American Elephants


The Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815 by The Elephant's Child

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Napoléon Bonaparte, born August 15, 1769 on the island of Corsica, rose from an artillery officer in the French Army,  to prominence during the French Revolution and its associated wars. He dominated French affairs for two decades while leading France against 220px-Jacques-Louis_David_-_The_Emperor_Napoleon_in_His_Study_at_the_Tuileries_-_Google_Art_Projecta series of coalitions in the Revolutionary Wars and what came to be called the Napoleonic Wars.

He became Emperor of France in 1804. He was one of the greatest military commanders in history and his campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide.

Today, the British are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, by a coalition led by the British Duke of Wellington, pictured at top to Napoleon’s right in the red coat.

Andrew Roberts has a new biography just out. I’ve heard him interviewed on the radio, and it sounds very interesting. British children learn two major dates — 1066, the Battle of Hastings, and 1815, the Battle of Waterloo — or at least they used to. Of course there is a movie, called appropriately — “Waterloo.”



Piper Bill Millin Pipes the Invasion Forces Ashore on Sword Beach by The Elephant's Child

Bill Millin, Lord Lovat’s personal piper, is pictured here ready to jump from the ramp of the landing craft into the icy water of Sword beach on June 6, D–Day, 1944.  Lord Lovat is thigh-deep in the water just to the left of Bill Millin’s arm.  As the Telegraph obituary says: “As the Cameron tartan of his kilt floated to the surface he struck up with Hieland Laddie.  He continued to pipe even as the man behind him was hit, dropped into the sea and sank.

Millin said “I was so relieved of getting off that boat after all night being violently sick.  When I finished, Lovat asked for another tune.  Well, when I looked round — the noise and people lying about shouting and the smoke, the crump of mortars, I said to myself  “Well, you must be joking surely.” He said “What was that?” and he said “Would you mind giving us a tune?” “Well, what tune would you like, Sir?” “How about The Road to the Isles?” “Now, would you want me to walk up and down, Sir?” “Yes, That would be nice.  Yes, walk up and down.”

And that’s what Bill Millin did, walked up and down the invasion beach at water’s edge, blasting out a series of tunes.  Bodies of the fallen were drifting to and fro in the surf.  Soldiers were trying to dig in and, when they heard the pipes, many of them waved and cheered — though one came up to Millin and called him “a mad bastard.”

For many soldiers, the piper provided a unique boost to morale.  “I shall never forget hearing the skirl of Bill Millin’s pipes” said one, Tom Duncan, many years later.  “It is hard to describe the impact it had.  It gave us a great lift and increased our determination.  As well as the pride we felt, it reminded us of home and why we were there fighting for our lives and those of our loved ones.”

After the Great War the War Office had banned pipers from leading soldiers into battle after losses had become too great. “Ah, but that’s the English War Office,” Lovat told Millin.  You and I are both Scottish and that doesn’t apply.”  Millin was the only piper on D-Day.

Millin died on August 17, 2010 aged 88.  He piped the invasion forces on to the shores of France, unarmed apart from the ceremonial dagger in his stocking.  The mayor of Colleville-Montgomery, a town on Sword Beach, has offered a site for a life-size statue of Millin opposite the place where he landed on D-Day. His pipes are in the Scottish War Museum.

Bill Millin’s personal account of D-Day is found here, and the Telegraph’s obituary is here. Millin has been justly famous in all accounts of the D-Day invasion, especially his courageous march across Pegasus Bridge at the crossing of the Orne.  This may have been the last time that a Scottish piper led Scottish troops into battle.



Remember the Men of D-Day, June 6, 1944 by The Elephant's Child
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Reposted from 2013 ……..…………………………….(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

ADDENDUM:  The Greatest Generation is passing into history. The youngest who turned 18 in 1943 will be 90 years old in 2015,(not including those who lied about their age). Honor them, for they saved the world at enormous cost.  Think too, of those on the home front who built the ships and planes and made the materials that won the war. They built the arsenal of Democracy.



