Category Archives: Political Commentary

In Trump and Christian Nationalism the Racism, and the Ghosts of the Confederacy Return


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I just finished reading my hard cover copy of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory and it was a far different experience than reading it on a computer or iPad screen while making edit after edit. The editing process was clinical and nothing like reading it in the flesh, it was to maybe misuse a term “sensual.” As I read it I found it hard to believe that when I started writing it, that it was just an introductory chapter to my Gettysburg Staff ride text regarding the role of religion and ideology to the men that fought the American Civil War.

Never in my wildest imagination did I expect that wildly aggrieved White Americans, following the lead of Donald Trump would have denied the results of a completely legitimate election, and assaulted Congress when it was in session to formally certify the results of the Electoral College. Nor did I then imagine that a former President and his followers would continue to deny election results long after he was out of office and the results were certified. Nor could I imagine at any former President would abscond with highly classified documents, not comply with subpoenas to return them and that the Justice Department and have to get a warrant to search his residence and retrieve them. Nor did I expect members of a political party supposedly committed to the “Rule of Law” to target FBI agents, other Federal Law Enforcement agencies and Judges for death because of a legal search.

Now my book is out and available for purchase at Amazon and will be available in bookstores on October 1st. But as I was thinking about what I had written and current events I began to ruminate on it I came up with this little essay.

Though the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th overturned the “Dred Scott” decision to give Blacks citizenship, and the 15th granted Black men suffrage, the ghosts of racism and twin myths of the Noble South and Lost Cause still haunt our Nation and contribute to our current divide. Sadly, the curse of White Supremacy and Christian Nationalism, which were prominent in causing the Civil War, defeated Reconstruction, and restored White rule remain a clear and present danger today.

Unlike 1860, ours is not a sectional divide, but a nationwide racial, religious and political chasm. The changing racial and religious demographics of the country, the passage of laws that gave Blacks, other minorities, Women, and LGBTQ+ people civil and voting rights echoing Abraham Lincoln’s understanding of ever increasing liberty found in the Declaration, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” provide grist for grievance. 

The growing tensions exploded after Barack Obama shattered the Color barrier of the presidency, provoking massive growth in violent, militarized White Supremacist and anti-Semitic groups, and the dramatic reemergence of the “Great Replacement“ conspiracy theory. Conservative Christians found more grievance when LGBTQ+ citizens gained equal rights including marriage. In Donald Trump, these aggravated groups found a man who catered to their grievances and perceived victimhood. Trump’s ideas redound today in the pronouncements of many Republican elected officials who subordinate themselves to Trump, including all of the 2016 presidential candidates, who he mocked, insulted, and belittled at every turn.

Trump and his propagandists play upon the same fears of “White Replacement” evoked by Southern leaders and Secession Commissioners. Historian Charles Dew portrayed Georgia Supreme Court Justice and Secession Commissioner Henry Benning’s apocalyptic vision of the outcome of a Northern invasion of the South; he told his audience, “We will be overpowered and our men compelled to wander like vagabonds all over the earth, and for our women, the horrors of their state cannot contemplate in imagination.” This then, was “the fate that Abolition will bring upon the white race. . . . We will be exterminated”. 

Trump encourages violence. The politicians, pundits, and preachers who serve as his propagandists whip his followers into a frenzy of hatred reminiscent of the worst moments in our history. This is evidenced by mass murders at Black churches, supermarkets, Jewish synagogues and community centers, and what amount to be lynchings of Black men by Whites. 

On June 1st 2020, Trump used a violent attack by Secret Service, Park Police, Washington Metropolitan Police, and Bureau of Prisons officers against peaceful citizens in Lafayette Park gathered to protest the murder of George Floyd, as cover for a photo-op with a Bible outside St. John’s Church. The next day he tweeted with pride about the “Overwhelming Force and Domination” used by police. The violence echoed police attacks on Civil Rights marchers in the 1960s. 

Trump’s “Big Lie” of the “stolen” election and the assault on the Capitol echoed the violence of the Confederate response to Lincoln’s election. In 1861 Southern Slave States seceded from the Union, seized Federal facilities, mints, armories, and military bases, and opened fire on Fort Sumter, beginning the bloodiest war in American history.

Some of Trump’s followers call for violence and civil war following the FBI’s legal search of Trump’s Mar a Lago home. Instead of trying to calm them, Trump and acolytes like Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson, and Republican office holders or candidates continue to incite violence against law enforcement. 

Lincoln mistakenly believed that Southerners would come to their senses and calls for secession and civil war would lessen after the 1860 election. Only fools would believe that Trump and his followers will back down now, in light of the January 6th insurrection and the mounting number of criminal and civil investigations against Trump. Like Southerners in 1860 they feel cornered, and are lashing out against their best interests.

Religious intolerance fuels race hatred. Authoritarian leaders like Trump fuse religious and the politics of race in a ruthless drive for political power. History, including ours shows that the result of such fusion results in war, and crimes against humanity. The damage to the victims, perpetrators, and society is felt for generations. 

Like the antebellum period, faith has emerged as a political weapon. “But,” wrote British historian and military theorist B. H. Liddell- Hart, “one should still be able to appreciate the point of view of those who fear the consequences. Faith matters so much in times of crisis. One must have gone deep into history before reaching the conviction that truth matters more.” The Confederacy’s ghosts still haunt us through White Supremacy, Christian Nationalism, and Donald Trump. We must learn the lessons, or see our democracy torn asunder from within, with blood flowing in our streets.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Flailing Floodgates: Trump Exposed on Multiple Fronts after FBI Recovers Multiple Caches of Classified Documents at Mar a Lago

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Blown Away

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.

Peace,

Padre Steve+


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The Bloody Trail of Documentation Leading to American Carnage: The 7th Hearing of the January 6th Committee



Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Pardon the delay in the publication of this article. I started it the day after the hearing and didn’t finish it because I was tired. The next night I went to dinner and Top Gun, Maverick. Then for the next few days between work around the house, catching, doing some work with publicity for the book, catching up on some reading, watching some movies and documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement as I ponder my next book, in light of current reverses to civil, voting, reproductive, and religious rights by Christian Nationalists and their militant supermajority on the Supreme Court. I need to get with my agent soon for his advice in regard to the five other books I in some stage of development.

I will be making a trip to Washington, DC tomorrow to see DC United play my all time favorite team, Bayern Munich. Thursday I will visit the National Museum of African American History, then have some dinner before heading back to my hotel to watch the live hearings on Thursday Night. Friday I will visit some of the preserved Civil War fortifications around DC, and spend the night in Annapolis and return home Saturday. I will be my first trip to see and do things I want to do since the beginning of COVID. So without further delay the long delayed article.

On December 14th, 2020 the Electoral College cast its ballots and elected Joe Biden as President Elect. Between November 4th and that day President Trump’s legal team had filed 61 challenges in State and Federal Courts, filing 61 lawsuits, losing 60 outright and winning a portion of another that had no bearing on that court’s final decision.

Likewise, Trump personally attempted to pressure Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensberger to find over 11,000 votes to flip Georgia into his column and disenfranchise Georgia voters. Raffensberger refused and testified as to that fact before the committee.

White House advisors and cabinet members told Trump that he lost and needed to concede. He did not, even as then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized the legitimacy of the election. However, Trump would not do so and turned to allies outside the administration willing to do anything, especially illegal, to keep him in power.

