The Democrats have a long-strategy when it comes to losing against ISIS

We'll never again see the type of victory parade that happened in Paris in 1944

We’ll never again see the type of victory parade that happened in Paris in 1944

A friend emailed me a comment:

Bill Clinton just said in an interview that America has proven we can’t win a land war in Iraq. Too bad he omitted: “Because we won’t let our military win it.”

I agree with my friend, and I want to examine a little further what he said, and I’ll do so via a series of links.

Charles Krauthammer argues convincingly that ISIS is yanking at America’s tail right now, because it knows that Obama will not fight the war to win.  It needs to prove itself regionally, and there is no better way to do so than to watch America retreat.

We can tell that Obama doesn’t want to win the war because he can’t even get himself to call it a war.  We’re assured that it’s a not-war, or maybe a not not-war.  Whatever it is, no matter how many kill shots Obama personally orders, there is no war, except when there’s not a not-not war.

Jon Gabriel says that the reason behind Obama’s reluctance to go to war is grounded in his jaundiced view of America.  If we say ISIS is terrible and that we’re going to protect the world from ISIS, the implication is that we’re the good guys.  Except that Obama cannot have America be good.  Therefore, America cannot fight a war against evil.

I agree with Gabriel, but I want to go back to what my friend said, about our refusal ever to let the military win a war.  That wasn’t always the case, even when Democrats were president.  American won WWI under a Democrat and repeated that feat with WWII.  It was only after WWII that America became embarrassed to win wars.  (For one theory behind that embarrassment, check out this history of the UN.)  It’s only a short step from “has not won a war in 60+ years” to “cannot ever win a war.”

Whenever I go to my mother’s place, I see a car with a Bush-ear bumper sticker, stating that “War is not the answer.” And every time I see it, I say to myself, “That depends what the question is.” For example, if you start talking to people about Nazis and other seriously bad actors, many of them will start agreeing with you that war can indeed be an answer. If you’re the anti-war type, you don’t people’s thoughts to head in that direction. How much better, then, to have a bumper sticker saying “Wars cannot be won,” or “There is no victory with war”?

Average Americans are so ignorant that, if the Democrats lose just a few more wars, voters won’t remember that victory is possible, and that it only matters that the right person or party should be in charge. Instead, they’ll just remember that wars cannot be won . . . ever!

“Let’s remember Pearl Harbor!”

Burning ships at Pearl Harbor

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because of the 2,402 Americans killed there.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because it catapulted us into an incredibly bloody war for dominance over the Pacific.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because, within a few days, Hitler also declared war on America, so that America found herself a combatant in the biggest war in the world’s history.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because America’s participation in the European theater was the main thing that beat back Hitler’s genocidal bid for world domination (Britain had done her best, but couldn’t do it alone).

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because America’s participation in the Pacific theater was the  main thing that beat back Japan’s genocidal bid for domination over the Pacific.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because America, after utterly destroying Germany, Japan, and Italy in World War II, stuck around to build them up again as peaceful, economically successful republican democracies that have been our allies, not our enemies.

Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because, pretty much until Obama quit doing the job, it marked the beginning of America’s role as the world’s policeman, protecting as many people as possible from the “peaceful graveyard” that is communism as well has our efforts to protect as many people as possible from sharia’s murderous hands.

Basil Fawlty’s insanity almost becomes Bank of England policy

I do believe that one of the funniest things ever shown on TV is the episode of Fawlty Towers (a show that ran from 1975-1979) in which Basil Fawlty welcomes four German guests to his seaside hotel.  He’s told not to mention the war, lest he offend the Germans, but he cannot help himself:

As is happening way too often lately, life in the 21st century has gone from amusing satire to dysfunctional seriousness.  This is the news out of England today:

Bank of England bosses thought twice about putting Sir Winston Churchill on the new £5 note – because they didn’t want to upset the Germans.

Officials warned Sir Mervyn King, then Governor of the Bank of England, that Churchill’s wartime record might make him highly controversial, documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday show.

[snip]

In a memo dated April 11, 2012, Sir Mervyn was advised Churchill will be a popular choice because of his ‘broad name recognition’ and the public’s ‘very affectionate view’ of him as a wartime leader. But officials also warned him that ‘the recentness of World War II is a living memory for many here and on the Continent’.

