When 19 Muslim hijackers flew planes full of American passengers into the Pentagon and into New York’s twin towers, Americans wondered who hated them so much. Some thought perhaps that American support for Israel was the cause of the Muslim resentment. In response to the attack, then president George W. Bush ordered an invasion of Afghanistan. It turns out that this was exactly what the Muslim hijackers wanted him to do. In a book titled “Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars“, Daniel Bolger tells the story. In Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi jihadi leader, had a revelation that he attributed to Allah.
The Communist Russian superpower had failed, pulled out, and then imploded, all thanks to holy warrioirs in Afghanistan. If al-Qaeda (Bin Laden’s group) could lure the United States to the same killing ground, that might well cripple the far enemy, run them out of the entire region, and clear the way for the wider caliphate. Bin Laden saw a winning formula.
I should say at this point that Bin Laden resented American troops in Saudi Arabia, even though they were there to protect the country. He also didn’t like Israel, but from the book, the desire to create an Islamic caliphate was a primary driver.
Anyway, Bin Laden realized he needed a spectacular attack on the U.S. to draw it into war. It turned out that attacking the U.S. was relatively easy, getting the U.S. to respond was hard.
The first attack, on August 7, 1998, used exploding trucks at two U.S. embassies – one in Nairobi, Kenya, and the other in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. A dozen Americans died in Kenya (among the 212 people in the vicinity who were killed). The timing had been chosen to coincide with the eighth anniversary of the arrival of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia to push the Iraqi invaders out of Kuwait.
The U.S. eventually did retaliate, by firing 66 cruise missiles into two terrorist training camps. Another 13 missiles hit a suspected nerve-gas site in Sudan. But the strikes did little damage.
“Frustrated by the limited U.S. response, searching for a way to attract a large troop deployment into the Afghan rat’s nest, bin Laden tried something bigger.” That became the attack on a U.S. warship which was loading fuel in Yemen.
The U.S. did not retaliate at all!
This was really frustrating to Bin Laden.
Hitting two embassies hadn’t done it. Almost sinking a U.S. Navy destroyer failed to work. At an acrimonious White House meeting, frustrated with the unwillingness of the military to get entangled in a manhunt in landlocked Afghanistan, State Department counterterrorism coordinator Michael Sheehan pointed at those in uniform and said: “Does Al Qaeda have to hit the Pentagon to get [your] attention?” The sarcasm got a few chuckles around the table. On the far side of the world, Osama bin Laden wasn’t laughing. He knew what he had to do next.
Fast forward to now (9/19/2019) as I write this blog – after 18 years of war, the leaders of the U.S. are trying to get us out of Afghanistan, which inevitably will lead to to the Taliban (which had hosted Bin Laden) taking over again, and Iran has used low flying drones and low flying missiles to blow up Saudi oilfields! The Americans don’t want to be drawn into another war in the Middle East, especially after the endless war in Afghanistan, and the negative consequences of the long war in Iraq. On top of that, I’ve heard people arguing that 15 of the hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis, and that Arabian Wahabis preaches a very anti-infidel version of Islam. What do we need to protect them for?
World War I was a complete disaster for Europe, with over 8 million soldiers dead by the end of it. I knew little about that war, but had the impression that the participants just got entangled into it, and that it was started by an assassination by an anarchist. My impression was also that the French thought they would be safe behind the “Maginot Line” of defenses, and did not foresee that Germany would invade them via the neutral country of Belgium.
To check this out, I bought the Kindle copy of Winston Churchill’s history of that World War. It shows that I was wrong about all of the above.
It is true that the British did not want war. Churchill says this:
All around flowed the busy life of peaceful, unsuspecting, easy-going Britain. The streets were thronged with men and women utterly devoid of any sense of danger from abroad. For nearly a thousand years no foreign army had landed on British soil. For a hundred years the safety of the homeland had never been threatened. They went about their business, their sport, their class and party fights year after year, generation after generation, in perfect confidence and considerable ignorance. All their ideas were derived from conditions of peace. All their arrangements were the result of long peace. Most of them would have been incredulous, many would have been very angry if they had been told that we might be near a tremendous war, and that perhaps within this City of London, which harboured confidingly visitors from every land, resolute foreigners might be aiming a deadly blow at the strength of the one great weapon and shield in which we trusted.
There was the actual visible world with its peaceful activities and cosmopolitan aims; and there was a hypothetical world, a world ‘beneath the threshold,’ as it were, a world at one moment utterly fantastic, at the next seeming about to leap into reality—a world of monstrous shadows moving in convulsive combinations through vistas of fathomless catastrophe.
A few people were aware of the coming danger. Churchill was one. Another was:
General Wilson (afterwards Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wilson)…For years he had been labouring with one object, that if war came we should act immediately on the side of France. He was sure that war would come sooner or later. All the threads of military information were in his hands. The whole wall of his small room was covered by a gigantic map of Belgium, across which every practicable road by which the German armies could march for the invasion of France, was painted clearly. All his holidays he spent [wandering around Belgium] examining these roads and the surrounding country. He could not do much in Germany: the Germans knew him too well.
Standing by his enormous map, specially transported for the purpose, he unfolded, with what proved afterwards to be extreme accuracy, the German plan for attacking France in the event of a war between Germany and Austria on the one hand and France and Russia on the other. It was briefly as follows:— In the first place, the Germans would turn nearly four-fifths of their strength against France and leave only one-fifth to contain Russia. The German armies would draw up on a line from the Swiss frontier to Aix-la-Chapelle. They would then swing their right wing through Belgium, thus turning the line of fortresses by which the eastern frontiers of France were protected. This enormous swinging movement of the German right arm would require every road which led through Belgium from Luxembourg to the Belgian Meuse.
Wilson was not clairvoyant. There was:
Overwhelming detailed evidence was adduced to show that the Germans had made every preparation for marching through Belgium. The great military camps in close proximity to the frontier, the enormous depots, the reticulation of railways, the endless sidings, revealed with the utmost clearness and beyond all doubt their design.
