Presidents versus Terrorists

Let me say up front that I think Trump is the least-presidential president that we have had in many years. In fact, I have made it abundantly clear in other blog posts that quite often I think Trump acts like a world class buffoon. But that being said, I recently read a social media post wherein someone who simply hates Trump was spouting off about Trump attempting to act like the King of America and starting wars after a US drone airstrike killed Iran's General Qasem Soleimani. This person is one of a growing group of misguided malcontents who are so blinded by their rage against our current president that they are incapable of properly analyzing the situation.

With that in mind, here are a few facts that everyone should consider.

  • First of all, the President is Commander in Chief (CiC) of our Armed Forces; everyone in the military reports to him. For all intents and purposes, Trump outranks every general in the Pentagon. If the military has viable intelligence that they can take out a known terrorist and Trump gives them the go ahead, then that's well within the powers that are granted to his office.

  • Second, our military killed a known enemy militant who was actively engaged in planning additional acts of terrorism outside of his own country. Soleimani was an Iranian general and terrorist who was in Iraq in order to direct the actions of several groups of insurgents who were attempting to overthrow their democratically elected leaders. Soleimani was directly responsible for an indeterminate number of innocent deaths; and if left on his own, it is guaranteed that additional lives would have been lost.

  • Third, in contrast to the killing of an Iranian terrorist on Iraqi soil, when Obama gave his permission to kill Bin Laden, a group of heavily armed American forces crossed into a foreign nation (Pakistan) and killed someone who was hiding out with their permission. As Commander in Chief (CiC), Obama - like Trump - was operating within the powers that were granted to his office.

    • However, in the grander scheme of political diplomacy, Trump killed a positively-identified enemy combatant with a precise drone strike, whereas Obama ordered the slaughter of an entire household of civilians based on unconfirmed intelligence (that thankfully turned out to be true).

    • But make no mistake: when US forces went after Bin Laden, our military violated the borders of a sovereign nation. In no uncertain terms, we invaded Pakistan when we killed Bin Laden. Whereas in Soleimani's situation, our military was already stationed in Iraq as a peacekeeping force, and the Iranian general and his cohorts were the invaders.

    • Think about it this way: when a group of revolutionaries recently attempted to stage a coup in Turkey, they were doing so under the orders of a man who is currently residing in the USA, whom Turkey considers a traitor and terrorist. How would you feel if a heavily armed group from the Turkish military snuck over the borders into the United States and slaughtered every man, woman, and child in that guy's house? Most Americans - including you - would be highly offended; but that's exactly what we did with Pakistan, and no Americans care.

  • Fourth, when you compare the conditions of Obama's and Trump's operations, Obama ran the risk of open hostility with an ally, whereas Trump ran the risk of open hostility with a country that was already openly hostile to us. Remember, Iranian insurgents attempted to overthrow our embassy just a few days ago. With that in mind, let's examine presidential reactions to acts over terror over the past few decades:

    • When a crowd of Iranians overthrew one of our embassies during President Carter's administration, a large number of Americans were held prisoner and psychologically tortured for the next couple years.

    • When a group of terrorists from Libya bombed US forces in Germany, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Muammar Gaddafi's private palace - and we never heard from him again (until his own people overthrew and executed him in 2011).

    • When Sadam Hussein invaded one of our allies in the early 1990s, President Bush Sr. deployed our military in overwhelming force and routed the Iraqi invaders in a brilliantly-executed military campaign.

    • However, when terrorists working for Bin Laden bombed the Twin Towers in New York in 1993, President Clinton did nothing. In fact, President Clinton passed on every opportunity to kill Bin Laden that the military presented during his time in office. What is worse, whenever terrorists would bomb or kill US forces anywhere on the planet, Clinton would withdraw all US forces from the region, thereby giving the terrorists EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED ALL ALONG. In the end, the Clinton Presidency was the greatest terrorist training program in world history; President Clinton proved that terrorism works - the US will withdraw its forces, and no one who is responsible for terrorist acts will be punished.

