American Elephants


The British are Going to the Polls Today by The Elephant's Child

From today’s Telegraph
2406-MATT-GALLERY-WEB-P1-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8In Britain it’s pouring, flash floods, and voters are caught in commuter chaos. The final opinion polls are too close to call, and are divided. There’s been a fake “BBC” announcement that says the polls are open on Friday.  Long lines at the polls. The polls close at 10 p.m. London time (6:00 a.m. Pacific time here). They will get results around nine hours later on Friday beginning around 7:00 a.m (London time). Lots of anger. British papers picked up videos of our Democrat’s publicity stunt “sit-down” on the floor of the house, to show that all’s normal in the Anglosphere.

More seriously, pause and think back to the first election in Iraq that swept like a thunderbolt across the Muslim world, with women proudly holding up their purple fingers to show that they had voted.

Makes you think about our chaos and anger a little differently.



Time Passes, Wars Fade into History, and We Fail to Learn the Lessons we Needed to Learn. by The Elephant's Child

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D-Day was 72 years ago, even the youngest survivors are in their 90s, and soon there will be no one at all who was alive then. And wars fade into history, poorly remembered as the historians try to understand how it all happened and what lessons we learned and what lesson we didn’t learn. Fortunately, after WWII we learned that you can’t just pack up and go home. You have to try to put things back together. Unfortunately, Obama didn’t learn any history.

When wars are over, everyone wants to bring the troops home and forget. We came home and disarmed ourselves after World War I, the “war to end all wars.” In 1933, the Army of the United States was 137,000 men — 16th in size in the world. The French army was five million strong. By Pearl Harbor , December 7, 1941, the U.S.Army was 1,640.000, and with U.S. entry into World War II, the army expanded to 8,300.000 officers and men. About 5,000,000 served overseas. By 1948 the army had declined to 554,000 and was totally unprepared for  the North Korean invasion of the South.

We just observed Memorial Day which is a remnant of the Civil War once called Decoration Day, when the surviving families decorated the graves of those who had died in the war. After 150 years, the Confederate Flag under which the South had fought is suddenly deemed too controversial and offensive to be seen. I lost two uncles on each side of the War Between the States.

It was Higgins Boats which led the D-Day invasion of Europe and the island hopping war in the Pacific. Yet how astounding to see, in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, the Normans invading England in 1066 in Higgins boats, and in The Lord of the Rings, it was the Orcs who manned the (admittedly more primitive) Higgins boats. So it is when wars slip into history. We receive our history in Hollywood fashion and the true history disappears forever, and we don’t learn the lessons we needed to learn.



Just Eleven Long Months and The War With Germany Was Over. by The Elephant's Child
Victor Davis Hanson wrote in 2014 in an excellent piece:

Seventy years ago this June 6, the Americans, British, and Canadians stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest amphibious invasion of Europe since the Persian king Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 b.c.

About 160,000 troops landed on five Normandy beaches and linked up with airborne troops in a masterly display of planning and courage. Within a month, almost a million Allied troops had landed in France and were heading eastward toward the German border. Within eleven months the war with Germany was over.

Eleven months to reduce the “Thousand Year Reich” to rubble. From the archives:

Berlin After the War, An Archive of Photos, newly Discovered in 2010

 A gallery of 19 photos from  Der Spiegel in 2010, showing the devastation and the small signs of resilience of Berlin in the weeks after the surrender of the city at the end of World War II.  There are hundreds of newly discovered photographs in the archive of a Berlin publishing house that will become a book titled Berlin After the War to be published to mark the anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany, on May 9, 1945.

Forgotten for decades, a trove of post-war photographs from 1945 has recently been unearthed. The snapshots illustrate the devastation of the German capital and capture the desperation of the city in the weeks after the end of World War II. They also show glimpses of Berlin’s resilience.