Churchill had a revealing talk with the German ambassador:
One night the German ambassador, still Count Metternich, whom I had known for ten years, asked me to dine with him. We were alone, and a famous hock from the Emperor’s cellars was produced. We had a long talk about Germany and how she had grown great; about Napoleon and the part he had played in uniting her…He said people were trying to ring Germany round and put her in a net, and that she was a strong animal to put in a net…. Count Metternich was a very honourable man, serving his master faithfully but labouring to preserve peace, especially peace between England and Germany. I have heard that on one occasion at Berlin in a throng of generals and princes, someone had said that the British Fleet would one day make a surprise and unprovoked attack upon Germany. Whereupon the Ambassador had replied that he had lived in England for nearly ten years, and he knew that such a thing was absolutely impossible. On this remark being received with obvious incredulity, he had drawn himself up and observed that he made it on the honour of a German officer and that he would answer for its truth with his honour. This for a moment had quelled the company.
The last paragraph is interesting – it shows that the Germans had a misperception of British motives. Perhaps it was also a misperception of Russian motives that gave them an idea of “we will be attacked eventually, therefore we must attack first” (they didn’t say this, I’m guessing) and that is somewhat backed by another conversation of Churchill with a German:
I had met Herr Ballin. He had just arrived from Germany. We sat next to each other, and I asked him what he thought about the situation. With the first few words he spoke, it became clear that he had not come here on any mission of pleasure. He said the situation was grave. ‘I remember,’ he said, ‘old Bismarck telling me the year before he died that one day the great European War would come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.’ These words, he said, might come true. It all depended on the Tsar. What would he do if Austria chastised Serbia? A few years before there would have been no danger, as the Tsar was too frightened for his throne, but now again he was feeling himself more secure upon his throne, and the Russian people besides would feel very hardly anything done against Serbia. Then he said, ‘If Russia marches against Austria, we must march; and if we march, France must march, and what would England do?’ Churchill gave an answer that it would be a mistake for Germany to be sure England would stay out but then Ballin continued: speaking with very great earnestness. ‘Suppose we had to go to war with Russia and France, and suppose we defeated France and yet took nothing from her in Europe, not an inch of her territory, only some colonies to indemnify us. Would that make a difference to England’s attitude? Suppose we gave a guarantee beforehand.’
To me this seems to indicate that the Germans were really worried about a growing Russia, not so much about France.
So could World War I have been avoided?
Churchill does say that Germany’s neighbors were strengthening their militaries, but he says it was in response to fear of Germany. Perhaps from Germany’s point of view its neighbors were preparing that net that Metternich referred to.
Churchill does not seem to think that the first World War could have been avoided:
A will to peace at Berlin and Vienna would have found no difficulties in escaping from the terrible net which was drawing in upon us all hour by hour. But underneath the diplomatic communications and manœuvres, the baffling proposals and counter-proposals, the agitated interventions of Tsar and Kaiser, flowed a deep tide of calculated military purpose.
Russia did try to alleviate the situation:
Austria had accepted the conference, and intimate personal appeals were passing between the Tsar and the Kaiser. It seemed to me, from the order in which I read the series of telegrams, that at the very last moment Sir Edward Grey might succeed in saving the situation. So far no shot had been fired between the Great Powers. I wondered whether armies and fleets could remain mobilized for a space without fighting and then demobilize. I had hardly achieved this thought when another Foreign Office box came in. I opened it and read ‘Germany has declared war on Russia.’ There was no more to be said.
Sources: Churchill, Winston S.. The World Crisis, 1911–1914 . RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.
In World War I, the a Jewish German named Fritz Haber thought up the use of Chlorine as a poison gas. This weapon was first used at Ypres, where British troops were dug in as were French and Algerians. 150 tons of chlorine formed a greenish cloud, creeping toward the French and Algerians. Perhaps 5000 were killed and 10,000 injured, but that is a guess. Haber’s Jewish wife, Clara, also a chemist, killed herself – she had not become a chemist to kill and maim. Fritz did not change his mind, the day after her suicide he went to the eastern front to plan a gas attack against the Russians.
Fritz had also figured out how to pull nitrogen out of the air and make nitrate, which was essential to German munitions.
On the British side, another Jew, Chaim Weizmann, developed a process that produced acetone from bacterial fermentation, His acetone production method was of great importance in the manufacture of cordite explosive propellants for the British war industry.
Haber eventually repented of his invention, after the Nazis came to power in Germany and his status changed from national treasure to despised Jew. He went to England and got a job as a professor there, but was shunned as a war criminal. Soon after, he died.
The story raises interesting issues. Why was Haber (and many other Jews) so patriotic for a country that would soon turn on them? What is the morality of a weapon that turns into hydrochloric acid in the lungs of the enemy, leading to a cruel death? Where is the chivalry of facing an oncoming chemical fog and getting poisoned? It might seem obvious that the weapon is very immoral, but it has had surprising defenders – such as an English Prime Minister, Winston Churchill! Finally why did so many millions of people fight for the German cause in World War I? Were they deceived?
Einstein’s War – How Relativity Triumphed Amid The Vicious Nationalism of World War I by Mathew Stanley
Further Reading (really ironic and interesting, on Haber):
The period when Nazism rose in Germany and Austria was witnessed by people who were not caught up in the general enthusiasm, namely the Jews. One account of the period is by an Austrian Jew nameed Benno Weiser, who was a student at the time.
Here are three interesting stories he gives in his book: “Confessions of a Lucky Jew”. Before I summarize them, I should say that he was rescued because he had made the friend of an Ecuadoran, who when the time came, was able to get him out. Benno immigrated to Ecuador and fell in love with the country.
I remember one of them, (fellow high school students) Traxlmayer. I can’t think of his first name; we called him Traxl. Traxl was rather short and slim, but very muscular. He was our best gymnast, excellent on the horizontal bar and the parallel bars. I suppose that his Nazi bent came by way of his membership in the Deutscher Turnverein, the German gymnastic association. Nobody could compete with him in gymnastics. I bested him in shotput and high jump, which merited his grudging recognition. Scholastic achievements could not impress him. He knew Jews were smart. We had no social contact with him, but neither did we have with the other non-Jews. Yet with them we would joke, while he cracked a smile and talked with us only as a last resort. Studying eight years together, it was inevitable that we exchanged now and then a few words, but I don’t remember ever having had a conversation with him, until we met, years later, in completely different circumstances. He never did anything provocative, but his aloofness was a silent accusation: here am I, a thoroughbred Aryan, condemned to spend five hours every day in this Jew school. He was not brilliant, but he was bright. And he was always there, never absent-minded, never caught napping. He had a way of watching everything, everybody, fellow students and teachers. Did he hate us? If so, it was in a non-personal way. He had no favorites. His anti-Semitism, which we took for granted, was abstract. Only once did we see him coming out of his shell. The occasion was a short lecture I was allowed to give in our German class. My subject was a Viennese writer — Theodor Herzl. He listened, as usual, with great attention, and raised his hand when I was through. He asked a question, not precisely addressed to me; it might just as well have been directed to the professor: “Is it an aim of Zionism that all the Jews emigrate to Palestine?”