[snip]

Officials also warned Sir Mervyn of Churchill’s ‘disastrous’ decision to return Britain to the gold standard in the 1920s. Churchill’s critics at the time claimed the move, with the backing of the Bank of England, produced the mass unemployment, deflation and industrial strife of the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Bank staff who conducted ‘considerable research’ into Churchill’s role in the debacle noted: ‘If academics do pick up on the move to the gold standard it is likely they will refer to the role of the Bank and Churchill’s own criticism of the Bank.’

We shouldn’t be surprised by this thinking, though. The same government body was worried about using Jane Austen’s image on a bank note in case something shady emerged about her private life.  (For those who are not fanatic Austen fans, she lived her whole life with her family; never married; wrote exquisite social comedies that were also strong morality stories; and left virtually nothing of herself behind other than her work, since her beloved sister Cassandra destroyed almost all of her letters.)

It’s not too late to honor the atomic bomb drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The August 6 anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima has come and gone, but it’s not too late to watch Bill Whittle’s beyond brilliant deconstruction of Leftist moral idiocy regarding that bombing — in this case, moral idiocy as displayed by Jon Stewart, the intellectual light for too many leftists.

Longtime readers know that I routinely thank God for the Atom bomb.  My mother, interned in a Japanese concentration camp, had reached the point of starvation that saw her lose interest in food.  Death was days away.  Instead, because of that bomb, this is a picture of my mother five months after Hiroshima:

Mom photo

As a P.S., it’s worth recalling that Japanese concentration camps were no picnic, especially for the Western men caught up in Japan’s Bushido madness.

Friday’s “tame the inbox,” Part 2

I’m back with more.

Did you know that Afghanistan was declared a gun-free zone?  Well, if you didn’t, you’re right.  But this is a great satire anyway.

Have you heard of a site called Patriotic Voices?  (I do seem to be full of questions, don’t I?)  It’s a forum for conservatives.  It’s got very attractive formatting and interesting content.  If you look at the main page, there are new posts, although people don’t seem to be commenting. However, if you go to the forum page, it’s quite busy.  Check it out and, if you feel so inclined, come back here and let us know what you think.

Although blacks, sadly, suffer the greatest number of gun homicides, their voices are surprisingly quiet when it comes to the Second Amendment debate.  Digital Publius, however, did weigh in and I like what he had to say.

And now, below the fold, some wonderful WWII posters.  Looking at them is a reminder that part of why we were unable to come to a satisfying conclusion with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is the fact that our government never fought the war at home.  I’m certainly not saying it should have silenced the opposition, which would have made a travesty of what America is all about.  However, Bush’s government never advocated for the war either.  The Bush administration, which was afraid to speak the enemy’s name, never educated Americans about why we fought and never made Americans feels that they had a vested interest in see us win.

[Read more...]

Remembering D-Day, 68 years later

Many people forget, or never knew, that the war in Europe was virtually non-existent before June 6, 1944.  Until that time, the Nazi’s had successfully repulsed Allied efforts to bring the war to European soil.  The Nazis owned the land in Europe.  Sure, there were aerial bombing raids, spies, in-country resistance movements, etc., but that didn’t stop Nazi dominance.  What stopped it was good, old-fashioned boots-on-the-ground warfare — and that warfare began with the first wave on D-Day.

I have never, never, never been able to imagine the feelings of the men in the first wave, seasick, cold, wet, rushing into sure death.  My brain just doesn’t take me there.  All I know is that the free world owes these men, and the waves of them who followed them to such places as Bastogne and Berlin, their undying gratitude.

To each of those men, I can only say, I salute you, sir!

[Photo deleted, because it was a film shot -- I knew it was too well-framed to be true....]

Our very literate military

One of my favorite books ever is Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. (Just as a “by the way,” another wonderful Fussell book is Thank God for the Atom Bomb.)  In The Great War and Modern Memory, Fussell examines how the literary British upper-class men who participated in the British war wrote about it, from the unadulterated patriotism of Rupert Brookes (who saw so little fighting and died of an infected mosquito bite at Gallipoli) to the tortured trauma of Siegfried Sassoon, who spent too many years on the Western Front.  Fussell gracefully weaves military history, literary history, and literary analysis into one seamless, tragic whole.  It is an epic work.

Helping to write a letter 1917

Fussell’s book also makes one aware that there are always two wars going on:  the war on the ground, and what I call “the war as perceived.”  Only the troops know the war on the ground but, if one has a literate military, everyone can experience the war second-hand.  Although not as excessively literary as the British, who were steeped in Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, etc., American troops did a fine job of bringing the war home, at least through the end of WWII.  They wrote home from the front during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II.  Not just that, but during all those wars, a critical percentage of the American male population was engaged in the fight, meaning that, not only were troops writing, a critical percentage of the people at home were reading what the troops wrote.