    • When Bin Laden bombed the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, President Bush Jr. invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, deposed their corrupt governments that sponsored global terrorism, and allowed their people to democratically elect their leaders for the first time in many, many years.

    • However, when a group of insurgents attempted to overthrow our embassy in Libya during President Obama's administration, both Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State (SoS) and Obama as Commander in Chief (CiC) ordered our military to stand down. As a direct result - our ambassador to Libya was killed (along with several other people), and our embassy compound was burned to the ground. (And don't even get me started on how Obama gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran, traded a host of known terrorists from Guantanamo prison without the required congressional approval in exchange for a known deserter and traitor, and he made it possible for Iran to create Nuclear weapons.)

    • On the other hand, when a group of insurgents attempted to overthrow one of our embassies under Trump's tenure, he sent in the military to reinforce the embassy and disperse the crowds of insurgents, and then he ordered their ringleader killed with a drone strike.

So, yeah - Trump is a doofus. But what Trump did was perfectly legal, as it was for Obama with Bin Laden. However, there is no comparison when it comes to results:

  • Carter (as CiC), both Clintons (Bill as CiC and Hillary as SoS), and Obama (as CiC) were all miserable failures with regard to foreign policy and terrorism.

  • On the other hand, Reagan (as CiC), Bush Sr. (as CiC), and Bush Jr. (as CiC) were demonstrably better at foreign policy.

The future will tell as to whether Trump will fare as well at foreign policy during his time as CiC. But that being said, just because you cannot stand Trump does not grant you the right to disparage what was well within the realm of his duties as Commander in Chief. In fact, at the moment it appears as though his decision to take out a known terrorist was incredibly well executed; with minimal loss of life to US, Iraqi, and even Iranian personnel.

As I said earlier, these are just some things to consider.


UPDATE: When this blog was originally published, it made no reference to the drone airstrike. As a result, the context was missing. That gaffe on my part was corrected later.

Political and Civil Divisions

A little while ago, one of my friends posted the following meme to Facebook:

obama-divisions

I have to say, I disagree with that meme. To that end, let's look at the past four decades of US Presidents:

1976-1980 President Carter narrowly won his election; he made mistakes in office, and took ownership of his mistakes.
1980-1988 President Reagan won both of his elections in massive landslides; he made mistakes in office, and took ownership of his mistakes.
1988-1992 President Bush Sr. won his election in a massive landslide; he made mistakes in office, and took ownership of his mistakes.
1992-2000 President Clinton won both of his elections due to fact that the Conservative vote was split between the official Republican candidate and Ross Perot running as an independent Conservative; without Perot's interference and hubris, the official Republican candidate would have defeated Clinton in either election. Nevertheless, Clinton made a lot of mistakes in office, yet he and his wife spent their entire tenure in office claiming that: 1) they didn't remember making any mistakes (even when caught), or 2) everything was a "vast right-wing conspiracy" pitted against them. In short, the Clintons did not own up to their mistakes; they blamed everything on their opponents, which created the foundation of the division that we now see.
2000-2008 President Bush Jr. narrowly won both of his elections, although the first several months of his first term were wasted on the incessant whining of the DNC and Al Gore, which dragged the country through a never-ending stream of recounts and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, and furthered the climate of division that was created during the Clinton years. Nevertheless, despite years of being mocked by the press, Bush Jr. took ownership of his mistakes.
2008-2016 President Obama won both of his elections by a wide majority; he made mistakes in office, yet he largely followed President Clinton's example by blaming others for his mistakes - although never to the same degree as the Clintons. However, President Obama created a great deal of additional division by refusing to become involved in a myriad of press-manufactured riots that occurred during his tenure in office; there was never a President more situated to step in and request that everyone involved lay down their arms and cease fighting, yet he did nothing - thereby proving once and for all that his Nobel Peace Prize was a farce. That being said, the Obama presidency was also marred by the continuous promotion of Liberal agendas that Conservatives find anathema to common sense, scientific thought, and basic morality; this created additional division, to the point where some pundits now consider our country engaged in a "Cold Civil War."