The situation came to a head on the evening and night of December 18th when in a surprise visit by Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne obtained access to the President when a junior White House aid admitted to the White House without higher authorization. That is hard to get. I know, because in 2009 a friend of mine from Iraq, who was then Chief of Staff to the National Security Advisor, got Judy and me a private tour of the West Wing, not even to meet the President. The amount of background checks and security required was incredible. One does not get to casually drop in to the Oval Office unless something is seriously awry. Thus when the clown car of clueless, criminally minded, conspiracy theorists pitched a draft executive order for the President to order the Department of Defense to use the military to seize voting machines, and to appoint Sidney Powell as a ”Special Counsel” with full security clearance to do the job of ensuring Trump remained President despite having lost the election and having every lawsuit to overturn the election defeated, often dismissed by Trump appointed Federal judges.

At this point Cassidy Hutchinson, realizing that there were no adults in the room notified Pat Cipollone, and Mark Meadows. Cipollone was the first to arrive followed shortly by Meadows and senior advisor Eric Hirschmann. There was a heated argument which included much profanity and threats, with Hirschmann telling Flynn to ”sit his ass down.” Cipollone demanded their evidence which they failed to supply. There was much profanity, threats of fist fights and violence before the meeting finally ended, with Meadows escorting Giuliani off the White House Grounds. Trump, now realizing that there was no legal way to overturn the election, and the the clown car had no way to keep him in office, decided to use the mob of his supporters to do that very thing. Barely two hours later, Trump sent out a tweet for his supporters to come to Washington on January 6th because it ”would be wild.”

Almost immediately right wing activists, militia groups, and provocateurs, began calling for violence and revolt to keep Trump in power. One used an image from Game of Thrones to call for a ”Red Wedding”, a reference to the murder of people coming to what they thought was a wedding but in which they were massacred. Others, talked of a ”rope day” which is a reference to bringing ropes to hang Trump’s enemies, which included the gallows that was set up hang Mike Pence. Many provocateurs including Steve Bannon, Alex Jones, and many others spread the call of Trump to overthrow the election, start a revolution and kill their opponents.

The violence incited by Trump’s YouTube, Instagram, and other social media propagandists became so vile, violent, and profane and murderous that it makes any person with a modicum of decency, a moral center, and respect for our laws and our system of government sick and frightened for our future as a democracy.

During the following two weeks leading up to 6 January there were meetings, a ”war room” was set up in the Trump Hotel where Trump’s cabal of coup planners made their contacts and gathering their shock troops that led the assault on the Capitol. These included the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Members of these group brought military grade weapons, including AR-15 type rifles, grenades, body armor, kevlar helmets, bear spay, stocks of ammunition, and a 30 day supply of food. They were primed for battle, and as the day grew closer and it became clear that Vice President Pence would most likely fulfill his duties to certify the Electoral College vote and formally declare Joe Biden as President, Pence became one of their targets for death.

The night before the assault on the Capitol and Trump’s own rally on the Ellipse, a large rally was held within hearing distance of the Oval Office, complete with Sidney Powell, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Alex Jones, Proud Boys and other miscreants urging the crowd to fight like hell for Trump the next day. The language was that of a pre-combat pep talk. It was incendiary and promoted violence against anyone who opposed Trump or supported Biden, continuing to promote the big lie of the stolen election. According to testimony Trump had the doors of the Oval Office in order to take it in and enjoy it.

That same evening two pipe bombs were left near the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties near Congress. The person who left them has never been identified or arrested.

I will return to 6 January after I come back. between then and now I will post about my travels.

Until next time,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Letter to Young People, Wake up and Resist: Follow the Example of Sophie Scholl

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The past couple of weeks have been somewhat surreal. The continued revelations of former President Trump and his allies to attempt a coup to keep him in power, the decision of the Trump appointed majority on the Supreme Court to destroy the Establishment Clause in two cases, and to overturn Roe v. Wade by using poor history and case law to destroy any legal precedent regarding the Fourteenth Amendment after when it was ratified in 1868, when women had few rights to property, civil rights, rights to their medical treatment and the right to vote, the last which was enshrined in the 19th Amendment, 51 years after the 14th Amendment. While Roe v. Wade gave women some choice regarding their reproductive rights, and control of their bodies, the Equal Rights Amendement was never ratified, leaving women with far fewer Constitutionally protected rights than men.

That being said, I thought that rewriting an article from our last visit to Munich in 2018 worked very well considering the most recent actions of the court and Republican state legislatures to crush the civil rights of women ad blacks, uphold the rights of people to arm themselves to the teethe with military grade weaponry with few safeguards as to how they can be purchased. The understanding of settled law and precedent has been demolished such that no protections after 1868 can be safeguarded, based on the perverted legal doctrine of ”Originalism,” which is much like the various Christian Fundamentalist doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy, which though unprovable tries to deduce the meanings of the writers, without the tools of hermeneutics, historiography, or the Christian tradition and reason. The doctrine of originalism depends on interpreting the Constitution as if the Founders intended it to be enshrined as scripture rather than a compromised document that most felt at the time would need to be changed.

Now I am 62 years old. Many people of my generation and my parents generation elected these madmen. Those who will save us from tyranny have to be young people of ideals, integrity, and who believe in the founding principle of the Declaration of Independence, enhanced by the words of Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, who also believe in the protections of the Constitution. 

So I leave you with this for tonight. Please, read it and share it. 

Thank you,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

On one of our trips to Munich we had breakfast and then since Judy’s knees were not up to a lot of long walks or standing took our rental car out to see a couple of places that we had not visited. We went to the grave of the anti-Nazi martyr Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and friend Christoph Probst who were executed in February 1943 for publishing anti-Hitler, Nazi, and war pamphlets. Following that we went to the BMW Museum and BMW World. The first was sobering, the second interesting because I like fast cars, but the visit to the cemetery was far more important.

Sophie Scholl Memorial at the University of Munich

I won’t write about the BMW Museum, that is something for true automotive enthusiasts. Instead I will write about that visit to the Friedhof at Perlacher Forst in Munich where Sophie Scholl is buried.

The cemetery is adjacent to the Stadelheim Prison where she was held before her trial and executed on February 22nd 1943. I have written about her and the White Rose resistance movement before. The year before I visited the White Rose Museum and study center at the Ludwig Maximillians University of Munich but last year I didn’t get the chance to make a pilgrimage to her gravesite. I made it a priority this visit.

Visiting a memorial or museum is one thing. However, I find that visiting the gravesite of a martyr, or the mass gravesites of the victims of the Holocaust, other mass killings, or cemeteries where those killed in battle, engenders something of a personal or spiritual connection.

We parked on the street outside Stadelheim, which is still an active prison surrounded by tall walls and guard towers. While Judy waited with the car I walked to the cemetery and then to the gravesite which is on the opposite side of the cemetery from the main entrance. It is a very peaceful place, with many trees and the sections cordoned off by carefully trimmed grapevines.

When I reached the gravesite I paused, and remained for about ten minutes contemplating the cost of real resistance to tyranny. She and her companions had no political, military, or economic power. They were students, and a number had served as medics on the Eastern Front before resuming their studies.

Unlike the men who launched Operation Valkyrie 17 months later they had no connections to any kind of power: they were not part of the movement of German conservatives and militarists who initially supported Hitler and then had second thoughts. When Hitler came to power they were children. They resisted because they found what was happening to go beyond any sense of ethics, morality, or in some cases, like Sophie, their Christian faith.

