The Perpetrators, the Victims, and the Bystanders: Putin’s War and War Crimes and Us


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The Czech-Jewish historian Yehuda Bauer, who escaped the Holocaust with his family the day that Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, which had been abandoned by England, France, Italy, and even indirectly the United States which was battling a pro-Nazi isolationist movement, made this commend that none of us should forget: “Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.” 

The Perpetrators: Putin, his Enablers, and those Who Carry Out His War

Bauer’s words are so applicable today as Vladimir Putin and his willing accomplices in the Russian government and military, having miserably failed to overthrow the Ukraine in a fast military campaign have now resorted to using massive artillery barrages, dumb bombs, and long range missiles to directly attack and massacre Ukrainian civilians, including children.

In the long build up to his attack on Ukraine Putin, his advisors, his military planners, as well as the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko and his advisors easily could be charged under the same counts as were the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg. The first is “CRIMES AGAINST PEACE: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.

The facts of this case are that beginning in 2014 Putin’s Russia invaded the eastern regions of the Ukraine and Crimea based on the deliberate lie that Ukraine was committing genocide against Russia speaking people in those areas. the fact is that there was no genocide or even any government organized systematic persecution of any Russian speaking people there or anywhere in Ukraine. this is back up by the testimony of Russian speaking Ukrainians who are now fighting for the Ukraine against Russia. Likewise, the fact that Russia had nearly eight years to bring evidence of the alleged genocide to the U.N. and the International Criminal Court demonstrates that the Russian allegations were lies. They repeated and doubled down on those lies when they began their invasion in February, not only invoking they were invading to prevent genocide, and to destroy “the Nazi regime that had taken over Ukraine.” One again this was a lie. there was no genocide, as Russian speaking Ukrainians call a lie as they fight for Ukraine against Russia, and Ukraine is not a Nazi state. It is a liberal democracy which has free and fair elections, which coincidentally has a Jewish President.

Putin, his advisors, and his military planners began their preparations and planning for this attack in 2021. They built up forces along their eastern and southern borders with Ukraine and in January began conducting joint exercises with Belarus which enabled them to put tens of thousands more troops on Ukraine’s northern border. This would not possible without the cooperation of Belorussian President Lukashenko.

The invasion was in clear violation of international agreements and treaties to which Russia is a signatory, and they all participated in a common plan and conspiracy to make this possible. Those who should be charged with this count include Presidents Putin and Lukashenko, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has been masterminding the Russian diplomatic lies and propaganda, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, Chief of the General Staff General Valery Garasimov, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel General Nikolay Bogdanovsky, the commanders of the Western and Central, and Southern Military districts, their subordinate commanders in Ukraine, and the Commander of the Russian Air Force, Lieutenant General Sergey Dronov, and the commanders of Air Force units that are conducting attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine, General of the Army Viktor Zolotov, Commander of the Russian National Guard which in addition to breaking up anti-war demonstrations in Russia are now deployed in Ukraine. The list could go on but many of these leaders are not readily findable on the internet. Regardless, they are known and their names should be placed before the International Criminal Court for investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Victims: The Ukrainians

Putin’s war has bogged down. The Ukrainians are fighting with a heroism, patriotism, and ferocity that nobody imagined. Despite being outnumbered, they are killing thousands of Russian soldiers and destroying hundreds of Russian tanks and armored vehicles, and shot down dozens of Russian aircraft and helicopters, and taken hundreds of Russian soldiers as prisoners of war, most of who had no idea that they had no idea why they were in Ukraine. Despite that Putin mpushes forward destroying more towns and and civilian targets while making up lie after lie.

Putin is desperate, isolated and has changed his tactics to target civilians, hospitals, homes and apartment buildings, cut off Ukrainian civilians from evacuation along agreed to evacuation corridors using direct fire from tanks and artillery to kill them and force them back into battered encircled cities with no electricity, water or power. That is not a new thing for the Russian and the Soviet militaries of the past century. When they are bogged down because of poor training, leadership, logistics, and intelligence they resort to brute force. They do not use precision weapons to target military units or facilities, but use artillery already in Ukraine and missiles fired from Russia and Belarus to devastate Ukrainian cities, towns and people.

The Russian military controls the former but still potentially deadly nuclear plant and Chernobyl, and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest nuclear plant in Europe. The attack on Zaporizhzhia was premeditated and experts now believe that the attack brought the plant closer to disaster than before, had it melted down with would have been similar to the disaster at Fukushima. The Russians have now set up a headquarters and forward operating base manned by 500 soldiers at Zaporizhzhia.

The Ukrainian staff are being held captive to run the plants, even though Russians are now calling the shots, including cutting off the electrical power to Chernobyl and the reporting systems used to let the International Atomic Energy Commission to monitor what is happening at those facilities. It is well within the realm of probability that the Russians will either inadvertently or intentionally trigger a nuclear catastrophe at either of these plants, or the other three Ukrainian nuclear plants.

Wednesday the Russians accused Ukraine and the United States of operating secret chemical weapons facilities in Ukraine, the then convened a meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations where they made the accusation, and were basically told that they could not use that forum to spread lies with absolutely no evidence. Their accusations are false but being fanned by Russian and Chinese media outlets as a pretext to attack Ukraine with chemical weapons.

The Russians have three chemical weapon research and production facilities which they have never allowed international inspectors to inspect. Likewise, the vast amounts of chemical weapons which the Russians had committed to destroying in the 1990s cannot be confirmed to be destroyed, and new production cannot be overseen. These facilities are illegal under international law and produce chemical and biological weapons, some of which have been used in Syria, Chechnya, and against individuals, especially dissidents in Russia and abroad. The Russians maintain missile, tactical rocket, artillery, and bombs which can be used to deliver chemical or biological weapons against Ukrainians. These weapons include Sarin, VX, Tabun, Soman, and Novichok nerve agents which even a singled drop on contact with skin can shut down the human nervous system Lewisite, and Mustard gas blister agents which when inhaled so scar the lungs that people die by drowning in their own bodily fluids, choking agents such as phosgene, and blood agents. Their biological agents include Anthrax and Ricin.

The United States ended its offensive chemical and biological weapons programs in 1969, and the programs in Ukraine ended with their independence from the Soviet Union. However, the Russians have played this game before in Syria, where after its weapons were removed, mostly by the United States, the Russians used them numerous times on civilian targets. The Russian accusations against the United States and Ukraine developing chemical weapons are a certain false flag operation to allow the Russians to claim that they are using chemical weapons in self defense, which is also in violation of international treaties and protocols that they have signed. The Russians have vast stockpiles of these weapons which they have continued to develop and use during and after the Cold War.

The second count is WAR CRIMES: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

There is absolutely no doubt that they will use them as they get more desperate to finish this war which they refuse to call a war and have made it illegal for Russian media or citizens to call it such. The Russians have already attacked over 20 civilian hospitals and many other purely civilian targets, including attacking refugees and relief convoys in prearranged humanitarian corridors. The have attacked nuclear facilities and will not hesitate to use chemical weapons as long as the United States and NATO do not call their hand and find a way to get the Ukrainians weapons that can effect tactical actions such as the Stingers and Javelins, and those include the MiG 29s offered by Poland and other heavy weapons systems that the Ukrainian military has experience using. Likewise, Russia needs to be warned that we will hunt down and take into custody any member of the Russian government or military who has take part in these war crimes, and hand them over to the International Criminal Court, from Putin down, diplomatic status notwithstanding.

Finally we come to CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

The Russians are doing this impunity because not a single leader of any NATO, E.U., or the United Nations has authorized anything more than the shipment of tactical weapons, humanitarian supplies, and yes, massive Economic Sanctions. But Putin is a bully. He is willing to toss around threats of using nuclear or chemical weapons because he knows that we are afraid of crossing his red lines due to fear of World War III and mutually assured destruction in a nuclear war. He is counting on us to back down like Kruschev did in the Cuban Missile Crisis against President Kennedy who put our nuclear forces at THREATCON II, the next to highest and when the Soviet Union under Brezhnev threatened to attack Israel and send nuclear weapons to Egypt during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and President Nixon responded by both mobilizing troops and increasing our Nuclear Threat Condition (THREATCON) to THREATCON III. in both cass the Soviets, fearing the complete destruction of their country backed down. Likewise, when Soviet Lieutenant Colonel Stanislov Petrov was alerted to a nuclear launch of five nuclear missiles realized that the new missile detection system had malfunctioned because such a strike did not match U.S.first strike doctrine, as a result Petrov refused to notify the High Command of the threat, which with only a minute or two to order the retaliatory full nuclear strike mandated by Soviet Doctrine would have certainly ordered. He was relieved of his duties and retired from the Soviet military, but he prevented a world wide nuclear war, which would destroy, him, his family, and his entire country. He later said:  “I had obviously never imagined that I would ever face that situation. It was the first and, as far as I know, also the last time that such a thing had happened, except for simulated practice scenarios.“ Petrov made the right decision, as will any officer order by Putin to launch a nuclear weapon, regardless of Russian doctrine. Putin cannot get around that, and if he ordered such an attack he would be eliminated by Russian military or security officers more committed to the survival of Russia and their loved ones than Putin.

The final count is that of conspiracy of Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.

Every single Russian leader involved in the invasion of Ukraine is guilty of this.

The Bystanders and their chance to intervene

From now on the United States and NATO need to look at history and realize that Putin’s words of nuclear escalation are a bluff that needs to be called without threatening Russia with a nuclear strike but by simply doing what we did in World War II before we were attacked by Japan. We passed the Lend Lease, giving the British, and the Free French, and the Soviets weapons to fight the Nazis and even use American ships and aircraft to escort convoys to Britain. Not only, that but American officers flew is British aircraft during the Battle of the Atlantic, one of them who spotted the German Battleship Bismarck, enabling it to be disabled and sunk by British Aircraft and battleships. Likewise, our involvement did not come without cost. The USS Kearny was damaged by a torpedo while coming to the aid of a convoy in October 1941 with the loss of 11 sailors, and the USS Reuben James was sunk with the loss of 100 of 144 crew members.

Other Americans fought to aide countries being attacked by Fascists, as did American members of the Lincoln Brigade who fought Franco’s Fascists, Mussolini’s Blackshirts, and Hitler’s Condor Legion in Spain, and the American pilots who flew with the Nationalist Chinese against Japan as the ”Flying Tigers” who valiantly fought the Japanese. Today, thousands of Americans, Europeans, and others are volunteering to serve in an international unit of the Ukrainian army. Many are professional soldiers and highly trained combat veterans.

Diplomacy sometimes has to edge towards brinksmanship. Lend Lease and the Cold War demonstrate this. Putin is a typical Soviet KGB hack who only remains in power through the fear of people who are afraid that he is a madman. He is not. We need to give him a way to save face and end his war with Ukraine while claiming that he ended Ukraine’s threat to Russia without destroying Russia, and with it his at least temporary power as its leader. It is the only way to return to what Putin’s Foreign Minster referred to the normal days of the Cold War.