The professor looked at me. He obviously preferred that I give the answer. I replied that Palestine was too small to take in 16 million Jews. I quoted Herzl: “The Jews who will it, will have their state.” This was one of the rare occasions that we saw him smile. It was half smile, half smirk. I interpreted it at the time as meaning: “I thought so; to believe that all the Jews would leave is too good to be true.” He sat down. There was no follow-up question.
Another Traxl story:
We celebrated our Matura at one of the tradition-laden coffeehouses in the city’s heart. We all dressed up for the occasion. There was a great deal of good-hearted banter, until word came that Professor Heinrich Montzka, our history teacher and director of the school, was arriving. With him came four more of our teachers. Several students spoke, including one named Adler, who said that: “We live in a time of disquieting unrest. I often wonder how much time we have left. Werther? Goethe? Very slow reading. Suggest something more timely, we may devour it.” Director Montzka was not a man of the quick comeback. There was a pause. From the end of the table a strong voice said: “I can suggest something more timely, Adler. But I’m afraid you won’t enjoy it.” We all turned our heads in the direction of the speaker. It was Traxlmayer. The sphynx had broken the silence of years. “The book’s title is Mein Kampf,” Traxl continued. “It should certainly keep all of you spellbound.” Montzka was beside himself. “Traxlmayer!” he shouted, “You can say that? You, whom I have taught history for eight solid years? A student of mine? You have fallen for this trap that a group of madmen has been tending to a whole nation? Gross-Deutschland? I am also in favor of a Great Germany. But what does Great Germany mean? One from Hammerfest to Sicily? Do you measure greatness in square kilometers? Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, Heine — they are Germany’s greatness! Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kant, no nation has produced greater minds than those. You have shamed me, Traxlmayer. You have spoiled this get-together. If we were in school I’d order you out of the classroom!” Traxlmayer listened with a smile. Then he got up and replied: “Professor Montzka, I believe in discipline, and accept your order even here, though you obviously have no authority in this coffeehouse. “I just would like to add two remarks: One, historians can only change the past. They can’t change the future. Two, I am not ungrateful for what you have taught me. But if you excuse me, my heart is not with those who teach history, but —” Traxlmayer paused deliberately. And then he finished: “— but with those who make history.” He walked out and left us all stunned. We dispersed in confusion.
A Revealing story:
Some time in 1931, the Pan-European Youth Movement organized an evening of discussions. The theme was: “Pan-Europe — Youth, Can You Help?” The meeting took place in Vienna’s Old Town Hall, and youth movements of all ideological shadings were invited to send one speaker each. I was a founding member of VZM, the Verband Zionistischer Mittelschüler (Association of Zionist Gymnasium Students). VZM was selected to nominate the Zionist speaker; VZM delegated me.
“… Rapaport, who had spoken for a juvenile chess association, was visibly relieved. He stepped down to the rhythmic handclapping of the Nazis who shouted: “Moishe, go home! The matzoh soup is waiting!” Smolka announced the next speaker, a Mr. Epstein, who would speak for the Esperantists. As soon as he reached the rostrum, someone shouted: “Again a Jew!” The balcony shook with laughter. There are those who claim that there is no such a thing as a Jewish race, that it is the invention of Streicher, Rosenberg, and Goebbels, that there are at best several Jewish races. Whoever has seen a group of blond, blue-eyed sabra children in a kibbutz may tend to agree with this theory. Unfortunately, Epstein looked exactly like the stereotype of the Jew as depicted in Der Stürmer. He had heavy lips, a hooked nose, and kinky black hair. He started out in Esperanto, which provoked great hilarity in the balcony. One girl shouted: “Speak German, Jew! You’re not in Palestine!” Epstein tried to ignore the catcalls. He read from a prepared text in a steady, monotonous voice. It might have been difficult to understand him at best; but with the Nazi sound effects, it was hopeless.
Jews are catalysts. They stir things up anywhere. They certainly did in Vienna. The majority of the speakers turned out to be Jews; the spokesmen of the socialists, communists, Boy Scouts, the liberal dueling fraternities, the vegetarians, and even a group that advocated barefoot walking. ..the organizer, Smolka, ran out of Gentiles. The pacifist, the freethinker, and the spokesman for a writers’ club were Jews. At last, Smolka banged his gavel and announced: “And now, for the Zionist youth organizations of Austria, Mr. Benno Weiser.” This announcement brought the house down. The other speakers had been given the benefit of the doubt. There always was a moment of suspense: was he or wasn’t he? But there could be no doubt about the Zionist spokesman. The Nazis were laughing; this time good-naturedly, almost without malice. After all those crypto-Jews, they were now to listen to an obvious Jew. I slowly made my way to the speaker’s stand and made a supreme effort to look cheerful. I had had ample time to compose the opening sentence. I thrust my tongue against my front teeth and wetted my mouth. And then I said loudly and distinctly: “Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, and you too, up in the balcony!” There were a few laughs, but this time from the front rows. The Nazis were quiet, perhaps surprised. I was the first speaker to acknowledge their presence. “My first words go to you,” I continued, “up there, having such a wonderful time. You’re right: I am, of course, also a Jew. But there is one thing that distinguishes me from the other Jews you have heard, or shouted down, this evening. I come to you not as a liberal, nor as a socialist, a Mason, Rotarian, vegetarian, or barefooter — but as a Jew, one who is proud of being one, who doesn’t pretend to be anything else and who couldn’t care less about not being an Aryan.” Life sprang into the audience filling the lower part of the hall. Some got up, some applauded furiously, some shouted, “Bravo, bravo!” They had come to applaud their fellow Pan-Europeans, liberals, socialists, and so on. They had been sitting there the whole evening, frustrated, unhappy, listening to the abuse and to their speakers who had tried to ignore it.