Things changed after World War II.  We still fought wars and American troops still wrote home, but the audience was shrinking.  Fewer and fewer families had someone on the front.  Americans who did not have a friend or family member in the war lost sight of the “war as perceived.”  Into that vacuum stepped the Leftist propagandists.  They vigorously filled this informational void, most notably with John Kerry’s despicable Winter Soldier lies.  With Vietnam, on the home front, the “war as perceived” began to have a great deal to do with hostile sources — our home-grown communist fifth party — and nothing to do with the military’s own experience.

British chaplain helping WWI soldier write home.

The internet has changed all this.  In the ordinary course of things, between my environment (blue, blue Bay Area) and demographics (I’m too old to have friends who fight and my children are too young to be part of the fighting generation), “the war as perceived” would have passed me by.  Or, to the extent I did learn something about it, that knowledge would have come from the MSM filter, which is alternately maudlin or hostile when it comes to our fighting troops.

But with the internet  . . . well, that’s a different thing entirely.  We get front line reports, not from reporters, enemies, and propagandists, but from the troops themselves.  We also get “back line reports” (for want of a better phrase).  We don’t just learn from the troops about the blood and smoke.  We hear, first hand, about the camaraderie, the training, the boredom, the skill sets, the loss, and the foolish fun.

This first person war reporting is incredibly important.  It’s one of the reasons why, all efforts notwithstanding, the Lefties have been unable to turn Americans against the troops.  Because of the blogs, we know the troops, unfiltered.  They’re young men and young women who train, fight, play, dream, love and hate.  They are us.  We cannot pretend that they are some alien killer beings because the troops themselves won’t let that pretense exist.

The U.S. Army stays connected.

The other thing milblogging teaches us is that so many of those who serve in our military our excellent writers and thinkers.  They are well-informed, thoughtful, funny, intelligent and generally people with whom it’s nice to spend time.  When I read my favorite milblogs, I always think to myself “Gosh, I’d like to have lunch with that writer.”  (To my favorite milbloggers, that’s a hint.  If you’re going in be in town, drop me a line.)

I’d therefore like to introduce you to a few of my favorite milbloggers.  I’d also like it if you’d use the comments section to introduce me (and everyone else) to a few of your favorite milbloggers:

The Mellow Jihadi

Castra Praetoria

Neptunus Lex

CDR Salamander

Blackfive

And a newbie, a female Marine:  Tin and Phoenix

Why can’t we fight to the finish this time, so we’ll never have to do it again?

A friend sent me a link to an editorial bemoaning the fact that, by abruptly pulling out from Iraq and, soon, Afghanistan, the Obama administration is ensuring that we’re leaving a job undone — something that invariably means one has to do it again.  If history is going to keep repeating itself, why can’t we just repeat the good parts?

World War I ended with a definitive American victory, but a dangerous, un-managed peace, one that pretty much made World War II inevitable.  By 1942, my favorite songwriter, Irving Berlin, pretty much summed up the WWII mindset, which was “do it right this time.”

[Verse:]
‘Twas not so long ago we sailed to meet the foe
And thought our fighting days were done
We thought ’twas over then but now we’re in again
To win the war that wasn’t won

[Refrain:]
This time, we will all make certain
That this time is the last time

This time, we will not say “Curtain”
Till we ring it down in their own home town

For this time, we are out to finish
The job we started then

Clean it up for all time this time
So we won’t have to do it again

Dressed up to win
We’re dressed up to win
Dressed up for victory
We are just beginning
And we won’t stop winning
Till the world is free

[Coda:]
We’ll fight to the finish this time
And we’ll never have to do it again

Trust old Irving to hit the nail on the head. And, in fact, that’s what the Allies did.  First, they destroyed entirely the totalitarian states in Germany, Japan and Italy.  Then, in those regions over which they had control (as to those the Soviets held), the Americans carefully rebuilt the nations into democratic allies.  It was a tough, long-haul job, but it prevented post-war massacres and ensured that (so far) we haven’t had to “do it again” with Germany, Italy or Japan.