The soldier with the Iron Cross on his chest lies in the middle of the street.  His steel helmet has rolled away.  The Red Army Soldiers are turning him onto his back and cleaning their weapons.  They take no notice of the photographer kneeling to take the picture. He’s already taken dozens of shots today — this time he’s just chosen a corpse for the foreground.

It’s a scene from the final days of the World War II, taken somewhere in the center of Berlin.  For decades this picture , along with thousands of others lay in the archives of a Berlin publishing house.  Unnoticed.  It is only now that the collection has come to light.

The pictures capture a moment in the city that had reached the end of 12 years of dictatorship and a devastating war: Signs of those final battles, of death, destruction and hopelessness — but also of  life growing once again among the ruins.  They are photos that portray a grotesque normalcy, in contrast to the better-known images of heroic liberation and optimistic reconstruction.  They provide documentation of the city”s downfall in the blink of an eye between an end and a beginning.  A Berlin that was just beginning to free itself from its lethargy.

The sampling of the photos is fascinating.  And the book will fill a gap in the history of the War.   For history buffs, I highly recommend Antony Beevor’s The Fall of Berlin 1945.  And from John Keegan’s The Second World War:

On the 26th of April, 464,000 Soviet troops, supported by 12,700 guns, 21,000 rocket-launchers and 1500 tanks, ringed the inner city ready to launch the final assault of the siege. The circumstances of the inhabitants were now frightful.  …Food was running short, so too was water, while the relentless bombardment had interrupted electrical and gas supplies and sewerage; behind the fighting troops, moreover, ranged those of the second echelon, many released prisoners of war with a  bitter personal grievance against Germans of any age or sex, who vented their hatred by rape, loot and murder. …

The cost to the Red Army of its victory in the siege of Berlin had also been terrible.  Between 16 April and 8 May, Zhukov, Konev and Rokossovsky’s fronts had lost 304,887 men killed, wounded and missing, 10 per cent of their strength and the heaviest casualty list suffered by the Red Army in any battle of the war.  …

Peace brought  no rest to the human flotsam of the war, which swirled in hordes between and behind the victorious armies.  Ten million Wehrmacht prisoners, 8 million German refugees, 3 million Balkan fugitives, 2 million Russian prisoners of war, slave and forced labourers by the million — and also the raw material of the ‘displaced person’ tragedy which was to haunt Europe for a decade after the war — washed about the battlefield. … in the Europe to which their soldiers had brought victory, the vanquished and their victims scratched for food and shelter in the ruins the war had wrought.



Remember the Men of D-Day, June 6, 1944 by The Elephant's Child
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Reposted from 2015 ……..…………………………….(click to enlarge)

Major Werner Pluskat in his bunker overlooking Omaha Beach had heard nothing from his superiors. He was cold, tired and exasperated. He felt isolated. He couldn’t understand why there had been no reports from either regimental or division headquarters. …Once more he swung the artillery glasses over to the left, picked up the dark mass of the Cherbourg peninsula and began another slow sweep of the horizon. The same low banks of mist came into view, the same patches of shimmering moonlight, the same restless white flecked sea.Behind him in the bunker his dog Harras, was stretched out asleep. Nearby,  Captain Ludz Wilkening and Lieutenant Fritz Theen were talking quietly. Pluskat joined them. “Still nothing out there,” he told them.” I’m about to give it up. But he walked back to the aperture and stood looking out as the first streaks of light began to lighten the sky. He decided to make another routine sweep.Wearily, he swung the glasses over to the left again. Slowly he tracked across the horizon. He reached the dead center of the bay. The glasses stopped moving. Pluskat tensed, stared hard.Through the scattering thinning mist the horizon was filling with ships — ships of every size and description, ships that casually maneuvered back and forth as though they had been there for hours. There appeared to be thousands of them. Pluskat stared in frozen disbelief, speechless, moved as he had never been before in his life. At that moment the world of the good soldier Pluskat began falling apart. He says that in those first few moments he knew, calmly and surely, that “this was the end for Germany.”      Cornelius Ryan: The Longest Day


What the Heck is BREXIT ? They Sound a Lot Like Our Revolutionaries Back in 1776! by The Elephant's Child

BREXIT stands for the British exit from the European Union, and the British people will vote on whether to leave or stay on June 23.  It’s a very, very big deal. This is an hour long movie, so you’ll want to watch it in the evening. It’s very well done, with many of my favorite Brits explaining why the European Union does not work — Daniel Hannan, James Delingpole, Matt Ridley, Janet Daley, and Melanie Phillips.

