Book Reviews

The American Conservative Reviews Scott Horton’s Newest Book

The American Conservative Reviews Scott Horton’s Newest Book

We’re approaching the 20th anniversary of the Global War on Terror when the George W. Bush administration made the decision to ruin the 21st century. Trillions of dollars spent, a permanent and expanding war bureaucracy on our shores, upwards of a million civilians dead, tens of millions more displaced, entire regions of the globe destabilized, and the American people no safer than they were on September 10.

When the immensity of the nefariousness is laid bare, a normal man is tempted, in the words of satirical cynic H.L. Mencken, “to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” That is the conclusion when one finishes Scott Horton’s Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, which stands as the most irrefutably argued and damning indictment of modern U.S. foreign policy yet written.

Published on the anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, its release date is a distressing reminder that, with a brief respite from 2011 to 2014, the United States has been bombing Iraq continuously for 30 years. Add Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and a dozen other countries, and the cascade of errors (and worse) can overwhelm the reader.

Indefatigable localist writer and TAC luminary Bill Kauffman once called the unasked question of American foreign policy, “What does this war mean for my block, my neighborhood, my town?” Horton’s answer, as biting as it is accurate, is that the American people have gained nothing from the War on Terrorism “beyond, perhaps, increasingly necessary technological advancements in the manufacture of prosthetic limbs.”

The schizophrenic demeanor of Uncle Sam is summarized succinctly:

The U.S. backed the Arab-Afghan mercenaries and terrorists and then fought them; backed Saddam Hussein and then fought him; backed the Taliban and then fought them; worked for Sadr, then fought him; fought al Qaeda in Iraq, backed them, and then fought them again; worked with Gaddafi, Assad and the Houthis against al Qaeda, and then fought all of them too—for al Qaeda. Does that sound right to you?

According to majorities of Republicans, Democrats, veterans, and every other polled demographic, that does not sound right. If there is one through-line in Enough Already, it is the contempt that the managerial elite hold for the average American and his antiquated loyalty to fellow citizens.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, should the focus of the United States have been apprehending Osama bin Laden and those responsible? “I don’t know where he is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him,” President Bush said, after his obstinance allowed the terrorist leader to escape from Tora Bora. “I truly am not that concerned about him.”

Should the U.S. military be used as a tool to knock off secular dictators, inversely advancing the strategic goals of either the Islamic Republic of Iran or Sunni jihadists? Yes, according to every think tank report produced in Washington or Tel Aviv in the 1990s and 2000s.

Should the American government provide training, weapons, and money to terrorists sworn loyal to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the butcher of New York City, in the most treasonous operation since the Rosenbergs? Try to ask the late Senator John McCain, who took selfies with the Northern Storm Brigade in Syria just years after their members were shooting American servicemen in Iraq. Or Foreign Affairs, the flagship journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, which published numerous articles with innocuous titles like “Accepting al Qaeda.”

Horton represents the pinnacle of citizen journalism, a man outside major media institutions who feels more comfortable at a skatepark than a newsroom. When the Washington Post op-ed page was disseminating disinformation about WMDs in Iraq, Horton was debunking “aluminum tubes” to any stranger who transited his taxicab on the way to the Austin airport.

The disparity between Horton’s history of U.S. foreign policy and the narrative perpetuated by the corporate press is depicted in an exchange between the author and Charlie Savage, “probably the second or third least-worst reporter at the Times.” When confronted about his publication’s circulation of a false report about Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Savage counseled Horton, “I think you have overlearned the lessons of the pre-Iraq War reporting failures—almost 20 years ago now—and see that dynamic as the norm rather than the aberration that it was.”

May all sensible Americans “overlearn” the lessons of the Iraq war! According to Horton, the lessons are: “These wars are already lost. There is no victory or stable peace to be had in any of them. If the U.S. must stay until its goals have been accomplished, then that is not opposition or skepticism, but a blank writ for another two decades of war.”

The path towards absolution is clear. Sweep aside the insufferable patricians who scorn our nation. Stop invading other countries. End the drone war. Abandon the quest for universal empire. Bring our troops home. And be satisfied with the advice of that great statesman of Idaho, William Borah, who told us to “hold fast to those political principles and foreign policies which others call provincialism but which we call Americanism.”

This article was originally featured at The American Conservative and is republished with permission of author.

Reflections on ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’

Reflections on ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.”- Santayana

There are some books you read which leave lasting scars on the mind. For me, that was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. Having first read it as a child when war was only a genre of films and comic book features, it exposed a dark truth about war and the evils of the Nazi regime. It was a book of horror. Having recently re-read it as an adult—after consuming many other books detailing history’s most terrilbe moments—its initial horror remains shocking.

Shirer’s extensive history of Nazi Germany is a heavy read not without its share of controversy (which given the subject matter, nor should it be). While it focuses on a uniquely German totalitarianism, its portrayal of victims and villains is universally human. Published only fifteen years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the book was a surprise success.

Shirer looks at a deeper history of German culture reaching back to Martin Luther, discovering the origins of the Nazi state in pride, militaristic inclinations, a society driven to order and one that rewarded strong national and cultural identities. Following the shame and loss of World War I, economic depression, the emergence of radical anti-liberal and anti-traditional politics, the Nazis promised a restored Germany filled with the romantic delusions of fundamentalist zealotry. The dream of a thousand year Reich was born, to be built upon the bones of millions of individuals.

The Nazi state, as impressive and imperial as it became, began as a putrid ideology festering inside beer halls, spread by the minds and words of angry radicals. The party grew over time, mutating with each personality and influenced from places of simplistic solutions and blame into a welfare-warfare state built on racial nationalism. Sharing the very worse of left and right wing politics, Adolf Hitler became the great leader.

The hatred that the Nazi regime was able to manifest was done with such scale and implementation that it took more than just the single ideology of Nazism to make it possible. If history had only limited periods and examples of genocide and cruelty then it would be easy to just blame the Nazi ideology itself. Mass extermination and torture of innocent human beings had and was occurring elsewhere. From the Armenian genocide to the cruel policies in the Soviet Union, these predecessors assured the Nazi leadership that they too could implement terror on the innocent with impunity. As Shirer details, the Nazi state had a unique evil to its policies.

The book’s bitter facts expose the willingness of well educated and intelligent individuals to surpass any morality so that they may satisfy scientific and medical curiosities. The extensive nature of experimentation is given a degree of detail. Research that was conducted on unwilling and tortured individuals who suffered so that scientists and a state obsessed with racial supremacy and war could expand its knowledge about the ability to heal and destroy. It took such men of talent to help make the Nazi war machine and state advanced and deadly.

It is why many such Nazi scientists were rescued from justice by the United States and Soviet Union after the war. The Cold War would give the Nazi scientists a context to further their research. Absent were the slave laborers mostly made up of European Jews,  who were replaced by factories of employees willing to continue and expand the scientific and medical studies of their masters. Any crimes of the past washed away. For such men, was it purely ideology that drove them to dissect living human beings? Or an indifference to pain that led them to inject children with chemical cocktails that guaranteed an agonizing death? Or was it the unchecked pursuit of science alone that steered their instincts and desires?

One flaw commonly leveled at the book, especially from German critics, is Shirer’s assertion that the Third Reich is the fault the German people. Perhaps in some ways it was a uniquely German regime, but such horrors are not unique to Germany. The Soviet Union, before, during, and after the Stalin era reveals totalitarian characteristics and brutal tendencies that occurred without four centuries of Germany history. North Korea is a prison state which continues to abuse and terrorize millions. Chinese history, whether under Nationalist fascism, war lords, or the Communists is also replete with a history of slavery and torture. Each of these totalitarian states are responsible for mass murder. The dark aspects of humanity and the power of the state make such evil possible.

But it is easy to criticise Shirer from the distance of time and safety. He lived in Germany as a foreign correspondent. He witnessed the tyranny as a helpless observer and his perspective is coloured by those moments. His book ‘Berlin Diary’ is a journey from 1934 to 1941 when as a radio reporter for CBS he watched the rise of the police state turn into a genocidal nation at war. Published in 1941 just months before the United States would go to war, it helped to unveil the nature of the Nazi tyranny. Shirer knew people who were interned and risked their lives as whistle-blowers against state power. He dealt with the Nazi citizens and government alike, during the peak of the regimes hubris. It is at times that ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” borrows beats from his ‘Berlin Diary’.

In many ways this is a book of its time, written soon after the War and for an audience of those who may have suffered through and opposed the Nazi regime. It is also a book where the author injects certain bias, an example is how he views homosexuality as being a ‘perversity’. Shirer leans into the readers prior knowledge that Hitler is from the outset a known villain. Suggesting that all things Nazi as being evil, even before any examples of terrible deeds are given. But in doing so, Shirer attempts to theorise why Hiterlism was made possible. Just as Edward Gibbon looked for a conclusive sole reason as to why Rome fell, in ‘the Rise and Fall of Roman Empire” by blaming Christianity. Shirer also looks into the soul of Germany for his conclusive singularity. The fault being that of the German volk itself.

The street gangs,” in the words of Alan Bullock, “had seized control of the resources of a great modern State, the gutter had come to power.” But—as Hitler never ceased to boast—“legally,” by an overwhelming vote of Parliament. The Germans had no one to blame but themselves.

Shirer condemns every German, because of the belief in the democratic processes, that the voting majority who helped bring to power an unpredictable future of Hitlerism define all other Germans. It is in itself the very collective mindset that defined such a “gutter” culture. Crisis always makes it easy to find a simple answer and to impose blame on others. It removes the need for investigation and the understanding of complexity. It is how the Nazis were able to blame the Jews for defeat in World War One and economic depression. And in the years after the War a journalist like Shirer could readily blame the German people.

History is not so simple and the crimes of Nazi Germany can not be just blamed on Adolf Hitler as a sole individual or even the whole of Germany as a collective. It is easy to say that such an evil mastermind is responsible alone for the millions of dead. That removes guilt and responsibility of the many individuals who themselves pulled the trigger. The destinies of millions were steered at times by themselves not just by Hitler. His hatred may have provided a mandate, but no good person eagerly butchers a baby simply because they were told to. And those who profited from the misery and exploitation did so with their own self interest often hidden beneath the proclamation that it was for the Fatherland. For the Nazis that cause was a hatred of other races, notably the Jewish people. It will only be inside the pages of a David Irving book that such facts are disappeared.