Seventy-Five Years Ago Today, Winston Churchill Told the House of Commons and the British People “We Shall Never Surrender” by The Elephant's Child
June 4, 2015, 10:39 pm
Filed under: History, World War II | Tags: , , ,

WinstonChuechillSeventy-five years ago today, Winston Churchill stood defiantly before Parliament and delivered a speech that roused not only Britain, but the free world. Churchill had long warned that Adolf Hitler was a threat to the free world, and that Nazi Germany represented tyranny. He was convinced that only Britain and her American cousins stood in the way.

In 1933, the Army of the United States numbered 137,000 men, the 16th in the world. The French army was 5 million strong. Roosevelt declared the United States neutral. Russia invaded Poland from the east. 1940: Chamberlain resigned and Churchill became Prime Minister. Germany invaded Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. The Dutch army surrendered, Belgium capitulated.

May 29 to June 3, trapped  British forces were evacuated from Dunkirk by a vast flotilla of Navy ships and brave little boats manned by British volunteers. At the outset, it was hoped that 45,000 men might be rescued, but the seas remained calm and the Royal Air Force fought to deny the enemy air supremacy. Over 338,000 allied troops reached England, including 26,000 French soldiers. That was the situation when Winston Churchill, the new Prime Minister, rose to speak to the House of Commons and the British people.

The speech is long, and to be found here in its entirety It ended with these long remembered stirring words:

…we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.



General David Petraeus Speaks to Us From Northern Iraq: by The Elephant's Child
May 23, 2015, 8:10 pm
Filed under: History | Tags: , , ,

The Washington Post on Wednesday carried answers to written questions from reporter Liz Sly while he was attending the annual Sulaimani Forum, a get- together of Iraqi leaders, thinkers and academics, at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

He spoke of mistakes the Americans have made and mistakes the Iraqis themselves have made, the squandering of so much of what we had achieved, and the exploitation of those failures by extremists on both sides.

Having said that, my sense is that the situation in Iraq today is, to repeat a phrase I used on the eve of the surge, hard but not hopeless. I believe that a reasonable outcome here is still achievable, although it will be up to all of us — Iraqis, Americans, leaders in the region and leaders of the coalition countries — to work together to achieve it.

What has happened in Iraq is a tragedy — for the Iraqi people, for the region and for the entire world. It is tragic foremost because it didn’t have to turn out this way. The hard-earned progress of the Surge was sustained for over three years.  What transpired after that, starting in late 2011, came about as a result of mistakes and misjudgments whose consequences were predictable. And there is plenty of blame to go around for that.

Yet despite that history and the legacy it has left, I think Iraq and the coalition forces are making considerable progress against the Islamic State. In fact, I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran.

The whole piece is to be found here. Do read the whole thing, it’s not long.



Is The Constitution Dead? Did It Die While We Weren’t Paying Attention? by The Elephant's Child

Constitution

This lovely paragraph is in Myron Magnet’s review of Philip Hamburger’s Is Administrative Law Unlawful? in City Journal, the magazine of the Manhattan Institute:

The world-historical accomplishment of the American Revolution, and of the Constitution that came out of it, Hamburger notes, was that they turned upside-down the traditional governmental model of “elite power and popular subservience.” Americans “made themselves masters and made their lawmakers their servants” through a Constitution that they themselves had made. They observed laws that had legitimacy because they themselves had consented to them, through representatives whom they themselves had chosen. And “they made clear that not only their executives but even their legislatures were without absolute power.” Citizens claimed for themselves the liberty to do anything that the laws didn’t expressly forbid, and that freedom richly nourished talent, invention, experimentation, specialization—all the human qualities that are the fuel of progress and modernity.

It struck me that much of what drives the Left is contained in that paragraph. What the Left aims for is elite power and popular subservience. Obama, today, in response to a Republican sweep of the 2014 election, has decided, instead of making an effort to work with Congress in a bipartisan manner, to conduct foreign policy and legislate all on his lonesome. Politicians, by their very nature have a healthy dose of self-esteem, and they choose their rhetoric carefully to place their accomplishments or lack of accomplishments in the best possible light. That’s just natural. But insisting that because you are President of the United States you can do whatever you want to do by executive order, ignoring the tripartite nature of our Constitutional government, is just wrong.