The movie explains how the European Common Market seemed like such a good idea after World War II, how it morphed into the European Union, and what happened when the regulators took over.

It’s a remarkably Leftist Union, sure from its beginnings that control and regulation would fix all the wars and arguments and end poverty and hunger and, well you’re familiar with all the unfilled promises of the Left. When President Obama stopped by in Britain in April, he wrote an op-ed in The Telegraph to tell the British what they needed to do to get full U.S. support—which included staying in the EU, and unsurprisingly ignited a firestorm. Bad manners, but Obama would like the control and regulation and unaccountable government, as he has so clearly demonstrated. Angelina Jolie was just there to tell the Brits not to even think of leaving.

The movie explains how it all came to be and the immense, smothering, unaccountable bureaucracy that it has become. It is a dire warning to us about the rights and possibilities we might well lose if we continue to allow the Left to govern our country. Do set aside time to watch history being made across the pond.



Obama Managed to Ignite a Firestorm in Britain by The Elephant's Child

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I always understood that the White House had a Protocol Office that kept  Presidents informed on manners and customs in the various countries the President might visit, and with how to treat the diplomats and leaders of other countries. I don’t know if President Obama has abolished the office, or if he just doesn’t pay any attention.

On his visit to England, President Obama felt called upon to write an op-ed in The Telegraph, one of the leading British newspapers. He skirted the history of British-American relations, and then summarized what he expects the British need to do to get our full support. We must be resolute and adaptive in preventing terrorist attacks, resolve conflicts in the Middle East, invest in NATO so we can meet our commitments and then he stuck his nose into the upcoming Brexit election, which is a difficult and touchy issue in England about whether to continue membership or leave the European Union.

That ignited a firestorm. It was a remarkably poor choice for an American president to tell the British what to do.

So I will say, with the candour of a friend, that the outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States. The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe’s cemeteries are a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly are. And the path you choose now will echo in the prospects of today’s generation of Americans as well.

As citizens of the United Kingdom take stock of their relationship with the EU, you should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices – democracy, the rule of law, open markets – across the continent and to its periphery. The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership. The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the US and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe. …

When it comes to creating jobs, trade, and economic growth in line with our values, the UK has benefited from its membership in the EU – inside a single market that provides enormous opportunities for the British people. And the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU will advance our values and our interests, and establish the high-standard, pro-worker rules for trade and commerce in the 21st century economy.

— “President Obama’s warning to those championing Britain’s exit from the EU was stark: Leave, he said, and the “U.K. is going to be in the back of the queue” on trade deals with the U.S.”

Mr Obama’s catchphrase is ‘Yes, you can! – so why is he telling us Brits “No you can’t’?

— “Obama infuriates the Brits as he threatens to send UK to the back of the queue’ if they vote to leave the European Union.”

— “Barack Obama, our fair-weather friend, is wrong about the EU”

— “Armed Forces Minister: Obama ‘Woefully Ignorant ‘ of Threat EU Membership Poses”

— “Obama might as well have declared: ‘Britain lost the War of Independence because you have small d**ks’

American presidents usually do not comment or express opinion publicly in elections in other countries, but Australia and Canada have heard from Mr. Obama about their internal affairs.

Mr.Obama has been very outspoken about his irritation at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress when he was invited by Republicans to address them. When Honduran President Zelaya was ousted in a military coup after he tried to rewrite their Constitution to extend his tenure in office, President Obama commented in favor of Zelaya and in contradiction of Honduran Law. Obama’s campaign people have turned up in other elections.