At the heart of Nazi ideology is antisemitism. The steering irrational vulgarity that directed not only Hitler but the ideologically pure. Perhaps it is rooted in Martin Luther’s works but it is not unique to Germany, or even Europe for that matter. The anti-capitalist rhetoric combined with the scientific racism that was in its peak during this time found a common cause with the traditional antisemitic tendencies that existed in parts of European culture. These elements were crucial components of the Nazi ideology, it was not mere fascism or a variant of national communism. It may have had commonalities with those ideals, it was its own unique monstrosity. The censoring and burning of books, labour camps of mass murder are not uniquely Nazi either but they adopted and ritualised such acts to a grand scale.

Not found inside the book, but apparent the world over is the apathy of the morally neutral or even those who know better but are unable or unwilling to resist. Those who go along with it all, no matter how evil the path is. Those who simply did their job or informed on a neighbour because it was the law. Not unique to Nazi Germany, it was happening then in the Soviet Union, and even now in the war on terror. The apathy and obedience is what erodes liberty and justice. It is in the end what empowers and allows the greatest evil capable of becoming the very law of the land.

Nazi Germany was a regime where men of great intelligence could meet at Grosser Wannsee and plan the mass extinction of millions of human beings with bureaucratic calculation. Perfectly legal, but terrifyingly absent of justice. And many who may have lacked ideological purity implemented such horror, merely because it was their job to do so.

The book is a testament to its audience and time, it celebrates the allies and especially the Americans as knights that saved the world from the evil Nazi regime. It lacks the nuance and complicated nature of war. Being opposed to the Nazi regime does not simply rid one of any guilt should they commit atrocities themselves in the pursuit of defeating such an evil foe. At times the book can read as though Shirer wanted to pen a comic book, casting the Nazi’s as a rightfully evil villain but the US and Allies as a Superman or Captain America. To colour these panels the major players of the Nazi party and German military are either described as “stupid” without any real examples or in the case of a man like Ernest Rohm his defining crime being that he was a “homosexual”.

There are many good reasons to read the book. The depth and detail in parts that help to display the horrible nature of the Nazi state along with the sobering realisation that this actually happened. This is a living history that endured for years and harmed millions of human beings and has ramifications even to this day. The murderous street fighters of the early Nazi’s that were at times mere thugs would in a matter of years mature into a party of statesmen and central planners that would steer the nation that they claimed to love into the depths of chaos. By displaying the swastika one is not going to resurrect the Nazi state, it is unlikely that such a state shall ever reemerge. By opposing such an ideology does not necessarily make one a good person. After all Stalin himself was a nemesis of Hitler. Nazi Germany’s greatest foe and perhaps the greatest benefactor of its demise was the Soviet Union. Despite that, the Soviet state was also antisemitic and a collective nightmare riddled with slave camps, mass executions and perverse medical research. There is no good when the world is presented with the Nazi state or the Soviet Union. Only death and misery.

A book like The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a lesson that can teach the reader the dangers of an ideology that imposes a collective world view and worships hatred. It also reveals the power of the state itself. An unnatural entity that has the power to ruin everything. The lesson is not that Nazi Germany or Hitlerism will emerge again but that many other regimes will arise with shared characteristics. Or that those who oppose Nazism as a symbol will adopt many of its methods and intolerance. When street thugs with idealistic energy burning down shop fronts may some day mature into statespeople and impose their ideals onto others through the power of the state. It should be concern for all.

The great paradox of such a collective tyranny is that the individual citizen does not matter. Race, nation, class are all used to define ones status and worth. And yet these collective regimes require individuals of exceptional nature to lead and to engineer the technology and programs required to make the ‘perfect society’. Becoming a pyramid with hierarchies of elites, at the bottom the common volk and the Untermensch. The state exists to empower the proletariat but from within the state itself rises an elite hierarchy of planners that live better than any past kings or aristocrats. The Nazi state was certainly one such frightening empire of history.

Shirer has compiled a detailed book, but does not give you all of them. Extensive research of primary sources has occurred since the book was written. But as a marker in time it stands on its own merits and will leave one with a heavy heart. Nazi Germany was a human tragedy, but it is not the singular anomaly in the history of humanity. The Nazi state provides fascination in a similar way as serial killers; it is romanced and enshrined as the template for all evil. Its victims become statistical props who are devoured on such a scale that they loose any individual humanity. Their victims are more than just Anne Frank and the countless statistics. The millions are used as a means of contrast against other murder states, providing fodder for academic debates over which regime was worse. That the Nazi state ever existed is frightening. That other such states also exist is scary and that many deny that the evils of Nazism ever occurred is plain sick.

“The man who has no sense of history, is like a man who has no ears or eyes.”– Adolf Hitler

The Banned Books of the Cold War-Era Soviet Union

The Banned Books of the Cold War-Era Soviet Union

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”- George R. R. Martin

The authoritarian nature of the Soviet Union has been buried by apologist revisionism and has been romanced in the upsurge of sexy depictions of the Cold War. It’s a fondness for a past that never really existed. For its victims it was grim and chilling period of repression. The Stalinist era is one of dystopian horrors, genocide and gulags with centrally planned nightmares converging into a monstrous state headed by a dictator that was saved by the bloodiest war in human history. A period of uncertainty emerged after Stalin’s death, while the promise of reforms spirited the energies of the people and the intellectuals. At the 1956 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, Stalin and his years of terror were condemned. A glimmer of hope emerged and writers wrote and unveiled the works that they had hidden during the dark years under Stalin.

For Russians, censorship and prohibited literature was not an exclusively Soviet era limitation. The first Russian book indexing prohibited writing goes all the way back to 1073 and insecure, ruthless leaders have imposed versions of censorship ever since. The 19th century was also a period where certain pamphlets containing speeches and essays that condemned the Tsar or questioned the status quo were banned. After the 1905 failed revolution, greater rule was imposed, including more censorship. Many of the heroes of the communist revolution were themselves victims of the censor and would go on to enforce their own censorship once they became the rulers. Under the tyranny of Stalin a prison state emerged and a cloud of death loomed throughout as thoughts and words became a very dangerous act.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is one of the greatest writers in history. Arrested in 1945 while he fought in the “Great Patriotic War,” his crime was sharing his thoughts in 1940 about the Soviet system and insulting Stalin. The punishment could only confirm his condemnation and would provide fuel for his future writing. His experiences in a hard labor prison for eight years would not only give the world great works, but The Gulag Archipelago would also provide a voice and vindication for the many victims of the Soviet state.

Given relative literary freedom in the decade after Stalin’s death, writers and editors probed the boundaries of allowable opinion. It was a frontier of thought and expression that delved into dangerous territory, not only at the time but for future repercussions, as artists and writers explored and experimented in what became known as the Khrushchev “Thaw.” It was an era where the officials were uncertain as to what they could censor and punish. The authoritarians that had cut their teeth and ruled with omnipotence under Stalin still existed but they lacked the cultural moment to exercise their sinister instincts. Unfortunately, that time would return.

Boris Pasternak completed his novel Doctor Zhivago after over forty years of work. In 1956 he was able to reveal it. In 1957, after Italian Communist Party journalist Sergio D’Angelo tracked down Pasternak and received a copy of the manuscript in hopes of publishing it outside of Russia, Pasternak told him, “You are hereby invited to watch me face the firing squad.” The book was published in Italy that same year. Pasternak was nominated for a Noble Prize in literature the year after. The book was soon criticised by the Soviet authorities for its pro-individualist sentiments and criticism of Stalinism, collectivization, and general anti-Soviet tone. Communists the world over condemned the book and hate mail (along with death threats) were directed at Pasternak.

Doctor Zhivago remained popular and would go on to be made into a movie. The book was also used as a CIA prop as the agency purchased many copies and circulated them to defy the Soviet authorities. The book was no longer a story about individuals in a fictional setting but an emblem of division. It was a predecessor of Salman Rushdie’s Satantic Verses, which drew calls for his death from extremists in the Islamic World while simultaneously he became a champion for free speech advocates and atheists alike. Pasternak’s book was unable to stand on its own as a literary work, and instead would become a pariah piece criticising an ideology of centrally planned authoritarianism.

And in 1962 Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in the literary journal Novy Mir, 95,000 copies were instantly sold. The work would later become banned and unprintable inside the Soviet Union, except in illegal typescript where it was widely circulated in secret along with other works. The book was about one day inside a labour camp as experienced by Ivan, it revealed more about the cruel system and institutions than any statistics have or could. Solzhenitzysn would become famous outside of the Soviet world and would himself also win a Noble Prize for Literature. His work becoming less available into the 1960s from within the Soviet Union and his status as a writer negated over time as he had become controversial and by 1966 when his new piece ‘Cancer Ward’ was ready the editor of Novy Mir was reluctant to print the work without the support of the Soviet Union of Writers, the ‘thaw’ had ended.

In 1965 two Soviet authors Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel had been arrested for publishing their works in the West under fake names. Immediately the Soviet media attacked them and ran their names through dirt. In early 1966 both writers were tried and sentenced to suffer in prison camps. The State and its officials had shown its hand, the repression had returned and the two writers were a famous example of any who would dare to express themselves. Even as Russian writers and literature was being celebrated the World over the message and tone of the work may have varied, none of it was so dangerous that those outside of a specific ideology and government felt so threatened that they needed to edit or prohibit it.

The Master and Margarita is a book that in its creation has a fantastic story, the authour Mikhail Bulgakov in 1940 burned the completed copy after having spent 12 years writing it. In his later years Bulgakov wrote his work again and around 1966 after his death a heavily censored version of the book was published. An underground version without the edits soon circulated and the complete version of the book was available in 1973 and a final version was released in 1989. The spiritual and Christian themes were a dangerous threat to the Soviet officials. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was another in many books also denied publication in the Soviet Union. However it was also banned in Australia, France, the UK and New Zealand and other territories, the original manuscript was refused by several publishers. The romantic and lustful interests of an adult man towards a young girl pushed taboos that transcended Soviet interests but challenged the moral sensibilities of supposedly liberal and free nations. The idea of adults reading words of such a nature would raise the ire of censors and officials the world over.

