Over the past couple of weeks I have been amazingly busy and where I have been pretty much too exhausted to write, despite the plethora of patently palpitating potboilers regarding the perfidious behavior of the twice impeached former President and his pernicious and parasitic promoters following the excruciatingly proper search warrant and search of Trump’s porous pleasure palace of Mar a Lago, issued by profoundly proper Attorney General Merrick Garland and proficiently pulled off by by the FBI. (Yes I know this was an excruciatingly long sentence but I could not resist trying to use all of those words beginning with the letter “p” when so many synonyms were available. It is just one of my peculiar proclivities, see I couldn’t even perchance avoid it in my parenthetical note, but I digress.)
When all of this dropped almost a week and a half ago I was blown away, not because I didn’t think that Trump had made off with classified materials, or in my opinion had already either shared them with hostile foreign powers, or was planning to do so for perfidious profit, and not in the interest of patriotism, but perfidy, or as better known as profit and treason.
The really fascinating but terrifying thing to watch was the mass hysteria that the legal and properly carried out search evoked among the Trump Cult, from the highest elected officials, the pernicious low life’s of the Trump propaganda machine, and his cult of hard core “true believer” followers for whom truth is less important than remaining faithful to the Big Lie, and the Bigger Liar.
My morbid fascination with the onslaught of profoundly disprovable propaganda put out by Trump’s Army of pundits, politicians, and preachers from Monday until Garland dropped the bomb requesting the Judge to unseal the search warrant and inventory of what was recovered was surreal. The demands went to protests, and the protests to terrorism directed at the FBI, including the release of the names and personal data of the agents and the Judge involved in the search warrant and its execution. In one case a former January 6th participant attempted a failed attack on the FBI’s Cincinnati Field office, after which he was killed in a shootout with law enforcement.
Since then, most of Trump’s cult has upped the ante, demanding the release of the Affidavit to the Warrant which the Justice Department is wisely resisting because of the sensitivity of the documents to the investigation. What we have here is a clear cut case of obstruction of Justice, mishandling of government documents, including Classified, Secret, Top Secret, and Top Secret SCI (Special Compartmentalized Information) none of which are to be removed from where they are stored or viewed in SCIFs unless to be briefed in similar secure facilities, of which Mar a Lago is not. Likewise, the need for a former President to require access to such information is not his, but of the current President, should the current President believe that a former President be able to help in a given situation might grant access. But such is not the case when a former President absconds with 11 sets of classified materials, as well as cases of numerous other official government documents, and then lies after being subpoenaed by the National Records Office of the National Archives and the Justice Department for them for over a year.
Trump was given so much latitude in returning the documents without penalty before the warrant was issued it makes one’s mind spin. If it were you or me, you bet your ass that we would be in jail, possibly without parole until trial. But Trump and his cavalcade of incompetent lawyers and cult like followers, whether elected officials or complete private citizen morons, would rather lie, obfuscate and possibly aid Trump in actions that while illegal, might also constitute treason of the former President shared them with any foreign leaders or agents. While serving as President, Trump was notorious for his complete disregard of classified materials and their potential impacts on national security, a fact attested to by two of his National Security Advisors, two Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a former Director of National Intelligence, and many others involved in his administration. Then there is the almost ejaculatory defense of Trump by Russian propagandists, and their transition to mourning that he is no longer an assest after the warrant and search. Dare call Trump’s actions treason. I do. There is much more to this story. There are multiple Federal and State criminal and civil cases moving through the court, and also the House Committee investigating the January 6th attack on Congress, an event orchestrated and encouraged by Trump in order to defy the results of a legal election to maintain his personal power.
There is much still to be added, but none of it will be good for either Trump or our national and the principals and laws it was founded upon.
As for me I will not give up the fight against totalitarianism, treason, and theocratic fascism. To quote the Christian German General Henning von Tresckow who gave up his life in the attempt to kill Hitler:
“A man’s moral worth is established only at the point where he is ready to give up his life in defense of his convictions.”
As my book “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond”, states: I am a historian, retired career military officer, and priest. As a historian I believe the truth, even when uncomfortable or damning, should be told. I take as inspiration a statement by Sir Patrick Stewart, in his role as Captain Jean Luc Picard, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The First Duty.” In the story Picard tells Cadet Wesley Crusher, “The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based.”
I spent 37 years as an officer in the US Army and Navy. I fully agree with Captain Picard, charge me with living in the past, present, and future, but my duty, and anyone commissioned or appointed by his or her government must be committed to the truth and upholding the law, former Presidents, current politicians, pundits, and preachers be damned. Truth matters. The distinguished history professor Timothy Snyder wrote, “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.”Truth matters, but it is human nature to take solace in myths and believe they are true. However, many myths are deadly. The deadliest include American Slavery’s “positive good,” the “Noble South,” the “Lost Cause,” the evils of Reconstruction, the good of Jim Crow, and the nonexistence of institutional racism in the United States. These are lies so big and toxic that one has to call them whoppers.