Calling out Putin’s threats, providing the Ukrainians the weapons they need to defend themselves and escorting those weapons to them, daring Putin to do something about it. Despite his bluster and threat of using nuclear weapons or engaging American and NATO units in combat he will not. All of his threats have been political theater to conjure up the fear we have of nuclear war, World War III, and mutually assured destruction. But his is an empty threat, other Russian leaders in the Soviet era made similar threats and never pushed the button because they knew that it would involve the absolute destruction of ”Mother Russia”, the preservation of which is paramount to Putin, who has allied himself with the keepers of this sacred mission, the Russian Orthodox Church. This being the case he will be loathe to start a war that would destroy the holy land he is committed to preserve. For those unaware of the political power of the Orthodox Church in Russia have to rem that its leaders and theologians consider it the Third Rome, in terms of the authority of the Christian Church. It sees itself as the successor to Rome and Constantinople. The Russian Orthodox Church will not permit the destruction of ”Mother Russia” and Putin will not dare cross them. Since the fall of the Soviet Union he was baptized and confirmed as a member of the Church and has presented himself as its defender. To allow it to be destroyed would be tantamount to destroying the Church and Mother Russia. Putin would be damned by the Russian Orthodox Church and his people for letting that happen. Do not underestimate the power of that Church in Russia to deter Putin.

The only way that Putin has a chance to remain in power and salvage a bit of self respect in Russia by declaring his ”limited military operation” a success. If he doesn’t do this the mothers of all those Russian boys killed in Ukraine will rise up like those mothers of the Russian boys lost in Afghanistan. The wounded will come home and tell their stories of the lies they were told, and how honorably and valiantly the Ukrainians fought.

Of course all of this requires the courage of American, NATO, and E.U. leaders to call Putin’s desperate bluffs. We should immediately agree with Poland’s idea to transfer their MiG 29s to Ukraine. The Russians will not do anything to stop them. Despite his threats he does not want war with NATO. He cannot defeat Ukraine unless he totally destroys it, and he is failing. He cannot risk war with NATO.

We should tell Russia directly that if they use chemical or biological weapons against Ukraine that we will find and destroy the Russian military units responsible for their use, declare and enforce a defensive no fly zones over humanitarian aid corridors, airfields, and rail lines, not to destroy Russian military forces. Likewise, we should demand the immediate access by the International Red Cross and other non-aligned humanitarian Non Governmental Organizations to precent a humanitarian catastrophe, that Putin alone would be responsible. Do not be be deceived, despite his false claims about coming to the rescue of of ethnic Russians against Putin and Lavarov’s fake claims of ”genocide” against them, one has to remember that the majority of the people he is killing in Ukraine are the ethnic Russians in Kharkiv, Marianopul, Khorsun, and other cities who have now take up arms against him.

The slaughter can be stopped. Nuclear war avoided, but it cannot be stopped unless we act from the position of moral, legal, economic, diplomatic, and military strength. Putin’s military cannot subdue Ukraine, much less than the full diplomatic, informational, military, and economic might of the United States. President Biden and the leaders of NATO need to call Putin’s bluff knowing that without destroying Mother Russia he doesn’t have the cards or chips to do anything but fold.

For far too many years Western leaders have allowed Putin to get his way by playing on our fears rather than facts. It is true that Russia has the weapons to destroy the world, but when one looks at history, culture, and the preservation of Mother Russia it is a calculated risk that we should take. Putin is not stupid. He is not crazy, he gambled that he could conquer Ukraine in days, that the Inited States, the E.U. and NATO would acquiesce to his seizure of Ukraine. But he was arrogant, made far too many faulty assumptions about how Ukraine, the United States, the E.U., NATO and the world would respond.

Now is the time to take the calculated risk and call his bluffs. If we do not he will continue to wreak havoc in Ukraine, and promote unwarranted fears in the West. The fact is that a militarily, diplomatically, economically and informationally superior NATO is more than a match for him. He is playing the part of a fear filled bully who when push comes to shove, he will back down, or if he continues down this path, members of the Russian military leadership, the FSB, the Oligarchs, and the Russian people will rise up against him. Putin might not face a War Crimes trial if these people kill him and hang him up by meathooks like Mussolini.

The truth is that Putin is playing a weak hand that gets weaker every day. The United States, NATO, and the E.U. need to stop encouraging his aggression by giving in to his threats that paly upon our fears. This is the only way to stop Putin.

The first and final count was the conspiracy charge, which could be used against anyone cooperating with the other charges. It is time for the United States, the E.U., NATO, and the ICC to hang this like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of Putin’s willing helpers. Believe me, none of them want to lose everything for a cause that benefits none of them.

Ukraine will not surrender. That is a given. Many of the Russian people, including senior officers of the FSB are against this invasion, and if the United States, the E.U. and NATO act to support Ukraine beyond supplying short range tactical weapons, fly the Polish MiGs into Ukraine and supply that nation long and medium range air defense missiles, coastal anti-ship missiles, as well as surplus Russian made tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles that Ukrainian military personnel are already trained to use. That is not an escalation as Russian will allege, but something we have always done to help nations being attacked by criminal nation states, just like we did Britain and the Soviet Union through Lend Lease before we were officially at war.

Economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and the use of intelligence and information do not deter a state using illegal war built upon lies and disinformation, and threats that it will not Putin will not carry out because they will result in the destruction of the Holy Nation Putin has promised to preserve. Thus the theory of calculated risk. Miether Putin or Russias other leaders will risk the existence of their families and Mother Russia for a war that they cannot win. Standing up and doing these things will bring about peace, enable the Russians to withdraw from Ukraine while preserving the myth that they succeeded in their operation

Sanctions should be maintained until Putin and his willing henchmen turn themselves in to the International Criminal Court, or a new Russian government surrenders them. That being done the people of Russian, many who oppose Putin’s actions should be offered ever resource to rebuild their lives and bring Russia completely into the fold of freedom and democracy without further punishment or declaration of guilt of their nation. This was a terrible legacy of Treaties of Brest-Livstock and Versailles that led to the Soviet Revolution, the Nazis, and World War II.

The Ukrainians need to be free, and the territories seized by Russia in 2014 restored to them. Instead of Russians wealth being seized by the west, a fair amount needs to be given to Ukraine as reparations, but Russia will also need to be rebuilt and its citizens who lost sons and husbands in this war be compensated. The toxic seeds of blame and shame cannot be placed on all Russians, even as their leaders are tried for their conspiracy to commit illegal war, the conduct of that war, and the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by that regime. We have to separate the ordinary citizens, many who are risking their lives by protesting or fleeing the country because they do not want to be associated with Putin’s regime’s malevolent crimes.

There is justice and there is mercy, but the path to them is filled with danger. That danger includes taking calculated risks against a malevolent dictator attempting to use the fear of World War III to keep powers capable of preventing his war crimes and crimes against humanity from intervening more forcibly. This is where the principle of calculated risk helps us and Ukraine, and eventually the Russian people.

It will take time, and in that time tens of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian lives, but fewer lives will be lost if these actions are taken sooner than later. They are a calculated risk but necessary unless we want to see a complete disaster in Ukraine and and an emboldened Russia that will beging planing attacks on the Baltic States, Poland, and Romania. It will also deter China from making attacks against the Republic of China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. They want an empire but traditionally they are patient and will not take risks that will endanger their nation.

The United States, NATO, the EU, and the World cannot remain bystanders, we must do all we can based on facts, history, diplomatic, informational, military, and economic power cannot be paralyzed by fear by the threats of a bully whose only winning card results in the destruction of his nation. As I have described this is based on the principle of calculated risk. To assume that Putin will resort to a nuclear war that will destroy Mother Russian is to play into the fear that he wants to engender in us, like Hitler did to Britain and France in 1938 at Munich. Putin cannot be appeased. Meeting him with strength the combined weight of Western diplomacy, information, military power and economics might very allow his opponents at home to overthrow him.

It is a risk we must take, sooner rather than later for the sake of the valiant Ukrainians, led by their incredibly brave and insightful President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

That is all for tonight. Glory to Ukraine.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under crimes against humanity, Foreign Policy, History, Military, national security, nuclear weapons, Political Commentary, ukraine, war crimes

Christmas Future?

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I will be writing a lot about things that are happening now dealing with our current political, social, religious and pandemic crises’s that are ravaging our country and the world. However, after a massive amount of work leading up to the winter/Christmas break of school that I teach, I had to catch up on some Christmas decorating, some housework, and yes my first attempts at doing cartoon Christmas and holiday cards.

My wife Judy, who is a real artist has always told me that I am a natural cartoonist. I just never decided to push myself until this week. Of course these are Christmas and holiday cards. I might star some kind of comic strip, or may editorial cartoons. I can only say that another part of my creativity has been tapped, and Judy says that the more that I draw, the better I will become. That combined with my natural creative streak and twisted sense of humor, could make this fun and thought provoking.


Of course my writing will take precedence, but this will allow a different kind of work to begin, one where my twisted sense of humor can really come into play.

So, anyway, until I get back to writing on a regular basis I wish you the warmest of holiday greetings for whatever, if any holidays you observe. I really don’t care so long as you and yours are safe and happy, and that we all get through this latest COVID-Omicron surge in good health and that none of us, our family’s, or friends die of this.

So, peace my friends,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under COVID19, culture

Welcome to the Old New World of the ”Hot” Cold War

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I do apologize for not writing in so long, it has been to long and my loyal readers deserve better. Truthfully, much has been going on at work, on the book, and at home. So much that every time I thought I might write something, I either procrastinated waiting for more information, or got a brain cramp and writers block. But tonight after 10 days of an illegal, immoral, and criminal war of aggression by Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine, I am going to speak some hard and bery personal experiences and truth.

This is a long, but necessary post because it deals with a reality that many people have either forgotten or have never experienced. Please understand it in that manner and please feel free to share.

In the 1980s I served as a platoon leader, Company XO, and Company commander in Central Germany at the climax of the Cold War. Our mission was to help,reconstitute the 11th ACR after they were decimated on the Fulda Gap. We were expected to take 70-90% casualties in the process. I was a Medical Service Corps officer with specialized training as a Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare officer.

So much of that experience is seared into my brain. I can recite how chemical weapons including choking agents, blood agents, and nerve agents cause death. I know far too much about how biological agents do the same. If you are unfamiliar, depending on your ability to handle horror do some research, if you cannot because of your life experience, don’t traumatize yourself.

But most of all I remember the effects of nuclear weapons, the blast effects of air and surface bursts of various size and types of weapon, and what would happen to people, equipment, and structures from those blasts depending how far one was from the explosion. I understand the firestorms they would ignite, and the effects of radiation on the human body. I know from memory how many RADS one can live with without getting immediate radiation sickness, how long one could remain in an irradiated area, and how much radiation would give a person serious radiation poisoning and bring about death. I understand how the process of how people die from radiation poisoning not just from the immediate effects of the blast, and burn injuries.

I understand how to plot fallout patterns, and had to do so on 1:50,000 maps that had my house on them. I remember receiving and decoding FLASH messages in training exercises, saying where the nukes were going off and plotting the fallout patterns on those maps. If you want to see how frightening that is just watch the film “Crimson Tide.”

I predicted what Putin was going to do in Ukraine and even when he would do it as far back as last fall as he began to build up his forces and issue threats. you can check my Facebook and Twitter feeds to verify that information.

I knew that the Russian Army would struggle in this war because it is poorly trained, most of its soldiers are poorly motivated and trained, and its senior officers and commanders are inexperienced at the operational level of war. as a result they resort to destroying everything in front of them, even as whole Russian units surrender in mass as they suffer massive casualties.