Soviet typewriters and printing machines had their typographic samples collected from the factory when they were manufactured and then stored in a government directory. The micro features of the typewriter is then used like a finger print.  When a typewriter was purchased it is registered to the owner. This then would allow the officials to determine which machine was used to print the offending works. Some East German and Warsaw Pact typewriters were not subject to such a directory and constraints. So many Soviet citizens purchased some of these machines, free of the registry process and along with smuggled in Western typewriters a dissident activity known as Samizdat (‘self-published’) was able to copy texts and distribute them avoiding the Soviet censors.

Those involved in the illegal reading market also used X-ray film to conceal works and found ingenious ways of hiding banned books or pages inside of the accepted-legal books. It was not just works written inside of the Soviet Union that were banned, many books from the World over, from HG Wells and George Orwell to political and religious texts that may challenge the minds of the reader or raise thoughts that could not be controlled by the State.

The Samizdat typewritten copies covered a variety of topics and genres from poetry, unpublished works to controversial pieces on politics, religion and nationalism. Despite the censors and official media, a lot of people wanted to be exposed to different views and perspectives. Whether they agreed or not, the proletariat was hungry for information. The official lies did less to conceal, it ultimately revealed the repression and shifting narratives of the Soviet state. What was acceptable could suddenly change and then the past officially scrubbed or adjusted to fit the States contemporary necessity. When Soviet citizens were able to read books like Doctor Zhivago and see just how benign its content was, it would only serve to prove the over reaction of the censors and the insecurity of the State itself.

Contraband works made available by Samizdat nourished a liberal instinct and helped to subvert the tyranny of the State, along with rock n roll, blue jeans and the continued economic idiocy that was felt by the common person daily. It is the writer who has the ability to put up a mirror on the system or society that is often the most threatening. The reflection of truth is far more dangerous than any lies. And this is where men like Alexander Solzhenitsyn became so dangerous to the Soviet government that at times they were uncertain how to deal with him. The crime in the past was in condemning the present and in the post-Stalin world it was in comparing the present to that past. Solzhenitsyn and other Russian writers fought this battle against the censors and the officials.

Through the 1970s the Soviet authorities were waging a losing battle against those writing and spreading the contraband. By 1985 over one million items of prohibited material existed deep inside the ‘restricted access collection’ of the Lenin State Library. Under the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika and Glasnot reversed many of the ancient censorship and allowed artists and intellectuals to express themselves, within certain constraints. Some liberalization does not mean complete freedom. The spigot seemingly had opened up.

In the post-Soviet world, Russia like many other countries has its own nuanced sensibilities when it comes to censorship.  Inside of modern Russia the government itself does not need to impose traditional bans on books as it could have done in the past, instead the publishers do so for the state. Russia is again dominated by the cult of personality, Vladimir Putin. No where near as terrible as Joseph Stalin, though under his leadership Russia is not a free society.  A cultural homogenization exists, where private entities narrow the lanes of acceptable opinion and omit, criticise or banish anything outside of them. A form of cultural nationalism and a vanguard against any subversive ideas or immoralities that may corrupt or hinder Russia.

This is also a modern trend of large corporations and companies all over the world, not limited to publishing books and magazines. The modern Russian censors are fixated on prohibiting the publishing of materials about suicide, homosexuality, some religious texts and in some cases criticisms of Stalin himself, as was the case with the film and graphic novel, The Death of Stalin. A black comedy based on true events just before and after the death of the dictator revealing how deadly men were at times self obsessed buffoons despite ruling over millions.

Though it is in many cases not as bad as the Soviet era modern Russia has its share of direct and self imposed censorship.  Books relating to the usage of drugs such as Apocalypse Culture and The Ketamine Necromance have been banned and copies destroyed. Just as hard to publish are children’s books, where government and non-government actors heavily control such literature. It is not only the content of these books, the font and format that are dictated by the Russian government.

For the state and those interested in controlling others, it is not just the adult’s mind but especially those of children that are important to steer. The family, the school or even the child themselves does not come into consideration, all are determined to be inferior in their own learning and intellectual development. It is from the state and for the state that becomes priority. Such a miserable blandness of cultural porridge is ensured by the brain trust that adores authority. And the authority itself.

As technology and media evolved radio sets, cassette tapes and then video tapes all did the rounds and introduced the citizens behind the Iron Curtain to various perspectives that differed to their own. It helped to grow ideas and ideals, to expose them to the other world that existed beyond the bleak one of control and Soviet utopianism.  It is for the officials and central planners of modern regimes whether those of China and North Korea or even in democracies to massage or deny any alternative narrative. It is the imperial nature of those who are in control and those who benefit from such a system, to remove the alternative thoughts and works. To suppress literature and to condemn it as dangerous or immoral. To treat the citizen as a child like subject unable to make decisions for themselves.

What does it say of a government or society that makes words contraband? Whether a novel such as Doctor Zhivago is not merely a threat to the Soviet Union but communism itself exposes a fundamental flaw in the ideologies and states need to force and repress. In a free market, it is in the access to all forms of thoughts and expressions that can either confirm or condemn freedom itself. It is thanks to freedom that one can share and consider such thoughts. Inside a Soviet system one is deterred and denied from speaking outwardly about the only method of rule. Alternatives are the enemy, a deadly insecurity exists in those past and present who would inflict their views absolutely on others. Then to imprison who would dare to write something contrary, to ban or scrub their words, rather than to argue and to disprove.

The world is a better place thanks to the words of Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak. It is not a better place for the labor camps that imprisoned or the censors that sought to rid words written by such men. For the officials of the Soviet Union did what they needed to preserve the system and to maintain authority. That in itself was a righteous calling. To have a society of one or very few voices is the ore of iron rule, and it is impressive in its frightening scale that such an empire lasted so long and ruled over so many lives. Banning words (not just books and pamphlets) is not unique to the Soviet Union, but they do set an example for reflection. To make art and writing contraband only creates dissent and dissidents. The dissidents’ voice will whisper wherever the tyrant rules and in time they will yell until tyranny itself whimpers. Write on comrades!

James Douglass, the Kennedy Assassination, and a Missed Dinner in Austin

James Douglass, the Kennedy Assassination, and a Missed Dinner in Austin

“Austin All Agog Over Kennedy Visit Friday” read the headline of the Austin American Statesman. The Texas capital was sparing no expense in welcoming the President of the United States. City schools were set to close early so that children could see the motorcade, and the excitement could be felt building in the weeks before.

Img 6575Preparations were in motion for a grand welcoming dinner at the city’s Municipal Auditorium. Hosted by the State Democratic Executive Committee, it would be the largest concentration of state and national leaders in the history of Texas.

Nearly 2,500 people were expected to attend the $100-a-plate banquet dinner, whose purpose was to simultaneously fundraise for President Kennedy’s 1964 reelection campaign and heal the ongoing conservative-liberal split in the Texas Democratic Party.

That morning, the auditorium was decorated to befit a presidential visit, thousands of chairs were arranged, and caterers prepared the dinner, including “Texas-size” sirloin steaks.

But President John F. Kennedy would never arrive in Austin that evening of November 22, 1963. He would never make it out of Dallas. At 7:30pm that evening, when he should have been arriving at the gala to enthusiastic cheers, doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital were removing bullet fragments from his brain.

In a recent interview on The Scott Horton Show, ret. CIA officer Ray McGovern mentioned what opened his eyes about the seminal event of that autumn day:

There is an excellent book that I’ll recommend to you, written by James Douglass, an eminent historian. It’s called JFK and the Unspeakable. It was released about 15 years ago [2008], completely suppressed in the press…It is, in my view, the Bible.

The book received similar praise from filmmaker Oliver Stone—whose promotion led to the book’s wide release despite a media blackout—and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the president’s nephew who visited Dealey Plaza for the first time after reading. The book convinced Vietnam War whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg that a new federal investigation into the Kennedy assassination was urgently necessary.

Douglass’ tour de force is well-deserving of these commendations. Clocking in at 495 pages—including endnotes—it is a tome of information, the finest synthetization of primary and multi-decade secondary sources on the market.

Prior to researching the Kennedy assassination, author James Douglass spent his life as a Professor of Religion and a dedicated activist in the Catholic Worker Movement. This influence outlines the entire book, and even inspired the title. “The Unspeakable” was a term coined by the Catholic monk Thomas Merton, an adoptive son of Kentucky, and Douglass’ biggest theological influence. Merton sought to depict “an evil whose depth and deceit seemed to go beyond the capacity of words to describe,” including the carnage of the Vietnam War, the string of political assassinations in the 1960s, and the ever-looming threat of nuclear annihilation.

JFK and the Unspeakable serves as a masterpiece because of how Merton forms a narrative around the slain president. The reader is introduced to young Cold Warrior, who over a period of two years begins to have a redemptive shift towards peace—aroused by near cataclysmic events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, and continual subversion by the National Security State.

From January 1961 to November 1963, Douglass tracks Kennedy’s growing disillusionment with the hawkish and militant perspective of his military command and intelligence agencies. Upon entering office, he’s introduced to a plan by CIA Director Allen Dulles for a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union scheduled for late 1963. Kennedy walked out on the meeting, telling Secretary of State Dean Dusk, “And we call ourselves the human race.”

After being cornered into the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and firing Dulles, Kennedy declared his intention “to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” The president began continually curtailing the preferred policies of the National Security State, including by pursuing the creation of a neutral and independent Laos, sending military advisors into Vietnam instead of the requested combat units, and most importantly by rejecting the demands of his Joint Chiefs of Staff for a preemptive strike on Cuba during the missile crisis.

“If the situation continues much longer, the President is not sure that the military will not overthrow him and seize power,” Attorney General Robert Kennedy informed Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin (as recollected by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in his memoirs).