I waited until the noise had ended and continued: “I had prepared a little speech on Pan-Europe. But you will agree with me — all of you will agree with me — that this is not the place for it. Our friends up there would be bored to tears if I were to speak about Pan-Europe. They are only interested in Jews. And this being the case, I trust they will excuse me if I address myself to the Jews in this hall.”
It was amazing how quiet the audience was. The Nazis actually let me speak! I had managed to make them curious. “The problem of Pan-Europe will have to be decided by economists, statesmen, politicians. It’s not a problem for a young Jew in Austria. But there does exist — and this evening proves it once more — a Jewish problem in Austria. I must confess that I, too, was a bit astonished about this tremendous array of young Jews who seem to worry about everything, from Rotarianism to health food, from prevention of alcoholism to the prevention of corns on their toes, as if they had nothing else to worry about! “I have the highest respect for ideologists who dedicate themselves to causes. But I invite you all, and this includes the distinguished chairman of this meeting, to search in your souls whether all these worthy causes you embrace are not vehicles of escape from the inescapable fact that you are Jews!
After the aborted meeting (a different one, not the one above), the Nazis grouped on the street and marched off in formation, shouting their well-known slogan, “Deutschland erwache, Juda verrecke!” (Awake, Germany, perish the Jews!) The translation does not transmit the phonetic brutality of that war cry. Verrecken means literally to croak. But the vulgarity of its sound is charged with more violence than any English equivalent. I was among the few people who boarded a three-car trolley in the direction of the city center. Most of the non-Nazis were still lingering inside the hall, excitedly discussing the sabotaged meeting and giving vent to their anger. The trolley consisted of two regular cars and one with open front and rear platforms. After a few hundred meters the trolley overtook the column of the marching Nazis. Standing on the open front platform of the last car, I estimated their number at two hundred. Just as the trolley passed them, they shouted again, “Deutschland erwache, Juda verrecke!” Whereupon a loud voice answered: “Hitler in Oarsch!” To my dismay, the voice was mine. Neither the shout, nor the choice of words, was premeditated. It was a reflex reaction to the scandalous slogan heard from so close. The shout meant: “Hitler into the asshole,” the German word Arsch pronounced in Viennese dialect that intensified the vulgarity. A roar came from the marching column. And suddenly four hundred feet started to run after the trolley. Whatever went on in my mind when I shouted the obscenity, I suppose that I must have relied on the speed of the trolley, because I certainly had no suicidal streak in me. Only when I saw the whole column running did I become aware of the tremendous stupidity of what I had done. I had lost my mind. But now that I saw the danger, it functioned again. I had to prevent by all means any of those running Nazis from jumping onto the moving trolley. There were three of them who outdistanced the pack and were closing in on the rear platform. I rushed through the interior of the trolley car, noticing in the few seconds the frightened faces of the handful of passengers, and posted myself on the rear platform, raising one leg to kick anybody who tried to jump onto the three steps. The combination of speed and the threat of a kick made the sprinters fall back. I thought I was saved, when a triumphant shout came from the column, now some two hundred meters behind. I had not noticed, but they had: the trolley had started to slow down. We were approaching a stop.
I knew that if they caught me, they would beat me into a pulp. I raced through the trolley car towards the front platform, climbed over its railing on the side which I hoped was out of sight, jumped off, fell, got up, ran forward under the cover of the two first trolley cars, tore my flaming red necktie off and threw it away — it was my most conspicuous give-away — and reached the front of the trolley, jogging along until it came to a halt. As I wanted to walk around the front of the car to board it from the other side, I was intercepted by a uniformed man who handed me a jacket. Only after I put it on did I realize it was that of a fare collector. Noises came from the back of the train. The conductor clanked the signal and drove on. He motioned me to stand next to him. As the trolley gained speed, he whispered: “What you did was not very smart, it could have cost you your life.” But there was no reproach in his voice. He was a Strassenbahner, a trolley conductor, unionized by Vienna’s “red” municipality, a “Sotzie,” a Social Democrat. He certainly did not like the Nazis any more than I did. I never found out what happened in the rear of the train. I expected the Nazis to search the front car, too. But they didn’t. There were no passages between the cars. They would not have recognized me anyway. I had shouted a fraction of a second after the trolley had passed the column. It was dark. I had disposed of my tie and wore a collector’s uniform. I thanked the conductor and changed trolleys. As I walked the few blocks to my parental home, I could not suppress a surge of triumph.
Weiser Varon, Benno. Professions of a Lucky Jew . Plunkett Lake Press. Kindle Edition.
While the holocaust was going on in Europe, a Jewish screenwriter in the U.S. named Ben Hecht was persuaded to join the cause of having a separate Jewish army to fight alongside the allies. The British, who were governing Palestine, saw the army as a possible threat that would turn against them when the war was won. Hecht tried to persuade Hollywood producers to give money to the cause, but the general reaction was “If Jews wanted to fight, they could fight as Americans or Englishmen.”
Finally Hecht tried David Selznick, who had produced “Gone With The Wind”, which had been a very successful movie. Selznick argued against the idea, saying:
“I don’t want anything to do with your cause, for the simple reason that it’s a Jewish political cause…I’m an American and not a Jew.”
Hecht asked: “If I can prove you are a Jew, David, will you sign the telegram [for a rally for a Jewish army] as cosponsor with me?”
“How are you going to prove it?” he asked.
“I’ll call up any three people you name,” said Hecht, “and ask them the following question–What would you call David O. Selznick, an American or a Jew? If any of the three answers that he’d call you an American, you win. Otherwise, you sign the telegram.”
David agreed to the test and picked out three names.
Hecht called them with David eavesdropping on the extension.
Martin Quigley, publisher of the Motion Picture Exhibitors’ Herald answered the question promptly. “I’d say David Selznick was a Jew,” he said.
Nunnaly Johnson hemmed a few moments but finally offered the same reply. Leland Hayward answered, “For God’s sake, what’s the matter with David? He’s a Jew and he knows it.”
David Selznick added his name to the telegram, and his name carried such weight that other acceptances poured in.