The Constitution lodges all legislative power in Congress, which therefore cannot delegate its lawmaking function. It is, Hamburger says, “forbidden for Congress to pass a law creating an executive branch agency that writes rules legally binding on citizens—for example, to set up an agency charged with making a clean environment and then to let it make rules with the force of law to accomplish that end as it sees fit. The power of the legislative’ as the Founding Fathers’ tutelary political philosopher, John Locke, wrote, is   ‘only to make laws and not to make legislators.’ And if Congress can’t delegate the legislative power that the Constitution gives it, it certainly cannot delegate power that the Constitution doesn’t give it—namely, the power to hand out selective exemption from its laws, which is what agencies do when they grant waivers.”

James Madison, architect of the Constitution saw the separation of powers as an essential bulwark of American liberty. Administrative agencies, however, make rules, carry them out, adjudge and punish infractions of them, and wrap up legislative, executive and judicial powers in one noxious unconstitutional mess. Judicial power cannot be delegated as legislative power, the Constitution puts all of it in the judicial branch. Unlike real judges, administrative judges carry out the policy of their agency, as set and overseen by their department chief or the relevant cabinet secretary who in turn oversees him. This is not a court, and not a law, and not legal. Yet they can and do order  parties to appear before it, and extort millions of dollars in settlements, force companies to allow inspectors to enter their premises without warrants, and impose real criminal penalties. It can even kill a whole industry, as Obama’s EPA is attempting to do to the coal industry and the coal-fired power industry because the President mistakenly believes the carbon dioxide they emit is the cause of global warming.

Elites, particularly Leftist elites, do not like the Constitution which restrains their grasp for power. Many have accused Barack Obama of wanting to be a king. He laughs it off, and tries to pretend that his executive orders and executive notes and memorandums and signing statements are all perfectly constitutional, and adds, of course, that Bush did it.

Constitutional government is by its nature slow, designed to force new laws to be discussed and argued about, which will incline them to be better written and better law. But Congress, at some point got lazy, and felt it would speed things up if they just handed the administrative function in its entirety off to the assorted agencies of the government.

Thanks to Obama, we have a prime example of the failure of that whole endeavor in the Environmental Protection Agency. Good intentions come up against the nature of bureaucracy which is to grow and elaborate their mission and enhance their power. The Clean Water Act has long since accomplished it’s intent, and the EPA is vigilantly attempting to extend its regulating power to the trickles that flow into the ditches that flow into the creeks that flow into the streams that eventually flow into the “navigable waters,” the big rivers, that were originally given into their oversight. That’s pure power grab.

Congress must take back the legislative power assigned to it, agencies must shrink drastically in size, authority, and reach. They are not allowed to make law, administer law, investigate and judge law and assign penalties. Things have gotten so far out of whack that most, if not all, agencies have their own swat teams.

Part of the problem is that judges don’t know or understand the intricacies of the underlying facts of that which the agencies are attempting to regulate. Congress told the EPA that the navigable waters of the United States should be reasonably clean. The courts don’t necessarily understand where the dividing line for “enough” should fall.

Even while adhering to Supreme Court precedents about administrative power, they “remain free—indeed, [the courts] are bound by duty—to expound the unlawfulness of such power.” And at some point, Hamburger expects, the Supreme Court will have to man up and frankly state that what the Constitution says is the supreme law of the land.

And the people are going to have to let their representatives know that we care about the Constitution and our freedom, and are opposed to the administrative state.



There Is No Deal. There Is No “Framework” Deal. There Is No Truth! by The Elephant's Child

The New York Times headline claimed “Iran Agrees to Detailed Nuclear Outline. The Washington Post followed up with: “Iran agrees to nuclear restrictions in framework deal with world powers.” All hogwash. The “historic agreement” that President Obama is trying desperately to sell is pure fantasy. There has been no agreement on any of the fundamental issues that have led to international concern about Iran’s highly secret nuclear activities and have led to 13 years of diplomatic thrusts and talks and six mandatory resolutions by the United Nations Security Council.