The Russian Army has a nightmarish history of poor logistics, and its soldiers, mostly conscripts are ill-trained, and badly treated. This is nothing new, the Russian Army, including the victorious Red Army of the Second World War has had the same problems, neither is it prepared for a massive insurgency after it takes control of major cities, the Ukrainians will never give up. They will kill so many Russian soldiers in an insurgency that when the bodies come home and the Russian mothers demand justice, when the wounded return and tell their families and friends what they experienced. These accounts will end Putin’s nefarious regime, just as the Red Army’s defeat in Afghanistan sealed the fate of the Soviet Union. The fall of the Soviet Union, and brought about the rule of a disillusioned KGB Agent named Vladimir Putin, who is determined to “Make Russia Great Again”, and damn the cost to his country and people. Despite Putin’s suppression of his opponents, the free press, and trying to cut off Russians from foreign news outlets, these stories will rock Russia, and bring about his fall.

But unlike some, I hate being right in my predictions. I don’t make any money from them, and you don’t see me as a talking head on cable news. Sadly, I am probably a better military historian, theorist, strategist, and subject matter expert than I am a Priest.

Personally, I am not sleeping well. I am having flashbacks, including from when we had to take action to protect us, our families, and even pets when the fallout from Chernobyl passed over us. Judy and I talk about this often. She remembers that time all too well.

Putin’s threats of nuclear war and his forces attack on the largest nuclear reactor, and seizure of the Chernobyl site, and the possibility of the Russians doing something with those places as the mother of all dirty bombs, make what is happening in Ukraine an existential crisis. Putin is now far more reckless than any of his predecessors in raising the nuclear weapons rhetoric.

Thus it is important that the United States, NATO, and the E.U., need to thread the needle of this historic crisis, because it is different than any of the major crises of the Cold War, by giving every means of assistance to Ukraine and punishing Russia without a direct confrontation with Russian military forces. Such a confrontation would give Putin the opportunity to use it as an excuse to launch a few nuclear weapons to test our response. Putin has crossed a line that no Soviet leader other than Krushev did when he placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, and the brinksmanship he engaged in with John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In order to help the Ukraine without a provoking a direct confrontation that would likely lead to nuclear war, we will have to do things that will cause us pain, like cutting off all Russian oil and LNG trade to West, including us. This will result in higher oil prices with a ripple effect that all of us will feel in our pocketbooks in a myriad of different ways, but we and Europe have the means to compensate. But that is a small price to pay to help cut off Putin’s ability to make war by using economic means and hopefully stir the Russian people to rise up against Putin, and maybe even inspire someone or a faction in the FSB and military to remove Putin from power. But, in the mean time we cannot trust a word that Putin says and be wary as he grows more desperate in the military situation and the massive sanctions that are crippling Russia’s economy and those to follow.

These weapons include more anti-tank and and anti-aircraft missiles like the Javelin and Stinger, as well as the former Soviet Su-27s and MiG-29s that are part of Air Forces Eastern European NATO nations that used to be part of the Warsaw Pact. We can also provide former Soviet artillery from those nations. We need to help Turkey provide more of their very effective and inexpensive drones to Ukraine. Speed is of the essence, while some would like to equip the Ukrainians with Patriot missiles, M-1A Abrams tanks, and F-16 fighters, the pipeline to provide them and train the Ukrainians on them is too long to help at the moment.

We also need to cross the line and provide Ukraine the best real time intelligence to allow their air and ground forces every advantage. Some say this crosses the line into deeper involvement, and possibility of conflict with Russia, but we will not be taking direct military action, simply providing information. This is a moral obligation.

Likewise, we need to let the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies use experienced contractors with Special Forces backgrounds to help arm, train and advise Ukrainian insurgents as we did the Afghans in the 1980s. The use of contractors and mercenaries to do this provides the cover of plausible deniability, and does not involve U.S. or NATO troops taking direct action against the Russias just like we did in Afghanistan.

Additionally we need to keep building up forces in Eastern Europe because there is no doubt that Putin harbors desires on Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and Romania, and has pledged to punish Germany. That will mean deploying more U.S. Army, Marine, and Air Force units to those countries, and provide massive military and humanitarian aide to Ukraine and to the countries providing for the million or so Ukrainian refugees. We probably need to sent another three to five Brigade Combat Teams, and a Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

As for the United States, we need to reverse the historic mistake of President George W. Bush and every President after him and fulfill our commitment to joining the International Criminal Court. We helped establish international criminal at Nuremberg. Our refusal to join the ICC is a black mark on our moral and legal history. As Justice Robert Jackson said when the International Military Tribunal to prosecute the major Nazi War Criminals: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

For those born after the Cold War or those born at the tail end of it this is a foreign world, but to us who grew up under the threat of nuclear annihilation, and served looking at the Soviets face to face in the Cold War, it is nothing new, and our President understands it far better than most. Whether you like him or not, he is handling this as good or better than any of our Cold War Presidents did the threats from their time, as this is similar to those but very much different.

Welcome to the old new world of the “hot” Cold War, war crimes, crimes against humanity, mutually assured destruction, and few good answers.

So, until the next time,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under crimes against humanity, Foreign Policy, History, Military, News and current events, nuclear weapons, Political Commentary, PTSD, russia, ukraine, war crimes

Remembering A Day of Treason and Infamy: Never Again

NEVER AGAIN! THE UNION NOW AND FOREVER

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

A year ago, just six days after I retired from active duty a hoard of fanatical supporters of then President Donald Trump attack the Capitol Building with Congress in session in order to stop the usually ceremonial certification of the Electoral College vote. It should have not been a surprise as from the day of the election Trump and his cult like followers had been proclaiming that the election had been stolen from him, something that many if not most of them still believe despite incontrovertible forensic proof that the results were accurate.

As a historian I can only call this act of sedition and insurrection as something akin to the firing on Fort Sumter or the Bier Hall Putsch. Like those failed attempts at revolution this too failed, but its effects linger and are not over. The fact that an estimated 100 Republican members of the House and Senate knew of or supported the coup attempt, and many current active duty, reserve, and National Guard members, veterans, military retirees, as well as local and state law enforcement officers took part in it, all of whom violated their oath of office in attempting to overthrow the Constitution they had sworn to defend and overturn a valid and legal election because they did not like the result created a stain in our history and national honor that will never be erased.

These people are still determined to use every means legal and illegal to overthrow our Constitution, ignore Constitutional amendments that they hate, such as the XIIIth, XIVth, and XVth, as well as Civil and Voting Rights. They are supported by a host of conspiracy theorists, White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, in media, right wing think tanks, and popular propagandists.

Until today when President Biden and Attorney General Garland spoke the Democrats have spent more time fighting amongst themselves than countering Republican and QANON propaganda, or having all hands on deck to pass voting rights laws to counter the GOP Trump Cult using all means available, including working with the dwindling number of anti-Trump Republicans, despite the efforts of the House Committee investigating the assault which includes the now despised Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.

Today, any man or woman in this country who cares about our freedom, democracy, and Constitution, needs to be willing to make a stand for it in every neighborhood, town, city, county, and state. by refusing to fight by every legal means available we will be the authors of the end of our Republic, democracy will die, and with it freedom.

Ulysses Grant, then a former Army Officer volunteered to fight at the beginning of the Civil War said, ”There are but two parties now: traitors and patriots. And I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter and, I trust, the stronger party.”

I am now retired, but if these people push their plans for a theocratic dictatorship under the looming orange face of Donald Trump. They are a clear and present danger and I will stand by the oath of office that I first took over 40 years again.

I will stand and say ”Never Again” and my actions will match my words. So if any of the Trump Cultists who condemn me, wish me harm or threaten me or my family, or anyone else, I will fight. I am a proud American who served in peace and war for nearly forty years and never forsake my oath to the Constitution regardless of my political or religious beliefs. I will be damned if I let a buch of cowardly fake patriots and religious extremists shut me up.

Until the next time,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under authoritarian government, christian life, civil rights, civil war, History, leadership, Military, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary, racism, Religion

Welcome 2022: A Year of Hope and Dread


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Something Cheerful, Izzy, Sunny, Pierre and Maddy Lyn Wish You a Happy New Year

Well friends, the new year is here and with it comes hope for a better future because we all want it to be better than 2019 or 2020. But for me those hopes are tempered by my knowledge of history and my knowledge that despite our occasional moments of doing magnificent things, behaving courageously and even in the best interests of others and humanity, but our worst times occur when they don’t, which is more often than not. Barbara Tuchman wrote: “Human beings of any age need to approve of themselves; the bad times in history come when they cannot.” Unfortunately, I believe that one of those bad times is not yet done, and the worst may be yet to come like in 1861, 1914, 1919, and 1939, or any combination combined with weapons of mass destruction, artificial intelligent weapons systems, and world wide pandemic that try as we might to contain it, is not going any time soon.

If that were all it would be enough to make the world a far more dangerous place in 2022 than it was in 2021. There is the massive ramping up of tensions between Russia, versus the Ukraine, NATO and the European Union. Then there is the increasingly bellicose incantations of the Chinese Communist/ Han Chinese Nationalist actions towards the Republic of China, a Democracy which China never had a historic, cultural, or religious claim upon before Chang Kai Shek and his Nationalist forces were defeated by the Communists in 1948 and established a nation on the island of Formosa, which we now call Taiwan. However, President and Chairman Xi continues to claim that it is a ”renegade” province despite it being its own nation with a budding democratic tradition. Xi and his allies also threaten the United States for its support of the ROC. That would be enough, but over the past year the Chinese Communists have defied their treaty obligations to Hong Kong and crushed its majority pro-democracy movement, even removing monuments to the martyrs of Tianamin Square. We can then add their enslavement and genocide of the Muslim Uyghur population of Xinjiang province, and ,its continued threats to the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, and their development of hypersonic missiles and torpedos. But they have problems, especially economic with a very threatening real estate bubble that could crash their economy and send shockwaves throughout the world economy.


Then we come to Russian military threats to the Ukraine. Russian President Putin, having already seized the Crimea and the Donbass from Ukraine in 2014 has massed over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. Demands by President Biden, the European Union, and NATO for the Russians to stand down have been met with even greater threats. Russia’s position is not logical, but it is deeply emotional and seemingly personal to Putin. Though he appears in good health, he is not young and may be compelled by a medical condition to complete a conquest that would cement his role in Russian history, very much the reason that Hitler launched the Second World War.

Of course there is the constant threat of war with Iran which grows more as Iran attempts to undermine the governments of Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States even as it rattles sabers with the United States, Europe, and most importantly Israel.

Any or all of these issues could blow up at any time in 2022, all it takes is any combination of unfortunate events to set any one, or all into motion, with potentially cataclysmic results. I keep telling people that I feel that I am watching a modern replay of Tuchman’s The Guns of August or William Shirer’s The Nightmare Years.

none of that even mentions the political divide in the United States which overcame a Coup attempt on January 6th 2001, and potentially faces a reprise of racist and fascist terrorism backed by a core of cultists determined to return Donald Trump to power by any means. The are backed by a multitude of partisan and conspiratorial ”News Networks” and authoritarian radio and television pundits, who routinely spout Nazi like anti-semitism and racism; removing voting rights, civil rights, and religious rights from non-White Conservative Christians, even using violence to achieve those goals.

