question whether their violent leaders might be restrained by the threat of violent consequences, such as Hitler faced in the summer of 1944. Don’t hold your breath waiting for such a discussion.

Recent events here in Hartford, Connecticut, are illustrative. A professor of sociology at Trinity College lost his job for publishing an essay confronting a closely related issue. A few weeks ago, a heavily armed man began shooting at a group of Republican members of Congress who were taking part in an athletic event at a ball field not far from the Capitol. None of the Republicans was killed, but one–a high-ranking right-winger with a reputation for bigoted rhetoric–suffered serious injuries. A member of his security detail–an African-American woman who might reasonably consider herself a target of his bigotry–risked her own life to help the member. In the aftermath of that ironic episode, the Trinity professor published an essay suggesting that victims of bigotry might justifiably withhold aid from bigots in trouble. He didn’t advocate the assassination of bigots, but his context was an attempt at just such an assassination. The college promptly placed the professor on leave, over the objections of a faculty committee.

The chill that goes out with the action against this professor reaches far beyond Trinity. If violence may not be mentioned in discussions of appropriate responses to bigotry, it’s certainly off-limits in discussions of just retribution for malfeasance among public officials. That’s unfortunate, because Americans are suffering an epidemic of official corruption, and there’s no apparent remedy for it. Corruption has so enriched the political class that it is immune to all accountability. The possibility of a violent, revolutionary response from the governed might profitably be discussed under such circumstances, maybe in the context of the July 20 plot, but that discussion is forbidden, as Trinity reminds us all.

Bring It On!

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Would you entrust a war to an army that couldn’t defeat some of the weakest nations on earth? The armed forces of the United States have been engaged for over a generation in warfare against governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Syria. They have managed to destroy lives and property in abundance and have extinguished entire ancient cultures, but they have accomplished no discernible mission. Typically facing poorly-armed and undernourished enemies, they have been unable to record a victory since 1945. Should we trust them to take on Russia?

Our armed forces are a refuge for civilian society’s rejects, and this weakens them. The last victorious US army consisted of conscripts, with all able-bodied men called to service. Today, only one in a hundred of our children volunteers for military service. Nurturant parents don’t let their kids join up, and young people with good jobs don’t quit to put on a uniform. That leaves recruiters with a pool of kids with weak family connections and little in the way of career prospects. Only a nation of idiots would go to war with such an army.

The military record is rife with deficiencies. If people of high rank were subject to discipline in the same way individual soldiers are, a host of generals, admirals and their civilian handlers, including several commanders-in-chief, would spend considerable time behind bars. You can go back 50 years to a day in June when the Israeli navy torpedoed and strafed a US intelligence vessel in the Mediterranean, killing 34 seamen, with no consequences whatsoever for the killers or US officials. Or you can go back a couple of weeks, when a US warship was allowed to collide with a merchant ship on the open sea, killing seven seamen. Consequences should, again, be considered unlikely.

The record for air defense is zero for three. Separate airplanes were aloft for extended periods before crashing into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia. No coherent explanation has ever been offered for the failure of air defense to intercept the offending aircraft. As for offensive operations from the air, they are now carried out by remote control, from bunkers thousands of miles from the targets. Not only is the tactic an exquisite expression of cowardice, it’s altogether arbitrary in its selection of targets and has proved as likely to vaporize a wedding party as an assembly of fighters.

The nation’s infantrymen fare no better. They are more likely to find themselves engaged in raids of civilian neighborhoods than in firefights with enemy soldiers. The casualties they suffer are hardly reported at all in stateside papers, and their military objectives, such as they exist at all, are completely unknown to the civilian population. If battles have been won in combat over the last several years, we haven’t heard about it. No wonder veterans commit suicide at double the rate of civilians. “Thank you for your service. Go kill yourself.” Think you can win a war with an army of men who, with justification, believe that the people they’re supposed to defend don’t care about them?

You may have noticed that, amid the beating of war drums by the embedded mass media, you hear nothing about whether our armed forces are capable of actually waging war. The record would indicate the contrary, and somebody ought to bring that up.