The rally took place on a spring night in 1941. One of the speakers was John Henry Patterson, a Colonel in the British army who had commanded the Jewish Legion of World War I. He got a standing ovation to begin with, but when he cited various instances of British anti-Semitism in Palestine, and added that the British had no intention of honoring their pledge to make Palestine a Jewish homeland, he greatly disturbed the members of his audience, Jewish or not. After all, they thought, wasn’t Britain at that moment undergoing its finest hour holding off the power of Nazi Germany? Suddenly there were boos. Samuel Goldwyn rose and told Patterson to “sit down!”
Despite the stunned response, there were more speakers and money was promised, though in the end, only nine thousand dollars actually came through.
Truth was, that Britain was keeping Jews out of Palestine, and lives could have been saved if they had not. For instance, in 1939, the British made it known that after the admission of 75,000 Jews during the next five years, the gates of Palestine would be closed to Jews for good. The British used their army, navy and air force against Jewish refugees, and the first person killed by a British bullet in World War II was Hans Schneider, a Jewish refugee on a refugee ship!
portions of the globe have become hostile to the U.S. To illustrate this
from a personal vantage point: when my grandfather was born, in the late
1800’s, Russia was not an enemy of the U.S. When my father was
born, China and North Korea were not Communist. When I was born, Vietnam
and Laos and Cambodia were not Communist, and neither was Cuba. In
my lifetime Venezuela and Bolivia have gained anti-American socialist leaders, and
Iran now has an ideologically committed Islamic regime that describes the USA
as the “Great Satan”. Nicaragua now has anti-American regime as
well. Russia may no longer be Communist, but it aids Iran and the Taliban.
this happen? Clues in some cases come
from an overlooked book titled “Bad News” that was written by Russ Braley, a correspondent
for The Daily News. He was writing on the shortcomings of a rival
newspaper, The New York Times, but in
his discussion of American policy of the period from 1956 to 1983, he shows
that not only have we been dubious allies in cases that are well known, but in
even bigger cases that are not well known.
Most of us
know that the effort by Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro in the Bay of
Pigs invasion was undermined by the refusal of President John F Kennedy to give
them air support. For instance, Townhall columnist Humberto Fontova describes one moment during
Camelot’s criminal idiocy finally brought Adm.
Arleigh Burke of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was receiving the battlefield
pleas, to the brink of mutiny,,,The fighting admiral was livid. They say his
face was beet red and his facial veins popping as he faced down his
commander-in-chief that fateful night of April 18, 1961. “Mr. President,
TWO planes from the Essex! (the U.S. Carrier just offshore from the beachhead)”
that’s all those Cuban boys need, Mr. President. Let me order…!”
JFK was in white tails and a bow tie that
evening, having just emerged from an elegant social gathering.
“Burke,” he replied. “We can’t get involved in this.”
“WE put those Cuban boys there, Mr.
President!” The fighting admiral exploded. “By God, we ARE involved!”
do not know is that Americans were responsible for Castro’s rise to power to
begin with! Russ Braley dedicates a whole chapter to this topic, but I’ll
give one illustration from the book: the Ambassador to Mexico, Robert Hill,
told the Internal Affairs subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee that
when the new designated ambassador to Cuba, Earl Smith, came to him for advice,
the advice he gave was: “Earl, I am sorry that you are going to Cuba…
You are assigned to Cuba to preside over the downfall of Batista [the ruler of
Cuba at the time]. The decision has been made that Batista has to
go. You must be very careful.”
As for a
part of the globe far from Cuba, Vietnam, most of us know that President
Kennedy gave the OK for the coup that toppled the leader of South Vietnam, Ngo
Dinh Diem. Supposedly Diem was unpopular and alienating his own
population. It turns out, according to “Bad News”, that this
was not true either, and American encouragement of the coup (which killed Mr.
Diem), was a gift to the Communists. Here too Braley dedicates an entire
chapter, but I’ll mention just one item: a reporter from the Chicago Daily
News, Keyes Beech, was sitting at a bar alongside a pro-Communist Australian,
Wilfred Burchett. Burchett was talkative because, says Beech,
“he was loaded.” Burchett said to Beech that he was in South
Vietnam with the Communist National Liberation Front when Diem was
assassinated, and they thought it was a hoax. When Nguyen Huu Tho,
head of the NLF, was convinced that Diem was dead, Burchett quoted him as
saying, “The Americans have managed to do what we couldn’t do for nine
years.” Burchett added: “Diem was a national leader, and you
never will be able to replace him–never.”
It may be a
bad idea for the U.S. to be identified with unpopular dictators, but Diem was
not so bad. Diem was a Catholic who at one time was living at
Maryknoll seminary in Ossining New York. In 1945 he had been held
prisoner for four months by the Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh under
near-starvation conditions (in 1945). Ho Chi Minh then reversed
himself and offered Diem a position in his government. Diem asked
him one question: “Why did you kill my brother (Nhgo Dinh
Khoi)?” Ho said it was a mistake, but Diem walked out.
Diem rejected both Fascism and Communism, but did not believe Democracy would
work either in Vietnam.
Vietnam mounted its final attack on South Vietnam, the Democrat majority in congress
refused to aid the South.
Since the North was backed up by Russian and Chinese arms, and the South was not
backed by anyone, the resulting defeat was inevitable.
is all taken from Russ Braley’s book, but the pattern he describes started
earlier. Anthony Kubek, Chairman of the
Dept. of Political Science at the University of Dallas, wrote the following in
a book titled “How the Far East Was Lost”, which describes the events leading
to Mao’s Communist party taking over China:
Our policy in China has reaped the
whirlwind. The continued insistence that
aid would not be forthcoming unless a coalition government with the Communists
was formed, was a crippling blow to the national Government [who were
General, George Stratemeyer, testified before the Senate that he flew 90,000
Chinese troops north: “We promised we
would supply them, but the troops were left there stranded, at the mercy of the
Communists. “They had no ammunition,
they had no spare parts, they couldn’t fight.”
soldier, colonel L. B. Moody, explained that at the end of World War II,
instead of the small arms and ammo that the Nationalists needed, we sent
“…billions of moldy cigarettes, blown-up guns and junk bombs and disabled
consequences of “losing” China included the death of at least 45 million
Chinese at the hands of their new ideological rulers. Yet even today, Mao is presented as a great
leader to the Chinese public. American
pilots flying near the Chinese base at Djibouti have gotten hit in the eyes by Lasers fired from
Chinese on the ground. It would have
been better to not lose China.
summary near the end of Braley’s book, he says: “The United States …
must above all stop the practice of double-crossing or abandoning friends at a
moment of trouble when the United States is needed.” I would think also that if we ask U.S.
citizens to fight in these places, we should make sure the goals they are asked
to sacrifice for are important, achievable, and supported by both citizens and
their elected representatives.