Clearly, we’re a whole lot dumber now than we were in the mid-20th century. In 1991 we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq (which is one of the reasons I’ve never liked Colin Powell, whom I’ve always blamed, fairly or not, for being the architect of that foolish retreat). Now, with Obama’s help, we’re doing it all over again, only worse. Does any nation get a third chance to remedy its chronic stupidity? I doubt we will, especially because Obama is also choosing to repeat the disarmament mistakes of the 20s and 30s. Ain’t those fancy Ivy League educations grand? They go in smart and come out stupid.

I’m an armchair warrior (aka a chicken hawk) and I’m disgusted and frustrated. I can only imagine how the troops — the ones who sweated and bled — feel as they watch their Commander in Chief dismantling all of their good work.

Hospital bedside blogging, with my thoughts turning to evil

Mom’s in the hospital again and suffering greatly, not in body, but in mind. She’s mildly delusional, and very paranoid, angry and anxious. I can’t imagine how grim it is to live in her head.

I slipped away for an hour and had lunch with Don Quixote. Our conversation turned to evil. I believe evil exists. Don Quixote pointed out, correctly, that many people who commit evil believe in their own heads that they’re doing a good thing.  They believe in their revolution or their God, and believe that they are serving that revolution or God (and, therefore, the greater good) by torturing or murdering mass numbers people who “get in the way.”

I’m going for moral absolutism here:  I believe that my system, which is predicated on maximum individual freedom within a framework of stable laws, is the best.  If two systems, mine and another that is more repressive, find themselves clashing over physical or mental control of people, I believe my system must win, and the other system must be defeated, even if that battle spills blood and causes the death of innocents.  I justify these deaths on the ground that, over the long run, my system will provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people, while any other system (e.g., Communism or radical Islam) will force great suffering on people for an indefinite amount of time.

At this point in my thinking, I don’t care that the Islamist or the Communist thinks I’m the evil and he’s the good.  If I lie down right now and refuse to do battle, he wins, and I will have perpetuated what is, in my absolutist universe, the greatest wrong of all, which is to allow evil — admitted evil as I define it — to flourish.

What do you say?  Does evil exist?  Am I evil for taking an absolutist position and being willing to fight and kill to defend it?  (Or more accurately, given my armchair warrior status, sending others to fight and kill to defend it?)

I am very interested in what you have to say on the subject.

Incidentally, it’s worth thinking in this regard that part of my Mom’s continuing mental anguish is that she spent WWII interned in a Japanese concentration camp in a war the Japanese started and that she spent the Israeli War of Independence getting shot at by Arabs who refused to recognize the Jewish state.  Those events created a lifelong anxiety that kept her alive during war, but that is slowly and depressingly killing her in old age.

Hollywood once again shows its callous disregard for America’s military *UPDATED*

Back in 2004, entirely coincidentally, I ended up at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., on the same morning that veterans of the Battle of the Bulge had gathered for a reunion. Some got there under their own steam. Many, though, were on walkers or in wheelchairs. They were so frail. And so many were weeping. It was that weeping that did me in. I seldom cry on my own behalf, but I’m a sympathy weeper. Watching these old, fragile warriors break down under the weight of their memories got my tear ducts working overtime.  I still get watery thinking of those men who not only fought one of the most important battles of the war, but who then came home and honored the dead by living.  They had families, held jobs, and generally gave meaning to the freedom for which they fought.

I mention this little story because there are people out there, especially in the entertainment world, and more specifically on the set of Hawaii Five-O, who do not share my reverence for these aged warriors (free registration required):

Last week, a special group of Americans made a trip to Hawaii. This was not their first trip to Hawaii. In fact, the first time all of these men were together in Hawaii was on December 7th, 1941.

Last week, these men and some of their families were back in Hawaii again for the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Today, less than ten percent of those who served during World War II are still alive.

For the men who made this trip, there was also another tacit acknowledgement. This would be their last trip. The average age of a Pearl Harbor [veteran] is in the early nineties. In fact, there are now so few Pearl Harbor survivors left that the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is disbanding at the end of the month.

On December 9th, 24 Pacific veterans, including 23 Pearl Harbor survivors were taken to the National Cemetery of the Pacific for a memorial ceremony honoring those who fell during the attack on Pearl Harbor and those who fell during the Pacific campaign.

While the men were at the cemetery, the TV show Hawaii Five-O was filming at the cemetery. As the National Anthem was played and the ceremony went on, the CBS production crew was filming. At first they told the veterans and their families to hush, then repeatedly pushed them back and finally told them to hurry up. As the veterans were laying roses on the graves of their fallen comrades, a production employee walked through the middle of the ceremony telling them to hurry up.