It is unmistakable that the roots of political division within this country were planted firmly during the Clinton years; both preceding Presidents (Reagan and Bush Sr.) were elected to office in massive landslides and therefore had the support of most of the country behind them. When those Presidents made mistakes, they publicly took ownership of their mistakes. However, they were superseded by a serial liar/rapist who only won both of his elections because the Conservative ticket was split between two candidates running in parallel, and Clinton spent his entire tenure in office shifting the blame for all of his mistakes to someone else. The flames of division may have been fanned into a bonfire during the Obama years, but they were ignited during the Clinton years.


UPDATE: To be fair, I should add a note that the president from 2016-2020 was also a serial liar/philanderer, who also barely won his election, who also constantly shifted the blame for his mistakes to others, and who also created a great deal of additional division. If there was a bonfire of division during the Obama years, there was a raging inferno of division during the Trump years.

Remembering the Fall of the Wall

Today is November 9, 2019, which is exactly 30 years since the opening of the East German border; that event has since become known as "The Fall of the Wall." I was stationed along the East German border when it was opened, and I still have vivid memories of what the world was like at that time.

Tensions in East Germany had been building for some time, and thousands of East Germans had already fled through neighboring Warsaw Pact nations like Hungary and Czechoslovakia. When the border was opened unexpectedly on November 9, 1989, hundreds of thousands of East Germans poured into West Germany, where they were met with open arms by crowds of joyous West German citizens and US military personnel.

Within a few short years, the two Germanys were reunited, and the Soviet Union collapsed - which was the greatest manifestation of Communism's many, many failures. However, as a reminder of what the border was like before it opened, you might want to watch the following video.

Just two short months ago, a small group of my fellow 511th MI Company veterans and I met for a reunion at the former inner-German border. It was great for us to stand in erstwhile enemy territory next to the abandoned guard towers that had once kept the nation of East Germany prisoner. It was somewhat poetic that these relics of a bygone era are reduced to mere tourist attractions. (And by that I meant the guard towers, not us.)

2019-Reunion-Mosaic

Posing by the former border towers.

Not to beat a dead horse on the subject, but this is a chunk of the East German border fence that I have had in my office for the past three decades. I personally cut that section off the fence after the border was opened, and it's a nice little reminder that the plans of evil men everywhere will eventually fail.

Border-Fence-Plaque

The text is a little blurry, but it quotes Psalm 146:7 "The Lord sets the prisoners free,"
with the dates of 13 August, 1961 to 9 November, 1989.

Noble Causes Do Not Justify Exploitation

In the wake of Greta Thunberg's recent passionate speech about climate change before the United Nations, someone I know shared the following quote from Lawrence Reed:

"The people who have terrified this child with apocalyptic visions of planetary annihilation should be ashamed. You can see the fear, the hate, and the contemptuousness in her voice and her expressions. She reminds me of the teenage Maoists during China's Cultural Revolution; they too were absolutely certain they were right and were happy to torture you if you thought they weren't. Tragic. Any movement that uses children like this, that expects the rest of us to regard her as some sort of expert, deserves only our everlasting scorn." (Lawrence Reed, 09/23/2019)

greta-thunberg

Reed's comments understandably launched a flurry of differing opinions from both sides of the climate debate; most of their arguments were equally as impassioned as Thunberg's. However, what bothered me the most was that most people completely ignored Reed's main point; the issue is not whether you agree with Thunberg, or whether you believe that climate change is real. The slippery precipice upon which many people who promoted and applauded Thunberg's speech now find themselves is that they are exploiting a child to sell their agenda - and that is a terrible thing to do.

I weighed in on one of the ensuing debates, and I would like to paraphrase some of my thoughts for posterity.

We should all take climate change very seriously. And even if that wasn't an issue, the amount of toxic waste that humanity collectively dumps all over this planet should be taken even more seriously. Nevertheless, regardless of Greta Thunberg's motivations, the statement from Lawrence Reed should also be taken with the utmost of seriousness; any cause that exploits children to garner support for its message is immoral. It does not matter whether Thunberg is well-read and passionate about the subjects that she is discussing; at the end of the day, she is not a scientific expert on these matters, (though I am certain that she will be in the future). But for now, those who stand behind Thunberg are using her passion to promote their agenda, and when any segment of society uses children in that fashion, their message is degraded. Regardless of the morality of the underlying cause, exploiting children to endorse your message is immoral.