Bad News – The Foreign Policy of the New York
Times – Russ Braley 1984 published by Regnery
How the Far East Was Lost – Anthony Kubek 1963 – published by Regnery Gateway.
I wrote this post originally when Islamic State was still ascendant in Iraq. The U.S. and allies have defeated ISIS for now, but the post is still interesting. Here it is:
Most of us agree we should stand by our friends, and that we should keep our promises. However, the U.S. has a decidedly mixed record in doing this. I will look at that record, but the reason to really think about it are recent events:
Lets start by looking at our record in picking friends, and standing by them.
In an article “What Really Happened at the Bay of Pigs” Humberto Fontova tells this story:
“They fought like tigers,” writes the CIA officer who helped train the Cubans who splashed ashore at the Bay of Pigs 53 years ago this week. “But their fight was doomed before the first man hit the beach.”
That CIA man,Grayston Lynch, knew something about fighting – and about long odds. He carried scars from Omaha Beach, The Battle of the Bulge and Korea’s Heartbreak Ridge. ..Lynch trained, in his own words, “brave boys who had never before fired a shot in anger” — college students, farmers, doctors, common laborers, whites, blacks, mulattoes. They were known as La Brigada 2506, an almost precise cross-section of Cuban society of the time. The Brigada included men from every social strata and race in Cuba—from sugar cane planters to sugar cane cutters, from aristocrats to their chauffeurs. But mostly, the folks in between, as befit a nation with a larger middle class than most of Europe.
Short on battle experience, yes, but they fairly burst with what Bonaparte and George Patton valued most in a soldier: morale. No navel-gazing about “why they hate us” or the merits of “regime change” for them. They’d seen Castroism point-blank.
…[They knew of the Mass graves that] dotted the Cuban countryside, piled with hundreds who’d crumpled in front of Castro and Che Guevara’s firing squads….
“Where are the planes?” kept crackling over U.S. Navy radios two days later. “Where is our ammo? Send planes or we can’t last!” Commander Jose San Roman kept pleading to the very fleet that escorted his men to the beachhead. Crazed by hunger and thirst, his men had been shooting and reloading without sleep for three days. Many were hallucinating. By then many suspected they’d been abandoned by the Knights of Camelot.
…”If things get rough,” the heartsick CIA man Grayston Lynch radioed back, “we can come in and evacuate you.”
“We will NOT be evacuated!” San Roman roared back to his friend Lynch. “We came here to fight! We don’t want evacuation! We want more ammo! We want PLANES! This ends here!”
Adm. Burke [pleaded with John F Kennedy] “Mr. President, TWO planes from the Essex! (the U.S. Carrier just offshore from the beachhead)” that’s all those Cuban boys need, Mr. President. Let me order…!”
JFK was in white tails and a bow tie that evening, having just emerged from an elegant social gathering. “Burke,” he replied. “We can’t get involved in this.”
“WE put those Cuban boys there, Mr. President!” The fighting admiral exploded. “By God, we ARE involved!”
Admiral Burke’s pleas also proved futile.
The freedom-fighters’ spent ammo inevitably forced a retreat. Castro’s jets and Sea Furies were roaming overhead at will and tens of thousands of his Soviet-led and armed troops and armor were closing in. The Castro planes now concentrated on strafing the helpless, ammo-less freedom-fighters.
“Can’t continue,” Lynch’s radio crackled – it was San Roman again. “Have nothing left to fight with …out of ammo…Russian tanks in view….destroying my equipment.”
“Tears flooded my eyes,” wrote Grayston Lynch. “For the first time in my 37 years I was ashamed of my country.”
So what is the lesson from Fontova’s account? I think it is that if you encourage people to fight, and say you will back them, you have to do just that. You can’t have a strategy of deniability – that you are not behind their efforts. You have to do what it takes.
Then there was the Vietnam debacle. It was certainly a terrible and long war, and we lost 58,000 soldiers in it. We also put a general, Westmoreland, in charge of the war, a man who believed in a strategy of attrition and body-counts, which was not the way to fight guerrillas. In addition, for quite a while, we did not arm the South Vietnamese, except with cast-off World-War II equipment, because we were going to do the job ourselves. So the South Vietnamese did badly in their confrontations with the enemy, and their morale deteriorated. (We never learn, because a few years earlier in the Korean war we did not arm the South Koreans, for fear they would attack the Communist North, and so when the North attacked, they were overwhelmed)
When we finally pulled out of Vietnam, we made promises to the South Vietnamese. Those promises were not kept, because the Democrats in Congress cut off funding.
Historians have directly attributed the fall of Saigon in 1975 to the cessation of American aid. Without the necessary funds, South Vietnam found it logistically and financially impossible to defeat the North Vietnamese army. Moreover, the withdrawal of aid encouraged North Vietnam to begin an effective military offensive against South Vietnam… Historian Lewis Fanning went so far as to say that “it was not the Hanoi communists who won the war, but rather the American Congress that lost it.”
The NVA began its final assault in March of 1975 in the Central Highlands. Ban Me Thout, a strategically important hamlet, quickly fell to North Vietnam. On March 13, a panicked Thieu called for the retreat of his troops, surrendering Pleiku and Kontum to the NVA. Thieu angrily blamed the US for his decision, saying, “If [the U.S.] grant full aid we will hold the whole country, but if they only give half of it, we will only hold half of the country.” His decision to retreat increased internal opposition toward him and spurred a chaotic mass exodus of civilians and soldiers that clogged the dilapidated roads to the coast. So many refugees died along the way that the migration along Highway 7B was alternatively described by journalists as the “convoy of tears” and the “convoy of death.” 6On April 21, President Thieu resigned in a bitter televised speech in which he strongly denounced the United States.
So what is the lesson here? If you do get involved in a war, then make sure you get feedback, not just from an inept General in charge, but from the few officers who are succeeding in the field. And don’t shortchange the allies who eventually will be left with the burden of defending themselves. And don’t defund those allies.