Memorial Stones to Sophie and members of White Rose outside the University of Munich

At her trial she told the notorious President of the Nazi People’s Court, Roland Freisler:

Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.

While I was their I tried to imagine her courage as she testified to the truth and went to her death. The woman who shared Sophie’s cell wrote of her final words before going to her execution:

How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?

Many people today are being faced with the same questions that Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and friends, including Christoph Probst who was executed the same day had to make. Thankfully, for the most part the future imitators of Hitler have not yet seized full power in Europe or the United States, but it wouldn’t take much for that to happen. Too many people, and not just conservatives, would be willing to sacrifice freedom in the name of security if a major war, terrorist attack, or natural disaster that threatened their well being and/or their economic or social status occurred. Likewise, we Americans have a pretty lousy history in dealing with suspect minorities and dissenters in times of crisis.

A Small Marker commemorating Sophie and fellow helpers near the Ostbahnhof in Munich

In such a situation, how many people would allow their government to oppress and terrorize people that they distrusted due to their race, ethnicity, or religion? I think that the numbers are a lot higher than we would want to admit. The preservation or self and wealth is often more of a motivation than faith, or the rights and liberties of others.

During the Nazi era many non-Nazis supported the Nazi programs because they thought that they benefited them. The same is true in any authoritarian State regardless of the ideology that it subscribes and its people hold dear.

Sophie said:

The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.

An addendum for tonight,

My question to you, and me is hers. If you think you are “safe,” you are only kidding yourself, no matter what your political or religious belief may be. Men like Trump or Boris Johnson, Orban of Hungary, Erdogan or Turkey, Bolsonaro Of Brazil, Marcos of the Philippines, Putin of Russia, or Kim Jun Un of North Korea have no real friends or allies. Their supporters, even the most loyal, are like those of Hitler and Stalin only are safe until they realize their mistaken trust in their leader.

As I write this more and more creditable and documented forensic evidence emerges during the various investigations into the crimes of former President Trump and his militant followers who attacked the Capitol Building on 6 January 2021 with the intent to stop the final ceremonial counting of the Electoral College Vote, even threatening to hang Vice President Mike Pence and murder many members of Congress.

It’s up to you young people. I’ll fight as long as I can, as will other older veterans and resisters. But the long term fight belongs to you. What way will you choose to burn?

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Time to Mourn and a Time for Righteous Anger: Responding to Highland Park and Every Act of Domestic Terrorism

Police Officer Crying at Highland Park, Brian Casella (AP) Photo

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have grown weary of domestic terrorists murdering and maiming innocent people. Most of them are young angry white men, who often target their victims based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Their preferred victims seem to children and the elderly. There are few places in our country that can be considered safe. I have dealt with PTSD and its aftereffects for over a decade. I have lost count of the hundreds of people I have seen die, many due to gun violence. If you have never stood over the bodies of those whose bodies are destroyed, literally torn apart by high velocity semiautomatic rifles and handguns, then this is simply an exercise in political rhetoric. When I saw the picture above with the police officer crying his hands as he walked through the carnage.

When I saw what was happening in Highland Park, I could not wish anyone a happy Independence Day. I say that because there are a significant number of our citizens and elected leaders, especially those of the Trumpified and QAnon GOP. They have private heavily armed so called militias like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, which function as did the Nazi Brownshirts who go around, even after their major role in attacking the Capitol and trying to force a coup to overthrow the government and invalidate an election that Trump lost decisively in both the Electoral College and the popular vote, still use intimidation tactics to target LGBTQ gatherings and even readings to children in public libraries.

I recognized that Highland Park terrorism was likely directed at Jews, first because Highland Park has a large Jewish population, second because I saw one of the terrorist’s bloody videos before they were taken down. The video was flooded with a Welsh rope Rune used as a symbol of right wing Finnish group, with Nazi leanings, known as Suomen Sisu.

It is indeed a time to mourn, but to get angry and to whatever is needed in the courts, in our legislatures, and in taking to the streets to demand that our local state and federal representatives take action to restore what the founders meant in the Second Amendment which the Roberts Court in an opinion written by the late Antonin Scalia which turned the amendment on its head in 2008.

We also need to be ready take up arms against these terrorist groups. Lest anyone be confused, these efforts have to be defensive in nature, not threaten any public official, but limited to working within the laws of our states and working with law enforcement to ensure that peaceful protestors, or the people to assemble.

However, I have to pause for the night. I have a long day tomorrow, and there is much more to say. But I will conclude with the words of the German general Henning von Tresckow who gave up his life to overthrow 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.

What is our worth?

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Double Dog Damned: “‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’”


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

When I was 14 years old in the summer of 1974 I watched the

Watergate Hearings from our living room in Stockton, California. Though only 14 I realized their significance and was shocked at how President Nixon acted illegally and was transfixed by the testimony of John Dean that drove the stake through the heart of the Nixon presidency. I have watched every one of the Congressional hearings on the 6 January 2021 attack on the Capitol, including today’s, in which Cassidy Hutchinson, the senior aide to Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows was the most compelling witness I have seen testify before any Congressional committee in my life. I am a historian and something of a wonk when it comes to hearings where I know history was being made, so whenever possible I have tried to watch them. I have watched many witnesses testify in Congressional investigations, including Watergate, Iran-Contra, 9-11, and many more. Likewise I can count numerous Supreme Court and major Cabinet nomination hearings, Impeachment hearings, (Clinton’s and both of Trump’s) and now this.

The interesting thing for me today was that instead of a jaded lawyer, a career politician, a long time bureaucrat, lobbyist, or career military, Defense Department, or other National security professionals, think tank representatives, subject matter experts, and other experienced officials, we saw a 25 year old woman, political novice, speaking under oath, when many others have refused to appear, or plead the Fifth to every question but their name.

Ms. Hutchinson is a 2019 a graduate of Christopher Newport University. She interned for Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Steve Scalise, the year before her senior year, before moving to the White House after she graduated where she served as senior advisor to Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. She was at Meadows’ side in almost every high level White House meeting where every senior staffer knew her, and to add to her creditability she was a young and devoted Trump supporter.

She was in the room, or just outside the room seeing and hearing things that troubled her. She had no part in any making policy, directing operations, but trying to advise her boss, Mark Meadows of the things she was seeing, and trying to get him to do something to get Trump to stop the attack. She knew Mike Pence and realized that Trump put Pence’s life in danger.

Her testimony revealed information known to the committee in prior interviews, but not known to the public and her identity was kept secret until today’s testimony. Today we learned things that I believed either possible or probable based on the public information that I had seen or read. She had nothing to gain from it. She had done nothing that could be criminally prosecuted, she didn’t need to be flipped, like the target of an investigation. One might disagree with what her politics were, or maybe still are, but she acted as an American patriot to tell the truth. Now her life is forever changed. She will be threatened and maybe even be killed by Trump fanatics. She will have to always have security and watch her back, for God knows how long. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump has already put out a hit on her while trying to make it look like he had nothing to do with it, I think that the term is ”plausible deniability.”

Tuesday we learned of the chaos in the White House on 6 January and the days preceding it. We learned of Rudy Giuliani’s unabashed joy in telling her about what was going to happen on 2 January, and Mark Meadows telling her that 6 January would be very bad, and how that and what she heard during Giuliani’s conversations with the Proud Boys and Oathkeepers troubled her. She then recalled how she on the night of 5 January, discouraged Meadows from attending a meeting at what plotters, including Giuliani, Meadows, Steve Bannon, and Roger Stone called the ”War Room,” where the assault was being planned, something that he didn’t do, but said he would dial in on.