Kennedy was met by constant disruption and sabotage by the National Security State he was meant to command. In Spring 1962, he orders Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to formalize a plan for a partial exit from Vietnam by the end of 1963; this order was backlogged by the bureaucracy for a year and was presented as a multi-year exit. The president was similarly ill-served by his last-minute appointment to the South Vietnam ambassadorship, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.

Lodge declined to carry out continued negotiations with the Diem government to avoid a coup and delayed the transmission of information back to Washington. When South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Nhu were assassinated on November 2, 1963, Kennedy was left “somber and shaken,” said Arthur Schlesinger, who “had not seen him so depressed since the Bay of Pigs.”

“I’ve got to do something about those bastards,” the President told Florida Senator George Smathers in the aftermath. “They should be stripped of their exorbitant power.”

You won’t find talk of ballistics or “magic bullets” in Douglass’ book. The events of November 22 take a backseat altogether; while he includes voluminous eyewitness accounts and a thorough walk through Oswald’s physical whereabouts, the author is less interested in the mechanics of the assassination than its context.

JFK and the Unspeakable is meant to help you understand why John F. Kennedy began a turn against the Cold War, and how the National Security State developed the motivation and determination to murder their Commander in Chief—not to calculate the mathematical trajectory of the Grassy Knoll.

More than a decade after its publication, James Douglass’ work stands as the pinnacle of Kennedy assassination texts, a required and laudable text for both laymen and enthusiasts alike.

The War State: Summary, Analysis, and Commentary

The War State: Summary, Analysis, and Commentary

The War State: The Cold War Origins Of The Military-Industrial Complex And The Power Elite, 1945-1963, by Michael Swanson

Not too long ago, a deluge of hysteria surrounded President Trump amid his threat to declare a national emergency in order to secure funding for a border wall. Alas, those simpler times of alleged fascism have come and gone and a new hyper hysteria has reared its head via the global outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. All bets are off now with executive orders and emergency declarations being handed out almost daily, the most egregious of these being the invoking of the Defense Production Act to force a private company into manufacturing ventilators or the deployment of Federal troops to quell riots in Portland. This is far closer to fascism than any other previous actions, cloaked in the usual propaganda of being out of absolute necessity for the preservation of the “good of the people.” If nothing else, perhaps these executive actions might have many questioning the powers vested in the Executive Office, but the use of emergency declarations based on dubious claims of necessity and fear is nothing new. 

It has been de rigueur for presidents to establish new executive powers under the guise of national security for well over a century. Many point the finger at an out of control executive branch, surely this is the most visible and relatable, Orange Man Bad and all, but more correctly, it should be pointed at the continuous government, an unaccountable beast lying just under the surface. Although it operates behind the scenes, it typically manifests itself most visually through the ugly business of war. This continuous government of war, or more simply put, the War State, is enabled to exist through an unelected bureaucracy which stays firmly in place from administration to administration and is the apotheosis of government colluding with businesses and cartelizing markets.

Although the rise of the War State enabled a massive expansion of the executive branch, in one of those strange quirks of history, it would also be its downfall. Inevitably, the War State consumed and all but eliminated any true powers of the President. Enter the vapid figurehead as Leader, who offers nothing more than slogans and empty promises that have no bearing on the actual day to day operations of the continuous government. Despite this, many still manage to hang on to every vacuous phrase and will argue vehemently for their guy to take back the reins and straighten things out for the better.

In The War State, author Michael Swanson addresses an ever expanding question, a wormhole that opens up many avenues for investigation and exploration. That question, simple as it may be, is this: given that, “the federal government gave birth to large military budgets and mass income taxes at the same time and both live on together today as twin siblings of the war state, does this big-money spending lead to corruption?” (p.15)

To find out, Swanson takes the reader on a whirlwind journey, one where expert opinion molders attempted to convince big business and the American public to align with government and to foster a confident belief in its ability to execute any plan, if only given the necessary funding (voluntary or otherwise), time and requisite secrecy. With a belly full of propaganda, the masses were willing to believe in the War State’s necessity and indeed, became willing participants in the process of embedding the very bureaucracy that would forever exclude them from any preconceived notion of participation in the democratic process that they held so dearly. Bloated budgets became the norm and black operations became business as usual and all the while well connected businessmen lined their pockets without risk. 

The War State thrives in times of fear and paranoia and to speak out against it is tantamount to treason, for this must mean that you are anti-American and that you want Americans to lose their manufacturing jobs or even worse, lose their life fighting for your freedoms! The War State is a deep-seated entity well over one hundred years in the making and at the most basic level, it is a crony capitalist venture, fascist at its core, with the average citizen being merely a pawn on the global chessboard. The War State is deeply embedded in the American psyche and there is no easy way out. The multifarious ill effects of its existence will be ever reverberating for centuries to come. But fear not! There is a silver lining: the War State enabled a situation that gave rise, as it were, to the miniskirt. Hooray?

The Pretense of Knowledge and Belief In Necessity

The state, despite its claim of being for the people, exists solely to feed itself and to obtain more power. It works the same under any form of government, be it communism or representative democracy. Both will feed the population with lies to prop up the belief in its necessity. Indeed, the common view held by the U.S. population is that the War State was an entity that grew out of necessity to handle a threat, one that could only be handled by an omnipotent military-security apparatus to plan, direct, and navigate an increasingly complex world of international geopolitical tensions.

Swanson casts aside this narrative in lieu of an interpretation focusing on the alliance with, and cartelization of, big business, manufacturing, government and perhaps most importantly, the opinion-molding military experts, who have ushered in an era of American exceptionalism, where destabilization and regime change has become the norm, inherently making the world less safe for the democracy that they proclaim to be tantamount to all other objectives. These so-called experts were able to convince not only an entire generation of independent minded civilians of the necessity of the War State’s existence, but they were able to convince a majority of supposedly infallible top government officials of its necessity as well. This alliance of business and government was a natural progression of the cartelization that became common throughout the Progressive Era, most explicitly evidenced by the railroad, petroleum, iron and steel, and sugar industries. And lest we forget, the granddaddy of all monopolies, the government education system, as emphasized by historian Thaddeus Russell on this recent podcast.

As with all things history, where does one start? Although the book’s subtitle indicates the Cold War origins of the Military-Industrial Complex, I contend that there are origins to be explored going back to the turn of the century in order to analyze some of the societal conditions that paved the way for a deference to authority that the War State required. Beginning in the Progressive Era and extending into the interwar period, a foundation was laid by a puritanical group of people who professed to have the ability to organize society in a manner far better than if people were left to their own devices; a self-proclaimed pretense of knowledge.

According to the standard narrative, the Progressive Era is broadly defined thusly: it was a period of widespread social activism and political reform across the United States that spanned the 1890s to the 1920s. The main objectives of the Progressive movement were addressing problems caused by industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and political corruption. Seems harmless enough, right? But more specifically, this was a movement of the intelligent class, who were educated at elite universities and who took it upon themselves to be the moral guardians guiding the unassimilated immigrants as to how they should think and act, and encouraging them to cast aside their individualistic predilections and assimilate into the greater culture. It is true enough that the Progressive Movement was a response to the massive flood of immigrants to the U.S. during the 1880s to the 1920’s, wherein the population roughly doubled with Irish, Jewish, Italian, Slavic and German immigrants (among others) arriving on the shores. Naturally, they all brought with them their extended families and their individual cultures.

The Progressives sought to change this via a process of assimilation and this is a foundational moment for the War State (more on this in a bit). A fusillade of approaches was used to enforce and achieve the Progressive worldview; the proper view. This can be evidenced most noticeably through the myriad settlement houses, as defined by historian Thaddeus Russell on this podcast, that were created to teach the immigrants how to speak English, how to work in a factory (for the men), how to be a housewife (for the women), how to dress properly and generally taught them the good and proper customs that were required to be a part of society, by their Progressive standards, of course. Beyond these literal assimilation factories, other means to achieve their goals included the war on opiates (a precursor of the modern drug war), the elimination of religious schools in lieu of secular English speaking government schools and the lobbying for, and enactment of, alcohol prohibition laws enforced by government guns. 

What does this all have to do with the War State? 

For any ruling entity, it is of necessity to prevent the citizenry from being individualistic. It is of necessity to modify the habits of the immigrants from the old world such that they abandon their cultural roots and fall in line with the rest of good society. A ruling entity needs a common identity to enforce an us-versus-them mentality. It needs to eliminate the mind that would rather think of sex or jazz. It needs to glorify going to work every day and to not be drunk all the time. It is of necessity to have a good and productive, yet docile citizenry, for a distracted and wandering mind does not bode well in a factory, and a factory, naturally, needs dedicated workers to build weapons of war. That is the importance of the Progressive Era. That is the cultural foundation of the War State.

On top of all the moral postulating and cultural genociding of the Progressive Era, there was a massive layer of government propaganda urging the masses to support a war that they largely opposed. Indeed, a song from 1915 titled, “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to be a Soldier,” was wildly popular among isolationists, socialists, pacifists, many Protestant ministers, German Americans and Irish Americans. The song begins as follows:

Ten million soldiers to the war have gone, Who may never return again.

Ten million mothers’ hearts must break, For the ones who died in vain.

Head bowed down in sorrowin’ her lonely years, I heard a mother murmur thro’ her tears:

I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier…

This type of sentiment, of course, did not sit well with the ruling class. Interventionists and militarists like former President Theodore Roosevelt beat the drums for war preparedness and although President Woodrow Wilson ran on a platform of, “He Kept us Out of War,” once he was re-elected he didn’t hesitate to send the boys off to slaughter. And what of the song? In responding to the song’s popularity, Roosevelt indicated that he was not a fan and he suggested that the place for women who opposed war was, “in China—or by preference in a harem—and not in the United States.” If you don’t fall in line with our worldview, then you must be excommunicated and forced to live a horrible life against your will. Nice guy.

Although the concept of government propaganda was not new, with the advent of the moving picture, radio shows and the influence of increasingly consolidating news services, the conditions were ripe for a pro-government media barrage, delivered in unison and with an air of authority in order to sway the masses to support government programs and ultimately, war. This trio of media, coupled with the government propaganda machine, made up another sinister aspect of the Progressive Era: the monopoly of information. Indeed, a willing extension of the government propaganda machine in the World War I era were some, but certainly not all, Hollywood stars who were eager to not only produce moving pictures in support of the war effort, but charismatically stood in front of their fellow citizens and promoted the buying of war bonds, as did Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. 