Perhaps the ultimate insult came at the end, when someone with the veterans group asked if one of the cast members of Hawaii Five-O could come over and say hello to the group. The production crew refused.

These World War II vets are a tough bunch. They went through the first depression and then the Second World War. I can guarantee you they did not let this incident ruin their trip, though some of their family members might feel differently.

[snip]

CBS has issued a carefully nuanced statement claiming they would look into the incident and throwing out some boilerplate language about how they respect the veterans of World War II.

Stefffan Tubbs, who was there, provides more details about the Hollywood thought process on display:

I decided to take a closer look at the production area from the public thoroughfare and walked closer to see catering trucks, grips, associate directors, production assistants, lighting workers, countless minions and the lead director – a Hollywood-looking middle-aged man wearing a black “AD/HD” t-shirt, a play off the rock band “AC/DC.” I stopped well behind the cameras and out of view when a local production assistant politely told me to keep moving. I was not happy and told her we had WWII vets who would likely be in the area. I was told, “Sorry, sir. We rented this part of the cemetery today.” My blood started to boil, but I remained calm and moved on. As I stood behind the tent, the director yelled at everyone to: “Get out of the line of sight! If you don’t belong here, clear out!”

I made sure to go where I was basically invisible, 40 yards from the nearest camera when the director heatedly walked to me. He was not happy.

“Can you please move?” he said sternly.

“OK,” I said. “Where would you like me to go? I have Pearl survivors who are here visiting their fallen comrades at a public cemetery.”

He couldn’t have cared less and told me that if we stood behind a tent, that would be fine. He walked away completely frustrated and yelled at a local assistant: “I am doing YOUR job! You wanna come back here again? Do your job!” I felt sorry for her. It wasn’t her fault a group of vets actually came back for a realreason to this cemetery. Having been around a few movie sets, I knew this was how they were especially if the scene was behind schedule, etc. Keep in mind at this point I was alone. It wasn’t as if our entire entourage was milling about. There was only one veteran anywhere near me and was walking toward me from up the road.

Walter Maciejowski, 90, from Massachusetts soon caught up and I quickly tried to run interference so he wouldn’t get yelled at as he stood there in his cream-colored Pearl Harbor Survivors cap. Walter was clueless and was just amazed at the technology. He whispered in my ear as the scene was about to begin 75 yards away. We both stood exactly where the director had told me to stand.

[snip]

I told Walter we had to go, and we started to walk away as lead actor Alex O’Laughlin and Terry O’Quinn from Lost did their scene. As we moved out, yet another woman came up to us and with a fake smile told us Walter couldn’t take any pictures.

“Our actors get very skiddish [sic] around still cameras, sir.”

“Funny, and yet they act in front of them,” I said, ticked off because we were already leaving.

I wish he hadn’t done it, but Walter asked if they by chance had a hat for him. To his face, she said, “I doubt it but I will try.” She never did.

You can read the rest of this eyewitness narrative here.

This whole thing falls into the category of I see it, but I don’t believe it.  It’s impossible for me to understand the mindset of louts who are either so callously self-involved or so Progressively propagandized (or both) that they are unable to support old men on a last pilgrimage to a defining moment in their youth — a defining moment, moreover, that was not only one of the more savage acts in a savage century, but that also paved the way for a freedom that blessed Europe (until it squandered that gift) and was the making of a very successful modern Japan (which then decided to stop having babies).

Pearl Harbor Survivor David Shoup at the 70th anniversary commemoration at Pearl Harbor (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Logico)

UPDATE: In the first comment to this post, Don Quixote points out that Hawaii Five-O is fairly military-friendly in content, something that I respect and appreciate.  I can’t figure out if that fact makes the cast’s and crew’s behavior at Pearl Harbor more or less unpleasant.  It’s like discovering the worms under a rock (with all due respect to bookworms, of course).  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Back in Hollywood’s golden days, the studios employed vast numbers of publicity people to make sure that people didn’t learn that the stars of wholesome, family friendly movies lived somewhat debauched lifestyles.

UPDATE II:  JJ offered so much good information, I’m copying his comment here:

A little information from the world of TV.  Whether it mitigates or not is up to you, but here’s what happened.