The came 6 January. First came the rally on the Ellipse, where Trump was inflamed because the area set aside for the rally was not full. He demanded to know why and was told that many people did not want to pass through the security checkpoint magnetic detectors because the Secret Service would confiscate their weapons. Trump according to Hutchinson, who was with Meadows explained as to why it was necessary. She was there where Tony Ornato, the former head of Trump’s security detail and then working as a member of Meadows’ operational staff told Meadows that weapons including AR-15s and semi-automatic pistols had be confiscated at the checkpoints and the Secret Service observed many armed people in the mob outside the Ellipse.

Trump was infuriated and demanded that the magnetic detectors be taken down and the armed supporters allowed in stating something to the effect of “You know, I don’t even care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me.” So the question of who Trump knew they intended to harm is valid, and the answer is obvious based on his speech and subsequent actions.

In the speech Trump promised to be with his militant supporters and go with them to the Capitol. However, he was thwarted by the commander of his Secret Service detail, something that we learned of yesterday from Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony, which she explained in detail having worked with Mr. Ornato and Mr. Meadows and having gone almost everywhere Meadows went. There are two types of presidential movements that the Secret Service arranges. Planned movements that usually take weeks and months to coordinate. Then there are OTP movements, or Other Than Planned, which are done quickly with only the President’s security detail being involved and knowing the risks.

Evidently Meadows indicated to Trump that the OTP was still a possibility. According to Trump got into the SUV and when he saw that it was not going to the Capitol, Trump became agitated and demanded that his Secret Service detail Chief, Robert Engel take him to the Capitol. According to Ms. Hutchinson she walked into Meadows office where Ornato asked if she knew what occurred in the armored SUV, she recounted what he said in the presence of Mr. Engel, who did not dispute the account at the time.

Hutchinson described being told by Ornato what had happened next: Trump got into an armored presidential vehicle with Robert Engel, the chief of his Secret Service security detail.
Engel, according to Hutchinson’s account, then told Trump he could not travel to the Capitol. It was not secure, and Trump would have to return to the White House.
“The president had a very strong, a very angry response to that,” Hutchinson said, relaying Ornato’s account. “The president said something to the effect of, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’ to which [Engel] responded, ‘Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing.’”

She also noted Ornoto’s more detailed account which allegedly he and Engel dispute in regard to Trump trying to grab the steering wheel and attack Mr. Engel, but not that Trump demanded to be taken to the Capitol:

She said Deputy Chief of Staff Anthony M. Ornato told her that Trump was “irate” that he wasn’t allowed to go to the Capitol with his supporters after his speech on the Ellipse. She summarized Ornato’s account like this: “The President reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. [The head of Trump’s Secret Service detail Bobby] Engel grabbed his arm, said, ‘Sir you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going to the Capitol.’ Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel. And when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.” She said Engel never disputed what Ornato had said. If they dispute the details of her account they should do so under oath and not under the cover of a non-sworn statement issued by the Secret Service.

Thus, from this account we now can establish that Trump knew that his supporters were heavily armed, that they had been incited by Giuliani and Representative Mo Brooks to prepare for war and go into battle, and egged on by Trump who basically threatened the life of Vice President Pence if he ”didn’t do the right thing.” He then promised to be with them when they marched on the Capitol. When I heard Trump say those words on 6 January, I believed that he was lying to them in order to stir themselves up without endangering himself. Evidently, I was wrong. It was his intent to go to the Capitol, evidently with the intent of stopping the Electoral count and in doing so unlawfully overturning the election and peaceful transfer of power in order to remain in power. Who knows what would have happened if he reached the Capitol? I can only imagine that there would have been a massive firefight and probably a massacre, in which Pence and every presumably disloyal Senator or Congressperson, Democrat or Republican present among those slaughtered.

When word came that the Capitol had been breached and the insurgents were inside, Ms. Hutchinson and others including White House Counsel Pat Cipolloni tried to get Meadows to intervene. Hutchinson testified that Meadows responded to calls for more action on Jan. 6 by saying “something to the effect of, ‘You heard him, Pat; he thinks Mike deserves that. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.’”

Cipolloni, has now been subpoenaed by the Committee. I expect that since Ms. Hutchinson said that he told her to make sure that they stayed away from the Capitol. in her words, “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen,” she recalled him saying, enumerating crimes that could include obstruction of justice, defrauding the election and inciting a riot.

I believe that others will be subpoenaed based on Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony, and I expect others to volunteer to tesify. I fully expect that as they continue their investigation by the Committee that the Justice Department will take evidence, along with what they are accumulating and charge Trump with multiple counts of felony obstruction election results. There could well be more, which likely will involve Federal and State charges from his attempt to get Georgia’s Attorney General to change that states by thousands of votes so he would win.

I have seen Tweets by people on the left condemning her for not speaking out sooner. Such criticism is unwarranted and nothing more than self-righteous grandstanding. When I was her age I was a young Republican and Army officer. I was a devoted follower of Ronald Reagan, and during the Iran-Contra hearings I had no problem condemning the actions of Oliver North and others, but could not bring myself to believe that Reagan was culpable for anything, and it took me until the outbreak of AIDS that there might be something morally wrong in his administration. That did not stop me from remaining rock solid in my support for Republican Candidates for President, though I often split my down ballot votes. I supported George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George W. Bush, even after I began to see the grim results of the criminal invasion of Iraq.

It was only after returning from Iraq, shattered by what I saw there, and stunned by the lies I saw coming from the Administration, Fox News, and people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, which had been my source of news for a decade. I was then, coupled with tremendous racist tropes of Limbaugh and others directed at Barak Obama, and the nomination of Sarah Palin, a completely unqualified airhead and Christian Nationalist nutcase for Vice President that ai quit the GOP and became an ever more thoughtful and strong opponent of it.

So I can understand how a young, idealistic person could support someone like Trump. Crap, how many of us as young people supported candidates and causes that later disgusted us? I guarantee that there are a lot of us. My support of Republicans because I was a Navy brat whose dad served in Vietnam, and how many Democrats and liberals demonized the military, demonization that I experienced as an Army ROTC Cadet at UCLA when some guy started screaming at me ”ROTC Nazi off campus!” That remained with me for years because if there was one thing I was not, it was a Nazi or Holocaust denier. It was probably the one single thing that kept me in the GOP and being an apologist for people I now know were criminals. Thus, I have to commend her for her courage at such a young age to tell the truth when doing so will only endanger her life.

I have to stop for the night, but I have other things that I need to do before bed. I need to take some time to rest, read, and watch our Papillons play.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, History, laws and legislation, leadership, News and current events, Political Commentary, US Presidents

The Murderous Heart and Intent of Trump’s Christian Nationalist Subjects


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The picture above is of the hand written letter sent to the wife of Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a member of the January 6th Commission who voted for the impeachment charges against former President Trump during his second impeachment trial. The language is that of violence, and the direct threat to the life of Congressman Kinzinger, and to the lives of his wife and 5 month old son. Also note the explicitly of the threats to their lives, and the even more explicit damnation of them to Hell. These are the words of a fanatical Christian Nationalist, whose perverted understanding of the Christian faith has entered the mainstream of the Trumpified conservative Evangelical, Charismatic, and Fundamentalist movements and churches in the United States. It is not representative of the Gospel, but it reflects how Christians in this country and others have used twisted understandings of the Bible to persecute and often execute in made up drumhead ecclesiastical trials backed by the power of the state, and when that was not possible used mob violence, often on a large scale.