To gather some additional context on this monopoly of information and how it was deployed upon the masses in the United States, one must first take a slight detour to the other side of the pond. In Britain, throughout World War I, a massive propaganda campaign was employed to bolster public support for a largely unpopular war. Back then, the British propaganda machine constructed outlandish stories that were so brazenly false, that many grew weary of the propaganda, especially in the interwar period. As recounted in this Guardian article, “Britons discovered that there was no substance to most of the more lurid atrocity stories—about crucified soldiers, raped nuns, dismembered babies and notoriously, about the German factory [that rendered] corpses into fat.” The parallels to modern day claims of WMD’s (Weapons of Mass Destruction) or Iraqi soldiers tossing incubator babies to the ground are striking. Patently false in retrospect, they were effective in the short term to achieve their propagandistic goals. 

In the run up to World War II, the U.S. government, in realizing the follies of the outlandish British propaganda machine during World War I, had to be a little more tactful so as to alleviate any doubtful public scrutiny. Trust was established through the creation of numerous new agencies and programs throughout the Great Depression. These programs included infrastructure projects, but also cultural projects including art, music, and writing. These programs served to solidify a faith in government taking care of the people (with an underlying intent of assimilation to promote a common culture) and by far, one of the most effective projects was President Roosevelt’s intimate radio broadcast fireside chats. Of course, this was not unique to the U.S., for a similar thing was occurring in Germany, as conveyed in the aforementioned Guardian article, “Hitler communicated with hypnotic directness through the new media of radio and cinema. Hitler could never have won widespread support if he had not been able to exploit the multiple miseries of the Depression. After 1929, Germans were receptive to his assertion that their sufferings were the evil fruits of the rotten Weimar system.” Sound familiar? Economic depression? Evil people out to get you? Government will save you.

While the U.S. population was distracted and riding high throughout the Roaring Twenties, the monopoly of information services were hard at work burying and downplaying the atrocities occurring in the Soviet Union. As conveyed in this Reason article, in reference to two terrible occurrences of this era, “One is Stalin’s deliberate infliction of a famine on the peasants of the Ukraine that killed between four million and seven million of them. The other is how Western journalists, particularly those of The New York Times, deliberately covered up the mass murder.” Indeed, as conveyed in this article regarding the Times’ covering up of atrocities, “Stalin suborned western journalists such as Walter Duranty, who famously wrote of the Ukraine famine in The New York Times: ‘There is no actual starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.’” Well, the Times reported it, I guess we’re in the clear!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s more. Not content with merely burying stories of famine, the Times downplayed the existence of the horrific political show trials in the Soviet Union and conveyed them as a fair process back in the U.S. These show trials forced many false confessions under threat of imprisonment or death, based on the most flimsy or falsified evidence or even coerced testimony by relatives or friends. These show trials were used by Stalin to purge any dissenters and allowed him to gain absolute control of the government. Seems like a good thing to support?

Perhaps the interwar era is summed up best by this passage in the previously referenced Guardian article regarding propaganda measures, “Where it did not convince, it confused. It muddied the wells of knowledge and polluted the sources of understanding. It sanctioned the suspension of belief and disbelief. Propaganda helped to make the 1930s an age of obfuscation, of darkness at noon.” Given this situation, who will save you? Who could sort all of this out? With the myriad monopoly of information entities and progressive elites eschewing morality and alleged knowledge, what chance could one have? Consider too, that many newly landed immigrants from Germany, Ireland and countless other locations, were tacitly forced into broadly supporting the wars and other pro-government measures, lest they give the existing U.S. population any additional fodder with which to persecute them based solely on their country of origin (for more on that, see this article on the plight of the Volga Germans). The stage was set for the War State to inherit from its inception the societal framework of deference to political authority.

Funding Big Business – the Buildup

Although the book’s subtitle indicates a timeframe of 1945-1963 for the Cold War origins of the War State, the author takes us on a brief analysis of the relationship between the state and taxes going back to the World War I era. It is critical to the War State’s existence for it to have a continuous flow of funds. This was lacking in the era prior to World War II, where only the wealthiest individuals and corporations paid any income tax. Indeed in 1939, 93% of workers were not compelled to pay federal income tax. World War I had largely been financed through the sale of war bonds to the public, but the sheer magnitude of the cost of World War II proved this method of financing to be insufficient. Government sought to rectify this situation and “by 1943, the government started to deduct money out of people’s paychecks…[and by] the last year of the war, personal income tax receipts surpassed corporate income tax as the largest source of revenue…the size and power of the government grew as its revenue growth exploded by a factor of 8.8 from 1939 to 1945.” (p.14)

Taking the lead from President Woodrow Wilson during World War I, which saw an explosion in the number of new executive programs, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) ran with that concept and further expanded all aspects of government. This is to say nothing of his predecessor, Herbert Hoover, who was no stranger to government spending, despite the textbook claims that he was a, “strict supporter of laissez-faire economics [who] believed the government should never interfere in the economy,” as debunked by historian Tom Woods in the book 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask (p. 180).

In reading the standard history books, FDR is typically described as an enemy of business. While stumping on the campaign trail, FDR often attacked businessmen who were popular scapegoats in the post-depression era. This business bashing continued into the first few years of his presidency, but incentives matter, so how does one convince businesses to co-mingle with government after berating them year after year? The answer for FDR was to create a cartel and guarantee profits for select businesses. Swanson recounts this process as such:

“…before the war started there weren’t a bunch of large plants owned by big companies just sitting around and waiting for orders. Big war production was a new thing and the federal government itself often paid for and built the factories used in the defense industry and then gave them to the companies for free once the war ended. Of the twenty-six billion dollars spent during the war to build plants, seventeen billion was financed by the government. Taxpayer money financed the growth of the private defense industry.” (p. 18) 

You’re welcome? Simply put, the concept was to build factories through coercive taxation, hand them over to businessmen and eliminate competitive bidding for government contracts, effectively removing the moral hazard of risk taking that a normal business would typically incur. Indeed, Swanson states that, “all of a contractor’s working capital is provided for by the federal government and payments are often made well in advance…this makes for a form of corporate socialism in which all risks are placed on the shoulders of taxpayers while profits are given to privately owned and well-connected corporations.” (p.20)

To be sure, from a broad conceptual level, there was nothing new about the government awarding money to defense contractors, but the difference was that prior to World War II, the government accepted competitive bids from numerous companies and typically awarded the contract to the lowest bidder. After the creation of the War Production Board, “within a few months 74 percent of the contracts were simply awarded after negotiation and not through competitive bidding.” (p.18)

Who would want to give up that kind of a business relationship? The War Production Board was all encompassing and fascist at its core as, “the board had the power not only to decide on the allocation of war contracts but also to prohibit production that it deemed unessential to the war effort…It even regulated the amount of fabric that could be used to make clothes, one effect of this being that women’s skirts had to be made shorter.” (p.17) Perhaps it was all worth it, eh? 

Of course, there have always been entangled alliances between government and business and one can look to the U.S. in the 1830s for an example, where obtaining corporate status involved getting a specific grant from the state legislature. This would in turn confer upon an entity an artificial person status that would grant limited liability and other legal benefits, as described in this article by historian Anthony Comenga, in discussing the locofocos and the Free Soilers movements. This process unquestionably opened the door for corruption between business and government. The War State would build on this precedent and day by day, it’s power and influence would continue to grow.

Feeding the People and Sending Them Off to Slaughter

Once big business found itself sucked into government dependence, the everyday people just trying to put food on the table would follow suit with little complaint. If there is no job other than a government job, what choice does one have? Speaking of government dependence, the parallels to our current situation of dealing with the economic fallout of the government imposed shutdowns are staggering. Stories abound with respect to the masses of people calling for the government to take over businesses if they choose to accept bailout funds and the calls for the government to “put the people to work,” are never far away given the 40 million people (changing daily) filing for unemployment on account of the shutdowns.

The concept of putting the people to work has its roots in the Depression Era and two of the most commonly referenced programs are the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA), which were established in the 1930s under FDR. In classic government fashion, the similarity of the acronyms is confusing and the two are often interchanged in normal conversation. Although there are some definite overlaps, they are separate and distinct entities. The WPA was set up to provide jobs and income to the unemployed and unskilled citizens during the Great Depression, a seemingly benevolent government program of more or less local, community projects set up for the betterment of society.

These projects included broad categories of infrastructure projects, recreational projects, government buildings and health and safety uses for the greater community (roads, bridges, municipal buildings, schools, parks, water supply and sewage treatment facilities, etc.). Another aspect of the WPA was more culturally focused (albeit a culture that government deemed appropriate) and was implemented through five different sub-categories including the Federal Art Project, Music Project, Theatre Project, Writers’ Project, and Historical Records Survey. These five categories fell under the ominous title of Federal Project Number One, in which the government provided direct funding support instead of providing grants to private institutions. 

A majority of the population is familiar with the work of the WPA with respect to the construction of public works projects, but it is lesser known that some of the work included the construction of military related projects. This is where the overlap begins with the WPA and the PWA. It’s important to emphasize again that the WPA was a direct government payment process; the worker was paid directly by the government. The PWA, on the other hand, awarded contracts to private companies, who in turn hired workers and completed the work (with the oversight of the government, of course). Although military bases were the primary expenditure, perhaps more visually impactful were monumental architecture projects in major cities, all seemingly orchestrated and guided by a charismatic president, boldly leading the way to prosperity. This imagery has been firmly ingrained into the psyche of the American populace. 

Coming off the heels of U.S. involvement in World War I, the U.S. populace was largely anti-war and if, according to government rhetoric, the country was ostensibly opposed to fascism and willing to send young men off to die to fight against it, how could one institute a fascist takeover of industry and implement a massive military build-up in one’s own country to take on fascist dictators half a world away in World War II? The answer was to let these projects be seen as a private process, where one’s paycheck comes from a private company who is building for the good of the country! Nothing untoward happening here, citizen! Hitler understood this and he infamously stated that, “the great strength of a totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it.”