February 22 is George Washington’s Real Birthday, Not Some Ginned Up “President’s Day” by The Elephant's Child

Imagine, you just turned 43 years old, and suddenly you find yourself Commander in Chief of a ragtag American army, such as it was. The battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill had already been fought when Washington arrived in Massachusetts, and had established that the British  could not break out of Boston. Once Washington placed the captured British cannon on Dorchester Heights, the British evacuated by sea. p1070056

Washington had been named Commander in Chief by the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia in June 1775. He was forty-three years old. There was not yet any American army for him to command, only the militias ringing Boston, but the delegates of the increasingly rebellious colonies were seized by  fury for action and for war. “Oh that I was a soldier,” wrote John Adams, a radical lawyer from Massachusetts. “I will be. I am reading military books.  Everybody must and will, and shall be a soldier.”

Adams never became a soldier, but Washington had already been one.  He had served in the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War twenty years earlier, rising to the rank of colonel.  In his old age, Adams would describe Washington’s selection as a political compromise—a southern commander, to lead what would at first be a mostly New England force—engineered by congressional wise-men, including Adams. But Congress did not have many other officers to choose from, Israel Putnam, of the Connecticut militia, was, at 57, too old.  Artemas Ward, the commander of the Massachusetts militia, was incompetent and suffering from the stone.

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The state begins in violence.  However lofty the ideals of a new country or a new regime, it encounters opposition, as most new regimes and countries do, it must fight. If it loses, its ideals join the long catalogue of unfulfilled aspirations.

At six o’clock on the evening of July 9, 1776, the soldiers of the main American army, stationed in New York, were paraded and read the Declaration of Independence. General George Washington, Commander in Chief, hoped this “important event” would inspire them, though when some soldiers joined a mob in pulling down a statue of George III, he deplored their “want of order.” Over the next two months the American army and its commander, orderly or not, were unable to offer much in defense of the Declaration’s sentiments. …

During the summer, the British assembled, on Staten Island and in the harbor, the largest expeditionary force of the eighteenth century: ten ships of the line, twenty frigates, and 32,000 regular troops.  On August 22, most of those troops began moving to Gravesend Bay on Long Island, in what is now southwest Brooklyn.  Anticipating a possible landing there, Washington had posted more than a third of his own force of 19,000 men on Brooklyn Heights, and on a line of hills to the  south.  But he expected the British to attack him on the harbor side of his position, where they could bring the guns of their ships into play. On the morning of the 27th, the British slipped a force through the hills five miles away in the opposite direction and hit the American front line from before and behind.

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These are excerpts from Richard Brookheiser’s  Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, which he calls a moral biography, which has two purposes: to explain its subject, and to shape the minds and hearts of those who read it—by showing how a great man navigated politics and a life as a public figure.  Brookheiser says “If Washington’s contemporaries were too willing to be awed, we are not willing enough. …We have lost the conviction that ideas require men to bring them to earth, and that great statesmen must be great men. Great statesmen are rare enough in their world. We believe they are mythical, like unicorns.” They are not.

According to recent studies, our kids don’t know anything about George Washington, nor do most adults. There is some speculation that the problem is big fat books. People are more apt to read thin books that don’t scare them about the time involved. Answering that need is a new short biography by the great British historian Paul Johnson. The paperback is only $8.71, and a hardback is available.

ADDENDUM: The picture above is a forensic reconstruction of Washington as a General, and Commander in Chief. Getting a likeness is hard. You get one thing just a little off, and you have lost the resemblance. Washington’s skin was pale, we are told, and he burned in the sun. I don’t think the tricorn hat gives even as much protection as a baseball cap, so I’m sure he appeared much more weathered, with squint lines (no sunglasses). His real hair was reddish. But nasty Stuart Gilbert did him real dirt down through the ages by overemphasizing the distortions of false teeth, and getting a poor likeness. Remember that, every time you look at a one dollar bill. It was deliberate.




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