I am no stranger to death threats, threats of violence and online harassment, mostly from people who claim to be Christians. I see it several times a week when a friend who is the head of a major civil and religious rights organization asks me to respond to violent threats to him, his family, and his organization. He is Jewish and almost every one of these threats come from people who identify themselves as Christians. The blood curdling violence and specificity of these emails is frightening, very much in line with the threats directed at Congressman Kinzinger and others on the committee, or who in State or Federal offices resisted the attempts of Trump and his cohorts to conduct what would result in a violent coup attempt on 6 January, 2021.

The fact is that MAGA Christian Nationalists are deeply embedded in violent and heavily armed domestic terrorist organizations like the Proud Boys, the Patriot Prayer group, the, and the III Percent organizations, just to name a few of the most prominent. This is not new. Christians, including pastors were heavily involved with the Ku Klux Klan, the White Leagues, and the Red Shirts which terrorized Blacks and their White supporters in the Reconstruction and Post Reconstruction South. Such massacres included the Memphis Tennessee Massacre of 1866, the New Orleans Massacre of 1866, the Camilla, Georgia, Massacre of 1868, the Opelousas and St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana Massacres of 1868, the Jackson County, Florida Wars of 1869-1871 (an insurgency against Blacks and Republicans which killed hundreds of Black and White Republicans resulting in the return to White rule.)

But this was not all, the violence continued, all resulting in tens to hundreds of Blacks and Republican office holders throughout the South. They included the Meridian, Mississippi Race Riots of 1871, Colfax Massacre of 1873, the Coushatta Massacre and the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874, all in Louisiana, the Eufaula, Alabama Election Riots of 1874, the Vicksburg, Mississippi Massacre of 1874, the Clinton, Mississippi Massacre of 1875, Hamburg and Ellenton Massacres of 1876 in South Carolina, and the Wilmington, North Carolina, Massacre of 1898.

Such attacks continued in the South and the North in the 20th Century. There were many, some small, others large but some of the more onerous included the Springfield, Illinois Massacre of 1908, Slocum, Texas Massacre of 1910, the Elaine, Arkansas Massacre of 1919, the Ocoee, Florida Massacre of 1920, the Tulsa (Black Wall Street Massacre) of 1921, which included the use of aircraft to bomb Black residents, the Rosewood, Florida Massacre of 1923, Axe Handle Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida in 1961, and the Orangeburg, South Carolina Massacre of 1968.

Likewise there were thousands and according to some accounts tens of thousands of Lynchings.

I mention these specifically American massacres in which Christians often led and supported to show how deep the politics religion, and often race and ideology influence violent acts, including the threatening letter to Congressman Kinzinger is just the latest example.

The reality is that many of the leaders and supporters, including Republican Senators and Congressmen, of the January 6th attack were or are Christian Nationalists. The Baptist Joint Commission published a report on Christian Nationalism and the January 6th attempted coup. The link to it is here: https://bjconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Christian_Nationalism_and_the_Jan6_Insurrection-2-9-22.pdf

One of the most important sections of that document is its description of what Christian Nationalism is and what it is not:

Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as
a “Christian nation,” singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.

Christian nationalism is not Christianity, though it is not accurate to say that Christian nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity.

The report is important and I will quote a couple more passages from it before moving on.

Christian nationalism and Christianity are not one and the same. It is the cultural influence of white Christian nationalism inclining many Christian and religious Americans toward beliefs and behaviors that harm minorities, democracy, and broader measures of social safety. Those Christian Americans who reject white Christian nationalism and are actively involved in their faith communities are generally more likely to advocate for a civil arena that protects and defends the rights of all people and groups.

It goes on:

Because Christian nationalism is identified (or, more accurately, because it identifies itself) with a religion, the movement is often understood as a set of religious and/or theological positions that are then assumed to lead in a deductive way to a certain set of cultural and policy preferences, and from there to a certain kind of politics. But Christian nationalism is, first and foremost,
a political movement. Its principal goal, and the goal of its most active leaders, is power. Its leadership looks forward to the day when they can rely on government for three things: power and influence for themselves and their political allies; a steady stream of taxpayer funding for their initiatives; and policies that favor “approved” religious and political viewpoints

When Mr. Trump launched the effort to overturn the election by promoting the lie that it was stolen, consider where some of the most militant and coordinated support came from. The Conservative Action Project, a group associated with the Council for National Policy, which serves as a key networking organization for America’s religious and economic right-wing elite, made its
position clear in a statement issued a week before the insurrection.

It called for members of the U.S. Senate to “contest the electoral votes” from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other states that were the focus of Republicans’ baseless allegations. Cosignatories included nearly two dozen powerful movement figures including Bob McEwen, a leader of the Council for National Policy; Morton C. Blackwell of the Leadership Institute; Alfred S. Regnery, the former publisher; Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council; the conservative lawyer and activist Cleta Mitchell, who was on the phone with
Mr. Trump when he urged Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” extra votes; and Thomas Fitton of Judicial Watch.

Even as Republican figures like former President George W. Bush and Senator Mitt Romney attempted to nudge Mr. Trump toward a graceful concession, many religious right leaders doubled down on conspiracy or denial or provided indirect support for election lies by articulating “concerns” about supposed “constitutional irregularities” in battleground states. Today, many of the movement’s most influential organizations have embraced the cause of “election integrity” as a fairly transparent means of undercutting faith in elections as a cornerstone of our democracy.
A key to the movement’s durability is its influence on elected political leaders (and their appointees). Its influence on these leaders depends in large part on its ability to deliver large numbers of votes in a consistent way. And its ability to deliver these votes rests on at least three important mechanisms:

The first is that Christian nationalism serves as an effective tool for controlling information flows to a significant part of the population. It is a way of creating a population that will be receptive to certain forms of disinformation and immune to other types of information, which the present leadership often denigrates as “fake news” or “the lying media.” This gives the leadership cadre, and their political allies, a tremendous degree of power.

A second mechanism for mobilizing mass political power involves manufacturing and focusing a sense of persecution and resentment among the rank and file. To be clear, the movement draws on a wide range of pre- existing anxieties and concerns. But its real contribution consists in identifying and promoting grievance and then aiming it at political opponents.

And finally, the movement offers its supporters a means of reconciling two seemingly contradictory notions: that our nation is the greatest nation on earth precisely because
it is a Christian nation; and at the same time that our nation is overrun with alien and evil forces. On the one hand, Christian nationalists are America, at least in their own minds. On the other hand, movement supporters are persuaded that America is in the grip of malevolent forces, which they variously identify as “secularists,” “the homosexual agenda,” “the communist threat,” and even “demonic organizations,” and they insist they need to “take America back.” The ability to keep a population in this state of tension — engaged in an apocalyptic struggle between absolute good and its opposite — is critical to the movement’s power.

All three mechanisms were on display during the attempted coup, which erupted in violence on January 6. On the matter of information flows, there was no shortage of publicly available evidence on the question of the integrity of the 2020 election. There was no factual support for the fraudulent claims that were repeatedly promoted by Mr. Trump and used as the pretext for his attempted coup. There are of course many sources of disinformation, and a number have become the focus of commentators: social media in general, Fox News, Breitbart News Network, and too many others to count. All played significant roles, no doubt. But it is clear that disinformation about the 2020 election was promoted by many Christian nationalist leaders and organizations, and it had a lasting impact among the rank and file. Within the Republican base, survey data shows that white evangelicals are the most likely cohort to believe in Mr. Trump’s election lies

The leadership of the Christian nationalist movement conveys messaging to their followers through a wide range of means. Among the most important is the targeting and exploitation of the nation’s conservative houses of worship. The faith communities may be fragmented in a variety of denominations and theologies, but movement leaders have had considerable success in uniting them around their political vision and mobilizing them to get out the vote for their chosen candidates.