This isn’t fantasy, it is the reality in which we live. I will do what I can to influence events. Hopefully, ,y book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil Era and Beyond will give me a chance to be heard at the national and international level. However, it will increase the personal danger to me since I have had real and verifiable death threats on this blog, social media, and when engaging Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists attacking leaders of civil and religious rights groups.

Sadly, many of these people claim to be Christians, and their words and threats are the most chilling of all, because they not only threaten my physical life, but also damn my soul to their version of eternal punishment. I truly believe that such people are dangerous, not just to the lives of people, but will so completely destroy the message of Jesus the Christ and that of the Christian Church that it will take decades if not centuries to see it reclaimed by people with no political or cultural prize at stake. But, for practical purposes, maybe for what passes as Christianity in the United States and any country infected with its sickness to death.

That may not sound like an uplifting or optimistic message, but they are realities that we must face. However, as trying and excruciating as the past two years have been, things can get worse, as Tuchman wrote:

“An event of great agony is bearable only in the belief that it will bring about a better world. When it does not, as in the aftermath of another vast calamity in 1914-18, disillusion is deep and moves on to self-doubt and self-disgust.” 

Until tomorrow or Monday I wish you the best.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under anti-semitism, christian life, civil rights, culture, film, Foreign Policy, history, News and current events, Political Commentary

Praise for ”Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond



Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been over two months since I last wrote on the blog and I do apologize. During those months I was kicking off the first quarter of a new school year, working hard in the house until a combination of carpal tunnel and tendonitis sent me to a hand surgeon who put any heavy work on ice. I’ve been wearing wrist and hand braces which are really a pain, but between them and physical therapy the pain of the tendonitis has pretty much subsided. That being said the tingling and numbness of the carpal tunnel continues.

While this was going on I spent the better part of October and November doing my part of the copy editing of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. Authors who have good publishers understand how important this is, and since this is my first book, this has been a learning process. I had an awesome copy editor with Potomac of University of Nebraska Press, and though the process was hard, the final result is an even better book. I learned a lot in the process that will make my future initial manuscript submissions much better. Stephen King said, ”to write is human, to edit divine.”

I have received a good number of really great book blurbs from prominent historians, writers, and civil rights leaders with most arriving in the two weeks before the publisher’s due date of 1 December. In the process of getting them I was greeted with so much kindness and encouragement even from men and women whose schedules, projects, or health prevented them from writing blurbs. I think than when normal travel resumes and COVID becomes less widespread that some of my new friends and I will get the chance to break bread and enjoy tasty beverages together as we discuss history, politics, and pick one another’s brains.

So here are the comments of these great historians and leaders who I am so grateful to in their affirmation of my work of the past seven years in their praise of the book. I cannot thank them enough. Once I get the expected publication date, I will let you know. I will be making so changes to the website to make it a launching pad for Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory and future books, in addition to my articles and commentary. Thank you for continuing to follow my work despite months of inactivity on the site this year.

Dr. Charles Reagan Wilson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Mississippi and author of numerous books on Souther history and society including ”Baptized in Blood, the Religion of the Lost Cause” wrote:

“The ghosts of American slavery and the Civil War haunt this sweeping interpretation of how a toxic blend of white supremacy and tribal religion continue to shape American society. Beginning with the arrival of the first Africans in North America in 1619, Dundas traces how race and religion became an American ideology that influenced politics and public policy. The extensive citation of first-person quotations lends unusual authority to the account. The heart of the study is the period from the antebellum era through the end of Reconstruction, but within a chronological narrative, Dundas weaves philosophical meditations on the mix of idealism and ruthless power that shaped the antebellum and postbellum worlds, with special insight on the American South’s pivotal role in his story. While this is a historical study, the author analyzes its significance for the social and political divisions of the twenty-first century, making it an especially timely study. The author’s wide knowledge of military history serves him well, as he looks at the American experience of the Civil War in a broad perspective. Scholars of southern history, American religion, the Civil War, and contemporary politics will all find this work of interest.”

Dr. Leanna Keith of the New York Collegiate Academy and author of ”The Colfax Massacre” writes:

“In this concise, personal account, Steven L. Dundas offers a review of religion and ideology in the Civil War era and its aftermath.  Taking a broad view, Dundas considers expressions of religious fervor and sermonizing in relations to the establishment of slavery in 1619, the role of the Constitution of the United States, and the painful legacies of the Civil War in Jim Crow and Lost Cause America.  Dundas adopts a friendly and familiar tone, quoting at length, and synthesizing based on his careful reading of secondary sources.  In its most original passages, the book considers the role of evangelical zeal in promoting conflict in the leadup to the war on both sides of the divide.”

Chris Rodda, Senior Researcher at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and author of ”Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History writes:

“With no sugar coating of America’s history of slavery and racism, Steve Dundas adds to the story of the religious ideology used to slavery, not as a side note but as the significant factor that it was. A very timely read as we face the growing threat of of today’s Christian nationalists and white supremacists.”

Dr. Riccardo Herrera, Professor of History at the the Army Command and General Staff College, and author of ”For Liberty and Republic, the American Citizen as Soldier: 1775-1861” writes:

“Steven Dundas has written a powerful call for Americans to reexamine their too-often mythologized Civil War, Reconstruction, and their ongoing impact on American life. Dundas has infused his work with a strong moral and ethical clarity that is rarely seen.” 

Dr. John Fea, Distinguished Professor of History at Messiah University and author of ”Why Study History?”, ”Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?” and ”Believe Me: the Evangelical Road to Donald Trump” writes:

“Steven Dundas offers us a fast-moving introduction to the links between Christianity and slavery in early America. If you are interested in learning more about the roots of racial strife in America, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is a good place to start.”

Dr.John Patrick Daly of the State University of New York, Brockport, and Author of “When Slavery was Called Freedom: Evangelism, Proslavery and the Causes of the Civil War” writes:

“Steve Dundas’s “Mine Eyes have seen the Glory” is a lively and wide-ranging account of religion and the politics of race in the South. His expert handling of religion and religious ideology is compelling and especially powerful on the origins and lasting power of the Lost Cause.  The book’s innovative style will appeal to college students and all students of history.”

Dr. Margaret Sankey, Professor at the USAF, Air University and author of “Blood Money: How Criminals, Militias, Rebels, and Warlords Finance Violence” and “Women and War” writes:

“Moved by a staff ride to Gettysburg, Professor Dundas–a career naval officer, chaplain and educator–has written an electrifying new take on the American Civil War and its continuing presence in politics, race relations and corrosive mythology.  From the first chapters, he center the long tail of slavery, back to the colonial origins of the states, with a grip that does not permit a reader to slide into ‘it was about states’ rights’ or to look away from the system of enslaving human beings that underwrote the commodity production of the southern economy and had the enabling support of northern brokers like Fernando Wood.  His key insight, which should have a place in the anti-racism and anti-extremism training we do in Professional Military Education, is that the south definitely lost the war but infiltrated the peace with rhetoric of reunion, white brotherhood, U.S. imperialism (making up with brothers in grey by fighting in Cuba, for one!), Jim Crow constraint of African-American civil rights and vicious terrorizing in the form of nightriders, Klan activities and local lynching.  Dundas’ history is visceral, often told in the voices of the participants, and pulls no punches with the searing injustices, large-scale violence and personal tragedies of the nation’s founding and original sin of slavery.  This is a book to put in the hands of any military reader who understands that racism, an ugly thread woven into our American story, is a national security issue.”

Dr. Charles Dew, Ephraim Williams Professor of American History at Williams College, and author of “Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the  Causes of the Civil War” writes:

“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is a book for our time. Steven L. Dundas has skillfully woven slavery, race, racism, politics, and religion into a single entity in telling this country’s complex story. Every American would profit from what he is telling us.”

Dr. Lloyd “Vic” Hackley, military civil rights pioneer and Vietnam War hero before becoming President of the North Carolina Community College System, Vice President of the University of North Carolina System, and Chancellor of North Carolina A & T University writes:

“Steve Dundas has written the definitive account of America’s onerous history with African Americans. A must read to fully understand, teach or discuss the institution of slavery, racism, religion and their current impacts. Every school library should have a copy.”

Dr. Joe Levin, Esq., cofounder of the Southern Poverty Law Center writes,

“Commander Dundas not only brings us a powerful history of slavery but, more importantly, the consequence of untruths and how twisted religious beliefs shaped America. All educators should read it and ensure that its message is delivered to their students.”

Dr. James ”Jim” McPherson the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University, and author of “Battle Cry of Freedom, the American Civil War” wich won the Pulitzer Prize in 1989 writes:

“A richly documented history of the ideology of racism that manifested itself in slavery, the Confederacy, the overthrow of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the myth of the Lost Cause that glorified the Old South and the Confederacy.”

Kristopher D. White Chief Historian, Emerging Civil War, and author of several books on the Civil War writes:

“Military history is more than just the mud and blood of the battlefield. The enduring values and beliefs of a nation equate to policy, policy and politics drives strategy, and strategy drives the prosecution of a war. In Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, Steven L. Dundas weaves together the story of the country’s original sin, slavery, into the larger fabric of antebellum and wartime America. Every aspect of American life was directly or indirectly touched by the “peculiar institution.” From the pulpit to the slave auction block, and from the cotton fields of the Deep South to the ramparts of Battery Wagner, Dundas takes readers on an unforgettable journey through the heart of perhaps the darkest chapter in American history—chattel slavery. Through exhaustive research and primary and secondary accounts, Dundas allows the evidence to speak for itself in this powerful examination from the Middle Passage to Emancipation, and beyond. This tome will be welcomed by military and social historians alike as it peels back the layers of some of the most overlooked and critical aspects of our collective history like never before.”

The book will be released in the heat of the the 2022 mid-term election. Those elections will be dominated by Right Wing hysteria regarding Critical Race Theory, and claims by conservative snowflakes that the mere mention of American racism will cause their children to be uncomfortable and traumatized. The people doing this have been terrorizing educators and school boards, with many educators receiving death threats and violent demonstrations at school board meetings. Since I have long experienced online harassment and death threats from White Supremacists and many who claim to be Christians, I expect that this book will considerably raise my profile and lead to much more targeted harassment and threats by these modern day book burning fascists.

But that is the path that I have chosen. Freedom and truth matter, and for those who believe as I that tyranny must be resisted, and that White Supremacists and theocratic Christians pose an existential threat to our democracy I cannot be silent.

What makes these people even more dangerous is that many believe that their actions to crush the rights and persecute other citizens are blessed and ordained by their god. They are banning and burning books, undermining civil rights, constitutional rights, and voting rights. the support open violence including murder of Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Women, LGBTQ people, other racial, ethnic, and religious minorities and political Liberals, who they call ”Communists and Socialists.” On January 6, 2021 they under the direction and with the wholehearted encouragement and support of former President Donald Trump, attacked the Capitol in order to allow Trump to remain in office after he lost a free and fair election.

Yale historian Timothy Snyder wrote:

“The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.”