But wait a minute. What about the Iraq war? Didn’t we arm the Iraqi army to the hilt? And didn’t we spend a huge amount of money over there? Didn’t we sacrifice for many years, losing limbs, as Glenn Beck says, and worse?
That raises the following issue. In Iraq, former president George W Bush says in his book “Decision Points”, Maliki told him that his Shiite constituents didn’t want any Americans there. So the friendship of our allies was problematic to begin with. And later events showed that the Sunnis did not want to fight for a Shiite dominated government that had already accused two Sunni politicians of treason.
But let’s continue with another example of American ambiguity to an ally:
In 1973, Israel almost ceased to exist. It was attacked by Egypt from the south, and Syria from the north. The U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, tried to withhold arms from – Israel! It was President Nixon, a man who ranted anti-Jewish epithets, who countermanded this. In delaying the arms supply to Israel, Kissinger now says he wanted to signal to Egypt and Syria that the U.S. was not interested in humiliating the Arabs. He wrote in “Years of Upheaval”, he had thought Israel would get out a little bloodied, but still win the war. But…
In view of the losses Israel was taking on October 6 and for the first week of the fighting, Israel was losing the war. Had this happened, the entire population of Israel would have been slaughtered Nazi style by the Arab haters. In face of these developments, Kissinger, himself a refugee from Nazi Germany, refused to supply Israel with the ammunition and weapons needed to defend themselves. It was only when the then Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, appealed directly to President Nixon and also threatened to use the atomic bomb that Israel was given the needed tanks, guns and ammunition to turn certain defeat into victory. In fact, General Ariel Sharon and his troops crossed the Suez Canal and came within 50 miles of Cairo when Kissinger threatened to cut off all aid to Israel unless they retreated back to the Suez. Israeli troops had surrounded 50,000 Egyptian troops and utterly defeated both the Egyptian and Syrian armies….
Although Kissinger held up arms shipments to Israel, he told the Israelis that the then Secretary of Defense, Schlesinger, was responsible for the delays. He also told Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Minister of Defense, that the Soviets were about to attack Israel with nuclear weapons. This was not true, but led the Israelis to agree to Kissinger’s demands.
So what can we learn from this? Here one man in the State Department lied several times to an ally, and tried to weaken that ally. You cannot play such games with allies who are faced with the prospect of total annihilation.
In the same region of the world, we gave really bad advice to the leader of Iran, according to an article by James Perloff.
We know that Iran is now a radical Islamist state, with government meetings often starting with the chant “Death to America.”
However, suppose a progressive, pro-Western regime ruled Iran, representing no threat? ….. Yet many forget that, until 30 years ago, exactly such a regime led Iran, until it was toppled with the help of the same U.S. foreign policy establishment recently beating war drums.
From 1941 until 1979, Iran was ruled by a constitutional monarchy under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s Shah (king).
Although Iran, also called Persia, was the world’s oldest empire, dating back 2,500 years, by 1900 it was floundering. Bandits dominated the land; literacy was one percent; and women, under archaic Islamic dictates, had no rights.
The Shah changed all this. Primarily by using oil-generated wealth, he modernized the nation. He built rural roads, postal services, libraries, and electrical installations.
Long regarded as a U.S. ally, the Shah was pro-Western and anti-communist, and he was aware that he posed the main barrier to Soviet ambitions in the Middle East. A voice for stability within the Middle East itself, he favored peace with Israel and supplied the beleaguered state with oil.
On the home front, the Shah protected minorities and permitted non-Muslims to practice their faiths.
Houchang Nahavandi, one of the Shah’s ministers and closest advisers, reveals in his book The Last Shah of Iran: “We now know that the idea of deposing the Shah was broached continually, from the mid-seventies on, in the National Security Council in Washington, by Henry Kissinger, whom the Shah thought of as a firm friend.”…
Suddenly, the Shah noted, the U.S. media found him “a despot, an oppressor, a tyrant.” Kennedy denounced him for running “one of the most violent regimes in the history of mankind.”
At the center of the “human rights” complaints was the Shah’s security force, SAVAK. Comparable in its mission to America’s FBI, SAVAK was engaged in a deadly struggle against terrorism, most of which was fueled by the bordering USSR, which linked to Iran’s internal communist party, the Tudeh. SAVAK, which had only 4,000 employees in 1978, saved many lives by averting several bombing attempts. Its prisons were open for Red Cross inspections….
For Western TV cameras, protestors in Teheran carried empty coffins, or coffins seized from genuine funerals, proclaiming these were “victims of SAVAK.” This deception — later admitted by the revolutionaries — was necessary because they had no actual martyrs to parade. Another tactic: demonstrators splashed themselves with mercurochrome, claiming SAVAK had bloodied them……
Meanwhile, internationalist forces rallied around a new figure they had chosen to lead Iran: Ruhollah Khomeini. A minor cleric of Indian extraction, Khomeini had denounced the Shah’s reforms during the 1960s — especially women’s rights and land reform for Muslim clerics, many of whom were large landholders….
The Carter administration’s continuous demand upon the Shah: liberalize. On October 26, 1978, he freed 1,500 prisoners, but increased rioting followed. The Shah commented that “the more I liberalized, the worse the situation in Iran became. Every initiative I took was seen as proof of my own weakness and that of my government.” Revolutionaries equated liberalization with appeasement. “My greatest mistake,” the Shah recalled, “was in listening to the Americans on matters concerning the internal affairs of my kingdom.”
… “Air Force General Robert Huyser, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Europe, was sent to pressure Iran’s generals into giving in without a fight.” “Huyser directly threatened the military with a break in diplomatic relations and a cutoff of arms if they moved to support their monarch.”
…U.S. officials pressed the Shah to leave Iran. He reflected:
You cannot imagine the pressure the Americans were putting on me, and in the end it became an order…. How could I stay when the Americans had sent a general, Huyser, to force me out? How could I stand alone against Henry Precht [the State Department Director for Iran] and the entire State Department?
He finally accepted exile..
When the Islamists took charge, at least 1,200 Imperial Army officers, who had been instructed by General Huyser not to resist the revolution, were put to death. Before dying, many exclaimed, “God save the King!” “On February 17,” reported du Berrier, “General Huyser faced the first photos of the murdered leaders whose hands he had tied and read the descriptions of their mutilations.”