Leaders of the movement know that members of the clergy can drive votes. They also understand that if you can get congregants to vote on a small handful of issues, you can control their vote. And so they draw pastors into conservative networks focused on political engagement and offer them sophisticated tools that they can use to deliver the “correct” messages about the issues that they wish to emphasize in election cycles.

It is fair to say that the coup attempt started with the actions of Mr. Trump, who very few people identify directly with the “family values” that Christian nationalists frequently claim to support. But this misses the point about the way this kind of movement operates. Once the movement laid the basic groundwork for an antidemocratic politics, others in Mr. Trump’s position could have done what he did. The movement threw its support behind Mr. Trump at a critical moment, delivering to him the Republican Party’s most reliable slice of electoral votes. He in turn gave the movement everything he had promised them: power and political access, access to public money, policies favorable to their agenda, and above all the appointment of hard-right judges.

At the 2021 Road to Majority conference, a gathering of religious right activists, strategists, and political leaders, Senator Lindsey Graham said, “Bottom line is President Trump delivered, don’t you think?”

I continue from the next section that deals with the actions of the Christian Nationalists after President Biden won the election.

As the previous section shows, there is a substantial structural network in place that allows a few leaders at the top to push Christian nationalist disinformation and motivate a massive cadre of followers.

Christian nationalists engaged this network to win the election. This was electoral politics, but it was sold to the masses as spiritual warfare. Almost immediately after the polls closed on Election Day, that machinery changed gears to stoke outrage and fear, exhort action, and work to give Trump a second term as president, no matter what the voters wanted

During the lead up to January 6, Christian Nationalists took a major leadership role in organizing large demonstrations that served as dry runs for that fateful coup attempt.

Lance Wallnau, the father of American Dominionism, also frame the fight to overturn the election as a spiritual war. “Fighting with Trump is fighting with God,” he declared.5 This warfare rhetoric was tinged with violence — stochastic terrorism — that increased leading up to January 6…

The first was the Million MAGA March on November 14, 2020.

One of the first post-election rallies in Washington, D.C., took place on November 14 in Freedom Plaza. It was typical of the pre-January 6 rallies, with many of the same players and speakers. It opened with a prayer infused with Christian nationalism that set the tone for everything that happened later

The Proud Boys attended the rally and knelt in prayer. The Proud Boys are a neo-fascist, white supremacist group whose founder, Gavin McInnes, “calls himself a ‘Western chauvinist,’ espousing the idea that Western civilization, which he associates with ‘Judeo-Christian values,’ is superior to all others.”

There were many prayers that day and even into the night as violence broke out. Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who also promotes Christian nationalism, urged them to march to the Supreme Court, just as Trump urged them to march on the Capitol on January 6.11 They marched — they called it the “Million MAGA March” — down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Supreme Court for more speeches.

They marched with crosses, images of the Virgin Mary, “Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President” flags,”“An Appeal to Heaven” flags, and a red flag that proclaimed “JESUS IS LORD.” An RV bedecked in Trump paraphernalia declared, “PRAY FOR 45.” At the Supreme Court, they erected a massive white Christian cross. They carried yellow “Jesus Saves” signs and handwritten signs that said, “Jesus Saves, Trump Leads,” “Thank God for Trump,” “Jesus is King, Trump is president,” and “Ex: 28 vs. 11-19 [sic] It’s been done. My feet are on the ROCK,” which can be seen as someone preaches over a loudspeaker that “in the end, God has already won
the victory.” One woman in a QAnon T-shirt carried two signs “WE LOVE TRUMP” and “WE LOVE AMERICA, GOD & BABIES.” Another protester held two signs on a pole; the top said, “Isaiah 45” (alluding to Trump as King Cyrus), and the bottom, “True Believer in Christ 4 Trump.” He also carried the “Proud American Christian” flag featuring a red, white, and blue ichthys, which is an image of a fish used as a symbol of Christianity, sometimes called a “Jesus fish.”

One Trump supporter warned that day: “[C]areful what you wish for, because a wounded bear is a lot more dangerous than a bear that’s not wounded.” As night fell on November 14, violence erupted in D.C.

The violence we saw on November 14 was not the last time an event of this nature took such a turn — the mobs also turned violent at events on December 12 and January 6. The threat of violence was clear in the weeks before the attack on our Capitol.29 The rallies, the marching to the Capitol, the violence: Dry runs like this are typical of terrorist attacks.

The next rehearsal for January 6 was the Let the Church ROAR event of December 12. It was similar to the previous rally but with much more Christian or biblical imagery from the account of the Israelites marching around Jericho. The Baptist Joint Commission report noted:

Jericho March organized several events leading up to January 6. Throughout December, it had people marching around state capitols blowing shofars. On December 12, less than four weeks before the insurrection, Jericho March organized a “prayer rally” on the National Mall. They named the event “Let the Church ROAR.”

Partnering with Jericho March on “Let the Church ROAR” were Stop the Steal (Ali Alexander’s organization, which he said was inspired by Roger Stone) and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagles (Ed Martin’s group). In the press release for the event, Weaver, Grossu, Alexander, and Martin praised God and preached Christian nationalism. Martin said, “Our founder, the late Phyllis Schlafly, taught us to build bridges of faith, policy, and politics to keep America great and to always fight for God, country, and the family. Our groups are in this fight to save the Republic from all the forces that seek to destroy it and to restore America to the vision of our Founding Fathers.”

One video ad for the march made the violent undertones clear. It featured crowds chanting “fight for Trump” and multiple speakers talking about losing the nation, losing freedom, the last stand, and “fighting” to prevent that: “we will stand up and fight! … we’re going to protect this president … this is our fight, this is for our freedom.” The ad drew a clear line between Jericho March’s Let
the Church ROAR event on December 12 and the Million MAGA March on November 14, showing those crowds and saying it was the “biggest rally
….

Jericho March accustomed people to marching on the halls of power, just as they did on November 14 and as they would on January 6. In another promotional video for “Let the Church ROAR,” Grossu explained, “For the march, we are going to simultaneously go around the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, and Department of Justice, after we do that … we will gather onto the National Mall to hear some wonderful talks and prayers by faith leaders, political leaders, and also be led in praise and worship … .” The biblical allusion made violence the implicit goal of the march. In the Bible, Joshua’s army marched around Jericho for several days; the insurrectionists marched in multiple locations across the span of several weeks. Both culminated in violence.

“Let the Church ROAR” was held on the National Mall a few blocks from the Capitol and was basically another dry run for January 6. The crowd waved signs and flags that were seen at the Million MAGA March on November 14 and everywhere on January 6, including the “An Appeal to Heaven” flag and the yellow “Jesus Saves” sign. The crowd chanted “U-S-A.” Nearly every speaker invoked the genocide at Jericho in adoring terms or prayed to Jesus. “One nation under God,” was perhaps the most common refrain. One sang “Ave Maria.” Another sang “God Bless America.” They played Christian rock tunes, like “Chainbreaker,” in between the various speakers (and had a worship concert before the rally began). At the December 12 “Let the Church ROAR” event hosted by the Jericho March, the crowd waved yellow “Jesus Saves” signs as a band led a singalong of the Battle Hymn of the Republic while the livestream displayed the lyrics for all to join; on January 6, the attackers would sing the battle hymn in the Rotunda of the Capitol.