In Thunberg's speech, she accused politicians of ignoring long-term climate issues in order to profit from short-term financial gains, and I would agree with that assertion. And lest there be any mistake, greedy politicians aren't just an American problem; they are a global problem. That being said, I think anyone who thinks that climate change isn't real is not paying attention, and anyone who thinks that humanity isn't impacting the environment is burying their head in the sand.

However, science has shown us that our planet is pretty resilient; the climate has swung much further in both the warming and cooling directions over the course of its history; regardless of what happens to the climate now, the planet's ecosystems will recover from our climate stupidity in future centuries. My greater concern is that we're polluting the planet so badly that even if the climate recovers, the planet will be too toxic for anything to live on it. In that respect, climate change is only part of the problem - not the entire problem. (See Arnold Schwarzenegger's epic rant about climate change for more.)

While climate change is very real, I often see the "97% of climate scientists agree" comment thrown about during debates. Unfortunately, that is a made up statistic that everyone keeps quoting, and I really wish people would stop using it. Like many urban legends, the 97% figure is a self-perpetuating fabrication that refuses to die. You can read articles like 97% Of Climate Scientists Agree Is 100% Wrong for just one example on how some people erroneously invented and promoted that mythical number, and there are many more papers that have similarly refuted it. Here's the thing - if we want people to believe that climate change is real, we need to stop repeating garbage statistics, because all that does is reinforce the opposition's mistaken impression that everything else we say about climate change is equally bogus.

Circling back to Lawrence Reed's original point, I do not believe that Thunberg is being "forced" to do anything, but she's being "used." Many of the heinously awful movements throughout history have used children as their spokespersons, because putting a face to your message that can foster sympathy for your cause is a good marketing tactic. But it's still wrong. Thunberg is too young and naive to realize that she is little more than a political human shield in this debate; a sacrificial pawn that allows kings and queens to operate in relative obscurity while she takes the fall if something goes wrong. Climate change is worthy of championing, but not in this fashion; we need not stoop to methods employed by propagandists to promote what is right.

With that in mind, while I do not wish to appear as though I am reinforcing Godwin's Law, I believe the following image accurately portrays how I feel about the opportunistic cowards who are hiding behind Greta Thunberg's passion:

nazi-liberal-child-propaganda

Propaganda and Purges and the Death of Stalin

Here is a simple thought from Voltaire on the 66th anniversary of Josef Stalin's death: "It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Of course, Voltaire was not referring to Stalin directly, since Voltaire passed away 200 years before Stalin was born. However, Voltaire's observation is apropos when we consider the effectiveness of Communist propaganda on public opinion during Stalin's lifetime.

The text in the following photo reads, "Народы чтут память вождя," which translates as, "The people honor the memory of their leader." The mourners in that photo were obviously staged for propaganda purposes, but still - few people who haven't studied Russian history fail to realize how many Russians loved Stalin, even though he put to death nearly three times as many of his own citizens as the Nazis.

Stalins-Mourners

Stalin's level of adulation was primarily due to the USSR's disinformation machine, which spent years elevating Stalin's cult of personality to epic proportions. For many Russians, Stalin was their hero, their savior, their loving parent, and the sole victor of WWII.

When I was studying Russian, I was once involved in a heated discussion with one of my instructors. (In Russian, of course). She had recently defected from the Soviet Union, and she had yet to learn some of the actual facts about her own country; she only knew the propaganda that she had heard in her childhood. All the other students in the class were backing my discussion points, when the instructor broke down and started crying while lamentably exclaiming, "But I'm Russian! I should know my own history!" All I could say was, "Yes - you should know your history. But you need to visit a library, because you've been deceived." (It's amazing that our group of students didn't get in trouble for making an instructor cry.)