What is the lesson of this? If you see an allied leader as an obstacle to Democracy, and a person who is alienating people you want to court, take a look at the opposition first. Are they humane? Are they believers in freedom? Is your allied leader being portrayed to you accurately? Does he trust you? Does he support the West? Should you really throw him under the bus?
Back to Iraq:
Philip Dermer served in Iraq, and says this:
A former colleague with whom I served in the coalition forces in Iraq recently sent me one of the slick YouTube productions by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, now rampaging through the country. I was extremely reluctant to watch the video by this al Qaeda spin-off. I was already depressed about the chaos in Iraq, given how much effort my colleagues and I spent with Iraqis after 2003 attempting to forge the great democratic experiment in the Middle East.
As the video of jubilant ISIS members extolling their bloody conquests slipped by, I began to fast forward to get through the madness, but I froze when I saw ISIS thugs attacking captured Iraqis. Many of the men being taunted, tortured and killed were leaders of the Sahwa, the Sunni militants who once fought against the American military and the Iraqi government before they realized that their bigger enemy was al Qaeda and joined us in the fight. U.S. forces, grateful for their support, dubbed them Sons of Iraq…..
[After the victory on the battlefield ] the coalition’s payment program for the Sahwa necessitated gathering personal identification data on every member, close to 100,000 names; continuing the payments was going to be under the obligation of the Iraqi government after the coalition turned over governing authority to Baghdad. I remember when we delivered the database to Prime Minister Maliki’s office. The rest is history. He never attempted to fulfill his part of the bargain. Instead, the Sahwa were dismembered piecemeal, including extrajudicial killings, internment and expulsion from Iraq. After U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011, U.S. diplomats sat idly by behind concrete walls.
…. America’s promises and moral commitments must stand for something. If not, we may pay an even greater price as events unfold. No one will believe anything we say and will act strictly in their own interests. The Sahwa from 2007-09 is no more. And, yes, the Sunni are now doing what it takes for their own political interests, so things have come full circle because ISIS is the new al Qaeda—the vanguard.
It could be added, that if you don’t identify your true allies, and stand behind them, you lose the people who could stand up to your enemy. Israel is guilty in that regard too. As in this last story:
In southern Lebanon, which borders on Israel, Lebanese Christians were exposed to the Palestinians’ gangster-like presence. Consequently, these Christians turned to Israel for help. This transformed what were Israel’s incursions into southern Lebanon in response to PLO insurgency warfare into an enduring alliance of interests with southern Lebanese residents.
In 1975, as part of Israel’s security policy against the Palestinians, a young IDF intelligence officer named Ya’ir Ravid organized a militia force that was first called the Free Lebanese Army, then renamed the South Lebanon Army (SLA) in 1984. Over time, the SLA added Druze and Shi‘ite elements to the Maronite Christians who constituted its ideological pillar….
This Israeli-Lebanese alliance began to unravel in the Israeli public mind. The loss of approximately twenty to thirty soldiers per year in south Lebanese warfare was the backdrop to a popular campaign for withdrawal.. As a result, during the Israeli election campaign in mid-1999, Ehud Barak promised that as prime minister he would “bring the boys home from Lebanon.” The IDF was not winning the war and Hizbullah, the primary adversary, demonstrated that it had the religious conviction and tactical capabilities to continue its adamant resistance against Israel.
The new prime minister’s pledge, which enjoyed much popularity among the Israeli public, seized the south Lebanese in general and members of the SLA in particular with uncertainty and insecurity, if not panic. Israeli political leaders, military commanders, and other officials never stated clearly what the future might hold for the SLA. The result within the ranks of the SLA and the south generally was demoralization and trepidation that they might be abandoned at the last moment.
…For Israeli and SLA personnel, officers and soldiers alike, the events of late May unfolded without prior preparation, notice, or warning.
A soldier named Roni, with six years experience in the SLA, related that on “Monday night at eleven o’clock we got a call from the Israelis telling us that Hizbullah is approaching and telling us to leave.” Another soldier said, “We could have stopped them with our weapons,” but the IDF did not shoot and would not allow the SLA to shoot either….
Thus did the decision for an IDF withdrawal cause the SLA to disintegrate and create havoc among its forces. Southerners feared being massacred immediately by Hizbullah or being tried and tortured as “enemies of the state” by the Beirut authorities…
In effect, the Israeli government abandoned an SLA that very much wanted to stay in existence. This clearly was not what the SLA desired. Over 600 of its men had lost their lives in the many years of warfare but its fighters showed no inclination to leave their country….
Two meetings that I attended with senior Israeli officials prior to the withdrawal confirmed the government’s ambiguous intentions toward the SLA. From Reserve General Menachem Einan, appointed by Barak to conduct peace negotiations with the Lebanese government, I learned in March that there was no Israeli inclination to strengthen the SLA as the sole and credible military alternative to the IDF in south Lebanon.
Nevertheless, many SLA fighters later felt that their army had been strong enough to sustain the war. After the SLA had been exiled to Israel, therefore, the sad refrain was repeated: “Israel betrayed us. The IDF and SLA were one… and we thought it was possible to befriend Israel. We helped them in our land. For twenty-five years we were with her.” The nephew of ‘Aql Hashim, himself an SLA soldier, commented on the connection with Israeli soldiers in Lebanon: “We ate with you together, we fought with you together, we went to funerals with you together. We were your allies…”
Expressions of general Israeli concern and responsibility for her allies in the end served as an elusive formulation that culminated in betrayal.
These are harsh words, but again, it illustrates some of the points that came up with American behavior in other situations. Now Hezbollah has enough missiles to carpet Israel from corner to the other, and their leader, Nasrallah, has said that the good thing about Israel is that the world’s Jews will gather there, so they can all be destroyed at once.
Standing by your ally, if the ally really is an ally, is good policy. Unfortunately, we have fallen short in that regard. Kissinger, of all people, said this “To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal”.
Lets hope he was wrong.
(a note on the following sources, none of them are “primary sources” though some do quote primary sources. I found them by remembering some historical events, and then searching for them on the internet. I try to leave out speculation (for instance, the Perloff article is full of speculation that I disagree with). Not being a historian, I cannot really evaluate the sources too well. I use what rings true, based on what I already know.)