Over the coming weeks the Christian Nationalists supporting the violent overthrow of the government and Constitution to keep Trump in power grew more intense and indicative of the violence of January 6. The Baptist General Commission report goes into far more detail than I will do today. The report is detailed and it describes the violent machinations of Christian Nationalists on January 6, which I noticed and wrote about that day. However, I will add one more section about how deep Christian Nationalism motivated the participants on January 6:

The Rev. Kevin Jessip made the Christian nationalism explicit. “Some have said this is not a Christian nation. I’m telling you this is a Judeo-Christian nation. … Today, I call this the warrior mandate, a battle cry, a call to arms.” And then, almost as an afterthought, he qualified the belligerence with “in the spiritual realm.”55 He explained that the “battle cry” is a “mobilization of God’s men made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ and empowered by the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This battle cry is a Christian call to all Christian men … as we prepare for a strategic gathering of men in this hour to dispel the Kingdom of Darkness.” This was a sermon of Christian conquest framed with military terminology: warrior, battle cry, mobilization, secret weapon, enlistment, strategic, prisoners of war, glory, deployed in hostile territory under enemy occupation, commissioned as special forces, stationed, final mission to ending this high treason,
search and rescue team. And if the allusions weren’t clear enough, Jessip explained, “We are, without question, men born for war. We are fully equipped as warriors, with battle armor directed and suited for our assignment … to restore the Eden Mandate of occupation and expansion of the Glory of God, filling the earth.” He wanted an “Army of the Lord” and preached unadulterated Christian nationalism and a clear call to arms. Jessip himself had organized “The Return: National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance” on September 26, in Washington, D.C., and he viewed the Jericho March event as the “culmination” of that work.

But to view this as a completely Evangelical led movement need to realize that there are many other Roman Catholic Christian Nationalists who don’t care about the promise of the Declaration, the pluralism specifically intended by Founders, which protected religious minorities which at that time included Catholics who faced often violent persecution. Most American Catholics including Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops don’t understand this because of the prominent position the Roman Catholic Church holds in our society. One has to remember the historic role of the Roman Catholic Church as the State Church of many nations, especially in Europe and South America and its role in barbaric wars, persecutions of non-believers, and even aid to Nazi War criminals.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò preached that fighting for Trump was a holy crusade with “the lies and deceptions of the children of darkness” on one side and, on the other, “the silent army of the children of Light, the humble ranks who overthrow evil by invoking God, the praying army that walks around the walls of lies and betrayal in order to bring them down.” He added, “We fight the battles of the Lord with faith and courage, carrying the Ark of the Covenant in our hearts, remaining faithful to the teachings of the Gospel of Our Lord!” After preaching about the “deep state” and converting every public official, Viganò invoked Christian nationalism: “Be proud, as Christians and as patriots, to be able to give witness today to your faith in God and your love for the United States of America, for its Constitution, and for its president, Donald J. Trump.” An Italian citizen, Viganò repeatedly talked of “our nation” and “our beloved nation,” and ended with
a prayer that concluded, “… granting victory to those who served under thy holy banner, Amen. God bless our president. God bless the United States of America. One nation under God.”

During the assault the amount of Christian symbols, flags, songs, and prayers was overwhelming to me as I watched it in real time, but they were intermixed with the Confederate Battle Flag, Nazi symbols and imagery. The author of the section on Christian Nationalism during the attack goes into the sickening detail of all of those things, so I will only quote the end of that chapter:

An NPR journalist who is an expert in American extremist groups was struck by the diversity of the extremism that day:

Am I going to see an Oath Keeper? OK, there’s an Oath Keeper. Am I going to see the Three Percent logo? Definitely saw some of them there. Qanon, huge presence at this one. I saw neo-Confederates in the crowd, all sorts of white supremacist and neo- Nazi insignia, too. And all of the strands of American extremism were there in the same crowd. And what’s wilder is that they were in the same crowd with, you know, a grandmother from Arizona, you know, who fervently believes in her heart that the election was stolen and that her vote didn’t matter.

Yes, the groups were diverse. But it was the Christian nationalism that united them that day.

When writing this report and the epilogue of my book,I spoke with Luke Mogelson, the New Yorker journalist who filmed the shocking video of the attack from inside the Capitol. “The Christianity was one of the surprises to me in covering this stuff, and it has been hugely underestimated,” he said. “That Christian nationalism you talk about is the driving force and also the unifying force of these disparate players. It’s really Christianity that ties it all together.”

Despite their failure to keep Trump in power, Christian Nationalists have not given up, still promote the big lie of the stolen election, and labeling their opponents as Godless Communists and Socialists, and they remain committed to violence and every manner of activity contrary to the Gospel. Their warlike words and sermons have increased since January 6. This is most in evidence in Texas where the Republican Party of the State referred to Joe Biden to be an illegitimate President, and to urge a vote on secession in 2023.

Such talk in the light of a failed coup attempt is nothing more than sedition. But since the Texas Republicans are dominated by Christian Nationalists I expect nothing better. However, there are many Evangelicals who have the condemned Christian Nationalism that played such a large part in the insurrection, while others including Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress try to deflect blame on people who were not even there.

Christian Nationalists often refer to Trump as a deliverer like the Persian King Cyrus, who ended the Babylonian captivity and allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem. It is a false analogy. Instead, Trump was a modern day Constantine who made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. As the legendary Southern Baptist pastor of First Baptist church, Dallas and President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said:

Constantine, the Emperor, saw something in the religion of Christ’s people which awakened his interest, and now we see him uniting religion to the state and marching up the marble steps of the Emperor’s palace, with the church robed in purple. Thus and there was begun the most baneful misalliance that ever fettered and cursed a suffering world… When … Constantine crowned the union of church and state, the church was stamped with the spirit of the Caesars.

So don’t expect the violence and threats to end. Instead, expect them to increase, and expect violence, killings, and even mass murder committed by true believers in a lost but unending war in which they like so many others before them is justified because they believe that ”God is with them.” As Eric Hoffer wrote:

A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self.

That my friend defines the Christian Nationalist.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under authoritarian government, christian life, civil rights, faith, national security, News and current events, Political Commentary, Religion

The MAGA Violence Yet to Come


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have not written anything here for months, but the last few months have been so busy with teaching, and the finishing touches on Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. Likewise I am dealing with a number of physical issues which still continue. I think I mentioned the Kidney stone, and maybe the Carpal Tunnel syndrome. I have follow ups coming for both. I had a CT scan of the Kidney this morning in preparation for the follow up appointment with the Urologist. I am concerned that they might not gotten all of it as I still suffer from pain there. The follow up with the hand surgeon next month to determine the next steps in dealing with it which will likely involve a more complicated surgery. But enough excuses, the fact is that my mind and body were fried, I have taken the ten days since school ended to rest and recuperate, make changes to the website, and work with the publicity team at Potomac Books and University of Nebraska Press.