It’s no stretch to argue that civil liberties are lost during wartime and it’s a rather odd statement to say that one must limit civil liberties to protect civil liberties, yet that is exactly what happens during a total war scenario. As conveyed by Dan Carlin in a recent episode of Hardcore History (20:00 min mark), scientist Alex Comfort echoed this sentiment, during a debate with George Orwell when he stated that, “if Hitler wins, then political fascism is victorious; if any country wants to defeat fascism, they must assimilate as much of it’s philosophy as one can.” As such, Hitler was set to win either way. Try out that line of argument at your next dinner party, that ought to ruffle some feathers. Indeed, Hilter and Mussolini marveled at FDR’s fascist programs and the book Three New Deals provides wonderful context for this process. 

Although it is tempting to go down the conspiracy rabbit hole and expound on a nefarious globalist entity that was planning, via top secret meetings, to expand military installations through crony capitalists ventures and get the people to pay for it, it wasn’t all that hidden. In fact, many publications were issued in support of the endeavors. Documents such as America Builds and Millions for Defense laid it out as plain as day. These plans included government funding that would inherently work their way into every nook and cranny of the economy. Also, this necessarily expanded a regulatory state which would verify proper usage of the funding, but more importantly it gave a pretext for citizens to turn on each other for alleged violations of government imposed mandates. Citizens turning against each other for alleged state violations was a regular occurrence in Stalinist Russia or Mao’s China, but similar occurrences have happened throughout U.S. history.

One specific example occurred during the 1930s amid the programs and regulations established under the National Recovery Act (NRA). Established under FDR, the alleged goal was to “eliminate cutthroat competition” by aligning business and government to set price controls and establish fair labor practices. Chief among these fair practices were minimum wages, maximum hours, and establishing minimum prices for which goods could be sold. Although participation in the NRA was, in theory, voluntary, many business owners felt the pressure to “do their part” and institute the central control policies with respect to their business operations. Those who chose to participate were encouraged to display the NRA Blue Eagle emblem on their storefronts. An alleged symbol of pride, it was often used against businesses who chose to skirt the established regulations, as citizens were encouraged to report violations. History rhymes, sometimes, as we are well into the COVID era of turning in mask ordinance violators or businesses who stay open beyond government dictated hours of operation. Beyond turning in businesses who violated NRA regulations, many good society folks flat out avoided or boycotted businesses who chose to not participate in the NRA programs. This essentially made participation in the programs mandatory in order for businesses to have a chance at survival in the inter-war era.

Alas, all good things come to an end, right? In 1935, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the NRA laws were unconstitutional. Huzzah! The NRA quickly ceased operations, but many of its labor provisions quietly reappeared via the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) passed later that year, a long term result being the growth and power of unions and government for the foreseeable future. 

Most speak of the World War II era as a time when the greatest generation went off to fight in a great battle between good and evil. “Our boys” went overseas to fight against a leviathan entity that was attempting to dominate and control the world in it’s own image. Many went off to war confident that they were fighting to eliminate dictators and ensure the sovereignty of free people the world over. Little did they know, they were laying the groundwork for conflicts abroad that are still being dealt with today. It sounds simple: topple a dictator, draw new boundaries, install a new “democratic” leader and the people will greet us with flowers! The reality is that what fills the void is chaos owing to the fact that the installed leader is typically an adversary to the natural order and is beholden to the almighty U.S. government. The population becomes dissatisfied and revolts, which conveniently provides the pretext for continued intervention.

Back home, however, what had spawned was the framework of a continuous government apparatus, a hidden dictator completely devoid of any influence by a largely good-intentioned and anti-interventionist American populace. Indeed, in the book Hirohito’s War, as relayed by Dan Carlin on Hardcore History Episode 63 (1:04:00), “a poll conducted one month after war had broken out…as quoted by Francis Pike, ‘95% of the U.S. population wanted to stay out of war.’” 

Under the veil of security, the continuous government embedded itself into every aspect of American life such that its elimination, or even talk of its elimination, would be met with such fierce debate and faux outrage that none dared question its existence. Once established, the bureaucracy and all knowing central planning of the state would take it from there.

Author Michael Swanson described it thusly:

“World War II gave birth to today’s military-industrial complex. Yes, the United States had mobilized to fight in several major wars in its prior history, such as the Civil War and World War I, but after all of them, the country reduced its military industry to nothing. With President Truman’s approval of NSC-68, a permanent war industry became established in the country. With each passing year, its influence grew. By the end of Eisenhower’s presidency, it became the most powerful special interest group in the nation, with powerful tentacles reaching into the economy, the defense bureaucracies, and dozens of congressmen. It transformed the federal government of the United States into a war state. President Kennedy would discover how entrenched and dangerous it had become.” (p194)

NSC-68, Propaganda, and Bureacracy

Written by and presented to President Harry Truman in 1950 by the Department of State and Department of Defense, NSC-68 was a top secret National Security Council (NSC) policy paper that described the threats and challenges facing the United States in cataclysmic terms that involved the destruction of not only the republic, but the whole of humanity as well, if certain government and military interventions were not implemented. For many Americans, the existence of the Constitution guarantees a means to reign in overreaching executive actions and maintains the checks and balances that keep wayward government entities from running wild with power. Once NSC-68 was put in place under a veil of secrecy, this unseen mechanism would determine courses of action outside any modicum of authorization or pretense of representation.

Far beyond mere planning, it enabled unelected experts to dictate to military leaders and the general population what was best for their security and well being. Edward Bernays foresaw this in his book Propaganda, where he argued that, “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” (p. 129) Indeed, there is no truer example of this than NSC-68, which was implemented outside any formal review or referendum by the people. In The War State, author Michael Swanson described the process thusly:

“Without any explanation to the American people, the United States made the move from a policy of containment to one of global empire during the Truman administration. This decision was codified in NSC-68, which claimed that no nation on the planet could be neutral in the bipolar, East-versus-West world. Therefore, NSC-68 saw part of the world in the hands of the Soviet Union and Communism and the rest of it under the leadership of the United States. This was a policy of empire, because it meant that any nation that tried to maintain an independent line from that of the United States but was not under the control of the Soviet Union became a target for CIA operations, ranging from propaganda activities and the bribery of officials to ‘covert’ wars.” (p. 392)

New Enemies, Real and Imagined

One might expect that after World War II peacetime would resume and military expenditures would be drastically cut given the defeat of the evil enemy, but alas, a new boogeyman was created to fill the void. The great adversary to come out of World War II targeted by NSC-68 was the Soviet Union, who was portrayed as a grave threat to the U.S. and for democracy writ-large.

Having suffered tremendous casualties during World War II and with an economy stretched beyond thin, claiming that the Soviet Union was the greatest threat to the U.S. would be a tenuous argument for the public to believe, but a veritable tsunami of propaganda was about to broadside the unsuspecting populace, who were well trained in deference to government omniscience. This deluge of propaganda promulgated a culture of fear, which became the norm for the foreseeable future. The message was clear: the only entity that could protect anyone from the unseen evildoers in a faraway land, was a massive military-security apparatus.

Swanson described it thusly:

“Thanks to exaggerations in news stories and pure propaganda, Americans lived in the 1950s in a state of terror over nuclear war when the Soviet Union didn’t even have the capability to launch a missile that was able to reach the United States until the 1960s. Nor did it have a viable bomber force. In the 1950s, Air Force General Curtis LeMay said he had the ability to order SAC [Strategic Air Command] bombers to attack the Soviet Union and destroy all of its war-making capabilities ‘without losing a man to their defenses.’ Americans were completely safe, but they lived in constant fear.” (p. 394)

The propaganda easily worked on the average citizen, but it also influenced government and military officials’ decisions to build military installations all across the U.S. under the guise of absolute necessity. A prime example of this is the now abandoned Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, in Nekoma, North Dakota, which encompasses 470 acres and contains 46 underground missile silos in addition to a massive concrete pyramid. Construction on the project began in the 1960s and was not complete until 1975. The discs on the side of the pyramid were state-of-the-art radar technology that, in theory, could be used to detect multiple incoming missiles simultaneously without having to maneuver a more traditional large mesh dish. It was purported to be able to provide a six minute warning and the missiles could hit a target within thirty seconds. The construction of this gargantuan building and surrounding military complex exceeded six billion dollars, but the facility was only active and in operation for three days (for more on the Nekoma facility, see this article). Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Mind you, this was one facility in a veritable sea of military construction expenditures for the United States. Of course, massive military expenditures were not unique to the U.S. in this era, for enormous nation states naturally tend to expand and will come up with any excuse to necessitate construction of ever larger military bases in the name of security. To wit, the Soviet Union was no stranger to this desire as can be evidenced by this long abandoned air base for the 126th Fighter Aviation Regiment, located on the edge of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, a full 2,700 miles from Moscow. Both the Nekoma facility and the Gobi Desert air base were recently covered on separate episodes of the Science Channel show “Mysteries of the Abandoned” and the imagery is striking, but any criticism of the War State is eerily left out of the discussion, leaving the only mystery being how the war time propaganda is still in full force, some sixty years after their construction and subsequent abandonment.