1) Whoever – in Hawaii – it is who schedules events at the cemetery is a retard.  (Dear Editor: I don’t actually care about the political incorrectness of using that word, it’s apposite, it stays.)  Or, perhaps it was a screw-up on the part of the scheduler for the vets.  Either way, some dingbat somewhere dropped the ball and allowed the two groups to be occupying the same space at the same time.  This unfortunate confluence was the fault of neither group – blame whoever has the appointment books.

2) CBS has no idea what the complaints they’re suddenly receiving are about, so idiot boilerplate is their best – maybe only – response.  They don’t actually have a production company in Hawaii – or much of anywhere else these days.  I would be astounded if it was an actual CBS production company.  The people who own, produce, and deliver that show to CBS for air do not work for CBS.  They are an outside, independent production company that exists as an entity for the purpose of making episodes of the show – most of them have never been within a thousand miles of Black Rock.  That production company hired that director – and everybody else on set – to make that episode.  The director is a production company employee – for that episode – and he may make all the episodes, (a probability rare to the point of vanishing), many of them, some, few – or this may be his only one.  He’s a jobber.  When you complain to CBS about him, they’re going to say, “huh?  Wha…?”  They didn’t hire him, probably don’t know him, may never have heard of him, and he ain’t their problem.  (The network doesn’t know or care about the labor, they only want to see the baby – in time for it to go out when it’s scheduled to.)

3) The production company got seriously shafted on the cost to film in the cemetery that day.  How do I know?  All production companies always get shafted on fees for the use of locations, because everybody in the world – including people who should know better – begin having visions beyond the dreams of avarice when they see Hollywood coming.  And the biggest shafting is the make-it-up-on-the-spot insurance premiums for filming on location.  If there’s a blade of grass out of place, or a broken twig on a tree after the production company wraps and leaves, you cannot fathom the megillah this is.  (Which is why they film in studios and on lots, and in Canada.  It’s why studios and back lots came into being in the first place: to avoid the never-ending problems of locations.)  The PAs all knew that if anything remotely definable as “damage” happened to any part of the cemetery or its grounds – even if committed by a Pearl Harbor veteran or somebody else – they would be the ones turning on a spit over a hot fire,

None of which excuses the shitty attitude of these overpaid, well-tanned, tower of ignorance trolls, but it may make it a bit – a microscopic bit – understandable, or maybe explicable.  The fact is most of them, being products of American education, never heard of Pearl Harbor.  Factor in the self-centeredness engendered by hanging around Hollywood, and you have a group that’s only rarely in touch with where they are.  The director, probably the senior guy present (at least on the on-the-spot management ladder, could have been gracious and understanding.  The actors as well – neither of whom I know – could also have brought matters to a halt for a respectful pause.  (Tom Selleck or John Hillerman, speaking of people who filmed in Hawaii for CBS, would have.  [Selleck would have stopped the scene, and worked out a way to get the Pearl Harbor vets into it, as objects of deep respect and honor.]   I wouldn’t know either of the two clowns mentioned above if I fell over them.

Hat tip:  America’s First Sergeant

My mother’s war, courtesy of Pearl Harbor

My mother’s heading to the hospital again today.  She’s not aging gracefully, in large part because of the damage done to her body and soul during WWII.  I thought that this would be a good day for me to reprint what I once wrote about her war (originally part of this longer post about Japanese atrocities).

In 1941, my mother was a 17 year old Dutch girl living in Java. Life was good then. Although the war was raging in Europe, and Holland had long been under Nazi occupation, the colonies were still outside the theater of war. The colonial Dutch therefore were able to enjoy the traditional perks of the Empire, with lovely homes, tended by cheap Indonesian labor. All that changed with the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Most Americans think of Pearl Harbor as a uniquely American event, not realizing that it was simply the opening salvo the Japanese fired in their generalized war to gain total ascendancy in the Pacific. While Pearl Harbor devastated the American navy, the Japanese did not conquer American soil. Residents in the Philippines (American territory), Indonesia (Dutch territory), Malaya (British territory), and Singapore (also British) were not so lucky. Each of those islands fell completely to the Japanese, and the civilians on those islands found themselves prisoners of war.

In the beginning, things didn’t look so bad. The Japanese immediately set about concentrating the civilian population by moving people into group housing, but that was tolerable. The next step, however, was to remove all the men, and any boys who weren’t actually small children. (Wait, I misspoke. The next step was the slaughter of household pets — dogs and cats — which was accomplished by picking them up by their hind legs and smashing their heads against walls and trees.)