I completely understand why that happens. Yehuda Bauer said,  “Thou shall not be a perpetrator, thou shall not be a victim, and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.” I cannot be a bystander, and thus as long as I have breath I will continue to write and fight.

peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

My Allegiance: To the Union, Free and Undivided with Liberty for All

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I have been too busy to post the last week or so I am kind of catching up. Things are going well but I have been incredibly busy working in the house, working with authors and those reading my book manuscript. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond, with the intent of writing blurbs for it.

Many have responded and are in the process of doing this, four have already submitted their blurbs, and I am honored. Here are the ones that have already gone to the publisher. Another dozen or so are in process and they include some big names.

Pulitzer Prize winning historian James McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom wrote “ A richly documented history of the ideology of racism that manifested itself in slavery, the Confederacy, the overthrow of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the myth of the Lost Cause that glorified the Old South and the Confederacy.”  

Dr. Charles Dew, Ephraim Williams Professor of History at Williams College and author of Apostles of Disunion: The Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War wrote:  “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is a book for our time. Steven L. Dundas has skillfully woven slavery, race, racism, politics, and religion into a single entity in telling this country’s complex story. Every American would profit from what he is telling us.” 

Dr. Lloyd “Vic” Hackley, military civil rights pioneer and Vietnam War hero before becoming President of the North Carolina Community College System, Vice President of the University of North Carolina System, and Chancellor of North Carolina A & T University wrote, “Steve Dundas has written the definitive account of America’s onerous history with African Americans. A must read to fully understand, teach or discuss the institution of slavery, racism, religion and their current impacts. Every school library should have a copy.”

Joe Levin, Co-Founder of the Southern Poverty Law Commission wrote, “Commander Dundas not only brings us a powerful history of slavery but, more importantly, the consequence of untruths and how twisted religious beliefs shaped America. All educators should read it and ensure that its message is delivered to their students.”

I cannot wait to get the others. I hope that it becomes a best seller and in the process help persuade people sitting on the fence.

Our Guest Room

We have been working hard in the house and have never taken more satisfaction with the work of my hands in transforming this house as a place of rest, study and peace. But it is also a place of where I will plant my flag in opposition to the White Nationalists, Neo-Confederates, Neo-Nazis, Christian Nationalists, and every potential secessionist or insurrectionist know where I stand. So I have posted my flags on our forever home in the historic, heavily African American neighborhood in Norfolk.

I posted this on Facebook this evening.

“To any secessionists or insurgents out there, know that I am a Union man dedicated to the words of the Declaration that “All men are equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Likewise the words of the Constitution echoed by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, that we commit ourselves to “building a more perfect Union.” This applies to all Americans and those who want to be, who come here many times giving up all. It is an ever expanding liberty and cannot be allowed to be denied or rolled back like it was during Jim Crow and other unfortunate times in our history.

My ancestors on both sides of my family fought for the Confederacy,even though their neighbors in Cabell County Virginia voted not to secede and instead with the rest of Wets Virginia seceded from Virginia and joined the Union. Of course they owned slaves and much land, so they turned their backs on their neighbors. Had I been alive back then I would have probably already have joined the Army because I never could just sit back and stay in one place all my life, and my choices would have been more centered around my oath,my life in the Army and loyalty to the Union like George Thomas and John Buford, more than to family members bent on destroying the country for the sake of slavery and profit.

The flags displayed are the 34 star Circle Union flag, the regimental guidon of the 6th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, with the Circle Union circling it’s 1st Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac with Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg on its stripes. The flag of the gallant 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry most famous for its stand at Little Round Top, and finally the flag of the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry of the legendary Irish Brigade, many of whose soldiers were recent immigrants fighting for a country where many people treated them like dirt.

Joshua Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine remarked, “But the cause for which we fought was higher; our thought wider… That thought was our power.” It still is.

We fight today with our voices, ballots, and even peaceful protests for that freedom that those men fought and died fir their descendants and all to have. Here stand I, I can do no other, so help me God.”

I will speak the truth, write the truth, and lay my life down for the truth. I fight for the truth that these people try to co-opt as being patriotic turn to myth and use to support flagrant policies of authoritarianism and race hatred that go so deep that I have a hard even fathoming as to how they can get there if they were honest in the myths that they claim to be historical facts were true.

With the resurgence of these heavily armed and violent nationalists and Nazis I expect that when Mine Eyes Have Seen They Glory is published, and if it becomes the best seller that I expect that it will become, that I will be a potential target of violence. Hell, I started receiving death threat over a decade ago, and I am in too deep to back down now.

So until tomorry.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Somberly Remembering 9-11-2001 and its lasting Consequences

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

September 11th is a day that always makes me more introspective. It brings back so many memories, some that I wish I could forget; but I cannot get the images of that day out of my mind. The burning towers, the people jumping to their deaths to escape the flames, and the scenes of devastation. I have decided to take the time tonight to share that day and what followed in my life and with the people that I served, including those who died.

I knew one of the victims in the attack on the Pentagon, an Army Lieutenant Colonel, Karen Wagner who commanded a Medical training company at Fort Sam Houston where I was serving as the Brigade Adjutant in 1987 and 1988. She was a very nice person, very gracious and decent, admired by everyone who knew her; I was shocked to see her name on the casualty list after the attack.

Lieutenant Colonel Karen Wagner, Medical Service Corps, US Army

The emotions that I feel on the anniversary of these terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of so many innocent people, and which devastated so many families, still haunts me, and my subsequent service, especially in Iraq has changed me. Years after he returned from his time in the Middle East, T.E. Lawrence; the immortal Lawrence of Arabia wrote to a friend, “You wonder what I am doing? Well, so do I, in truth. Days seem to dawn, suns to shine, evenings to follow, and then I sleep. What I have done, what I am doing, what I am going to do, puzzle and bewilder me. Have you ever been a leaf and fallen from your tree in autumn and been really puzzled about it? That’s the feeling.” I often feel that way.

Nineteen years ago I was getting ready to go to the French Creek Gym at Camp Le Jeune North Carolina where I was serving as the Chaplain of Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division. I had returned from a deployment to Okinawa, Mainland Japan and Korea just two months before with 3rd Battalion 8th Marines.

Staff Sergeant Ergin Osman, US Army, former US Marine, KIA, Afghanistan 26 May 2011

One of the Marines I got to know well at 3/8 was Corporal Ergin Osman. He eventually left the Marines enlisted in the Army and was serving with the 101st Airborne Division when he and 6 members of his platoon were killed on May 26th 2011 by an Improvised Explosive Device, while hunting down a Taliban leader.

Father (Chaplain) Tim Vakoc

Another man I knew was Father Timothy Vakoc, an Army Chaplain I knew when he was a seminarian going through the Army Chaplain Officer Basic Course with in 1990. He was horribly wounded by an IED when traveling in a HUMMV to say mass for his troops near Mosul, Iraq in 2004. At the time he was a Major in the Chaplain Corps. He never made a full recovery from his wounds but was inspirational to all he met and served until he died in 2009 after having eithe been dropped, or fallen in a nursing home.

On the morning of 9-11-2001 I was preparing to transfer to the USS Hue City, a guided missile cruiser stationed in Mayport, Florida, to deploy in January 2002 to support operations against the Taliban and take part in the UN Oil Embargo against Iraq.


At the time of the attack I had already been in the military for over 20 years and I had actually taken a reduction in rank to transfer from the Army, where I was a Major in the reserves, to the Navy to serve on active duty. In those previous 20 years I had served overseas during the Cold War along the Fulda Gap. I had been mobilized to support the Bosnia mission in 1996, and I had just missed being mobilized for Operation Desert Storm as my unit was awaiting its mobilization orders when the war ended. I had done other missions as well as the deployment to the Far East that returned from in July 2001; but nothing prepared me for that day. Like other career military officers I expected that we would be at war again and thought it might be back in the Middle East, and probably a result of some fool’s miscalculations; but like the American officers who were serving at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, I never expected what happened that morning.


Tuesday, September 11th 2001 had started like so many days in my career. Routine office work, a couple of counseling cases and what I thought would be a good PT session. I was about to close out my computer browser when I saw a little headline on Yahoo News that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I paid little attention and figured that a private plane, something like a Cessna piloted by an incompetent pilot had inadvertently flown into the building.

9-11 jumpers

That delusion lasted about two minutes. I got in my car and the radio, tuned to an AM talk station had a host calling the play by play. He started screaming “oh my God another airliner flew into the other tower.” Seeking to see what was happening I went to the gym where there were many televisions. I got there and saw the towers burning, with stunned Marines and Sailors watching silently, some in tears. I went back out, drove to my office and got into uniform. After checking in with my colonel a made a quick trip to my house for my sea bags and some extra underwear, and personal hygiene items.

When I got back the headquarters we went into a meeting, and the base went on lock down mode. The gates were closed and additional checkpoints, and roadblocks established on base. Marines in full battle-rattle patrolled the perimeter and along the waterfront. I did not leave the base until the night of the 15th when things began to settle down and we all went into contingency planning mode for any military response to the attacks.

My wife, who as waiting for a doctor’s appointment with a friend saw the attacks on live television and knew when the first plane struck she told her friend that it was terrorism. Her friend responded “that damned Saddam Hussein.” Like so many of us who initially thought this, my wife’s friend was wrong.

LutjensHonors

Those were tumultuous days, so much fear; so much paranoia; and so much bad information as to who committed the attacks and what was going to happen next. One thing that I do remember that for a brief moment in time we were united as Americans. Say what you want about him now and his later decisions which proved deceitful, unwise and embroiled us in a military conflict and failed attempt to build a nation in our image in a land that never accepted foreign models of government. But on the ruins of the World Trade Center, President George W. Bush was inspirational in the days after the attack. He rallied us and led us in our grief in a way that former President Trump, who lied and continues to lie about what he saw and did that day, never could.

The fact that in February of 2020 President Trump made a peace agreement that sold out the government of Afghanistan, recognized the Taliban, forced the Afghans and others to release 5,000 Taliban fighters, including leaders who were wanted by the U.S. Government on charges of terrorism, murder, and crimes against humanity. He reduced American intelligence and air support to Afghan forces and reduced the amount of U.S. ground forces from over 7,000 to 2,500 by the end of his term. He also reduced the number contractors that the Afghan military needed desperately to maintain its fleet of U.S. weapons, vehicles, and aircraft. The deal put the official seal of defeat on the U.S. and NATO effort to stabilize the country after the withdraw. When President Biden announced to finally pullout the military moved so fast that it left the Afghans, NATO and our own State Department reeling. The military withdraw, and that of our contractors amounted to a ”skeedaddle” opening the way for the Taliban to overrun the country in under two weeks. President Biden owns the chaos of the withdrawal and the numerous failures in planning by every agency involved. at least the military was able to implement a contingency airlift that got 125,000 people out of the country in less than two weeks. it was an amazing feat, but many more could have escaped between 2018 and 2021 had not Trump and his senior advisor, Stephen Miller not slowed the pace of admitting Afghans who helped us to a crawl. The effects of that are still being felt.

hue city boarding party

A few months later I deployed aboard Hue City to the Middle East where we supported the air operations in Afghanistan, anti-terrorist operations off the Horn of Africa and in Operation Southern Watch and the U.N. Oil Embargo against Iraq.

I then did three years with Marine Security Forces, traveling around the world to support Marine Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team companies. For three years I was on the road one to three weeks a month traveling to the Middle East, Europe, the Pacific and many parts of the United States.