I have wanted to write but have not had the time or energy to do it, but that changes tonight. After taking the time to watch the January 6th hearings, and with everyone else watching relived that attack and listened to compelling evidence from members of the Trump administration and his re-election team revealing damning information on Trump’s egging on of the attack and the encouragement of the Proud Boys and other insurgents to kill Vice President Pence because ”deserved it.” In fact, an informant from the Proud Boys told the FBI that they intended to kill the Vice President that day, and they got within 40 feet of Pence and his family as they fled.

Then there were the mass murders, one specifically targeting Blacks in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York by a exceptionally racist 18 year old man armed with an AR-15 type weapon, he murdered 11 people, mostly senior citizens. He picked the store because he knew it was the most heavily Black neighborhood he could reach, and he travelled almost 200 miles to get there. Also the killing of 19 fourth graders and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, also by an 18 year old with an AR-15 type weapon. There have also been two church shootings by older men, one a gun dealer.

But these are but symptoms of an increasingly violent, gun worshipping culture, with leaders of the MAGA GOP leading the charge. Eric Greitens, the disgraced former governor of Missouri, now running for the GOP nomination for the Senate released a campaign ad with him armed with a pump action shotgun and a group of men dressed as soldiers, all heavily armed and in full combat gear breaking into an ordinary home. Greitens encouraged supporters to get their ”RINO hunting license” which has no limits. A RINO is what used to describe Republicans who were not full in with the party’s agenda. Most of the time it referred to centrists, or those slightly left of center. the first target of this was New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller during the 1964 GOP nominating convention in San Francisco. At that convention, supporters of Senator Barry Goldwater treated Rockefeller as an apostate, and too gain the support of Southern Democrats and the Dixiecrats of South Carolina Senator Strom Thurman who were livid over the Civil and Voting Rights Acts supported by President Lyndon Johnson and a coalition of Democrats and pro-Civil Rights Republicans including future President George H.W. Bush. No matter how one looks at it the 1964 GOP Convention was the watershed moment that led us to today. Baseball great, Jackie Robinson, a special delegate, and friend and supporter of Rockefeller described the fanatical racist crowd in San Francisco’s Cow Palace, in his book I Never Had it Made:

Robinson wrote of his experience at the 1964 Convention:

“I wasn’t altogether caught of guard by the victory of the reactionary forces in the Republican party, but I was appalled by the tactics they used to stifle their liberal opposition. I was a special delegate to the convention through an arrangement made by the Rockefeller office. That convention was one of the most unforgettable and frightening experiences of my life. The hatred I saw was unique to me because it was hatred directed against a white man. It embodied a revulsion for all he stood for, including his enlightened attitude toward black people.

A new breed of Republicans had taken over the GOP. As I watched this steamroller operation in San Francisco, I had a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.

The same high-handed methods had been there.

The same belief in the superiority of one religious or racial group over another was here. Liberals who fought so hard and so vainly were afraid not only of what would happen to the GOP but of what would happen to America. The Goldwaterites were afraid – afraid not to hew strictly to the line they had been spoon-fed, afraid to listen to logic and reason if it was not in their script.

I will never forget the fantastic scene of Governor Rockefeller’s ordeal as he endured what must have been three minutes of hysterical abuse and booing which interrupted his fighting statement which the convention managers had managed to delay until the wee hours of the morning. Since the telecast was coming from the West Coast, that meant that many people in other sections of the country, because of the time differential, would be in their beds. I don’t think he has ever stood taller than that night when he refused to be silenced until he had had his say.

Likewise Belva Davis, then a young African American journalist wrote of her experiences at that convention:

While the Goldwater organization tried to keep its delegates in check on the floor, snarling Goldwater fans in the galleries around us were off the leash. The mood turned unmistakably menacing…

Suddenly Louis and I heard a voice yell, “Hey, look at those two up there!” The accuser pointed us out, and several spectators swarmed beneath us. “Hey niggers!” they yelled. “What the hell are you niggers doing in here?’”

I could feel the hair rising on the back of my neck as I looked into faces turned scarlet and sweaty by heat and hostility. Louis, in suit and tie and perpetually dignified, turned to me and said with all the nonchalance he could muster, “Well, I think that’s enough for today.” Methodically we began wrapping up our equipment into suitcases.

As we began our descent down the ramps of the Cow Palace, a self-appointed posse dangled over the railings, taunting. “Niggers!” “Get out of here, boy!” “You too, nigger bitch!” “Go on, get out!” “I’m gonna kill your ass!”

I stared straight ahead, putting one foot in front of the other like a soldier who would not be deterred from a mission. The throng began tossing garbage at us: wadded up convention programs, mustard-soaked hot dogs, half-eaten Snickers bars. My goal was to appear deceptively serene, mastering the mask of dispassion I had perfected since childhood to steel myself against any insults the outside world hurled my way.

Then a glass soda bottle whizzed within inches of my skull. I heard it whack against the concrete and shatter. I didn’t look back, but I glanced sideways at Louis and felt my lower lip began to quiver. He was determined we would give our tormentors no satisfaction.

“If you start to cry,” he muttered, “I’ll break your leg.” 

It took another fifty two years for this evil wing of the GOP under the leadership of former President Trump to take control of the Republican Party. From the beginning Trump promoted violence against his opponents and was delighted to have the muscle of White Nationalist and Christian Nationalist paramilitaries like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the III Percenters, the Prayer Patriots, and others including Neo-Nazis, and the KKK. When Trump told the Proud Boys in 2020, ”Stand back and stand by“ they knew what he meant. On January 6th they were in position at the Capitol to breach the outer police lines before Trump urged the masses to march to the Capitol and called Mike Pence out as a coward and stated his disappointment with Pence. The threats made toward Pence, Speaker of the House Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and others in Congress, of both parties were so malignant that they beggar the imagination.

These threats have not stopped. Congressman Adam Kitzinger, a very conservative Republican who voted with Trump 90% of the time finally voted to impeach Trump in the Second Impeachment proceeding and is now one of two Republicans on the January 6th Commission received a hand written death threat targeting him and his family. Many GOP members have either shut up and become complicit through their silence, others who have actively aided him, and still more like Greitens who are not only aiding him but are encouraging violence and killing of all their opponents, Republican or Democrats. They are being aided and abetted by the propagandists of Fox News, Newsmax, One America News, Infowars, and other toxic spreaders of lies and disinformation. Of course there is the Dark Web where the mind numbing conspiracy theories of QAnon and other groups provide an endless supply of misinformation and lies through sites like 4Chan and 8Chan, and many others. Many of these sites aid in the targeting of opponents, and in abetting threats against them.

In light of how violent the GOP has become it is hard not to to believe that it will not get worse. Every indicator, the words and actions of GOP leaders, the targeting of racial, religious, and gender minorities by the GOP, especially in states like Texas and Florida in highly orchestrated campaigns to disenfranchise people, threaten them, or actively legislate punitive laws that target the civil rights, voting rights, and religious rights of racial, religious, or gender identity of citizens.

Since I am a historian of American racism, slavery, Jim Crow, as well as the Nazi crimes of the Holocaust, I cannot not see where this violent, authoritarian, theocratic and venomous MAGA is going. Since I believe that assassinations, mass killings, bombings and targeted killings of those opposed to Trump and MAGA will become commonplace in the next few months leading to the 2022 and 2024 elections, I will leave those who actively or passively support such violence with the words of Spencer Tracy playing Judge Dan Haygood in Judgement at Nuremberg:

Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.

That will be all for tonight but expect more, and more often.

Peace,

Padre Steve+


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Filed under civil rights, History, holocaust, leadership, News and current events, Political Commentary

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

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