With that I am done for the night. Wednesday will be busy. Be safe, take care and enjoy life all,that you can.
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, VolodymyrZelenskyy.
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.
Viktor Frankl Wrote: “Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.”
August 9th was the anniversary of the second and hopefully last nuclear weapon used in war, the bomb called the Fat Man which was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki by a B-29 bomber nicknamed Bockscar. Three days before the city of Hiroshima had been destroyed by the first atomic bomb used in combat, nicknamed Little Boy. In Hiroshima an estimated 66,000 people died and 69,000 injured. In Nagasaki, 39,000 dead and 25,000 injured. Postwar estimates of casualties from the attack on Hiroshima range from 66,000 to 80,000 fatalities and 69,000 to 151,000 injured. Official Japanese figures issued in the late 1990s state the total number of people killed in the Nagasaki attack exceeded 100,000. Kurt Vonnegut who survived the allied terror bombing of Dresden as a POW in 1945 wrote:
“The most racist, nastiest act by America, after human slavery, was the bombing of Nagasaki. Not of Hiroshima, which might have had some military significance. But Nagasaki was purely blowing away yellow men, women, and children. I’m glad I’m not a scientist because I’d feel so guilty now.”
Both the cities were military targets, but the bombs were dropped in locations away from most military targets, or war production plants, they were dropped to kill the largest number of people possible. When we tried the Nazis at Nuremberg the targeted killing of civilians by their armed forces and the SS was labeled a Crime Against Humanity, yet we did, not just in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also in numerous other Japanese cities where hundreds of B-29s using thousands small incendiary bombs destroyed Japanese cities and incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians. But while these raids were designed to destroy or industrial targets, which were often intermixed in civilian neighborhoods, they were also targeted to kill Japanese civilian workers in massive fire storms, or render them homeless and further decrease Japanese war production.
They did have a strategic purpose but any sense of proportionality had been lost. The Japanese in 1945 had no means of attacking the United States with any chance of winning the war, all they could do was to kill as many Americans, British, Australians, and Russians as possible before they were destroyed. Japan’s Defense was based on a national suicide pact driven by its leaders. However, many reasonable American military Commanders including Admiral William Leahy, General Dwight Eisenhower, Admiral Chester Nimitz, General Hap Arnold, and Dr. Leó Szilárd
The decision to drop these weapons, forever changed the consequences of waging total war. It was a decision that still haunts humanity and which policy makers and military strategists wrestle with in an age where at nine nations have deployable nuclear weapons and a number of other nations are developing or trying to obtain them. John Hersey, the first American reporter with free access to visit Hiroshima and write about Hiroshima would later write words that the leaders of nations possessing nuclear weapons and their military chiefs must truly ponder before deciding to go to war, especially if they plan to wage a total war:
“The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good might result? When will our moralists give us an answer to this question?“
It is also the subject that is wrestled with by students of major military staff colleges and universities. I know, I taught the ethics elective at the Joint Forces Staff College. In each of our classes at least one brave officer did a presentation detailing the ethical issues involved the decision and the implications today. For those not familiar with the military the truth is that most officers are quite circumspect and much more grown up about the subject than the average citizen, politician, especially President Trump, his current National Security Advisor,Secretary of State, and National Intelligence Advisor. But then there are probably some in the military who would be like Colonel Paul Tibbets who flew the B-29 bomber Enola Gay which dropped said these words in an interview in 1989:
“I made up my mind then that the morality of dropping that bomb was not my business. I was instructed to perform a military mission to drop the bomb. That was the thing that I was going to do the best of my ability. Morality, there is no such thing in warfare. I don’t care whether you are dropping atom bombs, or 100-pound bombs, or shooting a rifle. You have got to leave the moral issue out of it.”
Tibbets, like Truman justified his position based on his view of the bestiality of the crimes committed by the Japanese during the war. It was quite a common point of view. Both views are troubling considering the power of the weapons being used. They almost sound the like excuses of German military officers and political officials on trial at Nuremberg between 1945 and 1948.
It was a decision made by President Truman one reason was purely pragmatic. For Truman, the “The buck stops here”was more than a motto, it was a way of life. He took responsibility for his action, but there is a certain banality in the way he wrote about them in his memoirs.
The atomic bomb was a wonder weapon that promised to end the war with a minimum of American casualties. Truman noted in 1952:
“I gave careful thought to what my advisors had counseled. I wanted to weigh all the possibilities and implications… General Marshall said in Potsdam that if the bomb worked we would save a quarter of a million American lives and probably save millions of Japanese… I did not like the weapon… but I had no qualms if in the long run millions of lives could be saved.”