In 2008 I was promoted and transferred to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two, from which I was deployed with my assistant to Iraq, where we served as members of the Iraq Assistance Group in all Al Anbar Province supporting small teams of Marine Corps, Army and Joint Force adviser teams to the Iraqi Army, Border troops, Port of Entry police, police and highway patrol.

with-mtt-3-7-ronin


When I returned from Iraq I was a changed man and while I am proud of my service I am haunted by my experiences. One cannot go to war, see its devastation, see the wounded and dead, as well as the innocents traumatized by it. One cannot get shot at, or be in enclosed rooms, meeting with people that might be friends, or might be enemies, and while everyone else is armed, you are not.

War changed me, and my homecoming was more difficult than I could have imagined. I never felt so cut off from my country, my society, my church, or even other chaplains. My experience is not uncommon among those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, or for that matter those who have served in almost any modern war. Erich Maria Remarque in his classic All Quite on the Western Front who wrote:

“I imagined leave would be different from this. Indeed, it was different a year ago. It is I of course that have changed in the interval. There lies a gulf between that time and today. At that time I still knew nothing about the war, we had been only in quiet sectors. But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find I do not belong here any more, it is a foreign world.”

That being said I would not trade my experience for anything. The experience of PTSD and other war related afflictions has been a blessing as well as a curse. They have changed my world view and made me much more emphatic to the suffering and afflictions of others, as well when they are abused, mistreated, terrorized and discriminated against. These experiences along with my training as a historian, theologian, and hospital chaplain clinician before and after my tour have given me a lot bigger perspective than I had before.

But I have to live with all of the memories. Guy Sajer wrote in his book The Forgotten Soldier“Only happy people have nightmares, from overeating. For those who live a nightmare reality, sleep is a black hole, lost in time, like death.”General Gouverneur Warren, a hero of many Civil War battles including Gettysburg wrote to his wife after the war “I wish I did not dream so much. They make me sometimes to dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish never to experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.”

As hard as this has been these are good things, and as I go on I wonder what will happen next. I do not think that the wars and conflicts which have followed in the wake of the 9-11 attacks will be over for years, maybe even decades. I pray for peace, but too many people, some even in this country seem to live for the bloodlust of war. One can only hope and as my Iraqi friends say, Inshallah, (إن شاء الله) God willing…

I wonder too, if the words of T.E. Lawrence reflecting on his service in the Arab Revolt are not as applicable to me and others who came back from Iraq, “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.” I have lost too many friends in these wars, including men who could not readjust to home, many like me. I have seen the men and women, broken in body, mind and spirit and I wonder if any of it was worth it, and if in some of our response, especially the invasion of Iraq has not made a bad situation even worse, and turned the war into a generational conflict.

As for me, I am now retired after 39 years, 4 months and 6 days of military service. Yesterday I was given the honor of giving the invocation and benediction at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Though retired I am part of the shipyard family, and get invited back for events like this. It was more somber, reflective and less vindictive than in the past. I think that it will take a long time for us to digest the attacks of 9-11-2001 and their aftermath, especially our defeat in Afghanistan.

But that being said there are still U.S. Military personnel in harm’s way in many places around the world. I wish I could say that they will be safe and that there will be no more killed or wounded, but I know that will not be the case. Now we have young men and women serving in wars that began before they were born, but now Afghanistan is not among them. We have to now ask if it was worth it and

Yesterday and today there were many ceremonies and services to remember the victims of the attacks. I think that is fitting. As I said, I gave the invocation and benediction at one of those events. As I gave them I could feel the emotions, see the faces, and remember all the people I knew and served alongside who died that day or in the following wars.

So please, have a good day and whatever you do do not forget those whose lives were forever changed by those dastardly attacks and all that has transpired in the years since. I do hope that things will get better and that some semblance of peace will return to the world, and even more importantly that amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic and the damnable political division and violence in our country, much of it brought on by the President and some of his White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi followers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and Christian theocrats whose message and goal is little different than the people who attacked us twenty years ago. Under the direction of former President Trump these people attempted to overthrow the United States in a way that no foreign enemy could ever attempt. They conducted an armed insurrection and attempt to capture the Capitol in order to prevent the Congress from fulfilling its Constitutional duty to certify the vote of the Electoral College in hopes that Trump, who lost the election could illegally remain in power.

Sadly, they pose more of a threat to our Republic and democracy than Osama Bin Laden, A Qaida, or the Taliban ever could.

Since my retirement we have moved to our forever home in a historic neighborhood in Norfolk. I am now teaching and writing, and my book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond which will be published by Potomac Books of University of Nebraska Press next year. We have made the transition to civilian life with our four Papillon babies, Izzy, Pierre, Maddy Lyn, and our newest a rescue named Sunny Dae who was rescued from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

That is all for the night.

Peace, Shalom, and blessings,

Inshallah, (إن شاء الله) God willing…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The End In Afghanistan: A Misbegotten Campaign Without a Strategy

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have resisted writing or commenting much on the final defeat of the United States on Afghanistan’s Street Without Joy. It has been a disaster 20 years in the making, 40 if you include the initial U.S. support to the Mujahideen resisting the Soviet invasion and intervention in Afghanistan. Please note, this article has no political animus. The disaster in Afghanistan was presided over by two Republican and Two Democratic Administrations, as well as the previous Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations, which though connected are a separate subject.

As I said there are four Democratic and four Republican administrations that are complicit in what happened over the past 40 years in Afghanistan. Four administrations, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton were the prologue to the disaster. The following four, the Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden administrations the principal culprits.

Since I was a Republican from 1976 until 2008 and a Democrat since I try to be honest about all of them. I write from the point of view of history, policy and strategy, not my allegiance to any President or Party. Thus you will see criticisms of President George W. Bush who I voted for twice, Barack Obama who I also voted for twice, and Joe Biden for whom I also voted.

I do not neglect the responsibility of Republican and Democrat controlled Congresses who did not exercise their duty to declare war or enforce the War Powers Act. Instead they passed legislation that passed the buck to the President on foreign and domestic military and security policy in a broad Authorization of the Use of Force, and Patriot Act of 2001. Both were passed by large bipartisan majorities signaling the mood of the time to “get something done.” They were signed by a “Who’s Who” of leading Democrats and Republicans and out of 535 Senators and Congressmen and women, only Representative Shiela Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas, voted against the amorphous Authoritarian of Use of Force. Her arguments on the House floor were sound, but she was called a traitor and sympathizer with our enemies. As far as the Patriot Act, only Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin voted against it along with 62 Democrats and 3 Republicans in the House.

Now many people on the extremes of the political right and left are consumed in the search for blame, something that runs deep in American history. Lost in this search for blame was the fact that our military and those of our NATO allies evacuated almost 125,000 people by air from a landlocked land, in a contested and chaotic environment in just 10 days. Nothing like this has ever been done before. The evacuation, despite the failures in planning was a miracle brought about by the skill and bravery of our military that executed it.

Unfortunately the American and NATO war in Afghanistan never had a consistent strategy that military or civilian leaders could articulate to the public, explain to the troops, or convince the world of its rightness. This does not diminish the valor, courage or honor of most of our soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen and CIA officers, and our allies who served in the field. Unfortunately we had who’s actions resulted in war crimes that harmed our cause and national reputation. These actions added to a list of actions by the United States Government government, particularly the ambush administrations in Afghanistan and Iraq that would have met many of the criteria that we tried the Germans for war crimes at Nuremberg.

The problem was that after the heinous attacks and mass murder on American soil by Al Qaida on 9-11-2001 our nation momentarily came together to punish those who did this. The Bush administration rapidly decided to not deal with this as a terrorist attack by a non-state actor, but as something akin to Pearl Harbor, an attack by a nation state. The Bush administration would continue to use that reasoning to attack Iraq which had not been a participant in the attacks of 9-11-2001, but identified as part of an “Axis of Evil” along with Iran, which condemned the attacks and at that time, as well as North Korea. The propaganda was initially successful, but once the American people got bored and realized they actually were not going to be asked to make any sacrifices because the burden they lost interest. Thus the war, which required the utmost support of the people was placed on the volunteer military which including reserves and national guard forces numbered under 1% of the population. Evidence and intelligence to the contrary was ignored or dismissed, with devastating consequences.

Unfortunately, we, as we most always do did not take the time to learn the lessons of history. The fact is that every foreign power that has ever invaded and tried to occupy Afghanistan all failed, often at great cost. The Greeks under Alexander the Great, the Persians, the Indians, the British on more than one occasion, and the Soviet Union all failed miserably. The truth is that Afghanistan cannot be ruled by foreigners, or even Afghan tribal leaders who refuse to make alliances with other tribal leaders, even ancient enemies, and appointing a national leader that they agreed upon. So long as that King did not ally himself with foreigners, offend Islam, or betray his supporters Afghanistan retained some stability, even though it was not a true nation in our understanding. Afghan history has been dictated by mix of Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Muslims who did not war against each other based on their sect of Islam, but on family and tribal grievances. We never understood this, despite the vast amount of literature left by those we followed into the deadly abyss. That willful ignorance of history was perhaps the most significant factor in our failed adventure on our own “Street Without Joy.” (The Street Without Joy” was a highway in French Indochina upon which many French, French Foreign Legion, Vietnamese and North African “Colonials” fought and died, and is the title of a book by French Journalist Bernard Fall who was killed by an IED while accompanying a patrol of U.S. Marines during our Vietnam War. Fall died in 1967, and Commentary Magazine wrote of him I. 1968:

“Intellectually an American pragmatist with a French sense of irony, Fall did not take a doctrinaire stance against American intervention in South Vietnam. On the other hand, he made two general criticisms of the U.S. Indochina policy: first, that it lacked a coherent frame of reference and second, that, based on theories unrelated to the local situation, it lacked flexibility. Though Fall continued to hope for improvement, his description of U.S. policy in Vietnam points to a long case history behind its now-apparent symptoms Of schizophrenia.”

The same could be said of the American invasion and attempt at nation building in Afghanistan.

Israeli Historian and former Ambassador to the United Staes, Michael Oren, wrote in his book “Faith Power and Fantasy: American and the Middle East from 1776 to the Present” regarding how President Bush took the US to war in Afghanistan and Iraq:

“Not inadvertently did Bush describe the struggle against Islamic terror as a “crusade to rid the world of evildoers.” Along with this religious zeal, however, the president espoused the secular fervor of the neoconservatives…who preached the Middle East’s redemption through democracy. The merging of the sacred and the civic missions in Bush’s mind placed him firmly in the Wilsonian tradition. But the same faith that deflected Wilson from entering hostilities in the Middle East spurred Bush in favor of war.”

Likewise, we built a military to fight peer competitors, not insurgents. We have never succeeded in any “small war” that we have ever engaged, even if we won the military actions. When we left we sowed seeds of distrust and hatred, and the feeling that we did not uphold the values espoused in our founding documents. As Mark Twain wrote concerning the American War against the Philippines after we took them over following the Spanish-American War:

“There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land. . .”

But the Afghan war was left to a small professional military and Federal law enforcement agencies to fight, while Bush in the aftermath of 9-11 told people to “go shopping” and to resume normal lives. We were led into these wars based on the false premise that we could remake the Middle East in our image. Lie after lie, from every administration from Bush to Biden assured us that things were going well against all evidence to the contrary.