After this separation, the men and women remained completely segregated for the remainder of the war. The men were subjected to brutal slave labor, and had an attrition rate much higher than the women did. Also, with the typical Bushido disrespect for men who didn’t have the decency to kill themselves, rather than to surrender, the men were tortured at a rather consistent rate.

One of my mother’s friends discovered, at war’s end, that her husband had been decapitated. This is what it looked like when the Japanese decapitated a prisoner (the prisoner in this case being an Australian airman):

Japanese execution0001

The women were not decapitated, but they were subjected to terrible tortures. After the men were taken away, the women and children were loaded in trucks and taken to various camps. The truck rides were torturous. The women and children were packed into the trucks, with no food, no water, no toilet, facilities, and no shade, and traveled for hours in the steamy equatorial heat.

Once in camp, the women were given small shelves to sleep on (about 24 inches across), row after row, like sardines. They were periodically subjected to group punishments. The one that lives in my mother’s memory more than sixty years after the fact was the requirement that they stand in the camp compound, in the sun, for 24 hours. No food, no water, no shade, no sitting down, no restroom breaks (and many of the women were liquid with dysentery and other intestinal diseases and parasitical problems). For 24 hours, they’d just stand there, in the humid, 90+ degree temperature, under the blazing tropical sun. The older women, the children and the sick died where they stood.

There were other indignities. One of the camp commandants believed himself to have “moon madness.” Whenever there was a full moon, he gave himself license to seek out the prisoners and torture those who took his fancy. He liked to use knives. He was the only Japanese camp commandant in Java who was executed after the war for war crimes.

Of course, the main problem with camp was the deprivation and disease. Rations that started out slender were practically nonexistent by war’s end. Eventually, the women in the camp were competing with the pigs for food. If the women couldn’t supplement their rations with pig slop, all they got was a thin fish broth with a single bite sized piece of meat and some rice floating in it. The women were also given the equivalent of a spoonful of sugar per week. My mother always tried to ration hers but couldn’t do it. Instead, she’d gobble it instantly, and live with the guilt of her lack of self-control.

By war’s end, my mother, who was then 5’2″, weighed 65 pounds. What frightened her at the beginning of August 1945 wasn’t the hunger, but the fact that she no longer felt hungry. She knew that when a women stopped wanting to eat, she had started to die. Had the atomic bomb not dropped when it did, my mother would have starved to death.

Starvation wasn’t the only problem. Due to malnourishment and lack of proper protection, my mother had beriberi, two different types of malaria (so as one fever ebbed, the other flowed), tuberculosis, and dysentery. At the beginning of the internment, the Japanese were providing some primitive medical care for some of these ailments. As the war ground on, of course, there was no medicine for any of these maladies. She survived because she was young and strong. Others didn’t.

So yes, the Japanese were different. They approached war — and especially civilian populations — with a brutality equaled only by the Germans. War is brutal, and individual soldiers can do terrible things, but the fact remains that American troops and the American government, even when they made mistakes (and the Japanese internment in American was one of those mistakes) never engaged in the kind of systematic torture and murder that characterized Bushido Japanese interactions with those they deemed their enemies. It is a tribute to America’s humane post-WWII influence and the Japanese willingness to abandon its past that the Bushido culture is dead and gone, and that the Japanese no longer feel compelled by culture to create enemies and then to engage in the systematic torture and murder of those enemies.

Pharaoh, the Ten Plagues, and Iran

An antisemitic Jew I know, rather than seeing the Passover ceremony as the celebration of freedom (the world’s first and for a long time only successful slave revolt), and of justice and morality (the Ten Commandments), derides the whole ceremony as the unconscionable and immoral celebration of the genocide of the Egyptian people.  What troubles him so much is the fact that, after each plague, when Pharaoh seems about to soften and let the Jews go, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, leading to the necessity of yet another plague, culminating in the death of the first born.

I know that some people have tried to explain away this part of the story by saying that it is simply dramatic license, meant to increase the tension and danger of the Jew’s escape from Egypt.  After all, if it had been easy, it wouldn’t have been much of a story.  You know, Moses asks, “Hey, Pharaoh, can we go?” and Pharaoh answers “Sure.”  That’s not a narrative with much punch or heroism, and God’s involvement is minimal or, at least, unexciting.  It’s much more exciting to have an escalating series of plagues, with the audience on tenterhooks as to whether those pesky Jewish slaves will actually be able to make a break for it.