Stalin

While it is inarguable that every industrialized nation - to include the United States - has used propaganda to further its respective agenda, Communist nations like the USSR (and a few of its Communist allies) used a two-phase approach of propaganda coupled together with purges in order to subdue their populations. Propaganda is, of course, the use of state-controlled media to feed a carefully-constructed narrative to the masses, and purges are used to: a) reduce the numbers of those who are too intelligent [and therefore a perceived threat to the state], and b) terrify those who are left alive into silence.

Propaganda and purges were used with particular effectiveness and ruthlessness in Stalinist-era Russia, the result of which was that the average Russian - the peasants, the hawkers in the streets, the poorly-educated, and the bulk of the population - actually believed the lies. And why not? The propaganda is all they knew from what little education they had, and there were no other sources of information. The press and the media were both controlled by the Communists, and those who possessed enough knowledge to put up an intelligent argument were either killed or imprisoned.

large_1531048734stalin_cremlin

While I may agree that the US and its allies have certainly used one form of propaganda or other, the "state" controls neither our press nor our media, nor have we resulted to purges in order to wipe out mass segments of a dissatisfied population. As a result, we have had both the knowledge and the freedom to say, "This president sucked," or "That president sucked," or "We should vote every member of Congress out of office and start over."

propagandademotivator

To clarify what I said earlier when I was discussing Communist purges, I wasn't referring only to Stalin's purges - I was also referring to Lenin's Communist purges, and Mao's Communist purges, and the North Vietnamese Communist purges, and the Cambodian Khmer Rouge's Communist purges, and Cuba's Communist purges, and North Korea's Communist purges, and Eastern Europe's Communist purges, etc. It is a concrete statement of fact that in nearly every state where the Communists gained power during the 20th century, whole populations of people were eradicated. Communism has emerged as the single-greatest cause of deaths in human history; more than all the disparate diseases and wars combined.

And yet, whenever these purges are mentioned, some addle-brained miscreant who hasn't cracked open a history book will proffer a comparison to the "post-WWII demonization of Communists in the West," which resulted in a handful of arrests for acts of treason or conspiring to commit treason, and a few deportations, and a few misguided defections to the East, and several pro-Communist Hollywood script writers losing their jobs. Let me be clear, if anyone thinks that the post-WWII Red Scare was anywhere near the level of a Communist purge, then they have not been paying attention to history. The documented deaths of over 100 million people during the Communist purges of the 20th century are a genocide of epic proportions. There is simply no comparison between the complete eradication of entire populations in the name of Communism and the meager number of arrests that were made during the Communist scares of the 1920s and 1950s.

For what it's worth, I learned the Russian language from teachers who had defected from the Soviet Union, and I learned first-hand of how they had suffered under Communism. Later, I was the translator for Russian defectors in Germany during the 1980s, and I heard their personal stories of why they were forced to flee for their lives. I met and spoke with several members of the Soviet Military prior to the fall of Communism, and learned of how atrocious their living conditions were. I learned Spanish from a woman who had defected from Cuba, and she told stories of her horrifying treatment by the Communists who ruined her country. I interviewed a man who had lived 10 years in a Communist gulag, where his only crime was fighting for freedom of speech. I attended Russian schools in Western Europe that were founded by and staffed with Soviet defectors, and I listened to their lectures on the many follies and failures of Communism. One of my Russian teachers had been a popular actress in the Soviet Union during her youth, and her husband was one of the Soviet Union's acclaimed directors... until they defected, and then their names were wiped clean from the pages of Russian history. She and I watched one of her movies together, where her name was stripped from the credits despite her appearance in the film, and her husband's name was removed as the director despite his work on the project. That being said, every other actor and actress involved in the film who stayed in the Soviet Union was dead - some were sent to gulags, some were arrested and never heard from again, and others killed themselves rather than continue to live under Communist rule.