Perhaps one of the best takeaways of the book is the realization that such a small percentage of opinion molders were able to convince the bureaucracy and the average citizen that there was an imminent Soviet threat that could only be addressed by a massive military apparatus. Swanson provides some context regarding the standard assumptions with respect to Soviet military capabilities of the era:

“The Soviet Union, however, was not as powerful as the American politicians, reporters, and national security bureaucrats linked to the military-industrial complex claimed it was. NSC-68, written and approved as the guiding national security document for the United States in 1950, argued that if the country did not vastly increase its defense spending, then in just a few years Russia would be on track to produce enough conventional and nuclear weapons that they would be able to completely run over Western Europe and defeat the United States in an atomic attack. During the Eisenhower administration, politicians, such Senator Henry Jackson of Washington, linked to Boeing and other defense contractors, claimed that the Soviet Union had produced so many bombers that a ‘bomber gap’ existed, while the Gaither Report [a committee tasked by President Eisenhower] claimed that by 1960 Khrushchev would have the ability to launch a first-strike missile launch that would cripple the ability of the United States to retaliate. Such claims helped complete the transformation of the United States into a permanent war state by the end of the 1950s, but none of them were even close to reality.” (p. 264)

Continuing on, Swanson clarifies for the reader that:

“Yes, in 1955, the Soviet Union had plenty of nuclear bombs and was more than capable of exploding them in tests, but it had no way to deliver any of them as a weapon against an American city. The American B-52 bomber could fly 7,343 miles when refueled, which was far enough to reach the Soviet Union, but the Russia M-4, called the Bison bomber by NATO, couldn’t reach the United States, because its designers couldn’t figure out an easy way to refuel it in the air. The M-4 could only fly five thousand miles, which was too short for it to reach either coast of the United States from the closest point of the Soviet Union.” (p. 265)

As with all things in communism, the illusion was better than the reality, but the War State couldn’t fool the people by itself, it needed help. With only three major TV networks and a handful of newspapers of record providing the news coverage, the rigged game continued with the full participation of the press. An astonishing example of this was that although the Soviets only had four M-4 bombers, “when the Russians put on a major air show, they took the four bombers and had them fly around in wide circles to give the impression that there were dozens of them. Khrushchev was pleased when American newspapers reported on a supposed ‘bomber gap’ thanks to the Bison bomber. They saw what they wanted to see.”  (p. 265)

So much for all that fourth estate, junior high textbook definition of the media keeping a watchful eye on the government. Indeed, the in-depth recounting of the true capabilities of the Soviet military is one of the great takeaways from the book. This was all hidden from the American public and the myth of the necessity of a massive military buildup in order to deal with an embellished threat took hold and continues today. Swanson dismantles this mythology: 

“In reality, the Soviet rocket program was pitiful. The R-7 could barely function as a viable weapon. It weighed three hundred tons and operated on liquid oxygen fuel. That made it so that when the rockets were fueled up they were in danger of exploding. American missiles used solid fuel, which enabled them to be launched on about ten minutes’ notice. The Russians, though, couldn’t keep their missiles fueled up all of the time. That meant it took them hours to prepare them for launch, making them very vulnerable to attack.” (p. 266)

Of course, the standard objection is, ‘but how were we to know?’ It turns out, it didn’t matter, the agenda was already set, facts be damned! This is an all too familiar occurrence within the standard operating procedure for government. Look over there! A threat! We must act immediately! For example, take the infamous declaration of President George W. Bush when he said that, “we have to abandon free market principles to save the free market system” or, “we must pass the bill to see what is in the bill,” as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared in 2010. Perhaps more to the point would be the Afghanistan Papers, where U.S. officials and their media lapdogs willingly misled the American people regarding progress, or lack thereof, in Afghanistan.

In the end, when the reality of the situation is brought to light, those “looking out for the people” newsmen, after years of willingly misleading the public, will downplay the situation under the well worn guise of, they were just following orders, doing their best, how could they have known, etc. It’s just another random side note in a never ending war that the general public will have easily forgotten when the next faux crisis emerges. Just remember to stand and pledge allegiance, otherwise everyone will get all fired up. Invade and occupy a county on false pretenses for eighteen years and kill thousands upon thousands? Meh. The War State prefers that you are at odds with your fellow man, since it inherently requires a distracted populace.

Although it was kept secret from the general population, the CIA and the government knew about the pitiful state of Soviet military capabilities, as Swanson recounts to the reader that “…after twelve failed launches, the CIA put into space its first spy satellite code-named Corona. It passed over Russia and found that their few intercontinental missiles were all at one launch facility, which made them vulnerable to a surprise attack. They also now had 200 bombers with questionable ability to reach the United States and seventy-eight missiles on about a dozen submarines that spent almost all of their time in port. The United States had more than an overwhelming nuclear strike advantage over the Soviet Union. Yes, there was a missile gap, but it was in favor of the United States.” (p. 296) The threat was fabricated; a blatant and outright falsification of data and if it could be done in this scenario, it could be easily done elsewhere. The stage was set for the CIA to run wild.  

The CIA and Less Than Powerful Pieces of Paper

The implausibility of being able to centrally plan an entire economy made up of 327 million individual actors is akin to the implausibility of trying to reign in the War State. The mythological telling of an infallible system of checks and balances is laughable and any alleged constitutional limitations or constraints are most easily dispensed with. Rank and file bureaucrats, military leaders and most certainly the presidents are given plausible deniability and benefit of the doubt far beyond what any average civilian would receive during even the most routine investigation of the most basic crime.

When a black ops adventure goes awry, the president can and will deny giving authorization for that particular overreach and the military can and will claim that they thought the original authorization gave them the authority to proceed. It’s a win-win for both entities, for how can you question the heat of the moment decisions that a soldier made? He is just doing the best he can! This has been and continues to be the status quo when it comes to covert operations. Swanson explains it it in this passage:

“In theory, the CIA does not engage in any covert activity without the approval of the president and the oversight of Congress. In reality, there is so little oversight over agency activities that often the leaders of the agency itself do not know everything that is going on. The president often approves one covert operation only to have it spawn even more operations that no one at the top is responsible for. How can this be? As Clark Clifford, who served as an aide to Harry Truman and as secretary of defense for Lyndon Johnson explained, ‘on a number of occasions a plan for covert action has been presented to the NSC and authority requested for the CIA to proceed from point A to point B. The authority will be given and the action will be launched. When point B is reached, the persons in charge feel that it is necessary to go to point C and they assume that the original authorization gives them such a right. From point C, they go to D, and possibly E, and even further.’ This led to some bizarre results, and, when investigation is started, the excuse blandly presented was that the authority was obtained from the NSC before the project was launched.” (p. 100)

Lest one think that that is all in the past and that the U.S. has learned from its mistakes over the years, just this May, as recounted on this Antiwar.com article by Thomas Knapp, “a group of around 60 mercenaries attempted an amphibious landing at Macuto, on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast. They were quickly defeated and 13 of them—including two Americans, Airan Berry and Luke Denman—[were] captured.” Predictably, President Donald Trump has denied any association with, knowledge of, or involvement in the affair on the part of the U.S. government. Indeed, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Constitution is unable to prevent or guard against these situations, yet isn’t that what everyone has been trained to say: the soldiers are over there defending our freedoms, our way of life, our Constitution? The CIA operates in an extra-constitutional manner everyday. Some may say that it’s just the fog of war and we should just get over it, but Swanson has an answer for that too, because it isn’t just CIA operatives taking the operation to an unauthorized level, it’s a systematic process of looting the American public:

“The agency funneled ten million dollars out of the Marshall Plan and laundered it through various bank accounts of American Italians, who in turn ‘donated’ the funds to CIA front organizations and the Christian Democratic political party in Italy as charitable tax deductions.” (p. 117)

It seems a little complicated, but this procedure had several justifications:

“…it enabled the individuals who agreed to assist the CIA to do so without violating United States tax laws and it gave the CIA an internal audit procedure to provide a check on the flow and amount of money.” (p. 117)

This is just one declassified example, there are no doubt countless other operations buried in classified archives. If it was all on the up and up, one would expect for it to have happened out in the open, under the watchful eye of Congress, but it remained a secret until well after the Cold War ended. Untraceable cash, who wouldn’t want that?

Author Michael Swanson isn’t the only one to observe this, as Tim Weiner stated in his book Legacy of Ashes: the History of the CIA:

“It was a global money-laundering scheme that stayed secret until well after the cold war ended. Where the plan flourished in Europe and in Asia, so would American spies. ‘We’d look the other way and give them a little help,’ said Colonel R. Allen Griffin, who ran the Marshall Plan’s Far East division…Secret funds were the heart of secret operations. The CIA now had an unfailing source of untraceable cash.” (p. 32)

Now let’s take a step back and think of George Floyd, murdered in the street for trying to pass a counterfeit note, or Eric Garner, murdered on the sidewalk for selling loose cigarettes. When the average citizen is purported to have committed a crime, the police descend, swarm, and pounce. There is no law so trivial that, if broken, one could die at the hands of the police, but when the government commits a similar crime on an exponentially greater scale? It’s no big deal; it’s business as usual. 

Swanson recounts a myriad of CIA black operations the world over and specifically reminds us of the countless operations in South America, an all but forgotten era for a population overwhelmed with, and raised on, continued and never ending wars in the Middle East. Just like the CIA adventures in South America, the current Middle East adventures will be but a mere blip on the sordid historical map of U.S. interventions. There is no sphere of influence in which the War State will not participate and regardless of the outcomes of continued misadventures the funding is continually expanded regardless of the rhetoric of the parity in power.

The Permanent Government

The permanent government might seem to be a misnomer to the lay reader. Of course, one might proclaim, we need a permanent government! We should be permanently governed, for without government there would be chaos! This sentiment is odd indeed, given the daily news cycle confirming that we are surrounded by chaos. I can hear the common argument that without government, problem ‘A’ would exist, so easily forgetting that that problem already exists in the current government controlled paradigm.

One can see the permanent continuous government in action with President Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria, do you remember that? It wasn’t that long ago, but critics across the political spectrum were quick to come out of the woodwork to lambast the President on this decision. It is when you are getting attacked from all sides that you know you are getting to the heart of the matter. We are only a few months removed from this situation and many have already forgotten the hysteria surrounding the decision after being quickly guided to the coronavirus hysteria and non-stop coverage of rioting in the wake of the murder of George Flyod by the knee of a Minneaplis police officer. The United States is still killing people in the Middle East, in Africa and countless other countries the world over; the war machine rolls on even in the midst of a global pandemic and racial unrest.

In conclusion, I’ll leave you with a stunning admission from an unlikely source, a person whose job it was to advance and enable the War State and the State writ large in the name of American Exceptionalism, court historian, Arthur Schlesigner, Jr: 

“The permanent government soon developed its own cozy alliances with committees of Congress, its own ties to the press, its own national constituencies. It began to exude the feeling that Presidents come and go but it went on forever. The permanent government was, as such politically neutral; its essential commitment was to doing things as they had been done before…” inevitably, this surrendered, “presidential government to the permanent government.“ (p. 245)

Onward to the next war. Given the current circumstances surrounding police power and government regulatory overreach in the Covid Era in the United States, perhaps a new chapter needs to be written: The War State Comes Home.