But Truman’s decision was also based on the factor of revenge and viewing the Japanese as animals. There was a certain element of racism in his view of Asians which was little different than the Nazis views of they referred to as sub-human. This racial prejudice was common in the mid-twentieth century, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor only increased the blood lust, not that the Japanese also didn’t consider Europeans or Americans as equal to them, because they too, were a Master Race. This resulted in the war in the Pacific being much more brutal and inhuman than the one the Americans and British fought against the Nazis.
In response to a telegram from the Reverend Samuel McCrea Cavert, the General Secretary of the Federal Council of The Churches of Christ in America, the predecessor of the National Council of Churches. Reverend Cavert was a Presbyterian minister. Cavert’s telegram stated:
“Many Christians deeply disturbed over use of atomic bombs against Japanese cities because of their necessarily indiscriminate destructive efforts and because their use sets extremely dangerous precedent for future of mankind. Bishop Oxnam, President of the Council, and John Foster Dules, Chairman of its Commission on a just and durable peace are preparing statement for probable release tomorrow urging that atomic bombs be regarded as trust for humanity and that Japanese nation be given genuine opportunity and time to verify facts about new bomb and to accept surrender terms. Respectfully urge that ample opportunity be given Japan to reconsider ultimatum before any further devastation by atomic bomb is visited upon her people.”
Truman’s response to the telegram revealed the darker side of his decision to use the bomb.
My dear Mr. Cavert:
I appreciated very much your telegram of August ninth.
Nobody is more disturbed over the use of Atomic bombs than I am but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them.
When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true.
The President’s senior military advisors were certainly of a different point of view about the use of the weapons. Admiral William Leahy who served as Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief and was the senior Naval Officer in service disagreed and told Stimson of his misgivings about using the atomic bomb at this particular point in the war. In his memoirs which were released in 1949 he wrote:
“It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons… My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and that wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”
General Dwight D. Eisenhower disagreed with the use of the atomic bomb and recorded his interaction with Stimson:
“In 1945 Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.” He also wrote later words similar to Leahy:
“I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon.”
Stimson did not agree with the Eisenhower, he would later recall words that echoed those of Truman in 1952, not his words to Revered Cavert immediately after the event.
“My chief purpose was to end the war in victory with the least possible cost in the lives of the men in the armies which I had helped to raise. In the light of the alternatives which, on a fair estimate, were open to us I believe that no man, in our position and subject to our responsibilities, holding in his hands a weapon of such possibilities for accomplishing this purpose and saving those lives, could have failed to use it and afterwards looked his countrymen in the face.”
Admiral William Leahy wrote in his memoirs:
“Once it had been tested, President Truman faced the decision as to whether to use it. He did not like the idea, but he was persuaded that it would shorten the war against Japan and save American lives. It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons… My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and that wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”
General Hap Arnold, the Commander of the Army Air Forces noted: “It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.”
Those who questioned the decision would be vindicated by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey study published in 1946. That study laid out the facts in stark terms:
“Certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”
Later, Dr. J. Samuel Walker, the Chief Historian of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrote:
“Careful scholarly treatment of the records and manuscripts opened over the past few years has greatly enhanced our understanding of why Truman administration used atomic weapons against Japan. Experts continue to disagree on some issues, but critical questions have been answered. The consensus among scholars is the that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it.”
Thus the moral question remains and perhaps is best answered by the words of Dr. Leó Szilárd who first proposed building atomic weapons. In 1960 he noted to U.S. News and World Reports:
Suppose Germany had developed two bombs before we had any bombs. And suppose Germany had dropped one bomb, say, on Rochester and the other on Buffalo, and then having run out of bombs she would have lost the war. Can anyone doubt that we would then have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and that we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them?
But, again, don’t misunderstand me. The only conclusion we can draw is that governments acting in a crisis are guided by questions of expediency, and moral considerations are given very little weight, and that America is no different from any other nation in this respect.
I think now, three quarters of a century later we need to ponder that question before it can happen again. India and Pakistan are moving closer to nuclear war, Russia, China, North Korea, and yes even the United States are modernizing weapons and delivery systems. Admiral Leahy, General Eisenhower, and Dr. Szilard turned out to be right. As did General Omar Bradley who said:
“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.”
Eisenhower, Leahy, Bradley, and Szilard were correct. The weapons have grown more deadly, the delivery systems, more accurate with greater range, speed, and maneuverability, and even their miniaturization, make their use more likely than not. If they are used it will be the beginning of the end.
Albert Einstein’s words which he penned after the bombing should serve as a warning to Americans for all time:
“America is a democracy and has no Hitler, but I am afraid for her future; there are hard times ahead for the American people, troubles will be coming from within and without. America cannot smile away their Negro problem nor Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are cosmic laws.”
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