It began with the Bush Administration which led us into the quagmire, followed by the Obama administration, which afraid to oppose General Stanley McCrystal’s urge for a major surge halfheartedly acquiesced because Afghanistan was the “good war.” After meeting some of the military objectives we began a withdraw after killing Osama Bin Laden in 2011. The surge resulted in the highest numbers of US casualties during the war and only temporarily hindered the Taliban. Like the Bush and Obama administration’s conduct of the war the Trump Administration did not tell the truth about their intentions in Afghanistan which differed from Bush and Obama. As early as 2013 Trump said that the war was lost, announced his decision to withdraw if he became President, praised the Taliban and took cheap shots at the US military, its leadership and even the troops. However, he did not fully withdraw during his term, and negotiated the withdraw with the Taliban and excluded the Afghan government from those negotiations. At that point the moral of the Afghan military which had been increasing in effectiveness collapsed. They had often fought valiantly and at great cost, they could fight and even defeat Taliban forces, but Trump’s betrayal of them cost us their support. Had they been included in the Trump-Taliban negotiations and treated and supported as they should have been, they might have met or exceeded the expectations that we based our assessment of their strength and resilience upon and been able to support our withdraw so long as the contractors who maintained their advanced weapons, a certain amount of former military trainers and advisors remained, and were provided needed air support from ships and bases outside Afghanistan. Trump’s deal was a disaster for the Afghans and ensured that no-matter how it was done a certain amount of chaos would affect our withdraw.

President Biden, has responsibility for the mistakes made in the withdraw. That is in his wheelhouse, but he did tell the truth and kept the promise to end this war, despite the political cost. He has been heavily criticized for this, but Trump would have done the same, after all he negotiated the withdraw with the Taliban that excluded the Afghan government from those negotiations. His actions set the stage for the collapse of the Afghan military and government.

The Afghan Army, especially their highly trained Special Forces had often fought valiantly and at great cost, they could fight and even defeat Taliban forces, but Trump’s betrayal of them cost us their support. This was much the fault of DOD and NSC leadership who should have fought harder to maintain full support support to them until our withdraw was safety accomplished.

Taliban leaders understood this and made deals with local tribal leaders/ warlords, governors, local officials, police,and military commanders. These deals ensured that when the Taliban launched their final offensive when the bulk of American military forced withdrew, that those leaders mostly surrendered and allowed the Taliban to advance. The Afghan soldiers knew that they had no chance after the May 2020 agreement between Trump and the Taliban, they wanted to fight and win but knew that they had been betrayed.

In today’s blame game people criticize not starting the withdraw earlier and there is truth to this, but that being said, had we started earlier the panic would have began then. There is criticism of handing Bagram Air Base to the Afghans in early July, but we had already removed the troops needed to guard it because DOD pulled out as fast as it could leaving State, CIA, and everyone else out to fend for themselves. State should have gotten approval early to begin processing our Afghan friends and scheduling flights out from Kabul and Kandahar well before the final collapse of the Afghan government, military and security forced began. The Afghans knew in 2020 that we had abandoned them, and the rush by DOD to get our troops and contractors out hindered everything else that happened.

Unfortunately, Biden required nothing of the Taliban, just as Trump had not. Afghan soldiers who would have fought to the death were left to their fate, having no logistical support, no air support, being cut off from their supply lines, and serving a corrupt government that often refused to pay them or protect their families.

Biden could have prevented the rout of Afghan forces by not allowing DOD and the contractors to withdraw so fast which would have made the withdraw less chaotic. His decision to,withdraw was correct but could have been accomplished much better as I will explain.

As to the withdraw, our interagency planning sucked. With the deadline of 31 August DOD, State, the NSC, CIA, and NATO should have met and settled on a plan to determine what had to be done to ensure a safe and successful evacuation by early April at the latest. That is something that Biden should have ensured and placed a single individual in charge of a joint, interagency and international effort to safely evacuate all the people we could. To my knowledge hat wasn’t done before everything started going to shit, then we acted with speed but in crisis mode.

Despite all of our mistakes, poor planning, lack of coordination, and our over optimistic estimation of the Afghan military and government strength and resilience, the evacuation should be considered like Dunkirk. Dunkirk was not a victory, but it was miraculous.

The fact is that no-matter when we began we were not going to get everyone out. In 1940 the French very much resented that more French were not evacuated from a Dunkirk, Calais, or Cherbourg, and that following their surrender to the a Germans the British Royal Navy attacked French Navy units who had been their allies days before sinking several battleships and cruisers, seizing French ships in British ports, and killing many French sailors.

However, like then when the British and French high commands did not coordinate their efforts we didn’t coordinate ours. We also ignored intelligence and put our bets the the rosy assessments about the capability and resilience of the Afghan government and military. This meant in July when things started falling apart we were caught flat footed, just like when the Germans broke through the Ardennes, crossed the Meuse River, outflanked the Maginot Line and made for the English Channel, and like a scythe cut off the best French armies and the British Expeditionary Force. Likewise, the British and French did not expect that the King of Belgium would without warning surrender his army, which still had a lot of capability to fight. The Belgian surrender opened a massive hole in the defense that could not be plugged.

I think that the Battle of France the example to best explain what happened in Afghanistan, not South Vietnam or Beirut.

There is another similarity, many French had not desire for war after the bloodletting of the First World War. Likewise conservative French politicians, generals and admirals hated the Third Republic and as General Weygand, the last commander before the French surrender said, “I didn’t get the Boches but I got the Republic.” Their country had been tearing itself apart as the left and right battled to rule the country. I wonder how much of this is true of Americans today. There are certainly many on the political right praising the Taliban and encouraging the overthrow of or government and system of government for an authoritarian and theocratic regime. Most of those advocating this, in and out of government are fanatical Fundamentalist Christians.

We can easily pass the blame for what happened to the President’s, Congresses, and Courts who initiated policies, launched wars, passed legislation which was mostly upheld by Courts, including the Supreme Court. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were fought but less than 1% of our population, all volunteers. With not skin in the game most Americans became cheerleaders for or against the wars, voting for politicians without regard for policy. Policy and strategy was what mattered most and we never had one.

I emailed the late great Catholic Priest, theologian, sociologist and political commentator Andrew Greeley from Iraq in 2007. My concern was what would happen to the Iraqi people. He emailed me back and said, “Sadly, Father, most Americans don’t care about the Iraqis.”

Likewise, most of us did not care about the Afghan people unless it suited our domestic political ends and the leaders that we backed. Morality, faith, and ethics were damned, we just didn’t care.

I lost too many friends to let things remain this way. The truth matters. Our Declaration and Constitution matter, our form of government maters, our respect for our laws and international law matter. The same is true of the people in lands we attack, invade or occupy matter, as do those of the nations who stand by us as allies.

Finally our freedoms here matter, especially the freedom of speech, association and the right to call our government into account for what it does or does not do, regardless of what political party has power. These rights are being eroded across our country, even as we seek to impose them on others. However, if we trample them why should anyone in any other country believe us.

As a nation we left Afghanistan with a stain on our national honor. Like T. E. Lawrence wrote about the British occupation of Iraq following the First World War:

“The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Bagdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster.

Well, we experienced a disaster 20 years in the making. However, that does nothing to detract from the military, CIA and State Department personnel who evacuated 120,000 souls in less than two weeks by air in a landlocked land under intense military and terrorist pressure. Call it the “Miracle of Kabul” for lack of a better name. God bless the men and women of these air crews and the men and women on the ground who provided security to get so many people out. They are heroes.

Our war in Afghanistan is over, despite the words of those so addicted to war that they insist that we will have to go back in, but like in 2001 they have no strategy, or no logical explanation of just what they expect the military to accomplish in another campaign to eradicate terrorists based in Afghanistan.

So until the next time,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Venting My Spleen About the Afghanistan Lies and Terrible Loss of Life


The British Military Cemetery in Habbinyah Iraq, 2008

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been doing a lot of work around the house because it has to be done and because t keeps me from getting sucked in to the nonstop blame game going on regarding the recent events relates to our withdrawal from Afghanistan. I posted this on my Facebook timeline tonight. It went rather long so I decided to post it here exactly as it appeared on Facebook.

Have a good night.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

I am so freaking tired of the bullshit that I see being promoted by some people of Facebook about what is going on in Afghanistan, including by an active duty Marine nephew of mine. I am tired of seeing the bullshit. If people don’t like it screw your and drop me. I am angry about what is going on but to blame Biden for everything and “losing Afghanistan” is pure lies. He has resposbilty for the way the evacuation was conducted, but he didn’t lose a 20 year long war. Bush, Obama, Trump, most of Congress, the defense contractors and many in the military and intelligence establishment are also at fault, and probably more so. Then there are us, the citizens who really never cared because most of us had no investment in the war. I did and didn’t turn my back those 20 years. I have lost too many friends dead, maimed, or broken psychologically, physically, and spiritually to do so. Among all, the cheerleaders of ware and those who nodded their heads and looked the other way while their guy was in the White House are the most guilty. Think about it hard. That is the truth. I no longer care if people like me or not. This is about truth and it is about those who gave their all in a doomed war. When you point the finger of blame Biden or any other single President take a look in the mirror, four are pointed at you.

Our policies though described as noble by Presidents going back long before 9-11-2001 have often, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been considered as war crimes had we been the Germans at Nuremberg. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who served as the chief US prosecutor at the major war crimes trials said as the rules for the trials were developed said: “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

Marine Corps Major General and two,time Medal of Honor recipient Smedley Butler wrote of the soldiers going to fight in WWI “Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. The was the “war to end wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one told them that dollars and cents were the real reason. No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here…”

The military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower described before he left office is alive and well, now joined by a professional propaganda network or war cheerleaders who cannot justify their lives without promoting endless war. When the Cold War ended they found new enemies, and they are now strengthened by a Taliban-like version of a Christian Nationalism that is devoid of the teachings of Jesus as are the Taliban and ISIS devoid of the teachings of Mohammed.