These people whom I have mentioned were not faceless people from history books, these were actual Russians whom I befriended during a lifetime of studying the consequences of Communism and its caustic effects on society. If anyone cannot see the difference between the personal sufferings that I have described and the perceived injustices that were endured by a handful of people during our government's infatuation with chasing down Communists who had infiltrated Washington DC and Hollywood, then let me be very clear: those crimes are not equal in the annals of history. Charging someone with treason because they belong to organizations that are plotting to overthrow the country is not the same as killing millions of people because you disagree with their politics.

Returning to my earlier discussion of propaganda, here is an additional thought: I was physically present on the East German border when several people lost their lives attempting the flee their Communist captors. If Communist nations were lands of Golden Opportunity as Communist propaganda actively promoted, then why were people willing to risk their lives to leave those countries? If Communism had created Utopian Societies, then why did millions of people need to be slaughtered?

All of this discussion is academic, of course. Communism has emerged as the worst ideology to infect humanity in history, and anyone who believes otherwise merely stands to gain something from it.

Having taxed my readers' patience enough, I am reminded that it's time to watch one of my favorite movies: "The Death of Stalin."

Open-mouthed smile


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."

Removing Confederate Statues

There is a strange cult of personality that has grown up regarding Robert E. Lee, which has unfortunately given rise to several myths. With that in mind, let me discuss Lee with a few simple examples.

First, until the time that Benedict Arnold sold out his country, he was one of the greatest commanders in the fledgling United States Army. Arnold's skills were decidedly better than George Washington's. However, we have no monuments to Arnold, despite his long string of victories that helped establish our nation. Instead, Arnold's name has become synonymous with traitorous behavior.

In a like manner, Robert E. Lee may have been a decent commander, though perhaps not nearly at the level that modern-day mythology has portrayed him. Nevertheless, when faced with the decision of where his loyalties were, Lee turned his back on his nation in its hour of greatest need. Like Benedict Arnold, history should remember Lee for being the traitor that he certainly was.

Robert_E_Lee_Monument

Second, with regard to slavery, you cannot make the case that Lee opposed slavery while overlooking the facts that Lee was an outspoken racist who owned slaves, regardless of how well they may have been treated. Lee participated in the recapture of slaves, and following emancipation Lee felt that blacks were unequal to whites, blacks should not be allowed to vote, blacks lacked the intelligence to be involved in politics, and he supported plans to export African Americans to Liberia. Lee had many opportunities to speak publicly in opposition to slavery, yet he never did. Lee had many opportunities to speak publicly in opposition to racism, and he never did. Lee had many opportunities to speak publicly in favor of the rights of African Americans, and he never did.

In summary, Lee was not an American hero who is worthy of the misplaced adulation that many people have chosen to give him. Lee was not simply a product of his times - history clearly shows Lee was a traitor in every sense of the word, and racist to the core. The romantic vision that many people seem to possess of Robert E. Lee is completely undeserved.

Taking all of the preceding information into account, I do not consider the removal of public monuments to Confederate traitors - like Lee - as an attempt to "erase history," as some people claim. Personally, I believe that removing statues of men who sold out their country is finally putting history in its proper perspective. These men were traitors - not heroes. They are unworthy of public worship, and it is a great tragedy that our country is littered with dozens of shrines to the undeserving. However, their statues should be moved to museums, where people can still remember these men's treachery. If people truly wanted to "erase" these traitors from history, then we would be removing all mention of them from our history books, but that is not the case. Instead, our society is finally taking the time to correct a great injustice that has been done; we are reexamining the lives of these traitors, and removing testaments to their betrayal.


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."

Tearing Down History

As a history major, I agree with those who feel that it's a travesty when people try to reshape history to fit their agenda. And I agree with those who recognize that we have seen an increasing amount of that trend recently. Although to be fair, sometimes misconception interferes with the reality or the intent of a situation.

For example: I do not have a problem with taking down statues of Confederate generals from the Civil War. I do not believe that removing Confederate statues is erasing history any more than it would be if Germany removed statues of Hitler or Italy removed statues of Mussolini. No one is ever going to forget the evil that those men did, so removing their monuments is perfectly fine by me.