What we have is a bunch of contradictory statements by the assorted  participants in the latest round of talks in Switzerland and an ignored deadline. Everybody is trying to make positive statements that spin things in a desirable manner without exceeding the boundaries of reality. So there was a 291 word joint statement in English by Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif and the EU foreign policy leader Federica Mogherini who led the so-called P5+1 group of nations including the US in the negotiations.

Then there was the official Iranian text in 512 Persian words, and the text from US Secretary of State John Kerry who has put out a 1,318 word document which acts as if all is a done deal. The three different documents not only do not agree, they are frankly contradictory. The Mogherini and French texts are vague and not even good spin.

The Persian text carefully avoids any words that might in any way give the impression that anything has been agreed by the Iranian side or that the Islamic republic has offered any concessions whatsoever. The Iranian text is labelled as a press statement only. It opens insisting that it has no “legal aspect” and in intended only as a “guideline for drafting future accords.” Last April they were caught cheating on the amount of oil they were allowed to export under the relaxed sanctions.

The American text pretends to spell out “parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” and claims that key points have been “decided” — and what remains to be done is  to work out the “implementation details.” The U.S.version claims that Iran has agreed to certain restraints for example reducing the number of centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,500.

The Iranian text, however, says that Iran “shall be able to …” or “qader khahad boud” in Farsi to do such a thing. The same is true about enrichment in Fordow. The Americans say Iran has agreed to stop enrichment there for 15 years. The Iranian text, however, refers to this as something that Iran “will be able to do,” if it so wished. Sometimes the two texts are diametrically opposed.

The American statement claims that Iran has agreed not to use advanced centrifuges, each of which could do the work of 10 old ones. The Iranian text, however, insists that “on the basis of solutions found, work on advanced centrifuges shall continue on the basis of a 10-year plan.”

The American text claims that Iran has agreed to dismantle the core of the heavy water plutonium plant in Arak. The Iranian text says the opposite. The plant shall remain and be updated and modernized.

The American text talks of “sanctions relief” while Iran claims that the sanctions would be  “immediately terminated.” Which is it? This is not a small matter. Remember that Obama is a fierce competitor and determined to build a legacy, and get his way.

In his Rose Garden statement, Obama said:

Over a year ago, we took the first step towards today’s framework with a deal to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in key areas.  And recall that at the time, skeptics argued that Iran would cheat, and that we could not verify their compliance and the interim agreement would fail. Instead, it has succeeded exactly as intended. Iran has met all of its obligations. It eliminated its stockpile of dangerous nuclear material.  Inspections of Iran’s program increased. And we continued negotiations to see if we could achieve a more comprehensive deal.

Today, after many months of tough, principled diplomacy, we have achieved the framework for that deal.  And it is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives.  This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.  Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.  So this deal is not based on trust, it’s based on unprecedented verification.

According to the Persians, they have agreed to no such thing. Iran has said clearly that Obama is lying. Iran has cheated on every single restriction ever placed on them. There have been 20 years of nuclear deal-breaking. In 2003, after Iran came clean, inspectors kept finding new and undeclared sites within Iran. In December they were caught shopping for components for its heavy-water reactor which can produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Iran says plainly that they will not shut down a single facility, will not dismantle a single centrifuge, and will not ship it’s stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country. The UN inspections people say they really don’t know just what the Iranians have, and won’t know without being able to do surprise inspections.

But Obama wants you to know that the deal he has not made is a good one. He claimed that the only alternative to his deal was another ground war in the Middle East. Yet anyone who has been paying the slightest attention could come up with several alternatives. Obama is regarded as completely weak. The Arab nations have joined together with Israel to protest the deal he seems so determined on. He says “this is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.” But he also says that ” Iran wants to join the community of nations” just at the moment that they are sponsoring genocide in Syria. He seems to think the Iranian people want to be part of that community, without any understanding that Iran is a dictatorial theocracy, and if the people dared to speak out, which they don’t, they would swiftly be executed.

Willful ignorance, and a frightening fantasy. When they shriek “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” — they actually mean it.




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