This reasoning is silly.  There’s a much more profound purpose behind the ten plagues, and that is to remind us of the tyrant’s capacity for tolerating others’ suffering, as long as his power remains in place.

What Pharaoh discovered with the first nine plagues is that life can go on, at least for the ruler, despite an increase in the burdens placed upon his people.  A blood filled Nile River may, at first, have seemed appalling, but the red receded and life went on.  Pharaoh still held together his government.  The same held true for each subsequent plague, whether lice or boils or wild animals or frogs, or whatever:  As long as Pharaoh could maintain his power base, he was okay with the incremental decimation visited upon those he ruled.

Sheltered in his lavish palace, Pharaoh might worry about a populace starving and frightened, but that was irrelevant as long as that same populace continued to fear and worship him.  The people’s suffering, ultimately, was irrelevant to his goals.  It was only when the price became too high — when Pharaoh’s power base was destroyed because his citizens were destroyed — that Pharaoh was convinced, even temporarily, to alter his evil ways.

Human nature hasn’t changed much in 3,000 years.  Think, for example, of both the Nazis and the Japanese at the end of WWII.  For the Nazis, it was apparent by December 1944 (the Battle of the Bulge) that the war was over.  Hitler, however, was a megalomaniac in the pharaonic mold, and his high command, either from fear or insanity, would not gainsay him.  Rather than surrendering, the Nazi high command was willing to see its country overrun and its citizens killed.  Only when the death toll became too high, and it was apparent that nothing could be salvaged from the ashes, did the war on the continent finally end.

The same held true for the Japanese.  Truman did not decide to drop the bomb just for the hell of it.  Even the fact that it would impress the Soviets was an insufficient reason for doing so.  What swayed Truman was the fact that his advisers told him (credibly as it turned out) that the Japanese Bushido culture would not allow Japan to surrender even when surrender had become the only reasonable option.  Instead, the military warned Truman that, although the Americans would inevitably win the war, if Truman didn’t take drastic action, victory would take another year, and cost up to 100,000 American lives and at least that many Japanese lives (including Japanese civilians).

Truman therefore had two choices:  another year of war, with the lost of 100,000 Americans and many more than 100,000 Japanese; or an immediate stop to the war, with no more American casualties and at least 100,000 Japanese casualties.  Put that way, the choice was a no-brainer.  The outcome would be the same for the Japanese, but Truman would save the lives of more than 100,000 Americans, British, Australians and Dutch.  (One of those Dutch, incidentally, was my Mom, who was on the verge of starving to death in a Japanese concentration camp.)  The Japanese high command was Pharaoh.  No amount of smaller plagues could stop the command from its chosen path.  Only a large plague would swiftly lead to the inevitable conclusion.

But what about the innocent lives lost as a result of Pharaoh’s, the Nazi’s, and the Japanese high command’s intransigence?  As the Japanese tale shows only too well, the innocents were always going to die, with the only question being whether they would die quickly or slowly.  The same holds true for the Germans, whom the Nazis had long ago designated as cannon fodder to support their intensely evil regime.  That’s the problem with an evil regime.  If you’re unlucky enough to live under that regime, whether or not you support it, you’re going to be cannon fodder.  Pharaoh will let you die of plagues, and the Nazi and Japanese leadership will let you be bombed and burned — as long as they can retain their power.

Iran is no different.  Although the people bleed and cry under the brutish regime, no plague, including rioting in the streets, has come along that is bad enough to break the back of that tyranny.  The people continue to die by inches, and the regime threatens everyone within bombing distance.

Liberals believe that it is immoral to impose serious consequences against the Iranian regime because there are innocents who will suffer from those consequences.  What these liberals fail to understand is that, when power doesn’t reside in the people, but resides, instead, in a single group that is insulated from all but the most terrible strikes, imposing small plagues against the country (freezing a few bank accounts, public reprimands, vague threats) is utterly useless.  These small plagues, no matter how much they affect the ordinary citizen, do not affect the decision-making process in which a tyrant engages.  The only thing that will move the tyrant is to destroy his power base.  Everything else is theater.

With that, I’d like to wish all of you a Happy Passover.  Whether Jewish or not, I hope that the Pesach celebration serves as an occasion for all of us to remember that, though the price may sometimes be high, both for slave and master, our ultimate goal as just and moral human beings must be freedom. So please join with me in saying, as all Jews do at this time of year, “Next Year in Jerusalem.”