In a like manner, our country is going through a period of self-awareness. We are beginning to realize that some of the people whom we have immortalized in stone are - in fact - traitors, and as such they do not deserve high-placed positions of esteem within our society.

However, because these people were part of our history, we can remove monuments to their memory from our public squares and move them to museums, where they can still be remembered for being traitors to the republic without glorifying their existence.


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."

The Further We Move Away From Peace

A fellow Army veteran from Germany recently posted a photo of the following 1980s-era poster to Facebook:

je-mehr-wir-uns-fur-den-krieg-rusten

The text of that poster reads, "Je mehr wir uns für den Krieg rüsten - um so weiter entfernen wir uns vom Frieden. JETZT ABRÜSTEN!", which roughly translates as, "The more we prepare for the war, the further we move away from peace. DISARM NOW!" This poster was an advertisement for Germany's Green Party, which was advocating disarmament during the time of the Cold War.

I have waxed poetic about this subject before, during which I have illustrated that generations of imbeciles have contributed to their own destruction by promoting the naive belief that laying down their arms will somehow lead to universal peace. However, as an old saying elucidates, "Peace is a fleeting fantasy, embraced by fools, signifying nothing."

That idiom is obviously an allusion to Shakespeare's Macbeth, which states in Act 5, Scene 5: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Personally, I think a link between the contemporary idiom and Shakespeare's prose is warranted, for both phrases capture the same sense of ultimate futility.

Please do not misunderstand me, I think that everyone should ardently desire peace instead of war; but as I have pointed out in other blogs, a lack of war does not constitute peace. The callow conviction that everyone longs for peace is rooted in a childlike world of fantasy, which unfortunately bears little resemblance to the actual affairs of humanity.

History is replete with epic and horrific tales of despots, dictators, and destroyers: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Francisco Pizarro, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Napoleon Bonaparte, Josef Stalin, Cyrus The Great, Adolph Hitler, etc., etc. Countless populations were ravaged by these marauding conquerors, who were hell-bent on amassing empires and riches that were far greater than any one human should ever need or desire. And therein lies the great fallacy of those who seek peace at any cost: for every noble aspirer to peace, someone evil is waiting in the shadows to kill, maim, rape, and destroy everything and everyone that these pacifists hold dear.

While we should all strive for peace, we need also be acutely aware of the world we live in, and we should act accordingly. Our planet is inhabited by billions of people, many of whom would do harm to other people in order to take what they have, or simply to prevent others from expressing their worldviews. In short, we share an evil world that is populated by an untold number of evil people; and the only way to prevent destruction is to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

There is a Latin adage that states, "Si vis pacem, para bellum," which translates as, "If you want peace, prepare for war." I could not have summarized that sentiment any better.

Reflections on an Mi-24D Hind

I recently saw this old warhorse at the Pima Air and Space Museum outside Tucson, AZ:

Mi-24 Hind

The Mi-24D was a formidable enemy in its day, so my first thought was that this once-mighty gunship living out the rest of its years as a rusting museum piece seemed such an ignoble end for this amazing aircraft. And yet - like the empire this beast once served, its days of usefulness have long passed.

With that in mind, this ancient relic seems a fitting epitaph for the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Its fortuitous demise and relegation to the junk heap of history should serve as a stark reminder of the atrocities committed in the name of Communism during the 20th-century's flirtations with that particular brand of unspeakable evil.

My hope is that future generations will leave this aircraft, and the failed political system that it represents, in the past - where they belong.

Do you think that the Russians want war?

In response to Vladimir Putin's recent proclamation that Russia now has "Invincible Nuclear Weapons," someone posted a link to Dick Gaughan's 1983 song "Think Again:"

The problem with songs like Gaughan's is that they do a tremendous injustice to what was actually going on in the world when that song was written. At the time, there were a great deal of songs written to protest the Cold War and to encourage everyone to "give peace a chance." The problem with naive statements like "give peace a chance" is that many a conquered nation has wanted peace at all costs, but their desire for peace did not prevent their eventual destruction. Appeasement of Hitler prior to WWII is a perfect example: most of Europe did nothing as Hitler stormed through country after country because everyone else remembered WWI, and the rest of Europe would rather stand by and let a madman conquer the world than upset their personal peace.