A Look at Fatherland and Us

A Look at Fatherland and Us

The book (written by Robert Harris) and film Fatherland are exciting crime thrillers set in 1964, after the Third Reich won the second world war. It is a book that does not delve too deep into the Nazi ideology or push the intellectual boundaries of alternate history. Instead it tells the story of a detective who solves not just a murder but the mass murder of millions of innocent civilians. The conclusion focuses around the birthday of Adolf Hitler when the protagonist, Xavier March, reveals the evidence of the genocide of the Jewish people. It is a bombshell that in the story would somehow unsettle the people’s faith in the Reich and chill the arriving American president’s warmth towards the Fuhrer, shattering the alliance between the U.S. and Germany. But, should this moment in history have occurred, would it have made a difference what Xavier March revealed?

In the real world we know that the terrible Nazi regime ended, but only after millions had perished. The nature of the crimes was not the reason the allies united and defeated the Axis powers. Many in its service were no doubt unaware of the extent of the atrocities committed by the government that they served. And if they had been aware, how much would it have changed their obedience? Especially should they personally profit from the State itself. It is easy to question the powers that be during obvious hardship, but in prosperity, after a great victory and during a unified crisis the questioning of authority becomes far less welcome. Especially for the patriotic.

A Backstory for Murder

It was with little condemnation that the Belgian empire was able to destroy and reap misery throughout its territories in Africa, murdering and mutilating millions of individuals. The atrocities inspired Joseph Conrad’s book ‘Heart of Darkness.’ While many were aware and reported on the mayhem of imperialism suffered by the African subjects of the Belgian King Leopold II, none rallied to overthrow him or even directly intervened. Late into the genocide, protests and pressure were applied and the King’s own Congo Free State was turned into the Belgian Congo. No justice was found for the victims; instead the Belgian Empire would be viewed as a victim just over a decade later in World War One.

For the other belligerents of the Great War, notably Germany and the Ottoman Empire, it was with genocide that they each conducted themselves inside of their own colonial possessions. Brutal repression was exercised by the German government in its African colonies for decades leading to a mass extermination of hundreds of thousands in what is now known as Namibia. Many of those administrators and executioners of racialist imperialism would find influence and authority inside the new Nazi Regime. At Versailles in 1919, for all the venom that the allies spat in the German direction, the crimes committed in Africa were not considered.

The Ottoman Empire, already at the ends of its tether by the time World War One was waged, ruled over vast territories full of unique peoples. The Turkish dominated empire oversaw a vicious genocide of Armenian and Greek civilians. They killed millions, a mass murder that has not been officially acknowledged to this day. After the war many involved in implementing and planning the genocide found themselves in the post-war government. The Young Turks were not condemned or viewed as a pariah nationalist entity to be associated with the extermination of a people. No justice was found for the victims of the Turkish government’s genocide. ‘Young Turk’ is now viewed as a positive progressive term, despite the genocide and tyranny that they oversaw.

“Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?” Adolf Hitler asked his Wehrmacht commanders on August 22, 1939.

The bloody revolution in Russia was soaked in the corpses of the innocent as differing communists fought among themselves and then against the ‘Whites,’ united with the Western allies. After the Bolshevik victories in the Russian Civil War, decades of brutal tyranny would lead ultimately to the unimaginable horror rule of Josef Stalin. Slavery, torture, and murder were the instruments by which Soviet Russia improved itself before an observing world. The very Western nations that had tried to quell the growth of the communist empire were now enabling it with grants and assistance.

Just as many of the Gulf states in the modern era enjoy an influx of Western advisors and consultants, just as migrant laborers die around them, pushed to the bone in what is legal slavery, the Soviet Union ‘employed’ millions to build and electrify its empire. Many people dying was a valid sacrifice for the central planners. The price of modernity. The Holodomor, where millions would die of starvation and executions in mostly the Ukraine, was also ignored and dismissed despite good journalists such as Gareth Jones, reporting on the event as it unfolded. The Soviet regime was still embraced and supported, not condemned or challenged. Scores of credible journalists knowingly concealed and downplayed the atrocities. The reader could choose who they wished to believe.

“What are the causes of the famine?” wrote Gareth Jones in the Financial Times, on April 13, 1933. “The main reason for the catastrophe in Russian agriculture is the Soviet policy of collectivisation. The prophecy of Paul Scheffer in 1920–30 that collectivisation of agriculture would be the nemesis of Communism has come absolutely true.”

Even through the purges of the late 1930s, where hundreds of thousands were killed and just as many sent to gulags, the world observed with little action or sway. The communists in most nations blamed the victims. The ideal of the communist utopia was far too great for the ideological romantic. The millions who had perished to help create this fictional dream be damned. The Soviet Union would become an ally. Joseph Stalin, with his murderous history on full display, embraced as Uncle Joe by the supposed champions of freedom.

The blood dripping from these champions claws as well: the mass bombings, vileness of empire, and rationalization of killing thousands of civilians to achieve a strategic end or even to merely terrorise enemy morale. The enemy, being any subjects of the government being opposed, were credible targets of warfare. It would lead to the millions of dead in Korea and South East Asia as the exceptional empire waged its wars there. It is the methods of slaughter that intellectuals and legal scholars would debate. Bayoneting a baby inside the walls of Nanking is criminal while dropping napalm on babies in Vietnam is seen as valid. Chambers of gas killing civilians based upon their racial identity is a crime against humanity, while detonating atomic bombs above a city of civilians based upon their national identity is a legal method of war fighting.

It is the arbitrary nature of intelligent people that view mass murder through the lens of civilised destiny that is best exhibited in the film “Conspiracy,” depicting the 1942 Wannsee Conference where key officials and members of the Nazi party conceive the plans that would lead to the extermination of the Jewish people inside the occupied lands. It is with calculation and intellect that men of great power conceive the justification for mass murder. It is with a similar grasp of numbers and calculation that men like Robert McNamara would become prominent for. The context only being that victory justifies what those numbers represent. Human life taken in the game of greater cause. This is the nature of the regime that has won the war. All war. These men were aware of the crimes that the Belgian, Turkish, and Soviet governments had committed. They were most certainly aware of the Kaiser’s regime and its genocide in Africa. The past taught them that no justice would find them, perhaps even if they lost.

Scandal revealed

For Xavier March in the book Fatherland, the dossier and photos of the death camps are the direct result of those conspiring to solve what they consider to be a great problem. His heroic revelation, however, would have done little. The WikiLeaks cables, Pentagon Papers, and Afghanistan Papers all have done little to check the very entity that the protagonist in the book hopes to sway, the United States government. The U.S. government would likely already have known; it would have been an admitted omission of wider diplomacy. When President Nixon shook Chairman Mao’s hand, he did not raise his knowledge of the millions murdered by the Maoist regime leading to that moment. Just as Winston Churchill and FDR did not call Joseph Stalin out on any of his government’s atrocities. Great Men in history stand upon the unmarked graves of millions.

Such bloody omissions are the facts of doing business and trade. It is polite among killers to ignore the death camps so long as the business can continue to go on. This is the pragmatism of politics. The conduct of evil. It is an ever-rolling stage act performed for the sometimes-voting mob that really does not need such theatrics. Many are compliant regardless of the deception. Scandals and great revelations certainly effect administrations and destroy political careers but they do not take down the apparatus. Instead others are welcomed to replace the corrupt so that they can then use the playground of institutions to enjoy power, to rule.

It is likely the Nazi regime in 1964 would have been a Fascist welfare state. Public works, public education, public health, grants for the corporations and assistance across the empire to build a great society where none are left behind. Many individuals gain from such a short term euphoria of wealth and comfort. Such means are bribery. The silver slipped to turn the gaze away from the deeds that are required to maintain rule. Those dissenting disappear and in an age before the ‘Karen,’ those quick to rat out neighbors always existed. Then just as now ‘the Karen’ is the dithering maid of tyranny.

Would those who benefit from such welfare, who are employed inside the apparatus of government and those working for private concerns that enjoy the government contracts, have cared that millions of Jews were murdered? Do many now care about those murdered beneath the fleets of bombers of their own national government? Do they care about the intimate bullet to the head inside a sandy house in Central Asia performed by a brave of their government, or the random menace of a missile from a drone blowing to pieces women and children because a lone man may have sent a text message? The justifications for such violence are never without end.

For Xavier March, what was the best outcome that his revelation could have reached? For him to commit suicide or stand trial. Would he become the Julian Assange, his time lost inside the prison of self-serving litigation, or would he go on the run like an Edward Snowden, never to return to his home country again? He would be a traitor. For a regime that had massaged away the memory of war and genocide so easily on a no-doubt willing to believe populace, it would have been no trouble turning such a man as Xavier March into a discredited being. The evidence he shared would have been labelled simply as Fake News.

In the end of the fictional story the alliance with the United States ends and the Hitlerian vision of Germany collapses. Clean and simple. A happy ending for a noble sacrifice.

Perhaps in dealing with the subject of Nazi Germany it is important for a fiction writer to be careful in your story telling so as not be called a sympathizer or romanticist, since that regime is forever pariah to the ages. The complex reality of what may have occurred afterwards does not fit a clean narrative for a satisfying conclusion. But as a reflection to our own world it is a bitter reminder that we are all romantics, naïve in our belief that justice will prevail so long as the truth is unveiled.

Unfortunately, justice is not the one that is blind. It is the millions that enable the tyranny, found in their indifference and obedience. It is a desire to believe in something that never was noble. An ideological quest for equality that spins liberty and freedom into the web of evil. It is when security and safety are placed above all else and when the bribery of entitlement and welfare intoxicate many into a state of leisure. Anything that challenges such, even a brutal truth about the past and present, becomes in the end the enemy. This is true now as it ever was, and it is why for many the Fatherland is more important than its crimes.

“’What do you do,’ he said, ‘if you devote your life to discovering criminals, and it gradually occurs to you that the real criminals are the people you work for?’” asked Robert Harris, through the voice of Xavier March.

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