As was written of the British Invasion and intervention in the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1839-1842 “WITH THE BENEFIT of hindsight, among the more important lessons the British should have learned from the First Afghan War were many that resonate today. Their leaders were not honest with themselves or their public about their motivation, providing partial and misleading information to both Parliament and public. In their own minds they exaggerated the threats to their position in India and exaggerated the power of their available troops to cope with the demands an Afghan campaign would make on them. The British entered Afghanistan without clear objectives or a defined exit strategy or timetable. In what could be termed regime change, they endeavored to impose on the country a ruler unpopular with his people. The Duke of Wellington correctly prophesied that Britain’s difficulties would begin when its military success ended. These successes led them into an open-ended commitment to a ruler whom they had not chosen well and, when they realized this, hesitated to different from each other and speaking mutually incomprehensible languages. They did not understand that these tribes united only rarely and that when they did so it was against a foreign invader such as themselves…. In general, British troops struggled to distinguish between hostile and peaceful Afghans, both in Kabul and in the countryside, even when, as was not always the case, they tried hard to make such distinctions. As a consequence innocent civilians were punished and killed, and even more of the population were turned into ready recruits for the enemy. The British and the Afghans alike had problems in understanding each other’s cultures and characters. The British stereotyped the Afghans as cunning, corrupt and deceitful and thus found it difficult to believe in the motives of those who were in fact well disposed toward them. The Afghans accepted British protestations of their reputation for straight dealing at face value and were thus the more let down when the British proved duplicitous and Machiavellian.26 The Afghan propensity for assassination as well as the taking and subsequent trading between themselves of hostages initially appalled the British, but later they at times found themselves complicit in plans for targeted assassination as the easiest way to rid themselves of troublesome opponents. The attitudes and ambitions of Persia and the passage of forces and weapons across the Helmand River as well as the porous, imprecise border complicated British policies. Changes of government in Britain changed policy in Afghanistan. Politicians—even those who favored the intervention—were concerned about cost as timescales extended, preferring to take the short rather than the long-term view. In Kabul, too, British civilian officials and military commanders bickered about the division of responsibilities between them. Civilian officials such as Macnaghten, whose careers depended on the success of the mission, created a conspiracy of optimism.27 Generals protested in vain against withdrawal of forces to a level that led to an overstretching of resources and a consequent inability to control more Changes of government in Britain changed policy in Afghanistan. Politicians—even those who favored the intervention—were concerned about cost as timescales extended, preferring to take the short rather than the long-term view. In Kabul, too, British civilian officials and military commanders bickered about the division of responsibilities between them. Civilian officials such as Macnaghten, whose careers depended on the success of the mission, created a conspiracy of optimism.27 Generals protested in vain against withdrawal of forces to a level that led to an overstretching of resources and a consequent inability to control more Changes of government in Britain changed policy in Afghanistan. Politicians—even those who favored the intervention—were concerned about cost as timescales extended, preferring to take the short rather than the long-term view. In Kabul, too, British civilian officials and military commanders bickered about the division of responsibilities between them. Civilian officials such as Macnaghten, whose careers depended on the success of the mission, created a conspiracy of optimism. Generals protested in vain against withdrawal of forces to a level that led to an overstretching of resources and a consequent inability to control more than a few strategic outposts outside Kabul, rather than the whole countryside. Sometimes even these outposts were overrun. The British found it easier to purchase acquiescence to their own and Shah Shuja’s activities than to win over Afghan hearts and minds. Therefore, perhaps the biggest British miscalculation was—in response to cost-cutting pressures from home—unilaterally to reduce some of the subsidies paid to Afghan tribal chiefs. Their economy measure was immediately followed by an Afghan rising.

Auckland, a pleasant character, had proved a good administrator in less demanding posts in the government in London. However, even if the post of governor-general was slightly less powerful than that of Roman emperor, he was insufficiently strong a character or leader when placed in supreme command of policy in India, thousands of miles and many weeks in terms of communication away from London, to withstand either the conspiracy of optimism generated by Macnaghten from Kabul or pressures from home both to economize and to expedite success and withdrawal. It was not that he was a complete failure—he did restrain some of Macnaghten’s plans for operations beyond Afghan borders—but that he was not equipped temperamentally or intellectually to dominate the situation. He preferred to acquiesce in his subordinates’ plans to continue existing policies when they began to go awry, rather than ordering either a halt or a thorough review. Chief among Auckland’s subordinates was Macnaghten. Though an undoubtedly clever man, he was out of both his milieu and his depth in Afghanistan. Nearly all his career had been spent in the secretariat in Calcutta, and he had little experience of independent command. His ingrained optimism led him throughout to minimize or ignore difficulties. He underestimated the military capabilities of the Afghans and overestimated those of the British and Indian troops, leaving him both to accept troop reductions and deployments when he should not have and to propose grandiose operations beyond Shah Shuja’s borders—for example, against Herat—which were entirely unfeasible. Though he understood the importance of making it appear to the Afghan population that Shah Shuja was a true king and thus ensured that his troops led the army on its marches and made the first ceremonial entries into cities, in promoting the invasion and Shah Shuja himself, he was far too optimistic in his assessment of Shah Shuja’s abilities and of the ease with which the diverse and stubborn Afghans could be induced to accept as a ruler a man they considered to have an aura of ill fortune.”

Back in Britain, politicians and others concentrated on the political and moral aspects, both more subjective and more difficult to analyze. Sir John Kaye, the historian who collected many of the primary documents and indeed published in full those that had been expurgated or omitted from the government’s publication justifying the war in 1839, saw the hand of God in the outcome: “The calamity of 1842 was retribution sufficient … to stamp in indelible characters upon the page of history, the great truth that the policy which was pursued in Afghanistan was unjust, and that, therefore, it was signally disastrous. It was … an unrighteous usurpation, and the curse of God was on it from the first. Our successes at the outset were a part of the curse. They lapped us in false security, and deluded us to our overthrow. This is the great lesson … ‘The Lord God of recompenses shall surely requite.’ ”

Henry Lushington, another commentator, wrote in a book-long analysis of the conflict in 1844: “We entered Afghanistan to effect a change of dynasty—we withdrew from it professing our readiness to acknowledge any government which the Afghans may themselves think fit to establish. We entered it above all to establish a government friendly to ourselves. Are the Afghans our friends now?… Except for the anarchy we have left in the place of order, the hatred in the place of kindness, all is as it was before … The received code of international morality is not even in the nineteenth century very strict. One principle however seems to be admitted in the theory, if not the practice of civilised men, that an aggressive war—a war undertaken against unoffending parties with a view to our own benefit only—is unjust, and conversely that a war to be just must partake the character of a defensive war. It may be defensive in various ways … either preventing an injury which it is attempted to inflict, or of exacting reparation for one inflicted, and taking the necessary security against its future infliction but in one way or other defensive it must be.” He could find no justification for the campaign being a defensive war since “the Afghans had not injured us either nationally or individually.” He believed that individuals could not place the blame for the war solely on the government: “The crime … is one of which the responsibility is shared by every Englishman. It is no new thing to say that a nation and especially a free nation is generally accountable for the conduct of its government.” Lushington placed particular emphasis on the impact of misjudgment. “The great error of Sir William Macnaghten,” he wrote, “appears to us to have been the attempt to bestow too soon and without sufficient means of coercing those who had hitherto lived at the expense of their weaker neighbours, the unappreciated blessings of an organised and powerful government upon the people of Afghanistan.

We have received a severe lesson which we may make a useful one if we choose to learn from it well, if not we shall perpetrate injustices again and again.” A report produced while the war was still in progress by one of the committees of the East India Company, which, as Hobhouse had confessed, had been largely ignored in the conduct of the war, stated, “This war of robbery is waged by the English government through the intervention of the government of India without the knowledge of England or of Parliament … and therefore evading the check placed by the constitution on the exercise of the prerogative of the crown in declaring war. It presents, therefore, a new crime in the annals of nations—a secret war. It had been made by a people without their knowledge, against another people who had committed no offence. Effects …: loss of England’s character for fair dealing; loss of her character of success; the Mussulman population is rendered hostile.” The Times in May 1842 commented, “This nation spent £15 million on a less than profitable effort after self-aggrandisement in Afghanistan, and spends £30,000 a year on a system of education satisfactory to nobody.” However, calls for a full parliamentary inquiry into the background to the war and into the doctoring of the government papers, led by, among others, a newly elected Tory member of Parliament named Benjamin Disraeli, came to nothing.

Outside Britain there was general satisfaction at Britain’s unexpected reverses in Afghanistan. In the United States the Afghan War took up numerous column inches in the nation’s newspapers, large and small. Outrage at the “odium” and “wickedness” of the British intervention and admiration for the “indomitable love of independence” of the Afghans were almost universal. Atrocities committed by the British as they sought retribution were equally condemned. Afghanistan became somewhat of an issue in the 1842 congressional elections with British attitudes and actions being seen as emblematic of behavior America should avoid….”

“Now was the time for analysis and blame-sharing. Sir Jasper Nicolls, commander in chief in India, wrote to Ellenborough, succinctly listing eight reasons for the campaign’s failure.

1st: Making war with a peace establishment. 2nd: Making war without a safe base of operations. 3rd: Carrying our native army … into a strange and cold climate, where they and we were foreigners, and both considered as infidels. 4th: Invading a poor country, and one unequal to supply our wants, especially our large establishment of cattle. 5th: Giving undue power to political agents. 6th: Want of forethought and undue confidence in the Afghans on the part of Sir William Macnaghten. 7th: Placing our magazines, even our treasure, in indefensible places. 8th: Great military neglect and mismanagement after the outbreak.

The Afghans regardless of tribe or branch of Islam have long memories.

“The Afghans see the last two centuries of interaction with the European powers and the United States as one continuum. A British officer reported recently how an Afghan government minister had reproached him that the British had burned down the covered market in Kabul. Fearing some hasty action by his nation’s troops, he eventually discovered that the remark had referred to the burning of the bazaar by the British at the end of the First Afghan War. Along the route of the catastrophic retreat Afghans today show coins seized from the British baggage train, which have passed down their families, and recount the deeds of their ancestors in slaying the infidel British, while pointing to the sites of the battles. Invoking events long past, a recent Taliban recruiting slogan asked Afghans, “Do you want to be remembered as a son of Dost Mohammed or a son of Shah Shuja?”

(From “The Dark Defile: Britain’s Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan” by Diana Preston, 2012.)

T.E. Lawrence wrote of the British intervention and occupation of Iraq following the First World War: “The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster.”

British military historian and theorist B.H. Liddell-Hart wrote in his book “Why Don’t We Learn from History”:

“We learn from history that in every age and every clime the majority of people have resented what seems in retrospect to have been purely matter-of-fact comment on their institutions. We learn too that nothing has aided the persistence of falsehood, and the evils resulting from it, more than the unwillingness of good people to admit the truth when it was disturbing to their comfortable assurance. Always the tendency continues to be shocked by natural comment and to hold certain things too “sacred” to think about…

The most dangerous of all delusions are those that arise from the adulteration of history in the imagined interests of national and military morale…

We learn from history that men have constantly echoed the remark ascribed to Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?” And often in circumstances that make us wonder why. It is repeatedly used as a smoke screen to mask a manoeuvre, personal or political, and to cover an evasion of the issue. It may be a justifiable question in the deepest sense. Yet the longer I watch current events, the more I have come to see how many of our troubles arise from the habit, on all sides, of suppressing or distorting what we know quite well is the truth, out of devotion to a cause, an ambition, or an institution; at bottom, this devotion being inspired by our own interest.”

That is where we are after 20 years of folly. Young Marines who were babies when Al Qaida attacked the Twin Towers and Pentagon on 9/11/2001 are dying to rescue people who put their trust in us. Unfortunately, four Administrations have proved that we used them to further our strategic interests with little regard for them.

There. I have said my peace. I have not made this political because there is enough blame to go around to implicate every President, most members of the House and Senate, professional and appointed officials in DOD, State, CIA, FBI, NSA, the media, DOD contractors and the defense industry, church leaders, and the endless supply of talking heads on every cable news channel justifying their actions or blaming others to go around.

So if you have any sense stop getting your news from Facebook and Twitter memes, half truths and complete falsehoods put out from every part of the political spectrum and start learning history or shut your damned mouths. Don’t like me saying that then go fornicate yourself.

A Gravestone at Habbinyah

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