Which brings us back to Gaughan's song and it's central question: "Do you think that the Russians want war?" The target of Gaughan's lyrics was the policymakers in the West, who have largely done nothing whenever madmen went to war, because the West typically seeks peace at all costs. The West wanted peace with Hitler, and peace with Stalin, and with Khrushchev, and with Brezhnev. The West may not have approved the actions of these madmen, but the West would much rather have peace than declare war on every psychopath who comes along. But here's the thing: even though the West wanted peace, the Russians - in the form of the Soviets - very clearly wanted war.

15 countries ceased to exist with autonomy in the name of Russian/Soviet war: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the Ukraine. These countries did not want war, but Russia gave them war anyway. As a result, these conquered territories became the 14 satellite republics of the Soviet Union. But let us not forget that Afghanistan also did not want war, yet the Russians/Soviets invaded anyway. Afghanistan was destined to become the 16th Soviet republic, until clandestine meddling from the United States helped turn that war in favor of the Afghanis, (and thereby bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union, but that's another story).

But it doesn't end there, because the Russians/Soviets also brought war to Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. These countries were conquered by the Russians/Soviets to serve as sacrificial "buffer states" in the event of hypothetical invasion from the West, (rather than becoming formal Soviet republics).

While Gaughan's lyrics pontificate about the 20 million people slaughtered by Nazi invasion, it does nothing to address the 30 million or so of their own countrymen killed by the peace-loving Russians/Soviets, nor does begin to account for all of millions of people slaughtered senselessly during the Russian/Soviet invasions of the countries previously mentioned, nor does it account for the hundreds of thousands of casualties incurred during the brutal suppressions carried out by the Russians/Soviets whenever one of those countries fought for their independence. (Nor do those numbers address the additional tens of millions of people slaughtered by the USSR's allies in the Far East and South/Central America; but let us refrain from digression and stick to Russia, shall we?)

People can claim that the "Average Russian" did not want war, and that all of these atrocities were caused by the actions and ideologies of their leaders. I must admit, there is undoubtedly a grain of truth to that perspective. But then again, you have to realize that millions of "Average Russians" actively participated in conquering of all of the countries that I have mentioned. Those countries wanted peace; Russia brought them war. As a result, those millions of "Average Russians" are no less guilty than the millions of "Average Germans" who brought the Nazi War Machine to peaceful Europe.

I have quoted this poem before in other contexts, so please forgive my repetition here; following WWII, the German pastor Martin Niemöller expressed the folly of "Average Germans" doing nothing about the Nazis when he wrote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.

Niemöller's sentiments may not be a call to arms, but they certainly condemn the cowardice of those who do nothing while their fellow countrymen commit atrocities.

Gaughan's song attempts to lay the desire for war at the feet of the West's leaders because - as he put it - we didn't "like their political system." To restate what I have said earlier, no one liked Russia's political system. But the Russians/Soviets forced their political system on millions of innocent people through decades of violent bloodshed. Gaughan conveniently ignores all of that.

I have stated many times before that Russia is never more than one madman away from becoming the Soviet Union again, and we're seeing that come to fruition. Under Putin's leadership, Russia has once again annexed the Ukraine, and it has violently suppressed dissension in other former Soviet republics. And once again, the West has done nothing, because despite the flowery rhetoric of naive dreamers like Gaughan, the West still desires peace more than war. But Gaughan ignores all of that, too.

As I have mentioned all along, the West has almost always wanted peace; that much is clear from the staggering amount of reticence that it has shown whenever another madman has come along and started conquering its neighbors. The West attempted to intervene in the Far East, with disastrous results, and we have learned our lesson. As a result, the West typically does nothing now, because most people in the West believe in peace at all costs. But as the saying goes, "Peace is a fleeting fantasy, embraced by fools, signifying nothing." A desire for peace does not prevent war; at best it only delays the inevitable.

With that in mind, to answer Gaughan's question: even though the West wants peace, Russia has always wanted war.